Swimming with Seals by Melody Nixon
“Ever since I met you I've wanted to make love to you,” I said. You looked up from the back of the shop. “Like a bull,” I added. It was a quiet Sunday, you were the only help on. You laughed and looked at your watch. Then you made up your mind and came over. “A bull with... big nads?” you asked. “Huge,” I said. The sun was coming in through our windows. You said nothing, so I told you, “it’s too hot here.”
Out the back of the shop you let me watch you undress and then stood, gleaming. You covered your powerful centre at first, shy, like a boy standing for military inspection, but your nipples were rock hard. Then you said you had to go. I knew it was the end of your shift.
When you instant messaged me that evening it was like my life was coming back. Our encounter had stayed thick over my body. The vision of it was in all of my pores. Your name popped up on my phone with a small word that held everything. Hey. We messaged til 4a.m. You were in at work the next day, all butt-views and aware of your beauty. I let you enjoy it.
I watched you swim on your back in the river at our company picnic. Your shoulder blades beat into the water. It was the first time I'd seen seals in a river. You said it was normal because this river was brackish – and it was true, we were at a delta head. I never thought humans could swim with seals, but you did. You traced their flipper movement with your own, your feet extended behind you. You emerged and dripped next to me in my lawn chair. I lowered my voice. “If I wasn't married,” I said, “I would tell you I was falling in love with you.”
You said, “it's a good thing you are married,” and flicked your towel in my face with a smile. A curl of hair was stuck to your forehead and I grabbed your arm, pulled you down beside me, wiped your hair free. But you were unsteady, you teetered away. I stayed unmoving while you lunched with the floor staff.
When we were supposed to meet at the auction-party for Jo and Atsushi, just married, I paused at the entrance of the convention centre scanning for you. I had spent time tonight dressing. I had felt the pull of cotton fabric up my arms, over my biceps, my smooth shoulders. I had run the comb through my hair again, and again. I had paused and felt my own familiar body, its core, its edges that grow more inelastic. I had put my hand on my torso. As I imagined you, I felt my body tense there and wanting.
Jo joined me at the entrance way to the center, looking concerned. “Why would you auction yourself off at your own wedding reception? This is crazy.” I nodded, and scanned. Jo huffed a cigarette uneasily, said, “I should have known I was marrying a nutter,” then tossed the butt on the ground and walked inside. The sun was setting. Eventually you arrived, alone. You saw me immediately. Your face was contorted with the effort of smiling. You said you’d had phone problems, that you couldn’t have called.
I lost you straight away, in the crowd at the bar. I looked everywhere, including the men's bathrooms. I had come on my own too, especially, though that had caused problems. Later I thought I saw you chatting to a group of young Japanese kids, but not for long. I placed a bid on Atsushi, and chose a double gin and tonic. I was quickly outbid by a middle-manager from Cigna.
Backstage after the auction I drank a margarita with Jo, who now regarded her earnings with glee. She thought they had enough for a deposit on something big. “I knew Atsushi was a genius,” she said. Her new husband was out socializing, meeting his buyer. We sat in upholstered chairs and looked at our own reflections in mirrors. I told Jo that the thought of you was giving me ulcers, that I was having bad dreams because my core wanted you so much, that you were impossibly far from my touch. I told Jo I hadn't seen you all night. She wolfed margaritas and thought you were just caught up in something else. She recounted her cash. But I recalled your grimace-smile. I thought of your youth.
That night I messaged you at least fifty times. I couldn’t imagine how fifty times wouldn’t annoy you into answering. I even just wanted a “fuck off.”
At the shop on Monday of course you were gone. I stood out back where you had undressed the first time. There was no note or anything, just Mel the hardware manager who said we'd lost another of our young help. “Here we are posting classifieds again,” said Mel. That night I went home and made love to my partner, like I hadn't done in years.
© Melody Nixon 2012
Melody is New Zealand-born writer living in New York City, where she attends the Master of Fine Arts program in creative writing at Columbia University. She is working on a collection of lyrical short prose pieces investigating colonialism, place, and identity, and has a deep and insatiable fascination for non-human mammalia, especially moose and seals.
Swimming with Seals was read by Kate Chadwick on December 5th 2012