We’d make a trip out of it. We’d pack food — cheese, crackers, apples, a couple of ham sandwiches with slices of radish. She taught me that. She’d also make sure the cheese was good cheese; none of that orange, processed kind with bright packaging. If I had any, I’d sneak some biltong. Moist, fatty, shaken well with seasoning. The moistness makes the seasoning stick. That is key. She finds it revolting. “It tastes of cow,” she’d complain.
Blankets, sleeping bags, a change of clothes. She’d pack hers neatly into a beautiful weekend duffel. Handcrafted in Italy apparently. She has good taste. I like that about her.
I fling my things onto the backseat, and there they sit in a mound. She berates me, but I’ve got a good excuse. “It’d be less likely to be broken into.” She rolls her eyes. I chuckle in glee. “Well you’ve got a shit ride anyway.” Ah, cheeky.
It’s only a 45-minute drive to the coast — a lovely surf town in the summer. Apparently it boasts one of the best left hand breaks in the world. We never knew what that meant, because we kept forgetting to look it up.
But we don’t go in the summer. We go on bleak, winter days like today. I don’t know why, and I don’t give it much thought. But I think she does. She’s always had a keen sense, and she’s familiar with complexity. She has an ability to form the formless. I like that about her.
I must ask her, but later, on the drive back.
As per the twenty or so times before, we stop to get fish and chips. Always snapper, always beer-battered. We nod to each other, “Firmer meat. Better crunch.” We both know we don’t know what we’re talking about. Beer-battered snapper is more expensive than regular-battered dory, so of course it must be better. I say this out loud. She laughs.
The parcel of food warms our hands as we make our way to the beach. Or cliff? The only decision we make on missions like this — beach or cliff. Sometimes, we did both, if we felt one alone wasn’t enough. But always beach first, then cliff after.
Today, we chose cliff. “I like the sound of the waves better from a distance,” she says, for the tenth time.
It’s our secret spot, this bit of cliff. The tourists don’t know it. Access is through a residential road. Sometimes, there were residents, and they’d bring their dogs. She delights in the dogs. I know this. I pray for dogs.
We sit, gazing out at the grey ocean. The sky is grey too. Or is it the clouds? We eat in silence, filling ourselves as the ocean fills us. The salt in the air is enough to salt the chips.
“I feel like jumping.”
I freeze. “What?”
“I said I feel like jumping. Don’t you feel that sometimes too?”
I exhaled. “The call of the void.”
“The call of the void. This feeling. I remember it from my media studies lecture. It’s natural.”
It begins to drizzle. I look at my phone — 6pm. I don’t fancy driving in the dark. “Let’s go.”
I look up. She’s gone.
I blink. My head jerks from left to right then left again then right again.
Ice in my throat.
I throw myself onto my belly and crazy-crawl to the cliff’s edge. Mounting dread in the pit of my stomach.
Where the fuck where the fu-
A bark. I blink. Ah.
You let yourself go too far this time, man. Inhale, inhale.
With great effort, I turn onto my back. I blink again, hard.
Am I looking at the sky or the ocean?
I slump into the driver’s seat.
I check the bag. There, zipped. I check the food. There, uneaten. I check my clothes. There, untouched. I check myself in the rearview mirror.
I sigh, and start the car.