I remember the splash of the waves against the side of my grandfather’s wooden boat, my brother standing proudly by the mast.
I remember sitting in the back, snuggled like a chick under my mother’s arms, the sea salt and my long blond ponytail lashing my cheeks.
I remember being passed to land like a bag of sugar, an exulted terrified scream then the freedom of the warm rocks beneath my feet. Away I sped, an uninhabited island awaiting exploration by five-year-old me.
I remember our trusted blue Opel Kadett swaying in the sling, over land, over the ship; a pendulum of our future. To stay, to go. Awed, fearful, I awaited its plunge to earth.
I remember the car’s thudding descent to deck, the rousing cheer from family on shore, a cheer that turned to tears as the giant ship eased from the dock.
I remember the confusion. Why cry at this adventure?
I remember my guilt. Should I cry too? A guilt often repeated.
I remember the hastily arranged assembly. The morning’s floor wax still potent and sickening. A keening nausea as we heard the news. Mr Kewley died last night; the incomprehensible words sought comprehension in my nine-year-old heart and mind.
I remember the poke in the chest, the verbal jibes, and the scornful faces. ‘Why aren’t you crying?’ they taunted. ‘He was your favourite teacher after all. Taught you all that creative writing rubbish.’
I remember the searing slurs.
I remember my silence. Shaking my head as I walked away, not shedding a tear.
I remember once home just sitting on the sofa, stroking patterns of light and dark gold, the softness reassuring, safe. Not the usual TV or books. Just space. To think. Here the disbelief turned to truth.
I remember my mother’s concerned questions. Then we rocked, me as a baby in her arms. We both wept at the loss. This was my first death; I had been lucky.
I remember my first kiss, stolen across a lilo, the warm Mediterranean Sea lapping my body as I paddled languidly to land. My first kiss! A moment I will always remember, bubbling with excitement, with unadulterated joy of being so grown-up.
I remember splashing along the shore, the air mattress dangling loosely in my grasp, ripples of emotions echoing into eternity.
I remember my feigned indignant recount of THE kiss to my mother. A secret I’d pressed like a diamond to my heart to treasure forever. A secret bursting to be shared.
I remember her brief questions, her sweet smile. ‘We are meeting later,’ I declared. And so we did!
I remember the strums of the bouzouki, the warm light and night, seeing people on the dance floor, chatting at the tables. There he was! Heading over to me. Almost swooning, a maelstrom of emotions rushed through my body. We had a quick chat. He asked my age. ‘Fourteen,’ I replied nonchalantly. A surprised look flittered across his face then quickly vanished as he invited me and my family to meet his family. I was stricken!
I remember rueing my young age.
I remember longing for its return.
I remember a normal spring day, the German lesson in the Portakabin going as usual. My five friends and I. Unflappable Mrs Stockums at the front. As normal in the sixth form we discussed topics with ease and determination.
I remember the quiet giggles. Who was it? Katy? Sally? Chris? As a fast moving contagion the laughter skipped from student to student. Side-bursting laughter. We tried to rein it in. Honestly. Amidst the uproarious chuckles, we cast furtive nervous glances to our teacher. Was she laughing too? Impossible!
I remember the cacophony of pure happiness. At life itself. Such a jubilant sound of innocence and delight at being. We barely dared look at one another, such was the danger of setting off another cascade of stomach-churning laughter.
I remember the ache of my side, the slam on the teacher’s desk. ‘Go outside,’ she mumbled, pointing at the door. ‘Ten minutes then come back silently. And sit apart.’ The biting breeze startled us as we marched up and down, calming the inexplicable immersive laughter. It hadn’t quite disappeared but already I was mourning its departure.
I remember those summers of sizzling sun, drifting in dinghies along thirsty riverbeds.
I remember those school days, whether good or bad, always coddled at home.
I remember too much.
I remember too little.
© Annika Perry, February 2019