By Chris Chiam
I had a pretty sweet view. The sea was peppered with little triangles. The mountains, painted masterfully in derivative shades of blue, imposed themselves on me as greater waves on the horizon.
At the foreground of this picture, a pair of slender legs were propped up against the window. If you followed this trail of sun-kissed flesh down through a field of crimson flowers – a very vibrant dress indeed – you would find a young woman’s head resting on my arm. A denim jacket, her makeshift pillow, prevented us from truly touching.
Now, I had no idea who she was. Sitting here, on this ferry, was our first encounter. Actually, I’d say that such a word is far too generous a description – I sat down next to her is all. Maybe our eyes briefly met, I couldn’t say. What matters is that I wasn’t interested in inviting any meaningful engagement.
However, despite this effort to make no impression whatsoever, I must have somehow presented myself as acceptable. Well, more so than that I guess, as I was deemed to be a safe and comfortable headboard. I’m not sure how I feel about that.
Being suitably small, she was coiled up in the seat beside me. It looked like a cosy set up. I had my headphones in, but the residual roar of her own music cut through the anaemic playlist that I had going. She remained almost entirely still, so to her it was not a roar. A lullaby, perhaps.
Her shoeless feet were a key component of my view, so the occasional toe wiggle always succeeded in drawing my attention. It was never in time with the music. Those toes would not allow themselves to be determined by the beat – a rebellious motion.
After a while, I began to feel uncomfortable. Only position-wise I mean. This whole thing was surprisingly pleasant, in defiance of my usual preferences. Subsequently, I felt obliged to maintain the ensemble of sea, rock, bleach-blonde hair and wiggling toes, so I allowed her head to continue its monopoly. I guess I should admit that it helped that she was pretty.
About thirty minutes passed. Hunger, which had at first decided to sit at the rear of the ferry, was now only a couple of seats away. I leant forward, reaching down into my bag for some cookies.
This innocent movement undermined the entire structural integrity of our setup. Much to my highly disproportionate dismay, the jacket fell away, and the woman’s head dropped down onto the hard plastic armrest. This startled her, and I immediately dispensed with an apology.
She said nothing. The only response I received was the perpetual roar emanating from the headphones that nestled in her delicate ears. Such indifference to my childish despair bothered me, and then the fact that it bothered me incited me to further bother.
The woman sat up, and resumed gazing out of the window. I began to study her face with more interest. I couldn’t figure out what her expression meant. It was peaceful, but at the same time I felt that it was not a face she wore often. I wasn’t convinced that she could keep it up. I saw a treaty being subtly tugged at every corner, and an impending rip.
Then it struck me that her eyes were sourced from the same palette as the ocean. Ah, so much blue. If you judged me solely by my dress sense, you might conclude that I’m content only with dead colours – black and grey have served me well. However, I’ve a weakness for blue…
Pretty soon this whole experience was over. We parted.
A few days later, I sat in a nondescript bar. I wasn’t alone, but I didn’t rate the company, so I may as well have been. As a result, my attention was all-too-easily hijacked by one of the numerous televisions that infected the room.
Suicide. Her charming spotted backpack weighted with rocks, she had jumped off the front of the return ferry. All I could picture was a pair of legs piercing through the water’s surface, those eyes finally reunited with the sea. I ordered another drink.
I began to wonder. What would have happened if I didn’t reach into my bag? I had the ridiculous and yet persistent feeling that I was responsible. After all, I set up that calamitous meeting between armrest and skull. If I hadn’t, then perhaps our shared journey would’ve forged some kind of pleasant memory, one laden with the power to see her through the week.
These thoughts started in the form of a flowchart of regret-flavoured possibility. Eventually, they became a tidal wave, flooding every avenue of my mind.
I ordered another drink.