What do you think?
Rate this book
240 pages, Paperback
First published March 3, 2022
’It’s easier, I think, to consider the fact of us in its many disparate pieces, as opposed to one vast and intractable thing. Easier, I think, to claw through the scatter of us in the hopes of retrieving something, of pulling some singular thing from the debris and holding it up to the light.
So, in pieces, then: a long time ago, we met.’
‘I want to explain her in a way that would make you love her, but the problem with this is that loving is something we all do alone and through different sets of eyes. It’s nearly impossible, at least in my experience, to listen to someone telling a story about a partner and not wish they’d get to the point a little faster…It’s easy to understand why someone might love a person but far more difficult to push yourself down into that understanding, to pull it up to your chin like bedclothes and feel it settling around you as something true.’
‘I think it also has something to do with the fact that the sea can be many things at once. It can be very calm on the surface, and something can be going on underneath. That speaks to the way that we as queer people have to be so many different things to so many different people: to our parents, at work, to society, to our partners, et cetera. It’s a really useful tool in queer storytelling, which is why people return to it.’
“The deep sea is a haunted house: a place in which things that ought not to exist move about in the darkness.”
“Every couple, I think, enjoys its own mythology, recollections like notecards to guide you round an exhibition.”
“It’s hard when you look up and realise that everyone’s moved off and left you in that place by yourself. Like they’ve all gone on and you’re there still, holding on to this person you’re supposed to let go of.”
“I want to explain her in a way that would make you love her, but the problem with this is that loving is something we all do alone and through different sets of eyes.”i saw someone else say this, but this writing truly feels like the ebb and flow of a great body of water. i even noticed myself rocking slightly back and forth while turning these pages, because this is crafted in such a way that it truly does make the reading experience feel like waves (sometimes crashing against my heart over and over again eroding at something). such a hypnotic style and craft, i really can’t believe this is a debut novel.
"After this, I sat on the floor of the kitchen and thought about Leah, about the shape of her feet and the way she spoke about her father, the special voice she used to talk to cats, her kind frown, her intonation, her fingernails. I thought about the time we kissed at the movies and a guy jerked off behind us and I complained to the management. I thought about fucking her on the floor of her uncle’s bathroom when we were staying over before a wedding. I thought about the way she often liked me to tell her what to do in bed. I thought about the day it first occurred to me that, should she die, there would be no one in the world I truly loved. You can, I think, love someone a very long time before you realise this, notice it in the way you note a facial flaw, a speech impediment, some imperfection which, once recognised, can never again be unseen. Are you just now realising that people die, Leah had said to me when I voiced this thought, tucked up beside her on the sofa with my knees pressed tight into the backs of hers. Not people, I had said, just you."
Consider the subtleness of the sea; how its most dreaded creatures glide under water, unapparent for the most part, and treacherously hidden beneath the loveliest tints of azure. Consider also the devilish brilliance and beauty of many of its most remorseless tribes, as the dainty embellished shape of many species of sharks. Consider, once more, the universal cannibalism of the sea; all whose creatures prey upon each other, carrying on eternal war since the world began.
Consider all this; and then turn to the green, gentle, and most docile earth; consider them both, the sea and the land; and do you not find a strange analogy to something in yourself? For as this appalling ocean surrounds the verdant land, so in the soul of man there lies one insular Tahiti, full of peace and joy, but encompassed by all the horrors of the half-known life. God keep thee! Push not off from that isle, thou canst never return!
Leah: The deep sea is a haunted house: a place in which things that ought not to exist move about in the darkness ……….. What you have to understand … is that things can thrive in unimaginable conditions. All the need is the right sort of skin …. There are no empty places …. However deep you go .. however far down, you’ll find something there
Miri: I used to think there was such a thing as emptiness, that there were places in the world one could go and be alone. This, I think, is still true, but the error in my reasoning was to assume that alone was somewhere you could go, rather than somewhere you had to be left.
I have always thought the edge of the water is somehow particularly cold – a strange almost-place that seems perceptibly to dip in temperature. It is something Leah has always put down to the shifting of the air between two elements, the chilly liminality of water and earth. Standing at the place where one fades into the other, I have always been sure that I feel it: the sudden confusion. The air drawing taut between one stage and another. Looking out across the water and feeling my feet connected to something more solid than the plunging uncertainty beyond, I have always felt weighted, literal, a tangible creature connected to the earth. The only time I felt something very different to this was when we saw the sea lung. It was a term Leah taught me, that day in fact, grasped my hand and kissed it and told me that “sea lung” was an ancient term once used by sailors to describe the slough of ice that forms on the surface of the ocean when the air changes temperature rapidly enough to freeze water thrown to the surface in choppy weather. The effect created is that of a sort of floating platform – a spread of barely solid water like a vast and drifting jellyfish that sailors once took to be some organ of the sea’s internal structure come loose and straining skywards.
I still remember it: a drifting anomaly of matter, solid and yet not quite so, spread out beyond the doom bar. I remember the sensation of my feet on solid ground and my hand in Leah’s solid grasp and the disconcerting sight of something almost solid further out. It seemed, from a distance, to be something one could conceivably walk on, though of course in reality if you set foot on it, it would immediately give way to the water beneath. I turned to Leah and felt an odd sort of relief, despite her hand around mine, to find her still with me, to find she had not moved further up the beach to search for cowrie shells and left me teetering in this uncertain place. The sea lung moved very slightly, leading me to feel that the ground I stood on might be moving too, might be less solid than I assumed. I pressed my free hand to my chest and wondered how solid that could really be, how tangible anything about me might really be. Standing on the edge, I could feel it. The chill of the air, aching to become something else.
This alchemist sea, changing something into something else ………… What persists .. is only air and water and me between them, not quite either
The space around us is a claw half grasped, holding tight without quite crushing, and I wish, in the idle way I always wish these days, that I felt more confident in my ability to breathe.
I used to think there was such a thing as emptiness, that there were places in the world one could go and be alone. This, I think, is still true, but the error in my reasoning was to assume that alone was somewhere you could go, rather than somewhere you had to be left.
Her tone is perfectly reasonable, even kind. Beneath it, however, there is little enough in the way of feeling, a chilly blank where the rest of her voice, as I know it, should be.
I used to think it was vital to know things, to feel safe in the learning and recounting of facts. I used to think it was possible to know enough to escape from the panic of not knowing, but I realize now that you can never learn enough to protect yourself, not really.