As She Moves Across The Water by Sara Dobbie

Photo by Travis Grossen on Unsplash

Two things Sadie currently recognizes about herself; number one, she has terrible posture. Number two, she thinks she may be losing it. Frankly, this inward revolution had begun when she started listening to an old mix tape she found in a box at the back of her closet, with songs she loved before she ever became involved with Riz. Soon she was slouching over her desk at work, probing the internet for lists of songs she knew Riz would never listen to. Yesterday she’d even listened to one of these lists on the dock, while Riz cast his reel into the lake to catch perch for their dinner, on the weekend getaway that was supposed to repair their broken connection with each other.

Sadie and Riz. Riz and Sadie. It seems as if no one thinks of them as two individual people with separate thoughts and ideas anymore, but as one whole entity that lives and breathes in unity. They are an institution, their friends say. A perfect match, their families say. People ask themselves, are Sadie and Riz coming tonight? Or, do Sadie and Riz know about that? What will Riz and Sadie have to say about this?

She arches her foot and dips the tip of her toes into the water off the dock. It is morning, extremely early, the blazing edge of an orange sun visible as a thin arc where the black water meets the gray sky. The water is cool, lapping against Sadie’s leg, now submerged to mid-calf. Her eyes rove the expanse of the lake, hungrily absorbing the tranquility as if it can, in all its vast stillness, tell her what to do. There is an old metal rowboat bobbing serenely a few feet from where she sits. All at once Sadie stands up, takes hold of the damp and fraying rope that ties it to the dock, untethers it, and steps inside. The boat wobbles and sways  and she almost topples over, but then she sits down firmly and grabs the oars, adrift, free.

Riz is standing in the living room of his Uncle Sal’s cottage with a feeling of uncertainty spreading like wildfire all through his body. He is looking through the big picture window that his Aunt Maria installed when he was six years old, watching as a lone female figure down on the dock gets into his cousin Vito’s old row boat. She is in silhouette, her shape all blackness and movement against the brilliant backdrop of the rising sun. Oh Sadie, he thinks, and the unease he is feeling intensifies.

Rowing hard now, she is amazed at how easily she can propel herself forward, gliding straight out into the middle of the lake. The sun is rising fast, blinding her at times with its reflection glinting off the surface of the shadowy water.  She wishes she had some sunglasses but she had not planned this little joyride, or whatever it is. She stops rowing and the boat settles into a lazy motion of its own. She considers turning back but then some movement catches her eye just to her left. A group of large fish swim incredibly near to the side of the boat. She leans over to watch them, smiling. She doesn’t know what they are, but enjoys the thought of some infinite number of creatures living peacefully underwater, oblivious to the world above.

A jolt of sound, music from the clock radio in the kitchen startles Riz, and he jumps. Six am, he thinks. Sadie hates getting up early. He must have been in a deep sleep when she slipped out, or else he would have woken, called her back to him. Ran his hands along the smooth skin of her lower back, placed his lips on the space between her neck and her shoulder. She would have turned to face him, and……who am I kidding? We would have argued. She would have told me to leave her alone. She would have told me to go to hell.

Riz turns his attention back to the lake, where he can just make out the dark blob on the horizon. He begins to replay the previous night in his mind, the campfire, the booze; the awkward silences that he tried to fill with mundane conversation. Sadie had been trying, acting normal, but still, the strange abyss he felt between them had crept in and opened itself up so he couldn’t get around it.

The fish caper away happily and Sadie sighs. She lies down on her side in the mid-section of the boat, grabbing an old child-sized life jacket from under the bench to use as a pillow. Ten years, she thinks, of “Sadie and Riz”. Ten fucking years, since they were eighteen. How do you walk away from that? she wonders. She felt that not only would she be letting Riz down, but also her family, his family, all their friends. What is the reason for this, they would all want to know.  Sadie, of course, knows, but cannot find a way to express it to Riz. And it’s simply this; he is so sure of himself all the time. He knows exactly what he wants from every moment of his life, and Sadie does not. She is lost, and filled with unanswered and perhaps unanswerable questions. And that doesn’t seem like a good enough reason, but to Sadie it has become the reason.

Riz is blameless, but this doesn’t change anything. Sadie has tried many times to conjure the old feeling, to rekindle her own spark, but it would not reignite. Things had seemed perfectly lovely while everything had been ahead of them. But now that they were actually doing it, actually living their lives, she couldn’t help but think that she’d maybe inadvertently been sucked into somebody else’s dream. Riz’s dream.

Sadie gets up slowly, steps out of the boat, one foot, then the other. A man and a little girl sit on the neighbouring dock, rods curving over the shallow water. They don’t pay her any mind as she clumsily ties the boat off. Once she feels relatively sure that it won’t float away, she hurries along the dock to the rickety wooden steps that lead to a path through a cottage yard. She slips quietly past the cottage, unnoticed. The road out front is paved and winding, she walks until she sees a sign. Certainly there are no Uber drivers way up here, but she searches the name of a cab company and calls to request a ride.

I can’t see her anymore, Riz realizes. In a moment of panic he rushes outside onto the deck and reaches under the bench for the binoculars that he knows his father always leaves there. Quickly he adjusts the lenses, zooming across the lake and scanning the many docks spanning the shore line. He’s not sure, but he thinks he can make out the old metal boat bobbing crookedly against the side of an empty dock, towards the eastern side of the lake. Sharpening the focus of the lenses he sees the faded remains of blue lettering painted in an extravagant script. My Maria. That’s definitely it, the row boat that Uncle Sal had bought for Aunt Maria when she was pregnant with Vito three decades ago. Sal told Maria he was sorry it was only a row boat, but that someday, he hoped, they would have a real sail boat.

Inexplicably, the thought of Sal and Maria, and the boat, and their life together, overwhelms Riz. This, he realizes, is what I want. This is what I thought we were doing, building a life together. Starting from scratch. Perhaps he should have gotten his act together sooner, proposed to Sadie with some grand romantic gesture. It was just that he had been absolutely sure that everything was exactly how it should be, and would play out as it was meant to. He leans against the railing of the deck to brace himself against the thought that is forming, beginning as a hard lump in his stomach and spreading up through his chest, his throat, until a bitter taste invades the inside of his mouth. She isn’t coming back.

Bereft, Riz swallows hard, entertaining the fleeting idea that he should go look for her. He could drive over to the town on the other side of the lake. But what did he think, that she would just be standing on a street corner, smiling, apologizing? I just wanted to try out the boat, she might say, I didn’t want to wake you. This is crazy, he thinks, I’ll just call her.

Sadie feels the vibration of her phone in the pocket of her cut offs. She ignores it and gets into the back seat of a yellow cab. Asks the driver to take her to the nearest train station. She can, she figures, get to her sister’s house in three hours. Thank god the little change purse with her debit card is still in her back pocket. Her heart is racing, but she is resolute. She is migrating, like the geese flying overhead, soaring forward and somehow back in time, simultaneously. She is herself again.

Riz enters the cottage, dazed, and stands in the small living room for a few disembodied moments. His eyes sweep the room, for what he doesn’t know. The paperback Sadie had been reading sits dog-eared on the coffee table, her empty wine glass, smeared with finger prints and peach lip gloss, stands on the counter beside an open jar of peanut butter. He walks through the room, passes the bathroom where her polka dot beach towel lies rumpled and damp against the edge of the tub. Now the bedroom, the bed unmade, the sheets tangled, the pillow indented where her head had rested. An open suitcase, t-shirts spilling over the side, jeans rolled in a ball. In the corner, on the floor by Sadie’s side of the bed, an old Walkman, headphones, a mix tape.

About The Author

Sara Dobbie is a Canadian fiction writer from Southern Ontario. Her work has appeared in Re-Side, The Spadina Literary Review, and is forthcoming from Crab Fat Magazine.

One response

  1. Marcy Dilworth

    What a gorgeous story, resonant and affecting – well done!


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