L’appel du vide

I. Walter

Walter rides the bus into work on Wednesday morning when he realizes, with the force and surprise of a rogue current, that he is in the home-for-death phase of life. That era in which the next time he goes under, to the fields of seaweed waving gently, the anemones slowly filtering seawater, it will most likely be for a death in the family.

He is able to idly speculate on who it might be, and this surprises him. Not much does surprise him after these few months above the waves, because so many things did surprise him those first few months: the plants standing still, the quickness of the fluid these creatures walk in, the lack of pressure that still makes him feel so alone and cold—as if all of his life he had been in an embrace by the ocean, and now for some reason it’s pulled away from him, and it doesn’t love him anymore.

His speculations lead him to picture his grandmother, small and frail and forgetful. He always assumed she’d be next, since last year when the other one died and Gina said, “I wonder who’ll be next.” She said what they’d both been thinking.

Soon after that he’d come up to land, to the mountains of all places, the most land-like land, and started a job with an accounting firm. While it was challenging to adjust to the change in pressure and movement, to people staring at him on the bus, in the supermarket, at the job, him with his scales and fins and breathing machine, he’d always made a point to make the best out of a situation. The problem was that the best wasn’t good enough.

II. L’appel du vide

And I’ll get in my car and driveand I’ll want to keep drivingstraight into the next stateor even the next countryor even even the ocean

and go down deeperkeep exploring foreverfind out what’s down therego to the Marianas trenchmiss the air world andcome back upitself a kind of unknownthe homecoming after

What happened to the home I was?