I once told my first wife that if I could walk the sea front every morning for the rest of my life I would die a contented man. I told her this and then she went to the sea on holiday and fucked another man in a caravan park in Rhyl the Heroin Den of the North. I mean, how can anyone possibly enjoy being rogered in Rhyl?
Apparently, my wife did.
I always imagine that it was a pale blue caravan with pussy pastel décor that had not been updated since 1965. Stale air reigns within and the radiator packed it in six winters ago. So, to be honest, the only way to keep warm is to have sex.
I imagine this, and then I imagine making him bite the curb and using my boot to open his jaw as wide as he spread my wife’s legs. I think I would feel better when the gutter ran red.
I didn’t make it to the sea for some time after the divorce. The divorce was shit; her solicitor put a hold on the house. That was an interesting letter off HM Land Registry: “Dear Mr. So and So you cannot sell the house that you bought because your ex-wife is a manipulative bitch” Well, I’m paraphrasing, but that’s basically what it said. She got the house. She got everything. I received a letter off her solicitor and enclosed was a list of items and bank account details she wanted delivered to her office. I went into the office to deliver my thoughts to the solicitor instead. The receptionist asked which solicitor I wished to see and then queried as to what the matter was in reference to.
I said: “My wife is divorcing me.”
She said in an instantaneously flustered release of breath, “Oh, we don’t do that sort of thing like this. You can’t just come in here and talk to her solicitor-”
“Well, she can’t just decide she doesn’t love me anymore, but she has. So, you can tell her that she can curl up and die in a hole from the syphilis she caught off that Northern cunt. And, you can tell her solicitor to take this consent shit they want me to sign and to stick it up her slack ass.”
The clients sitting solemn faced in the waiting room went jowl jawed at the realisation that I had blatantly broken the silence that enshrouded such social taboos, the fragile façade that such things were to remain whispered without the fullness of breath. What they didn’t realise is that the whispering voices of an entire village mesh into a scream. A scream that howls through people’s lives, until no quilt can be stitched from the remnants. I turned and walked from that chamber of judgement with more justification in my posture than Maggie Thatcher could contrive to explain her Falklands Massacre.
I received a letter sometime the following week: “Thank you for calling into the office with your comments in regard to the Consent documentation.” Sit and spin Ms. Self-Righteous Solicitor Lady, you’re defending a slag.
I packed it all in after I had signed the final dead tree. I had always been a fisherman – I’d held a fishing license since I was seven and a rod license since I was twelve (a lovely trick of the English to tax us on yet another arbitrary matter). Hooking the feisty creatures was what got me through it, to be honest. I had planned to go fishing the afternoon I found the letter. It was lying where she had once slept in our bed and her wedding ring was sat there on the envelope all tidy like. That was it. That seemingly innocent envelope, the clean white paper against which the gold shone starkly, was the final death knell for our relationship. Fifteen years of smouldering passion had been reduced to a flat, white 6x4 envelope. I was angry, and yet still, I was somewhat scared at the same time. I didn’t let my hands shake though, I was too stubborn for that. For some reason, I tore the envelope open as gently as I could to preserve its original shape. I wanted this to be clean. I wanted it to be as clean as the white paper I held in my numb hands, as untarnishable as her dress that day I married my teenage bride. But, what I wanted had never really mattered as I was about to read:
“I’ve tried to tell you how I feel, but I’m just not getting nowhere, mun. So if I write it down in black and white like you might, just might, sit up and take some notice. When I told you that I didn’t love you anymore I wasn’t messing about – I was serious. I may as well tell you now that I have made an appointment with a solicitor for next Monday to see about how to get divorced. I just don’t think it’s fair in making all our lives a misery by carrying on like this, ‘cos it’s just gettin’ worse. Carrying on like this is just gonna make me hate you and I don’t want to end up like that. We are both young enough to carry on with our lives. It’s nothing you have done, it is just all my fault and I am sorry.”
I’ve been shot and that hurt less than what that deceptive little envelope held. I know it’s cliché and everybody says it, but I felt like all the air had been kicked out of my lungs. I was stunned like, even though I had known what was coming. I didn’t have a single ounce of energy to even move. That’s really what it felt like, mun.
I didn’t feel like going fishing, I didn’t feel like doing anything. I just lay there in the empty bed empty of anger and drive and life. Time had ceased to exist; it was dripping down the walls in a motion outside of chartable reality like one of those Dali clocks. So, I can’t tell you how long I lay there for. It could have been seven minutes, it might have been four hours – I don’t know, mun, I honestly don’t. I just know that I was slowly being smothered. I was being buried beneath those seeping liquid remains of life and time, when I thought: Fuck it, I’m going fishing.
When I got up to the res, I cast my lines and settled on the shore to wait. It was bleak up by there, peopled only with sheep and touched by only wind. But it was mine. All mine, and no sorry excuse for a Welshman, sounding too much like a Scouser, could take it from me. With water I could find belonging. How like the water I am: sometimes short tempered and choppy, sometimes as blissful and inviting as the waters that precede birth.
I watched a tight spring of coiled energy bound in the form of a bird, in the blank sky on the far side of the water, shoot up and out and carry on, and carry on… Carrion crow. Kill it, I thought. Kill this life and fly, find some water somewhere and just be yourself, mun.
That was my fishing epiphany.
I knew I wanted the most all-encompassing water I could find, the most aqueous oblivion attainable. To me, that meant the sea.
I stayed until the divorce was settled. I sold the house (like I said, I’m stubborn) and I calculated that with the money from my share I could buy a boat and put a down payment on a small place for just me.
I ran into my ex-mother-in-law the day before I left:
“I heard you’re moving. Where you to then now?”
“Whatcha gonna do there, boy?”
“I’m going to be a fishmonger.”
“Yeah. A fishmonger.”
Not everything went tidy like, it was a bit rough leaving the Valleys. I felt a bit like I was abandoning my family, but I figured I would always be close enough to make it back if mam got ill, or something. I had a quiet drink with the boys in what used to be the old Miner’s Institute as way of saying goodbye.
Gareth proposed the final toast:
“To our wayward fishmonger mun, cos there are always more fish in the sea…”
“Oh ay, mun. Oh ay…”
The lads broke into a raucous, and singularly blokish laughter, and with the echo of that I left the Valleys.
I bought my boat eleven days after I had settled into what was to be my new village. Oh, she was a beautiful and clever craft, she was. She had a sleek, sexy hull that brought her up lovely on plane like when she threw her prow up to the winds and rode the water steady and fast, just like any confident woman. My perfect little vessel came with a functioning Fishfinder and ship-to-shore radio installed in the cabin. I also gave her a GPS, because mun, I like to spoil my girls.
Few were the nights I slept in my bed alone, although lonely I was through every one of them. When, as I lay in my single bed beneath a deceivingly fluffy duvet and a threadbare patchwork quilt, that too familiar net of anger caught my abdomen and hauled my innards up toward my throat in a very tangible reaction to my recent rejection, I knew that I would not catch a lick of sleep in that uncomfortable coffin.
On these nights, I would kit up and make my way past pissheads to the place she held anchor. There, I would enter the safe and consistent clutches of my beautiful boat. Sometimes I would be too knackered to even consider taking her out to sea and I would fall asleep encased in a sleeping bag cocoon-like on her deck.
Still other nights, when the salt-breeze had swept away such crippling emotion and cleared a space for the man I knew myself to be, I would take the helm and guide my baby boat out to sea. Sometimes, I wouldn’t even fish. I would absorb and burn the freedom for fuel to ride above and through the waves. Can you picture it, mun? I had the bay to myself…
On these nights, I was king.