A rock goby swims panicked circles. If it wasn’t for you – let’s be honest – I’d probably be calling it a fish. A seemingly split-second swoosh and fourteen cubic inches of water have become its entire world. There is a certain eeriness to it; no matter what time we come, it always seems to be approaching low tide.
We watch and feel helpless.
You count six steps from the armchair to your bed, and twelve from your bed to the wet room. Meals are served in the dining room, which is eighteen steps, and from there it is nine to a communal lounge. Every wall is a subdued shade of magnolia. Framed beach scenes are mute and seem arbitrary. You meander between these landmarks, unaided but underwhelmed.
Apparently you aren’t eating. I bring pralines – the sort that look like little seahorses. Your mouth forms an eager O.
O – O – O – O – O.
“You look like a fish, Mum.”
There is a rumble of something like laughter.
I arrive alone with a spiral conch shell. Cupping it tenderly to your ear, I watch the contended smile ripple across your cheeks. I resolve to keep it there for the duration of my visit.
I do and lose all sensation in my left arm.
I support you while I adjust the pillows, surprised by a complete lack of resistance.
You droop limply forward, like kelp gently buffeted by unseen waves, so light that you might drift away.
Peculiar, isn’t it, that tears taste like the sea?
I hold on tightly.
After releasing your hand for the last time, I drive straight here, the vacant expanse of sand left dense and damp.
I carry the weight of it.
Here I feel close to you.
I still come.
Laura works in a secondary school pastoral role and relishes exploring the therapeutic potential of the arts with young people. Creativity has supported her to navigate painful moments in her own life. Laura is taking the first tentative steps in sharing her writing, which has recently been published online through 50-word Stories and the National Flash Fiction Day Write-In. Receding was inspired by experiencing the gradual loss of aspects of her grandmother to dementia. @laurarose_13