All Stories, General Fiction

Shade of Blue by Crispin Anderlini

That blue up there, farthest from the looming sun, is the colour his face was when I found him. Or at least it seemed that way in the creeping, early morning light. Face up, with a delicate trail of spittle across his shaven chin; and that unearthly colour staining his body — no film or book had prepared me for that.

I used to love this view, this perspective at dawn. Beaches were especially alluring. But it’s all been soiled, and I’ve come home a grimmer individual.

Getting away is just what I need — away from the house I grew up in and my constantly hovering mother. Of course I like seeing her, spending time together, but there’s so much I can’t say about what happened over there. I went to have adventures, and I went to avoid the family pressures and duties; to really make a life separate from her.

Funny I should choose one of the more polluted cities in the world to breathe easier in, or maybe just ironic. It’s so often bitter — irony, that is. Like a mouthful of limes.

I’d been drinking heavily that night. Singha beers with lime, the wedges crammed tightly into the neck, then gulps of searing tequila with lime. And to round it all out, a bunched little bag of coke chased with slivers of lime dissolving on the tongue to overpower the fearsomely acerbic drip in my throat.

We danced and limboed in the dingiest of bars, kissed deeply under an awning as a squall broke through the hothouse evening. Our reflections in the warm pools of rain jittered and pulsed under the neon red of a beer sign, flowing one into the other. Then splintering apart under the excited feet of an Australian couple, drunk and quivering in the first rushes of an MDMA hit.

He headed for the room to get back to himself, and I went to meet the dawn right at the water’s edge. The Gulf of Thailand at my feet, soft waves lapping deliciously at my tingling toenails. Everything was right in my world.

There were no disinterested children to teach, no parent to pry, and no need to wake up and curse a worn life lived in the town I was born in. I was free and unburdened. Aloof and apart, but together with my man and so quietly pleased with myself.

How could I have known he would take it all?

Jon was right with himself. There were no urges left in him after the last time he stepped off the map. It seemed that way, at least, and he said as much.

I just wanted to do him the favour of one more taste. Kick off our shoes and wipe the city-grime from our faces with a good hurrah. Then return pleasantly-spent to the teeming metropolis and lay plans for uncertain future adventures.

We met like sailors on shore for leave, and then fucked like soldiers with no hope for tomorrow. And yet we ended up in coarse and beautiful Bangkok with an apartment leading onto a Confucian courtyard we enacted our own rituals in — the banana tree as our marker, and the still, sloping pool populated by drifting fish we fed daily from our breakfast table.

It was bliss. It was all I wanted, and all so much I was happy about but couldn’t reveal back home. She would never have understood my choices and my desires. So I kept it hidden, until I had to make good on my promise to Jon.

“Tell your mother that you’re in love. It’s not an easy thing, but you have to do it,” he’d said, speaking from his position as an old hand at these closeted revelations.

I was scared and wary. But did what he wanted when the time came, and she didn’t even blink an eye. Perhaps she knew. Perhaps not, but she was pleased I had told her anyway, and held me close while I cried like a child at my loss.

The ceaseless waves on the Kapiti beach are the ripples on the fish pond we shared. It is comforting.

I held his cold form when I discovered what was left of him. Crying didn’t come easily then. I had to work at the memories, really pick and dig at them to unearth the glaring reasons to weep. It was not the way it was supposed to be; I had no context for the depth of my pain.

It’s still so hard to tease those moments out of the fog. But for him I should do it. Luck was with us in meeting, and against us in the way we parted.

One day it will be my turn. I can only hope someone is left behind to mourn me when I step right off the edge, lying face up or face down in a humid bed made up for two.


Crispin Anderlini

Image – Dawn over the Gulf of Thailand – Joe Desousa [CC0]


6 thoughts on “Shade of Blue by Crispin Anderlini”

  1. Really well written piece. Some really visceral and gripping imagery. Great little sentences and description. I particularly like the bit about the lime in the neck of the bottle.


  2. Hi Crispin,
    I think this is a cracking example of the omissions strengthening the story.
    Some writers simply tell us too much.
    Leaving the reader to fill in some of the details is a lesson in great writing. We need to do this in life every day. We are never taken by the hand.
    But in storytelling it is a brave thing for a writer to do.


  3. The key line “How would I know he would take it all?” The idea of getting away is well described. The protagonist experiments with a hedonistic lifestyle, then finds out what truly matters. Poignant.


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