Friday, March 19, 2010

The Swimmer part two

This place has no name. . . . Nor does the lost swimmer even have a place, buoyed up as he is in an illimitable steep of fluid and, for all he knows, borne along by a current. In all directions is void, whether air or water, though busy with sunlight and spangles and small events. The sea itself is calm. He wishes there were a higher swell so he could more easily keep up the hope that his boat, even though not many yards away, remains hidden by conspiracies of wavelets. He knows exactly what it would be like to be in an airplane flying above where he is now. He knows the burnished pane of ocean with its frozen wrinkles crossed by the aircraft's shadow. He knows, too, how words like "millpond" only ever come into the mind when gazing disembodiedly out of a window at 20,000 feet. This leaves the swimmer with an echo from which to build a name, "Despond," for this locus in which he is adrift before he abandons it as hackneyed and unhelpful.

At last he works out that this place can have no name other than his own. Nothing if not isolate, he is himself an island. By mischance or gross carelessness he has become marooned on himself. This perception has a point in its favor. It is an island with room for only one castaway. In the almost impossible event of anybody else reaching its shores they would at least be coming as rescuers.


-Seven-Tenths: Sea and Its Thresholds, James Hamilton-Paterson

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