At Merricks Beach

That enveloping darkness of the night, as if it were black material punctured by stars. She says to me, ‘Come here now, don’t be afraid; I’m here with you.’ We walk down to the beach, the modest bay beach where no houses, or developments can be seen, the sand is grey with dark-brown flecks of wooden twigs, the gnarled roots of the shrubby bushland is all around us.

‘Come on,’ she says to me, walking ahead of me, avoiding the low-hanging branches of the ti-tree, the branches with shaggy bark falling off at all kinds of angles,

‘Come on, now,’ she walks onto the empty beach. The air is warm; it is late summer. In the far distance we can see the island, lights blinking intemperate.

‘Just get a taxi, come over whenever you want.’

That night the guys from the local pub most probably came over, from the neighbourhood of Greek shoe-repair shops, Lebanese take-aways and the Italian show-rooms of shiny white furniture, ‘Come over whenever, I’ll be awake – catch a cab, I’ll pay.’

Maybe that night in that rented house without central heating, the oven was left open to provide some heat, maybe the guys were still awake – eyes bleary from the beer – talking with my sister in the kitchen, as I slept on the floor of the corridor wrapped in one of her boyfriend’s woollen jumpers, tied around my body like a swaddled baby. Maybe I fell asleep to the sounds of her laughing with her mates in the kitchen, as the morning light came.

Maybe I fell asleep with that acrid smell of damp and cigarettes that always seemed to hang to the walls, or with one of the many cats she’d adopted, or found on the street somewhere nuzzling up against my body. This sister of mine born two days after Christmas, named after a saint whose face was illuminated in the darkness by candles, whose face was – as my mother used to say – like a pane of glass with all the various emotions passing over it like water. 

O my heart, o my heart, shies from the sorrow

Last night as I tried to sleep, my heart pounded in my chest, as if the space there were being hollowed out by the movements of a blunt knife. My sister turns to me, before we get to the beach, a lit cigarette in her hand is orange like embers,

‘Come on now,’ she says. ‘Do not be afraid. I’m with you.'

Here I am, here I am/Waiting to hold you