I could exhale. I could push all of the air out of my body in one hard breath and I’d sink down into the cold, heavy underworld. Like a sodden leaf. Like Sedna — greeting the deep water creatures as my cumbersome children.
In the shallow skirts of the Loch, I didn’t have much company. A few couples clung to their packed egg sandwiches, sitting on freshly bought tartan mats well away from the water. Their children climbed along the higher rocks catching the last warmth of the day, the wee goats. Magic giggles and shrieks tumbled down the rock face with more power than the waterfall. I treaded out toward the dark water. I was the only one from around here, and the only one swimming. I was wearing decade-old bathers I’d bought on a trip to Aberfoyle as a younger lass, and they were stretched far out of shape. Underwater, I tugged at the elastic around the waist but it wouldn’t settle. Didn’t matter anyway — I was in the water before the others had arrived, and didn’t plan to leave. The soft folds of my skin spread, and cold, cold water crept and bubbled into every crevice of me, my hair like selkie skin floating atop the water. I tread harder to keep warm. I hadn’t swum in years, but my aching, porous old bones floated like twigs, and I was grateful. I took a sip of what I was swimming in. It tasted soft and healthy, like moss, but also forbidden. It felt like I was holding in my mouth the taste of the deep, entombed parts of rocks, the parts of the cliffs around me that would never be touched by a hand, the sun, anything.
When the young families retired to their holiday lets in Inversnaid for dinner, I got out of the water. I shrugged my limp bathers off my shoulders and stepped out of them. For just a moment, my body was draped in a viscid steam. I was clean. I was stripped completely, and I shook a little with the shock of it. The purple moon grew vivid in the sky, and if you had bitten my fingernails or licked my lips at that moment, they would have tasted more like me than anything ever again.
The night air stung my fresh skin. I slipped back into the deep, and exhaled, as if thrown, as if suddenly falling.
Grace McCarter is a Brisbane-based freelance writer, QUT creative writing graduate and recipient of the 2015 SLQ Young Writer’s award. She works with words by night, and by day enables other creatives to do what they do best as a studio assistant at Josephmark. She tweets at @GraceMcCarter.