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Landlocked (Or How I Learned To Sink And Not Swim)

by Tyrel Kessinger

Darry is a celebrity now because it seems when you spend seven years alone on some godforsaken island you don’t just drop 50 pounds and come home with the molten caramel skin of an Indonesian god, the sun frosted locks of an angel, and a stomach you could play tic-tac-toe on. You also come home as an instant Hollywood executive’s wet dream. 

Darry went missing on his bachelor party. He let his friend Beau Derbyshire, who had more money than he knew what to do with, talk him into taking two weeks to sail around on the skin of the ocean even though he knew I hated the thought of anything I loved being on top of something so endless. Why he couldn’t just do a night of drinking and titty bars like every other good fiancé, I’ll never know.

When Darry and I first saw each other after seven years apart I held him tight and bawled like I had no sense, unsure which of the 423 emotions gushing through me were the strongest. Darry squeezed me back, but his hands didn’t meander down to my ass like they used to when he got his arms around me. For a moment I tried to forget the last seven years existed. To forget the fear of having to tell Darry about my ex-husband and Lori, my six-year-old daughter at home with my mom.

Darry came to stay with with me not because he was an only child or that his father had died from brain cancer not seven months ago or that his mother had been squirreled away at the Better Living Homestead when her dementia became too severe. It was because I was hungry for a history that had never been written. 

I thought to try and make Darry happy by patching the hole in Lori’s Little Mermaid themed kiddie pool with some pink camo duct tape I found in the garage and strategically placing my three dying ficuses on my patio so that it would have a more deserted island feel. This was after I discovered that Darry was spending half his time on the edge of my bathtub, staring at the water as longingly as someone who knows they’re in love with something that won’t ever love it back. 

Survival skills that Darry taught Lori: how to sharpen sticks into deadly weapons that will kill anything if thrown with accuracy and how to start a fire with nothing but a chunk of sea glass and the hot gaze of the sun. It’s a bit scary, a six-year-old with that kind of knowledge, but when I heard the two of them laughing and playing in the yard I figured the risk of her burning down the house was worth it. 

You’d think after seven years Darry would have had more to say. There was the occasional stab at polite conversation, but we avoided anything more serious than me occasionally informing him of a particular celebrity that had died while he was gone. I never asked him about the time I found him asleep in the backyard at 2am, flat on his back and sleeping like a dead man. I had assumed it was hard enough having your world ripped out from underneath you twice in one lifetime without someone bothering you with questions.

Darry’s already landed an agent. Raquelle Dantez. She came by with more regularity than what I thought was appropriate. Like I don’t see what’s happening? As if I don’t know the tricks? I watched as she laughed at nearly everything he said even though he never said anything funny, tossing her hair as if the ocean breeze was running its fingers through it. 

Raquelle told Darry that three different magazines were looking to do a feature on him and a pair of Hollywood screenwriters wanted to talk to him about his misadventures before they crapped out a script that would apparently win awards and make a ton of money. Raquelle dropped names like Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio. Personally, I always saw Darry as more of Tom Hanks, but he’d already made his deserted island movie.

After he returned from California he was even more aloof and I knew it was because he’d slept with Raquel. My vividly entertained theory anyway. I know Darry doesn’t owe me any kind of allegiance anymore, but I still feel crippled with the fire of jealousy, torn between wanting to drown him in the water he loves so much and holding onto him until he’s taken root, forced to wither away with me here, landlocked for eternity. 

When Darry left I hugged him and kissed him on the cheek. He gave Lori all the things he’d brought back from the island with him: some spearheads and a knife he’d fashioned, a necklace made from some spotted cowrie shells and dried leaves. I offered to drive him to the airport again but he said he’d already put me out enough. I watched him disappear in his Uber, swept away again by forces that were hungrier than me.

I’m sent an sent an invitation to the premiere of Darry’s overdramatically named movie Darkness On The Island’s Edge. I’d never been to California and decided that I’m not above taking free plane tickets, even if they are from an ex-fiancé who had risen from the dead. I leave Lori with my mom and head west. Despite the tempting fact that they had managed to get Jessica Chastain to play me, I don’t go to the premiere. Instead I find the nearest beach and watch the water at work. I kick it when it laps at my ankles. I try to wrap my head around why a thing would ever spit out something it so obviously and desperately wants to keep. 

Tyrel Kessinger is a stay-at-home dad of two wild animals. Occasionally, he finds time to write things, some of which can be found at Gargoyle, SLANT (forthcoming), Triggerfish Critical Review, Toasted Cheese, and CeaseCows, among others. He also serves time as Associate Editor for Grey Sparrow and reader for Flash Fiction Online.

Lead image: “caribbean beach” (via Flickr user Breezy Baldwin)