by Keely O’Shaughnessy
Friends suggested floatation therapy when Steve left. Reborn was the word they used.
She fills their tub with Epsom salts and runs the tap. With magnesium sulphate, a foot of water is all that’s needed. She lets the crystals dissolve. Draping towels across the bath, she cocoons herself in the dark.
At first, she rages against the confines of the tub, against his starched shirts, lost mixtapes and ticket stubs, smiling portraits, cheap Greek holidays and cancer scares, his and hers, until, lulled by the water’s stillness she floats.
The click of the fridge motor echoes through the floorboards from the kitchen and, as she listens to sounds reverberate through their empty house, her brain starts to hum at a new frequency. Her weightless limbs create only the slightest of ripples in the water before the sides of the tub give way.
She’s at a lake’s edge, perhaps the lake that backed onto her grandmother’s cabin, perhaps Lake Ontario, where she and Steve had rented a cottage for the summer, or perhaps even the banks of Loch Morar, where she had tried to numb her grief with the cold.
Both moving and still, she paddles in a brook, she sits on the broad bed of a braided stream and sinks into the silt. Standing on the stony bottom, she slips, searches the contours of slick, cool rocks for a foot hold.
She wades in. Ankle to thigh, abdomen to breasts.
Faced with the expanse of a frigid loch, she listens as mist whispers across its surface willing her under.
She plunges deep. Pushing hard against the burning of her lungs, she dives down, but she’s surprised by how much see wants to keep breathing. How much her body flights to stay afloat. So, she allows herself to rise. For a moment nothing happens, and then she is buoyant again, her body bobbing to the surface like a lobster buoy signalling the presence of full pots below. She waits for her mind to catch up taking one slow breath and then another until letting go feels natural and she’s certain that when she emerges from the tub, finally—sloughing salty skin—she’ll feel somehow lighter.
Keely O’Shaughnessy (she/her) is a fiction writer with Cerebral Palsy, who lives in Gloucestershire, U.K. She has writing forthcoming with the Bath Flash Fiction Award anthology and Versification. She has been published in Ellipsis Zine, NFFD, Complete Sentence and Reflex Fiction, among others. She is Managing Editor at Flash Fiction Magazine. When not writing, she likes discussing David Bowie with her cat. Find her keelyoshaughnessy.com.