Lifeguard: Forward and Reverse Motion in One. {fiction}


Water, light and fate…

Cara threw three flat stones into the sea. When the third one bounced on the water, she knew that her wheels of destiny were now in motion. She bore enough scars to know that nothing can be permanently perfect, but the healing of those scars assured her that if a flash of perfection penetrates living tissues, it can give a charge of perfect eternity.

So, impossible to clinch perfection in real life, but wonderful to think about.

Great to get into the elements, and truly know the polarities of sensation — feel one is threatened by hypothermia, and then feel tingling great. Marvelous to grapple with the initial pain, then be happy with the anesthetic numbness. Lungs constricted, then freed.

True sensuality is firstly be-directional, then multi-directional, radial: it means plunging and surfacing, with the intervening arc. Through plunging immersion one can find ethereal elevation. There is similar modulation between weightlessness and substantiality. Forward and reverse motion in one: total immersion in heavenly ascent. Oh to metaphorically drown and reach for the stars!  

In the course of some casual browsing, she stumbled on the combination to unlock the sluicegates of her yearnings. Cara chanced on a precious glimpse of his promotional video. That silky voice, blending with that lithe, toned body, made a multi-sensory statement penetrating brain and the nervous system, in parallel to its exertions on the external body.

There is a sublime breath behind those words, as one feels whenever one is desperate to come up for air. Her fascination embraced the entire visual and auditory spectrum — a speck on the horizon, a fleeting form, fugitive from a shoal, perhaps to be absorbed into the ocean, perhaps to suffuse it, to become it.

The thought of him as an elusive form speeding to a flounderer made her feel abashed by her own proficiency. She would never desperately need him, in a physical sense. But a scheme germinated in her mind: perhaps an act of helplessness would do the trick – maybe as bait, then do a volte-face and turn the rescue into a competition.

Maybe through fulfilling that encounter, she could reverse all her past wrong directions, cancel her contraries and find fulfillment. So much better to have natural, organic water wings, perhaps a living raft.

Delicious images flashed through her mind of her entering his changing room, or seeing him as a male stripper — perhaps this could be organized at some stage.

Her thoughts exploded cosmically — a vision of tidal evaporation — the oceans becoming the atmosphere, the depths leading to the supreme ascent, the dried-out sea-bed having the final thrust of the supreme rocket-booster launch. Her strokes echoed orbital progress. Flesh into the cosmos, cosmos into the flesh.

But back to grounded routines: Cara came regularly to the beach, and caught glimpses of him on successive days. She got an idea of his working rota, and which times would be slack, and possibly available…

She thought of starring with him in that video — as the languid lady, flaunting her flowing robes, then casting them off to become the ebullient athlete.


Each wore goggles, so happy voyeurism could be reciprocated. The bait of the floundering gestures worked as a perfect charm. The beach was deserted. Delicious to be carried to the shore, be washed, clinched, horizontal. To the enactment, to the flow. Deborah Kerr and Esther Williams flooded into their tactile reality.

They sat up, and turned face to face. “Well, we ought to introduce ourselves. I’m Cara.”

“I’m Mervyn.” He looked quizzically into her face.

“I wasn’t born yesterday, darling. You were far too relaxed, far too assured in your movements to really need me.”

She blushed. “Where does desire end, and need begin?”

“In the depths of the heart, I expect, but don’t you have a twinge of guilt?”

“Not really. Why should I have?”

“Okay. You wanted a lifeguard, but didn’t need one. What if there had been someone in real need?”

“I had looked around very carefully. The coast seemed to be quite clear.”

“I don’t blame you; I see that you have a spirit of adventure. I do too. I also have a vision of myself as the supreme rescuer. If you signal me to enact that role, I eagerly respond. My profession forbids me to be intrusive, but some feelings make you strain at the leash. Part of me wanted to be an actor or a film star; I think the same applies to you. For long we have rehearsed out parts in our heads. Now we have our cues.

We’ve both got our favorite videos and film excerpts. So let our fantasy director say Action!”

“I’d love to feel I was in danger of drowning; now you can give me the kiss of life.”

From Mervyn’s end, such was his fascination that part of him wanted to cancel his proficiency, and have her come to his rescue.

They both knew Halona Cove. On separate excursions, they had flown over it and walked through it, only to find it uncomfortably crowded, its magic muted. But now, here, its essence, and all its associations and reverberations were transposed to this far distant but ideal location. Mervyn had honed his skills, motivated by a desire to be assured of his strength, to come to the support of a body in distress.

When that body writhed, revolved, reversed, he was delighted to have a trial of matching strengths. Their homing instinct led them in spirit to the exact spot where Deborah and Burt had clinched. They did the roll and the embrace, then face each other.

Cara gave Mervyn a penetrating gaze.

“I’m quite long in the tooth, darling, but like to sustain the flames. Lifeguard contacts have a reputation for being one-offs. Maybe you want to return, strengthened, to your normal life. Or is there something enduring between us?”

“We have time and space to evaluate this scene, ever open to each other.” Perhaps she would train as a lifeguard to re-enact that encounter with reversed roles. He must have a massive tally; but perhaps she could rival that tally — in quality rather than quantity.

He must have been a magnet to a multitude. But such was his allure that the thought of all that multitude melted, poured back into her one composite being, making her all goddesses. She felt that they had speeded each other to mystical, ethereal heights, hoped she had suffused him with a supercharge of charismatic energy, to be universally adored — ‘wonderful to think I put him there’, she thought.

Coming down to earth again, she reflected comfortably on her status as a singleton. Having a strong old-fashioned radical streak, she had held aloof from the wilder parties in this area, preferring to preserve romance and mystery against anything coarse and crude.

One of her acquaintances told her of a ‘last fling’ before treading the matrimonial altar — final gesture of liberation before the sell-out day. Why couldn’t she just go on proclaiming her freedom?

She liked to feel she was well-preserved, and abreast of the youngsters. But she was abashed at their insecurities and their hangovers. Maybe she was well-balanced in the middle of the generational bridge. Maybe she could be to her next what he was to her.

Nice to think of that reunion, and that comparison of notes. Perhaps he might call her for a video session.


David Russell is a resident of London, UK, and a  writer of poetry, literary criticism, speculative fiction and romance. He is also a visual artist and singer-songwriter, active in visual art for several decades. David studied life-drawing at Addison Institute, and works in oil, pastel, watercolor, pencil, collage. He has many tracks on You Tube, under ‘Dave Russell’. David is the editor of online magazine Poetry Express Newsletter, produced by Survivors Poetry and Music. His work has appeared in the Outside In Exhibition, and in many magazines.


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