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a breath, gone for a swim

a story about an aquarium

By emPublished 7 months ago 4 min read
a breath, gone for a swim
Photo by Nils Söderman on Unsplash

“Air,” says Water, pressed up against the glass.

She takes a deep breath, forever blown away by the sight of his beauty. “Water,” she replies.

“Once again we find ourselves as neighbours,” he laughs, but it’s empty. A river that dried up so long ago - though his tears have never since ceased.

“So close to one another,” Air adds, her palms flat against the glass dividing them. Her fingers are much smaller than his. They’re softer, gentler. They can caress a soul, whilst his can sink one.

“Yet destined to remain apart.”

The tale of the two has skirted this planet’s history since before the present had time to become the past. They were there, together, at the beginning. Half a world between them, yet never more than an atom apart. Water and Air, like Romeo and Juliet, were separated by things beyond their control - and both irrevocably in love. But unlike the starcrossed loves, our elemental soulmates are not afforded the luxury of the afterlife. Forever, they must know the other is beside them yet a universe away.

Air breathes softly to herself with a smile. “I forget sometimes, Water, what with you being deadly oceans and mighty seas, that, on a much smaller scale, you’re actually rather sweet. I’d carry you around in a bottle if I could.”

Water smiles back at her, then smushes his face against the glass, making her laugh.

“I could say the same for you, little O. You are your best self when you are as simple as a sigh of happiness.”

But only a sigh of sadness escapes her then. Tears begin to tap dance behind her eyes, though that’s as far as they will get. She never lets herself cry. It reminds her of him too much.

“Glass looks good on you,” she says after a moment.

Water finds himself fighting for breath. But what can he do? The sight of her sorrow creates a maelstrom inside his heart, but he’s stuck inside this miserable tank whilst she lives inside the lungs of those who stop to stare at it.

Still, and with all his might, he tries to reach the top of the glass and pull himself over to her. A droplet lands at her feet. Is that her tear? Or him? She stares at it for a while, wondering what he might feel like.

“Listen to me Air. Look at me and listen. Hear me.” He can wreck entire ships, this man. But right now, all he wants is to lift her chin and meet her eyes. “Tornados, hurricanes, they don’t scare a tsunami. A strong gale can’t banish a stormy sea. They work in unison, don’t they? One enhances the other. They’re a team, we’re a team, even when you’re grazing your fingers across the edge of the atmosphere and I’m leaning up against the horizon. I’m yours, little O. Wherever you might blow.”

History suggests that there’s an eternal intersection, where Water and Air meet, but never combine. The surface of the sea, the lid of a bottle, pressed up on either side of the glass of an aquarium. Both can occupy a space with such a dominating presence, can’t they? Air, when spiralling in her sadness, can collapse towns. Water, when enraged in frustration, can swallow civilisations.

But on their best days, Air and Water bring life. They fill up bodies, they fill up the Earth, and when they work together, they keep the planet together. So why can’t they be together?

“We’re made of similar stuff, you and me. The wind and the sea.” Water adds.

Air is watching him now as he laps at the lip of the glass container. There is nothing in the universe as blue as his eyes. And nothing in the universe that can change her mind now. She curls her fingers over the edge and feels his skin.

“I don’t want to spend another minute of infinity fighting this,” she says. “Humans have touched the moon! Light from stars that lived lifetimes before our own have found the Earth! And today, I find you.”

Water watches her then, eyes wide and proud and slightly unsure of her next move. Meanwhile, Air rewrites their tale entirely.

With a deep breath, she stands tall on her tiptoes and swings a leg over the glass. Water parts for her, makes room for her, arms out, the softest landing, ready to catch her should she fall. But Air never falls, she finds her own way.

And Water encompasses her whole as she does.

“Look mama! Look!” a child taps rampantly against the glass of the aquarium with a tiny index finger, pulling on his mother’s coat with the other hand. “The boat! Look! Did it sink?”

There, on the sand beneath the tiny boxed ocean, is a miniature rowboat, upturned and lodged into the ground. If the kid were able to get any closer, press an ear up and beyond the glass, he’d hear whispering there. Laughter. Sighs of inherent happiness.

For, within that upturned boat at the bottom of the tank, is a pocket of air, inside the water.

It’s her and it’s him.

A breath, gone for a swim.


About the Creator


I’m a writer, a storyteller, a lunatic. I imagine in a parallel universe I might be a caricaturist or a botanist or somewhere asleep on the moon — but here, I am a writer, turning moments into multiverses and making homes out of them.

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  • Helen Kwiecien7 months ago

    I love the yearning desire here and the imagery 💚

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