Illustrated by Elliott Highmore
Gonna Be Everything You’ve Ever Dreamed
I rose up from the water feeling cleansed, new again. I looked around my bare surroundings and suddenly felt a sense of loss. The water was all I had ever known. My whole life was spent alone, on display. It was wet and uncomfortable – yes, but it was my home.
I dipped my fingers into the cold liquid once more, toying with the thought of re-entering my solitude. He carefully traced his fingers across my jawline and turned my face towards his. This was my home now. He is my home.
Safety. All I had ever dreamed of was a place where I fit in and could be free. As I looked into his eyes, compassion reflected back into mine.
He was a boy from the ground, and I – a girl from the unbelievable. We would make it work though, this love could overcome anything. I just knew it.
It was crazy-mad, man. Like you couldn’t even bare to dream about. There she was, right there, in front of me, baring all. I quickly ripped off my shirt and wrapped it around her and brought her into my arms. I’m the kind of guy that likes to wear a shirt over a tee, so it wasn’t like I was getting my kit off or anything. I didn’t even know if she could feel the cold. I realised that I actually didn’t know a lot about her at all.
I liked the way that she danced and could see that she was sad, yeah. I was just drawn to her, guess I’m a hopeless romantic after all.
As much as I wanted to stay and get to know the girl, my main concern was how the hell to get us both out and without harm.
Obviously, she could shine elsewhere, she had that about her, this kind of versatility. But me? Well, I’ve never known what’s good for me. I was good on cameras and enjoyed it fine, but I dunno what my destiny is – what drives me.
Never Be Like You
He wrapped me up like a prize puppy and held me for a moment. That’s when this strange man appeared. He had grey hair, slicked back into a tail with a smirk on his face that reminded me of grey clouds and sour lemons.
I looked up towards my saviour expecting him to save me once more, but he looked more like a deflated balloon.
With my hand wrapped around his, I got up to my feet.
That feeling of rising up and standing on my own two feet was incredible. I didn’t think I had it in me at all. After a while you get so used to floating that you forget the power you possess to take direction and go wherever you please. I’m not sure if I could’ve managed the same without his hand in mine, or the urgent demand to run and be safe. Nevertheless, I did it.
We ran together, step by step to the exit door and plunged down the staircase faster than a dive into open water. Down, down, down and OUT.
OUTSIDE. ON MY FEET. AWAY.
Be the One to Take a Chance
I took her back to my place. It’s small and messy, but it is what it is at the end of the day. I was far too embarrassed to take her into my bedroom considering all the nasty stuff lying around and, as my mum would say, this is no place to take a lady.
The bathroom it was then. Picture it in your head, towels all over the floor, empty bottles of God knows what in the base of the shower and you couldn’t imagine the mess in the sink. It wasn’t the most appropriate place to bring a girl back to.
I needed to get my life in order.
You & Me
“So… here it is. Not the best, better than that tank though, yeah?”
“It’s perfect, honestly.
But, what do we do now?”
“Well, I’m gonna quit my job – ”
“ – Haven’t you already? You can’t go back after all of that? That place is dark.”
“It’s money. It’s a job. I need it to survive.”
“We have each other now, we can do whatever we want. The whole world is waiting for us, Cam.”
“Umm… Yeah… That’s what I called you because, you know, the cameras and stuff… It’s stupid but – ”
“ – I like it: Cam and Flo.”
“The ultimate team.”
“Something like that.”
When Everything Was New
I first stepped foot into the tank four years ago – by choice. I had always craved something more to life other than wondering around aimlessly. The tank gave me a purpose and a reason to live when I needed one most. I had no idea how much it would restrain me.
It’s not like I never enjoyed it, don’t get me wrong. For the first couple of years it was a rush, like the first bolt of electricity to ever light a bulb, over and over again. Every day I would see new faces and experience new things. I aimed to drive myself higher and higher; larger tanks, larger audiences, more applause. I was able to just lose it and be myself. But I was alone and loneliness weighs you down like an anchor.
I used to live for my shows, revealing a new dance every month and watching the reactions of everyone. They were always so encouraging and respectful. I owned my body and controlled my audience well. Women would leave with a spark in their eyes and a need to express themselves which they hadn’t possessed before.
I would love to do a show again. One last show.
Make Me Wanna Stay
Something was missing, mate. I’m not gonna lie to you, something wasn’t there. And I needed this something, this extra little… I don’t know.
When I was nothing more than a tiny baba, my Pop took me out for dessert. It was a real sunny day, but late April. You know one of those days? A secret summer in the midst of showers: a little oasis.
Banana-splits! The absolute best around. That Tony guy can walk the plank and then some… Nah, Stevie’s were the bomb.
We would always order ‘The Shell’. Now, The Shell came with it all: every flavour you can imagine, a shell wafer, whipped cream, sprinkles, two cherries, chocolate sauce, strawberry sauce, all wedged between a feeble banana.
So on this day we ploughed through our dessert as fast as rabbits, as usual. But it felt different. It wasn’t the same. When we received the bill, my Pop talked to the waiter for a bit and we ended up getting a discount.
“What’s a sundae without the cherry on top, boy?” I hadn’t noticed at first, but when he mentioned it, I realised that the sweetness and glisten wasn’t there. I had no syrup to help me through the last spoonfuls of bitter dark chocolate ice-cream, and without it I struggled.
You need the cherry on top to complete something good. The icing on a cake, the best of the best. A cherry can make even the rainiest of days brighter.
As we left Stevie’s, my Pop opened up his yellow umbrella and walked us back to the car.
He left me in the apartment whilst he went to figure himself out.
It felt strange to finally be out. I was empowered, yet empty. I had zero purpose anymore. I slowly filled up the bathtub and descended into the warm water lapping at my toes.
As much as I tried to dance and twirl like I would usually. But I didn’t have the room nor the drive in myself that I had before. Everything was so small now, lacking in meaning altogether.
I pulled the plug out from its socket and felt the water escape over my skin and down into the drain.
Stop Looking at Me with Those Eyes
I walked in. They sat me down. They looked at me. I looked straight back.
“You can still have your job, we’ve found a new one to replace her. We don’t blame you for what you did, she was never the right fit.”
A part of me wanted to argue for her, yet a part of me always knew that she came with an expiration date.
I did my shift just fine. The new girl: fiery red hair and the longest legs I’ve ever seen, she could dance and spin and smile. The crowd applauded as if nothing had ever happened. No-one spoke about Flo anymore. She never existed. I half expected her to be gone by the time I got home.
It wasn’t right.
At the end of the day, we were together. Wherever she wanted to go I would abide. That was my job now, my role in life. We were such similar creatures. All we wanted was a safe space, a place to be ourselves, and without her there it wasn’t the same.
I handed in my notice and walked through the doors like an old-timer cowboy back in the day.
He opened the doors and I leapt up into his arms.
Our kiss was a rom-com dream. My arms melted into his and our bodies became one entity. We held onto each other so tight it left marks in my skin. His eyes bore into mine and it felt like we could read the other’s mind. If we were superheroes, it would have been the point where we’d fly up to the moon together and dance around in the dust. Superman and Wonder Woman together at last, only, they didn’t end up together in the comics did they.
“I can’t stay here, Cam. I’ve got to get away.”
He smiled slightly and then looked towards the door, for a moment, before turning back towards me. His smile dropped at the sides and he held me close, too close.
You Make Me Wanna Change
We were in my car, driving way beyond the speed limit. In the blur of my vision I could make out road signs: ‘stop’, ‘fork in road ahead’, ‘turn around’.
I kept driving.
Driving away from our past.
I looked to my left and there she was, laughing and singing along to every song the radio played. Absolutely glowing. I turned up the volume and let her sing. I didn’t know any of the words, the songs weren’t exactly my bag, but it was nice to see her let go. She shoved my shoulder, encouraging me to sing with her, beaming at me and giggling to herself. I smiled back, then fixed my eyes on the road. The volume turned down.
We reached the ocean after a couple of hours.
Take a Chance
There was a quaint chalet by the seaside, far away from anything else, anything before. It appeared to be unoccupied and we looked around together. I could picture myself warming my toes by the fireplace in the winter, and Cam at the stove cooking dinner for the both of us.
I turned towards him as he grabbed me by the waist and fell backwards onto the bed with me. The covers were dark grey, covered in little yellow stars. It was like falling into space: our own space. We lay together for a moment with our arms intertwined. I could have stayed like that for eternity.
Cam shuffled out from underneath my weight and sat on the edge of the bed, with his feet firmly on the floor. He stood up and walked out of the front door without a single hesitation. I followed curiously as he led me to the ocean.
Numb and Getting Colder
“We have to go back. Find a new company that will have us both. We’ll get you a better stage and a new show. I’ll get a job back on cameras or maintenance or something and it’ll be like before. Just the two of us.”
“We can’t go back. We can make our own show right here. You film it and I’ll perform again. But this time on our own terms. This is it, this is real. This is you and me. We’ll work it out together.”
“You’re deluding yourself, Flo. You don’t know what reality is, you’ve never lived in the real world. That’s not how it works, you can’t just pick and choose. It is what it is. You stay here, this is where you belong. You’ve got it all figured out, but I’m lost.”
“Stay with me.”
“Not now, maybe in the future.”
She sank to the floor and I walked away.
We Go Like Water
I watched him leave, tears rolling down my cheeks, forming their own pathways and then dripping onto the sand.
The ocean crashed into my body from behind, leaving me breathless and trying to drag me out into the open. Pools of rippling water formed as the tide flowed backwards.
The dry taste of salt corrupted my mouth, I tried to spit it out and drops of fat water spluttered to the floor.
The tide hit me again and I gave in, falling back into a nightmare, his figure fading out of sight.
“I can’t see you anymore.”
“I’m still here.”