Conversations Underwater

By Sigrid Daniel

We’d been in Manchester at a festival and someone we’d had lunch with had been talking about Weinstein and I wondered if I should refer to my own experience so I took a breath and counted two beats and the guy held my gaze til I looked away and watched as the bubbles in his beer glass refracted the light. It gave me time to think: should I talk about me or someone else, you know, hide behind Maria Schneider or Rose McGowan or Jane Doe 101? – because actually I wasn’t that person anymore; I had a muffin top and two kids and lines around my eyes – and it can help to push your point home if you’re sexually attractive and everybody knows your name. As I questioned that particular assumption I looked over at you because I thought, well, maybe you could help me out here, back me up, or even just hold my hand under the table and then I’d feel brave, but you were too far away, talking to the others. After our conversation that morning in the hotel bed, I felt like it might be time to talk. I followed through and I let him know a few details but as soon as I said my one or two sentences I realised I’d misjudged it and I wasn’t ready and neither was he and all I wanted was for you to be there with me or for us to be back in bed, where you could hold me again. But you were in the middle of a conversation and as your head rocked back in laughter I realised it wouldn’t have been right to interrupt so I sat looking down at my lap as my skin grew hotter and redder the guy just took a swig of his beer like he was drinking in my story and then as the glass went back down on the table he narrowed his eyes and looked at someone else. I knew the arguments and he won’t have been the first to have run through them. All I wanted to do was to stop them from pouring out of his head and into mine.

I heard your laugh and then the feeling crashed into me, like a wave of tiny ships smashed against a harbour wall, all the jagged pieces floating around, piercing into me as the wind smacked up against the wall again, pulling me down into the dirty water. I had to remember to breathe and I wanted to get away so I sent you a message with my eyes, and when you didn’t receive it I thought about pushing the glasses off the table so they’d break but I was drowning and I couldn’t reach them anymore; I just had to sit, the glasses clinking and the others talking and the water lapping over my head.

Sigrid Daniel is a poet and writer, she has participated in an Arvon poetry retreat, tutored by recent TS Eliot prize winner, Roger Robinson; and she has been selected for a competitive novel writing course with Curtis Brown Creative. She’s a Modern Languages PhD, with a research interest in the depiction of mental illness in early 20th Century literature.

Her work in progress is a novel about a group of friends enjoying the late ‘80’s Acid House scene and dealing with the aftermath of growing up in marginal settings and taking inadvisable amounts of drugs.

Find out more: @sigiplumpton (Instagram) & @sigriddaniel (Twitter)