The Dance of the Lionfish

[from Sometimes You Lose People, Yediot Books Press, 2013]

A lionfish danced near a quiet beach, on an evening awash with desert-red sunset  twilight, as my mother and I rose heavily out of the deep waters, wearing plastic sandals to protect us from urchins’ spines.

The water’s blueness bathed in us as if we were mermaids, she with her curvaceous figure and I with my slender childish body. Were it not for the darkness that threatened to fall suddenly we would have probably stayed on, watching the colorful corals or floating like translucent seaweeds whose edges fray into thread-like, lengthening fingers.

Suddenly my mother stopped and fell on all fours, sweeping me too into a kind of quick drowning in the shallow waters, which I escaped by spraying slivery streams out of my mouth, choking and waving my arms and legs, which flapped against the water and caused more whirlpools and splashes, till in the end I scaled my mother like a little weary cub, enjoying the friction of our smooth skin, till we escaped the entangled bind but remained standing on all fours, crawling in the vibration of a rolling, never-ending  laughter, as if we were our own audience, momentary water comediennes.

Just then, whilst clumsily crawling out to the shore and from the low altitude in which we remained, we noticed a yellow- and orange-striped fish surfacing into the water’s edge, into the area which is half-land and half-sea. Its body was only slightly dipped in the water, so that any uncalculated move would have made it too exposed and risking dryness. It was like an artist who explores the boundaries of the stage, risking standing on the edge, which could lead him to fall into the dark side, the side of the audience.

In its honor we both fell silent at once, holding our breaths with admiration and watching it from behind, from the sea towards the shore. Its stripy fans glided with a calm and quivering cyclicality as he circled and danced, in a kind of private self-centered mastery, swept with blue, sunset-pink and sand.

 I don’t remember many such moments of quietness with my mother. But there, near  the lionfish, we were one with one, without embarrassment, without a failed desire to make each other happy, without guilt we stood spellbound, staring with awe at its heavenly display, wishing it would never end.

 Then it turned back, withdrawn like an actress who, after removing her glamorous wig and baring her tightly combed hair, is ready to go out to the street and walk among the madding crowd like a fish in the stream whose head is pointed with maximum and meticulous precision in the direction of its advance.

About Adi Sorek

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