Tone demands to go swimming. ‘You’ll have to find something,’ I tell him. He goes off in search of driftwood, settles for a bit of rope. The loch shows a breeze I can’t feel, the dark flecked with white. But where it laps the shingle, it is the colour of the moon. Ethereal and calm.
You pull on your drysuit and harness. The tanks are already in the water, two yellow lines below the green surface. Golden light undulates in diamond patterns. I throw the rope for Tone and watch the silver trails he makes, his current a ghost. When I look again, you have gone. I never hear you go – no splashing, no hissy intake of breath. The water is silent. But after a moment I turn and catch your lazy fin break the surface. For the next half hour it is just me, Tone, and his bit of rope. I have tied a knot in it for weight but, wet, it keeps slipping. I will ask you to fix it on your return. Your voice in my mind laughs: ‘If you can’t tie knots, tie lots.’ But none of this matters because somehow the slipping of the rope and my only half-hearted caring is what this weekend is about.
We often used to spend time like this in the north – rough camping at Strathy, Melvich or Torrisdale. When we finally moved up here, all that changed. We said goodbye to the homemade camper. You took the bed out and I helped haul it into the loft where it’s been these last four years. And then yesterday, on a whim, we hauled it down again. You dusted off the cobwebs, hoovered up the dead moths and spiders. It was a simple enough thing: a longing to lose ourselves in the landscape. Just the van, two deckchairs and the hills.
You are noisier coming back and I hear the chomp chomp of your feet on the shingle. Your towel, jammed in the van door, ripples as the wind picks up. Years ago, this would have been a place of work: the ferry ploughing back and forth to Portnancon, and the limekilns aglow. Today, time here feels hollow, like the empty scallop and whelk shells bleaching on the shore. As you cast off your harness, lay the wet things on the grass, it occurs to me that you’re my moon-coloured water. The world foam-flecked and tricky, in you I find an ethereal calm. And beyond that, nothing matters. Nothing at all.