The Sea and the Sky

“She’s ready for takeoff,” said Germaine, Tony’s flight instructor. He motioned toward the waiting Cessna.

“What, already?” Tony’s voice cracked a little. Apparently some of Martha’s fear of flying had rubbed off on him over the years.

Germaine laughed at him. “I’ll be right next to you you at the controls. It’s okay to be nervous.”

That cinched it. Tony was not going to be timid in front of Germaine. He liked Germaine; Germaine was a nice person, an honest person and with a great confidence about him, for such a pup. Tony was more than twice his instructor’s age and that fact shamed him into action.

“Let’s go,” he said, barely stopping himself from adding, “young man.”

This was such a lot of work to do to simply cheat on his wife. But it was important to Tony’s ego that he take an equally astonishing and magnificent lover as Martha had already found for herself. Fair was fair.

After takeoff, Tony gazed out the windshield over acres and acres of bright tropical plants, all striking green against the black, volcanic soil they grew from. The Big Island was so beautiful it was almost unrealistic. When they’d first moved here, Tony could scarcely believe their fortune. They had always wanted to enjoy retirement somewhere spectacular. But then, he thought they would be enjoying the spectacular place together.

Germaine turned the plane out over the sea. “Ahh. My favorite view,” the young man sighed. Tony stared down at the water and seethed hatred. Martha was under there somewhere, in the arms of her so-much-more-interesting-than-Tony lover.

“You ever scuba dive?” He asked Germaine suddenly.

“Yeah. It’s fun.”

Everybody loves scuba diving, Tony thought bitterly.

“My wife loves it. Does it all the time.”

“But you don’t.” Germaine observed.

“Can’t.” Tony twisted his pinky in his left ear. “Ruptured eardrum. Pressure would burst it all over again and I could go deaf.”

“So you took up flying instead?”

“Yep. My wife’s afraid of flying.”

Germaine laughed at him again. “So, she does something you can’t do, so you do something she can’t do.”

Tony sniffed. It was rude of Germaine to laugh at this central pain of his marriage.

“That was the idea, yeah.” Tony said. Germaine kept laughing.


Tony and Martha made love that night. After, as she lay in the crook of his arm, she sighed contentedly and said, “There’s no feeling like it.”

“Hmm?” asked Tony, unexpectedly pleased and touched. Perhaps there is hope after all…

“Being under the sea,” she sighed.

Tony’s eyes flew open. He felt like someone had dumped a bucket of ice water on his belly. Bucket and all.

“Did you know,” she murmured, “that I held a living sea urchin today? Right in the palm of my hand. And it wiggled!” She sounded delighted as a schoolgirl and her face was alight—but not because of him. Because of the damned sea.

It was another moment months earlier just like this that had prompted Tony’s own resolution to fly. Martha had, like tonight, lain with him in a post-coital heap and said “It feels like flying.” She’d meant that about the sea too. And what a pity Tony couldn’t share it with her. It was the seed of his jealousy. He decided that night that he’d also do something that felt like flying—flying. So there.

He closed his eyes again.

“Tell me more about the sea urchin,” he mumbled. He tuned out her poetical waxings on echinoderms and thought about next week’s flight lesson, wondering how to feel as sensually enchanted with it as Martha was with her diving.


“Now we’re going to take her out over the sea,” Germaine said.

“Can we stay over the land?” Tony nearly whined. If he didn’t look at the sea, he could almost forget that he wasn’t enjoying flying as to the quasi-orgasmic levels he was hoping for.

“If you like,” said Germaine. He sounded amused. “Why did you move to an island if you don’t like the ocean?” Germaine was grinning.

“My wife,” he said curtly, “is in love with the sea.”


“We were supposed to retire together.” Tony felt there might have been a tinge of whining in his voice. He cringed. He expected Germaine to laugh, but the young man was silent. Only the sound of the motor.

Germaine remained silent a long time and Tony started to think ahead next week to his first solo flight. He hoped that, alone, without an overgrown adolescent smirking behind him he could really get to know his new mistress, the sky. He hoped he could connect emotionally with her and reach that crescendo of infatuation he’d been hoping for. Then he could tell Martha all about it for a change.

“You know,” Germaine said suddenly, “My parents are retired too. They’re not nearly as old as you are.”

Thanks a lot, kid, Tony thought.

Germaine continued. “But when they retired, they got on each other’s nerves. Not enough money and too much husband, my mom said. But then she started playing bridge and joined a book club. Dad took up basement hydroponics. Now they don’t see each other all day, every day. But they’re much happier when they do see each other.”

“Who asked you?” Tony snapped. Germaine did not understand.


“Tomorrow’s my solo flight.” He told Martha. Tonight’s your last chance, he thought. Then I belong to the sky. He looked pleadingly at her, hoping she would understand his meaning and spurn her elemental paramour.

“Wonderful!” Martha said. Tony sagged. He couldn’t even elicit a spark of jealousy in his wife. Her feelings for him had all washed away in her lover’s tides.

“Today,” she said, “I sat on the ocean floor with thirty feet of crystal clear water above me. Everything was blue and silver, except the fish. I counted ten reef trigger fish. I heard the Hawaiian word for them is humuhumunukunukuapua’a. That’s a mouthful!”

Tony’s heart sank as she spoke. She told him how graceful she felt under the water and how free. He shook his head. He couldn’t compete with a force of nature. He was only one man. One tired, old man. He turned over in bed and tried not to whimper.


Tony looked out over the black volcanic ground below the plane. His eyes glanced up the long, slow slope of Mauna Kea until it disappeared into the clouds above. He inhaled deeply, breathing in the silence. No Germaine next to him. It was just him and the sky. Hello, my love the sky, He thought.

He didn’t feel as he’d expected to, enraptured, captivated. It was a different feeling very much unlike he’d expected an affair to feel. It felt good, but he couldn’t identify it. He ought to have felt frustrated, but he didn’t. He sniffed.

“Nothing for it.” He turned the plane toward the sea, not as a challenge, but as a question. “What’s she feeling when she’s under the waves where I can’t follow?” He asked it aloud and was met by only the sound of the engines.

The sea, her territory, stretched blue and expansive underneath him. He let his eyes trace it up, up, up. It seemed to go on forever until he found the horizon. The place where the dark of her sea and the light of his sky touched, palm to palm.

“It feels like…diving,” he said aloud to no one. But when he next thought of Martha, he smiled.

The title that inspired it all:  “The Woman in the Ocean” by Christie O. Hall

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