A life in which beside the seaside

An extract from Hypersanity, a novel. This piece contains explicit sexual references. Dymchurch has a big beach. It's encased by a concrete wall that stretches on forever in both directions, protecting the ramshackle houses behind it from the ever-encroaching tides. I've seen Sophie's nudes on the internet and it feels weird to talk to her now. She picks up a clump of damp sand and tosses it at the ocean. ‘Chloe, I'm fuckin' a guy at the moment who's into shit. He likes rubbin' it on his cock, rubbin' it on his chest, and eatin' it. He wants me to eat his. Should I do it?’ I crack open a can of orangeade. ‘No. If he wants to give himself hepatitis then he can go ahead, but you shouldn't join in.’ ‘But I thought you could eat shit if the shitter had the right kinda diet?’ ‘You can eat your own shit in certain situations. You should never eat someone else's shit.’ You can't see the town from on the beach. Just the omnipresent wall. It swallows up the sand and sky and leaves nothing. In the nudes Sophie was being fucked by three guys at once. An ex-boyfriend leaked them. He leaked them on all the porn sites. Incidentally that's how I found them. I found them and masturbated to them and now I feel like a shitty friend for doing so. I doubt she even knows they're online. I should tell her. ‘Can I have some of that orangeade? I'm thirsty as fuck.’ ‘You should've bought a drink back at the off license.’ ‘I wasn't thirsty then.’ ‘You prat.’ I hand her the can. She chugs some then hands it back to me. She has a lot of hair on her top lip. It's light and fluffy. I wish my hair came out like that. Mine comes out more like a thorn bush. Seagulls squawking. I went to my dad's wedding a couple of days ago. He's been with the woman he married for about four years now. She's like him: she has a condescending face, the kinda face that belittles you even as its mouth compliments you. He used to be more blunt, but spending time with her changed him. Made him less angry. He used to be in a permanent state of rage. Shouting was the only kind of speaking he did—to Mum and I, anyway. He was always extra sweet to the neighbours, to random people on the phone and to anyone who'd listen to his long-winded rants about how his family didn't appreciate how amazing he was. Nowadays he's almost friendly. Certainly he's generous. He visits every month or so and takes me out on expensive trips to the cinema or to some far-off nature reserve with his partner-cum-wife and we all have genial conversation. I enjoy it. I appreciate it, even. It almost makes me forget all the years of intimidation and threats of violence, almost makes me forget how he'd grab me by the collar of my shirt and yell at me till my face was covered in spittle and his cheeks were burning red. Almost. Yet I do still love him. I look at him now and I almost feel sorry for hating him. I sometimes wonder if he's sorry too. He's not though. I know he's not. He doesn't even try to hide how little remorse he feels for how he treated me. He sees it as an unfortunate thing of the past, something we were all equally responsible for. But we weren't equally responsible. Whatever bullshit he and my mum had going on, I had nothing to do with it and he should've left me out of it. He didn't. Now he wants to reconcile and despite my better judgement, so do I. ‘Sophie... I saw... well... I saw some dirty pictures of you on the internet.’ She smirks. ‘Which ones?’ The wedding made everything more complicated. I saw a side of him I'd never seen before. He broke down in tears after my speech. It was a Best Man's speech because I haven't come out to him yet and I probably never will, despite having been on hormones for almost six months now. He broke down in tears and thanked me, told me he loved me. I originally wrote a speech that I thought would embarrass him. I wanted it to make him feel small. I wanted him to know how small he'd made me feel. But when I stood up there and saw the joy on his face, I couldn't do it. I felt horrible. I felt pity for him. I hated him but I didn't wanna hate him. I loved him but I didn't know why. I changed the speech as I went along. What I read was nothing like what I'd written. Then he cried. If I was capable of crying, I would have too. He was glowing the entire evening after that. The next day he drove me home, smiling. He even thanked me again for my speech. Then after that he went back to being a bastard, same as always. ‘What do you mean, 'which ones'?’ ‘I did a couple of porno shoots back in the day.’ ‘But the pics were titled 'my ex gf'.’ ‘People change the titles all the time, you know that! I once saw a totally normal anal sex pic titled 'Uncle rapes niece with horse cock'. People have fucked up imaginations, that's all.’ ‘So you didn't get your phone hacked or anything?’ ‘Oh it did get hacked about a week ago, but the photos they stole were photos I was gonna release anyway.’ I laugh, relieved, ‘I was worried you'd be upset.’ ‘Nahhh.’ I lift the can to my lips but nothing comes out. I look inside it and see it's empty. I guess there was less in there than I thought.

Alice Cox