▲ Detail from Goldfish (to my critics), Gustav Klimt, 1902.
It was years ago, well before you were born, the great winter when the bay froze over.
A woodsman was walking along the edge of the ice, looking down through the translucent blue-grey of it, when he saw wisps of red moving beneath the water, like reeds or seaweed, but too light and too fine. He stopped to watch the tendrils and saw in their midst the face of a young woman. He thought at first that she was long drowned, but she blinked up at him and he realized that she must be trapped.
His axe fell on the ice again and again until he’d made a portal through which she could climb, but she refused to leave the frigid waters, happy just to lift her head and take the sun.
Once he understood that she could not leave the water, and she that he did not know how to swim, they met there at the bay’s edge each day. He would carve a hole in the ice and she would come spend a few hours with him. At the end of the first week he gave her a pendant with a small fish carved of wood, and she brought him a shell from the seafloor.
It went on like that, the two of them living together and apart at once, their love less uncertain than that of others because they already knew when the winter would end.
This entry is part of Jack Rusher’s archive, originally published January 18th, 2012, in New York.