He used to take us fishing.
I used to think they call those hours ungodly because it wasn’t right that we should lose our blankets before the sky uncovers itself for the day. The hours where I didn’t even open my eyes to eat breakfast, barely staying conscious enough to register the rough texture of toast across my tongue. But still, the was a certain quality about that time in the mornings that was a little magical. For that one hour where we’d wake up, load the car and set off, the street lights seemed to reflect the stars above, the stray cars on the road would whisper past us and then I’d be asleep again, sprawled out in the backseat listening to the engine hum me to sleep – a mechanical lullaby. I was certain that, although I was too weak to fight sleep, his control of the car was absolute.
I loved waking up with only a loose grip on what was a dream and what had actually happened. It made it seem like I had been dreaming about the trip in anticipation.
I loved being in the backseat. It was my own nest cushioned by everyone’s jackets and various snacks with rods overhanging from the boot. In the backseat, the blocked landscape coloured in by children seem to spill carelessly onto the thick line the endless stretch of road makes on the landscape. From the backseat, it was only natural that he didn’t need any maps. That the roads would change according to the turns of his wheel so that no matter which exit he took, we’d always arrive at the right destination.
I loved wearing his jumpers over my own, a tent impervious to the wind hanging to my knees and rolled up to the elbows. I held the bucket or sometimes even the tackle box without swinging them because I knew better. He was always one step behind, carrying the fishing rods and the Esky with our bait.
I’m not sure whether it was the culture among fishermen casting over the same pier or whether it was just because he could make a friend out of anyone, but I think that it was with him that I first understood that camaraderie could be achieved even though we would arrive and leave as strangers.
I loved the sea worn wood beneath our feet, the mysterious black texture on the pillars and the rusted screws holding it all together. Odd scales littering the wood told me that fish had flopped and been gutted where I sat but I sat there nonetheless. My feet always hung off the edge and I got the same warning to be careful every time. Sometimes we saw enormous fish or stingrays draw figure eights beneath our feet.
There were always smaller fish, nipping at the crusty pillars or waiting for the various scraps we threw into the water. While he cast his line over in a smooth arc in deep water, I would wait for him to help me fix the bait onto my own handheld line so I could mimic my brother dropping his own prepared line right next to the pillars. The two of us would almost be on all fours but for one hand stretching over the water with the line between our fingers, whispering encouragement for the fish to take the hook. He would wait patiently for his line to tighten without music or a book.
I loved eating fish and chips on the pier, tomato sauce on our fingertips, lemon on our tongues and salt in the air. Sunsets always glowed reddest on those nights, encasing everything as a silhouette.
I loved going home, the smell of salt still in my hair and on my knees and the promise of exaggeration on our lips, regardless of the catch.
It was only recently though, that I realised that everything I loved about fishing had nothing to do with catching fish.