Despite the fact that it was wartime, we could not help the temptation to swim in the English Channel, because we were young and bold, or else because we were foolish.
We managed, somehow, to find an opening in the coils of wire, which were meant to keep people away from the beaches, for fear that the Germans would invade or send spies by boat.
I was told, by a fellow soldier who crossed our path along the shoreline, that the water here was too cold for sharks. With that in mind we took a dip, only to spot a jellyfish swirling in the water some distance off. I splashed a big wave at it, which made it recede and disappear into the fluid sparkle. Swimming just ahead of Natasha I watched the beautiful, smooth motion of her arms and legs, and noticed her looking at me, as I matched my stroke to hers.
At last we turned ashore. From time to time I pushed off a plank of wood, covered in a bit of seaweed, which came floating our way. That, for me, was just part of the adventure. Crossing the line of spray, where the breakers came to meet the shore, I felt sorry that it was almost over, that it was time to say goodbye to this place, where we found ourselves steeped in this strange, magical feeling.
On our way up, Natasha asked, “What gave you the idea to come here?”
And I said, “A song.”
“Yes,” I said. “I heard it just one time, on the radio, but the feel of it stuck with me.”
Over my humming it, she said, “Oh! I think I know it!”
She pressed her hands to her temples, perhaps trying to recall the words, and when they would not come, she improvised, coming up with words of her own, which truly amazed me:
There’ll be seagulls over
The White Cliffs of Dover
When war’s just a memory of the past
I stopped her right there, simply to suggest the right word. “Bluebirds,” I said, holding out my hand for Natasha, because the climb was becoming hard.
Refusing my hand, she said, “What?”
“Bluebirds,” I said. “Not seagulls.”
“I like seagulls better,” she said, a bit stubbornly. “So please, don’t correct me.”