the rebirth of venus and the russian steel exporter’s honeymoon on the rocks
summer begins, sweeping over the golden-dipped beaches of the old resting stations of the communist party officials, the sun glistening like the top of a perfectly glazed crème brulee, and the sea water shining sapphire into turquoise with greenery and jellyfish in delicate gemstone colors. the red dress of his new wife lena in the distance, like the flags atop the lifeguard’s booth, and the russian steel exporter, with his burning lobster-feet ankle-deep in the sand, the sun on his rolex, and in his greying hair, and narrowed grey eyes. his is throat hoarse, his marble skull full of brown sugar and crushed mint leaves. lena suddenly stills, abrupt, and faces him bug like with her large black sunglasses dolce, dior. her wide brim straw hat, yellow and round, sun-like on the blue sky, flaps in the wind. the russian steel exporter, sunburned, cigar in hand, beckons her back to him.
every summer ends in the late september heat, when inevitably, the sea spits out jellyfish like plastic bags that the seagulls can’t spit out. they litter the black glistening sand of the beach in vivid technicolor, pulsating like so much colorful garbage, like umbrellas without their springs, like crumpled cellophane, like dented birthday cakes. lena reaches out with her elegant pale foot to poke into their tenderly domed bodies like an expertly made panna cotta, served on a plate of boiling salt water, the pearlescent polish on her mother-of-pearl toenails catching in the sun. the jellyfish jiggle. jellyfish have no brains, so they cannot comprehend that they are slowly dying, while the tide comes in, crawling crab-like, without rushing, licking at their extended electric feet when the tourist season dies down, and lena and her new husband jet off back to moscow in clouds of petroleum fumes and peals of laughter, the beaches quiet down.the sea still reaches out, the white-tipped fingers of venus coming from the blown-glass sea bottom, breaking through indigo waves; seashell-fine pink nails poke at the jellyfish. she stumbles out, confused on new legs, new feet stepping right into the shattered glass, spitting open, bloody. the spun gold fleece of her hair decorated in the glittering tin of cans, her skin smooth, glistening, oil slick, dripping down her shoulders, her arms, her thighs. venus steps out, blinks up at the sun, which unmercifully scatters rays on the endless black sands, casts her eye on the empty beach, where the sea has spat out, not only her, but the jellyfishes, and the rotting corpses of seaweed clusters, heaped like a salad gone bad in moist thick green and beyond the line of beachside bars with their locked doors and shut windows, venus listens for the sounds of the kingdom of man – engines roaring like a grand beast, and a city, awakening into a valley of plastic.
Thea Nikolova is a writer and academic based in North East England, currently working in news and media, and due to start a PhD in English Literary Studies in October 2020. She has BA in English language and creative writing from Lancaster University, and an MA in English Literature from Durham University. Her work has appeared in Cake Literary Journal and Amsterdam Quarterly, while her academic writing has been recognized at multiple conferences. Thea is also part of Penguin WriteNow 2020.
Photo by Kunj Parekh