R by Robert Warf

R by Robert Warf

It didn’t start with A. With her. With how we weren’t. Me and A didn’t give a fuck. We didn’t give a fuck who each other fucked because we didn’t care about each other. 

This word, care, didn’t exist to us. What existed was this: driving out to my beach house. Out off the paved roads. Eleven miles down past anyone who cared. We liked tabs. Gas masks. We liked getting faced and night surfing with the parked Bronco’s glowing eyes as our landmark when we were out in the lineup. 

A, liked night surfing. I was not the surfer. A, was. I liked sitting just before the lineup and staring into the blackness. Into the emptiness.

There was never anything there. We didn’t care. We were each other’s first. We didn’t understand to care.

How to. 


As a swimmer, my best stroke was backstroke. By this I mean my best stroke was underwaters. You see, at a certain level in swimming it is all about your underwaters off the walls. For backstrokers, this is all it’s about. For me, it is what I did best.

Up and down. Coach with his stopwatch in hand walked up and down the pool as we did underwater sets of 25’s on 25 in the meter pool. On 25 you have maybe ten seconds rest at the wall. By the end of the set, no rest.

By the end of the set everything is black. Your insides scream with oxygen deprived blood beating so hard it feels as though it will spray out of you and breathe without you. Your heart you feel in your head as a dull beat beating your brain into submission, and finally, around the time you feel both of these, you will feel a burning inside your lungs. A burning that you know if you held yourself down and pushed past the wall, past the end of the 25, would burn you into darkness. Into nothing. Into emptiness. 

Into the way I feel about her.

About Z.


Where I should’ve started is with M. M is right in the middle. 13 of 26 letters. I should’ve started there. With how F treated M.

This I did not like. Again, it is no different than the sort of loveless relationships those who have not been loved know.

What I will say is this: F loved fucking a lot of women. He was a bodybuilder. A man larger than life. He had a lot of women, and the woman he had, M, a woman who cared, he fucked. And this relationship, this kind of one, is not unique. It is not singular.

The last time we spoke he called me from Tijuana and told me he doesn’t understand how he always fucks people who don’t care and fucks the ones who do. He didn’t say the difference. He didn’t need to.

We are not so different; backstroke was also his best stroke. 


Right now, walking this beach, is not so different. I am alone, down by the two-mile mark past the state line where the national park is. And at the two-mile mark is a capsized marble wreck from the 1800’s out off the coastline breaking breakers.

I stand on the beach; the tide breaks violently. I’ve thought this before. What it would be like to take off my clothes and walk out into it the cold how me and A used to. How I’d walk out into it and dive under and turn over onto my back and watch the undertow until I was too far down to see anything but nothing. And in this nothing, I know the feeling it will be. I have thought of it many times touching the wall and taking my head out, but this time would be different, and sometimes I think this thought when I think there are no letters after Z.

Robert Warf is from Portsmouth, Virginia. He has work in Post Road, X-R-A-Y, HAD, and Witch Craft.

Art based on a design by Steve Anwyll.

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