“She smells of the sea. She smells of rockpools when I was a child. She keeps starfish in there. I crouch down to taste the salt, to run my fingers around the rim. She opens and shuts like a sea anemone. She’s refilled each day with fresh tides of longing.” (73)
The connection to the ocean is significant. Sexuality as fluid. Sexuality as connection—that is, as taste and smell over sight. There is no separation by viewing, no watcher and watched to create an object out of a person. Taste and smell are visceral and they bring the narrator and Louise together. There is no distance between partners.
This happens in conjunction with the curious language of exploration, i.e. “rockpools when I was a child” and “to run my fingers around the rim.” Here, in this passage, the narrator comes to know Louise’s body. He or she explores through sex, and there is a certain child-like quality to this, this tendency towards play and taste and smell.
What I’m really trying to say here is that maybe people grow out of equal connection. Maybe the tendency to produce a viewer and a viewed object during sex is a learned one. Maybe we grow into this distance as we learn to prioritize one sense over the others. This passage connects taste and smell and touch to a time of innocence, of ignorance. Not willful ignorance, but the kind of ignorance that can and must be remedied through exploration.
The narrator is exploring and thereby learning about Louise’s body in this passage, and through this, he or she comes to know Louise.