Picture book: Sky

    Photo by Benjamin Keller / North by Northwestern.

    God, I just want to jump in. Nobody would notice. I’d quietly slip myself between the scraggly weeds, scraping my bruised legs on ragged beach grasses clinging desperately to clumps of damp sand. I’d crawl on my knobby knees right down to that muddy shoreline and like a shadow in night disappear into the murky brine of the Atlantic. Waves are strong today. A late summer storm’s coming. That current would drag my silent body out to sea in 20 minutes’ time and I’d be gone forever. God, it’d be so easy…

    I just don’t want to think about it. But I can’t stop thinking about it. And it’s like I come to this spot a by the docks to torture myself till I cry where the sobs are drowned out by the echoing, beastly moans of the ships struggling to muster enough energy to leave the harbor. It’s all fucked up now. I shouldn’t have taken him here. His cigarette-stained breath blowing in my ears, filling up my head and seeping down to my lungs suffocating me, the weight of his body heaving off rhythm to my own, digging my hip bones into the silt-coated ground, the bulbous beads of sweat growing on his Neanderthal-like brow — God, I feel sick. I want to soak myself in cold sea water till I’m wrinkled and clean. But all I can do is dig the chewed-up rubber of my Chucks into the dirt and bite my nails till they ache.

    He’s ruined it all for me here. This spot was sacred to me. When Mom’s piece of shit boyfriend would drunkenly stumble through the house threatening to kill anyone who didn’t feel like fixing him dinner, I’d come here. When doing algebra homework or cruising the half-mile of sleepy wooden shacks and gas stations that comprise our main street wasn’t quite appealing, I’d come here. Come here with some paper and pencils and sketch out what I wish my whole world was like in thick black lines and gray veils of shading and just wait, wait it out till I could graduate and pick up and leave this town in the dust.

    I’d tell him all about how I could stare at the twinkling lights of the harbor for hours, how I wanted to steal away on one of the boats and end up on the farthest shore. How I wished I was something like Mark Twain. I’d have mopped up a grimy deck or gutted and cleaned fish for a month to just see somewhere new. And he’d pass me a cigarette and smile his crooked way. Brush back my unruly strands of red hair fighting with the breeze with his coarse hand, tell me that was the stupidest thing he’d ever heard. I’d laugh and shake my head till my bangs blinded my eyes, but it wasn’t funny at all. A ring of crushed carcasses of beer cans and crumb-lined snack bags made our stage for the act. For the scene to play out in painfully dragged-out slow-motion movements under a blanket of stormy night sky. My muffled voice struggling to climb up my throat and release itself into the air and scream, my nails clawing at his strong forearms, trapped in a human cage.

    It started with an evening like this one, with that great divide between sea and sky, cloud and clear atmosphere, highlighting the gray abyss on either side. Tired navy eyelids revealing a surprisingly lively gaze, that stretch of dim sunlight fighting to illuminate a slice of world till it relinquishes all power to the hushed stars studding the night sky. There’ll probably be many more. I won’t see them here, though. I pray that this spot will be swallowed up by the greedy sea licking at its sandy banks. I pray I don’t do the same.


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