My feet are small enough to be swallowed by sand when I walk by the tide. We woke at 5:30 when light whispers sunrise. Face swollen like a raft, I shimmy sweatpants over my ankles and put on my polka-dotted blouse. Her ashes are held in an urn that is ornate because she loved ornate things like costume jewelry and impression glass and ceramic figurines. All her life she wanted to swim with the dolphins; feel water smooth against her body. So my uncle waded me into the water and we poured her slow into the waves; our tears dripping to the sea like rain and the water washing us with goodbye.
My childhood was ruled by water that matted my hair and salted my stomach. No one has ever loved me like the sun on the Chesapeake Bay. Days that left me freckled and flushed for nights stroked with firefly butts. When we were young and violent, we used to rub their luminescence on our clothes and say “we’re glowing.” I liked being dyed different. On Sundays in Sam’s pool, we’d swim until our hair turned chlorine-aquamarine. To shimmer like mermaids, we stretched hair-ties around our ankles and rolled our bodies like fish. Our nails were pink like scales and goggles were glasses that stretched plastic walls into sea-kingdoms.
I’m craving ham & cheese sliders on a boat that smells of sunscreen and potato chips. Mayo is a luxury so we eat them dry while my body sinks into plastic chairs and I stare at jellyfish tentacles that remind me of cotton candy. Sand grits my fingernails while I search for sharks' teeth. Brackish water: my fountain of youth. I jump portside to let small waves lap my body. I jump portside to let small waves settle me silent and swallowed.
Canoes crochet through weeds and foam and we become explorers. After eight pm we go braless and smoke wet weed that makes us gum-grin and giggle. We speak in riddles and skinny dip. Our mouths like vaults; each tooth a safe rooted in gums stuck to secrets and saliva. Our tongues lusting to speak half-truths, we avoid lockjaw by gossiping about our first blowjobs and how we can improve. Mascara drips below our eyes and makes us ominous in the dark but we’re too afraid to be barefaced. Wine coolers hidden in sweatshirts, we drink to: Miley Cyrus, summertime, and the flavor of fourteen.
The first time a boy saw me naked was on the water’s edge. Ripples reflected midnight black like the sky and my nipples were hard from June’s breath. I eased in slow and once beside him, he held me bare like that. Our bodies compressed like a whole moon, I kissed his neck while the stars rained silent glitter around us.
I have been washed in pools and rivers and Atlantic blues. I have been salted and chlorinated and smoothed by riptide. My feet have grown big enough to sprint and I know I am not a mermaid. I am seaweed and river rock and muck of the bay. I am at the beach and a dolphin’s fin breaks the waves so I say hello to my grandmother and let her know my life is ruled by water, so one day I will join her.
Katee's passion for writing and fascination for language has forever guided her path in life. Her work has been published in Colonnades Literary & Art Journal and the Mulberry Literary. Recently, she won the 2022 Harold Taylor Prize for her piece "August's Morning Breath," which can now be read on poets.org. Currently, she is based in the city of Boston while pursuing her MFA in poetry at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.
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