The water made wraiths around her feet. Flightless, tightly knitted. She stood in the froth and watched the water chase her skin, marry her anklebones, scream in laughter. She wondered if the water would ever leave her alone. She wondered if she would ever leave the water alone – if she could ever fall asleep without visiting the ocean.

She swept her foot over the surface, watched the current seize and leap to follow. It spun in triumphant circles around the rim of her ankle. The sand stumbled under her. The sky wouldn’t look at them. She stood in the low tide and made the water do whatever she wanted.

Work. Five in the morning, a slim metal desk. She leaned back in her chair and rubbed her eyes. The ceiling was swollen with a dark stain. It watched her hungrily.

An easy enough assignment. Track down the threat, memorize his habits, report back. She rubbed her eyes again.

Friday evening. A date, an assignment. Her target sat in front of her, trailing his finger along the tablecloth. He should be easy enough to memorize. Calculated movements, feigning nonchalance. He had a budding gym business, made avid eye-contact. As he spoke, the water slithered from his cup. It slid across the table and soaked into her lap, collected in her palms, made a home out of her fabric. He didn’t notice.

When she got home, she carefully recorded everything he had told her. The hints at his daily schedule, the address of his gym business. It would make it easier for her supervisor to track him down. To nudge the gun between his shoulder blades.

She went back to the ocean and stood in the stuttering sand. The water ached and pulled toward her.

Come in, it whispered. Come in.

She turned around, and went back inside.

A party. He’d invited her, and she needed more information. She tried to dress like a normal person would dress for a party, then she walked to 122 Margot Street. Gravel road. Dark, watchful trees. She approached the door wrapped in a green coat. The crowd welcomed her – the punch bowl jerked and rolled over. The red liquid snaked closer as she bent to clean it up. It nipped at her fingers, playful. Glad to see her.

He appeared beside her, a rag in hand.

“Always spilling things,” he said.

His voice was soft, still, like a pond you could see the sky in. She took the rag and didn’t look at him.

She went with him to the grocery store. He wanted wine and she thought she could get more information. Her supervisor needed his habits, his whereabouts, his family history. But she collected secret facts – things about him that she would never need to share. His brand of wine. The way his house smelled. How he picked at his fingers when he was nervous. Water bottles twitched in their displays as she passed.

He asked her to spend the night. Even though the ceiling leaked, even though she broke the sink. And in that moment, she was only water. Rushing, hoping, violently tender. Yes, she thought. Yes.

She shook her head.

She went home.

The shower made her into a statue of a god. The steam swirled around her in warm halos. She became smooth. She became stone.

New rules. No drinks on dates. No walks through the rain, no afternoons at the coastline. No sharing a bathroom. The water revealed her. It scared people away. It made her want to do things that she shouldn’t want to do.

Her supervisor asked for the files. She handed them over and deleted her target’s number. 

She stood in the water and felt the sand eat her skin. Goosebumps clattered down her arms, her back. The sky looked away again. She wondered how it would feel, to submerge and stay there. To let the water cram and wiggle and seethe through her barriers, barrel through her nostrils and clash into her mouth, her throat, fill and fill and fill until she was nothing but current, the salty blood of earth, overfilled and flowing. That, she thought, is what she was supposed to do. That is what they did, the mad women, the sad women, the women trapped by men: succumb to the water. Walk into the ocean, dress flowing. Let it overtake you. Never return.

She backed out of the tide. It trembled, and whispered. 

She read about it. The sickening romance of the moon, the weight and balance, the pull so strong it could move elements. Particles and cave art and rape. Sleeping under the bed. Awakening.

She stopped washing her hands. She drank milk, let the acne bloom. She stayed inside and watched the ceiling fan tick. Water leaked from the ceiling, dripped from the faucet. It collected on her skin in wavering drops. She didn’t bother crying anymore.

She stood at the coastline. She thought of the women before her, their bones at the bottom of the sea. The wind ripped against her knees. The water held her steady.

Suicide arcs are lazy writing, she thought, watching the hypnotic blue curls. I am not lazy.

She ran into him at the bookstore downtown. His eyes went bright and he hugged her, hands pressing into her shoulder blades.

“I’ve missed you,” he said. “Why haven’t you been answering my calls?”

The words caught in her throat, a fishing line, a metal hook. So they hadn’t taken him out yet. She still had time to look at him, to stand at the edge and linger. She looked down. Shook her head.

“What’s wrong?” he asked her. He pulled his hands away. “You’re sweating.”

She stepped into the ocean. She stepped out again.

She worked twelve hours, organizing files. Finding new people to track, to analyze, to groom for their death. She cleaned up spilled drinks, she wrung out her clothes in the bathroom, and she imagined herself dragged under the tide, arms freed like dandelion seeds, tumbling into the wind, the water.

She called her father, and told him she was doing all right.

She stood by the water, and made it do whatever she wanted.

January 14, 2020 03:46

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Grey Oberst
22:48 Jan 14, 2020

This is beautiful, amazing work!


Kelsey Marlett
22:20 Jan 16, 2020

Thank you so much!


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Shaneka Murphy
12:54 Jan 18, 2020

I like the descriptive writing about how the water is attracted to her body when she's near it 😊


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