I remember when I held your hands, clasping under the water, when salty sea swilled around my face. Your hands were the anchor for my somewhat smaller body, a vessel of my curiosity.
And sometimes I worried that the tide would take you away from me, and leave me to cradle my own palms. But as you promised, you stood anchored in the mounds of silt that lined the seafloor, and I tread beside you. We would stand there for a lifetime, each of my piney fingers interlaced in yours, letting the current drift our bodies farther and farther from the familiar shore. And when a big wave would form, its ferocity would send me feebly tumbling and toppling beneath the glass surface. I would rise, a dismantled version of my wide-eyed self to find your hand still cupping mine.
No matter how much the waves grew, you never let go. Your pruned hand was mine.
But your cigarette quirk would be the thing to take you from me. The fluorescent glow of the burning embers as you took a final drag, leaving the butt to waft toward the floor. And that uneasy glow, steadied by your motherly grip, taunts me. Because your firm touch was supposed to be mine and only mine. And you said you’d come back to the water in just a minute, but you began to fall with the cinders. Your skin slackening around the blue veins that tunnel through your hands, soot tattooed underneath your fingernails, specks embedded into your skin, solidifying its part in your identity. Your palms yellowed like a weathered newspaper, stiff and cracked. With each drag, pieces of you fade with the cigarette. One moment you were there, glowing. The next, ashes.
And now, without you, each monstrous wave is unconquerable.
This piece was originally published in Scholastic Art & Writing.
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