To Dine Alone

She lifted the coral to her mouth and bit down, gently, lips pulled back. Her teeth sank into the edge of it. At first it was soft and springy, then crunchy-  more comb than honey. A section of the reef crumbled away, smearing her chin, her shirt. Red. She swallowed without chewing and dabbed at her lipstick.

She’d never imagined she could dine on the ocean. Sushi being the closest she had ever come. She’d never even been fishing! Or snorkeling. Neither had she found comfort in the aqua tinted tunnels of aquariums. And yet, here she was.

Who would have been proud of her in that moment? She wondered. Who would have stopped and hailed her, she with the displaced tropical fish swimming in her eye?

Certainly not her mother, with her nightly cleaning rituals,  her frantic re-organizing of every piece of furniture in the house. Her ingrained helplessness and heartfelt devastation at life’s cruelty.

Certainly not her father, when he simply didn’t make it home for the third night that week. One foot always out the door, his shoes like mirrors reflecting a world without this family in it.

Perhaps her brother, his messy hair, his shocked eyes behind stupid, round glasses, the way he would hide in the closet and tell her stories about blue men with sharp mouths full of secrets, who never slept and always, always, knew what you were thinking.

Her brother’s stories had never scared her. She’d shiver, a tiny chill up the spine, but they were never the stuff of nightmares. They weren’t real enough, not like bombs, disease, or accidents  .

She was moving beyond recollection or imagination now. This was not a dream. She was not awake.

There was a large clock. Larger than large implies. The world could have been formed according to its frame; it was here first, and the universe grew around it. Its hands were swinging carelessly, a dance that could no longer be replicated. Outdated, it had gone the way of plague masks and rotary phones. It was only a matter of time before those hands stopped.

Her husband, now, he would be proud. To see how the water worked its way in and out of her bones, how the coral sat in her stomach and sprouted. He loved her hair- would he mind if it smelled as much like seaweed as it looked?

He was just as her brother described. A razor smile and endless energy. Mysterious, lovably so, she’d thought often. He had always known what was going on inside her head, the thoughts zooming around like mice in a cage, the spinning wheels of her hopeless ambitions and aspirations. He’d grown sick of it, of that insight, bored to murder by her ever present predictability. Or so she assumed. She’d never know, really, why he’d sent her down here, to dine all alone. Reservation for one.

She wasn’t so much drinking the ocean, you see, as drowning in it.

 

 

Elahe Zare

 

Elahe Zare is a traveler and writer, with a love of words and languages. She has lived in such diverse places as Turkey and Norway, but is currently based in Seattle, WA, with her partner and infant son.

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