Saltwater by Jessica Andrews Read Online (FREE)
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It begins with our bodies. Skin on skin. My body burst from yours. Safe together in the violet dark and yet already there are spaces beginning to open between us. I am wet and glistening like a beetroot pulsing in soil. Gasping and gulping. There are wounds in your belly and welts around your nipples, puffy and purpling. They came from me, just like I came from you. We are connected through molten rivers like the lava that runs beneath the earth’s crust. Shifting. Oil trapped beneath the sea. Precious liquid seeping through cracks. This love is heavy; salty and viscous, stinking of seaweed and yeast. Sweat is nourishing and so is that tangy vagina smell that later men will tell me tastes like battery acid. But there are not any men, not yet. For now our secrets are only ours. You press me to your chest and I am you and I am not you and we will not always belong to each other but for now it is us and here it is quiet. I rise and fall with your breath in this bed. We are safe in the pink together.
My first dead body was my grandfather’s. My mother and I sat in the funeral home at his wake in Ireland for two days while people I had never met came to pay their respects. I moved to the back of the room because I thought the blue in his eyelids might pierce my skin if I sat too close for too long.
The last time I saw him alive, he was in hospital. I kissed him goodbye and left the imprint of my lips lingering on his cheek. I wore bright red lipstick and it made his skin look grey. I tried to rub it away with my sleeve and he said, ‘Oh, leave it. I’ll keep it there, ’til you come back.’ I reached for his cold hand, fluttering on top of smooth sheets.
Before I came to Ireland, I was living in London. I was seduced by coloured lights hitting the river in the middle of the night and throngs of cool girls in chunky sandals who promised a future of tote bags and house plants. I thought that was the kind of life I was supposed to want. I worked in a bar every night while I figured out how to get there.
I never did go back to the hospital.
During my grandfather’s wake, I looked for the trace of my kiss on his skin.
I could not find it.
London is built on money and ambition and I didn’t have enough of either of those things. I felt as though the tangle of wires and telephone lines strung through the city were strings in a fishing net filled with bankers and nondescript creatives, shimmering in banknotes and holographic backpacks. I was something small and weak and undesirable. I was slipping through the holes and down into the deep underbelly of the ocean. I watched these people from my vantage point behind the bar. I noted the colour of their fingernails and the smell of their perfume and how many times they went to the toilet in one night. They did not notice me.