Open Swim. {fiction}


The sand blew at her face, and she said,

“This body is not mine.

This body is not for me.

This body belongs to the sea.”

Charlotte was 13, and had a heart made of glass. The cracks there, she ran her tiny fingers across them, for the sake of visions of larger hands. When it was happening, she could watch it like a film reel. She imagined that same reel falling onto the floor, unraveling cool and quick, straight across to the horizon. “Cracks to be polished by salt,” she thought. The way sea glass is made. Treasures.

She would comb the beach for hours. Nobody knew where she was, she was used to that, she could feel herself growing taller. She’d hold out for the little shards of blue, they were the most precious because they were so rare. The needles in the haystack. The stars in the mud. The switch to the little lights in her chest, heaving with sea air.

Charlotte had a routine. She’d get off the bus, glance at her towering family home, an ominous silhouette of grandeur and secrets, and promptly run in the other direction. The sea must be fed. Charlotte had secrets to give her. Nourishment in the form of long-held words, aches, and hopes for a future of ballerina stardom and ten thousand pet dogs.

She would run fast enough so she could feel her heart in her chest. She liked this. “Alive,” she thought. Her tiny body pounding against the pavement, her lungs beating in their cage, her blood throbbing in her veins. Images of hands beating in her brain, floating off into the trees.

Thomas would be there sometimes, at the ocean. He lived down the street. He had strange hair and expensive shoes and a sad face. She wanted to reach out and touch him, to tell him it was okay.

Today was Tuesday, and it was no different from the rest. She hid in the girls’ room during gym class, and got a gold star on her science paper. She stuck gum in someone’s hair on the ride home. She’d tripped some boys on the playground. She twirled in her dress all day, wearing mismatched socks and 15 butterfly clips across the crown of her head… “like a queen,” she thought. Young and regal in suburbia.

She had promised herself seventh grade was the year she’d become real, and she was trying.

This Tuesday was like any other, but getting off the bus, her dress no longer twirled. She ran for the beach.

“I like the shapes they make. Three separate hits, but they’re all so gentle.”

Thomas was good at skipping rocks. Her dress blew side to side in the wind.

“Why do you always look so sad?”

Charlotte was looking down as she spoke to him. She noticed that up close his shoes were scuffed and his hair was greasy. He looked tired.

“You wouldn’t understand. I see you sometimes, you know. You’re down here a lot.”

He stopped throwing rocks as he spoke. He put his hands nervously in his pockets.

“I bet I would understand. And stop following me. I’m here for the same reason you are. I like to breathe down here. I like how there’s no one else.”

Thomas was looking straight at her. Eye contact always made her uncomfortable. It reminded her. This made her skin feel tighter.

“Why do you like to be alone?”

These words rolled off Thomas’s tongue like arrows. Charlotte had never thought about it. Didn’t everyone like that? What was she supposed to be doing?

“I like to feel small. I like when my mind goes blank when I watch the waves. I like being lost, and knowing no one will try to find me.”

Thomas moved closer. Charlotte laced her fingers behind her back. As much as she liked having the rocky beach to herself, she sensed it was okay to share.

“Charlotte, you’re a strange girl. I see you in your weird outfits, tripping people and wreaking havoc. It’s a wonder you haven’t been kicked out of school yet. And why do you have so many butterflies on your head?”

Charlotte felt her face drop. She hadn’t anticipated this interrogation.

“It’s my crown. And why do you care anyway? You never even talk to anyone.”

Thomas was closer now. She could almost feel his breath. She wondered how he had moved so quickly without her noticing.

“They’re beautiful,” Thomas said, “and that’s why. We’re not different. You run here to be quiet. I’m quiet all day because I’m tired of running.”

Charlotte was breathing more quickly. She felt something coursing through her. The space between her ribs opening as wide as a field.

Unsure of what to say, Charlotte turned to face the Atlantic. “Melt,” she thought. She desperately wanted to be a part of the water, not just to be in it, but to become it, to float peacefully and to rage with fury. She wanted to be a home to kingdoms, and to snap boats full of men in half in equal measure.

Thomas was behind her now. Just a few inches between the back of her body and the front of his. She felt herself vibrating so intensely, she thought she might as well have been licking an electrical outlet. “Alive,” she thought again. Just like when her heart beat hard in its cave. Between them, there was no separation, she felt unsure anymore about where she ended and Thomas began.

“Rope,” she thought, “a ladder; maybe a wave that just kept moving back and forth between them; a tide, shared, that would not cease.”

Thomas’s breath was on her shoulder now. They hadn’t spoken. Maybe it had been five minutes, maybe fifty. She wasn’t sure why, but she started to cry. The waves were getting closer, crashing harder, the sun getting lower. Her mind was blank, but her arms and legs and the space beneath her collar bones were not. She felt his face press beside hers. Her eyes closed. There was a long pause.

Thomas broke the silence.

“You are not alone,” he said, “you are never alone.”

“Two ships at sea,” she thought.

“At home inside,” she thought.

“This body is mine,” she thought.

“This body is for me,” she thought.

“I am the sea,” she said.

“You are the sea,” she said.





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Robin Lee
Robin Lee is a writer, healer, and modern medicine woman. Professionally, she is an alchemist and empoweress of humans and ideas. She is the founder of The Babe Collective, and is a seasoned Women’s Sexuality and Confidence Coach as well as a Registered Yoga Teacher, Breathwork facilitator, and Reiki practitioner. She has devoted her life to the studies of ancient mysteries, transforming trauma, and the wisdom of the Divine Feminine. A perpetual student of Tantra, alchemy, and magick; she seamlessly weaves together these bodies of inquiry with healing practices - delivering them through a modern lens of accessibility, pleasure, and laughter. She is equal parts dark and light, Kali and Shakti, and lives to encourage the wholeness and wildness of others. She lives in Brooklyn, travels often, never stops creating, and eats a lot of avocado. You can contact her here.
Robin Lee
Robin Lee

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