Bailey Island, ME. June 20, 2009.
Crouched down behind the rose bushes, I am invisible.
A wall of pink and green and delicate thorns divides me from the wide mouth of ocean. Fishing and whaling boats jut at awkward angles like old teeth, some browning or greening with age. Groans bellow from the throat of the sea in wailing fog horns and churning motors.
They’re looking for me. Of course. It isn’t the first time I’ve hidden here, inhaling the deep rich scent of roses and wishing I could fold into myself in fuschia petals. I would be so much prettier in fuschia than in my oatmeal-mush colored overalls that smell like dead fish.
“Storm, come out of there!”
If I sit very still, maybe they’ll move on and forget me. I can take a nap, I can count the seagulls, I can…
A hand drags me up to standing so fast that the roses bite into my arm. “Owww!” Blood trickles into my palm and I shut my fingers before they see it.
“Next time answer when I call.” It’s Ed, the worst of them all. He has only one tooth left and it’s browner than the oldest fishing boat. Plus, he spits all the time and usually doesn’t look where it’s going to land. This time, it lands square on my shoe.
I shrug his hand off my shoulder and march off like I planned to come all along.
“We got a net of cod to clean. You and the boys. Half an hour, k?”
A whole net would take me, alone, all day. Thank the heavens he set the boys to help. But when I arrive the twins are flicking stones into the water, a contest to see whose can skip the farthest. Loser scrapes the cod.
Guess who always loses?
I wasn’t always the fish girl. Once upon a time I had a home somewhere across the ocean, in a country whose name I no longer remember. The twins say it isn’t even real, that I hit my head on the rocks when my family’s ship crashed.
“There ain’t no land across that water,” they say. “It’s just sea forever. ’til it drops off in the great waterfall and pitches you down to hell.”
But I know they’re wrong. I still see it in my sleep, or when I’m hidden behind the roses. The color fuschia was there, and so were people the same shape as me, small and skinny as needlefish. Not huge and hulking like the boys, or knobby and twisted like Ed.
Someday I’ll take one of those boats and head out there. Someday when I’m no longer afraid of the gnashing teeth of the sea that bit down and separated me from everything I’d ever known.