erica l kaufman
And Again, Tomorrow
We lived in a tiny metal ship. We waited for it to sink. We thought to ourselves, being surrounded by iron makes our blood different. We thought to ourselves, living in the water makes us feel lawless. In the middle of a black sea that expanded in four directions, we knew we no longer had to answer the questions that had once plagued us. In only the worst of storms did we ever venture to the lower deck. We preferred the upper deck, and we huddled there, most nights, our eyes to the stars and our feet to the fish.
Up above, the salt water on our faces made us feel like statues. Statues were safe and we allowed our marble flesh to soothe us, if only briefly. The salt dried on the deck, stinging and gritty, and we used tiny metal tools to write our names in the sand, notes in preparation of a shipwreck.
Down below, the lower decks felt wet with our sorrow, the air heavy and diseased with the combined effort of our mistakes. We did not mourn, though we had reasons to do so. We used to live on land. We had families, jobs, and houses. But we had sorrow there, too. Our sorrow infected those around us, casting dark shadows, scarring their faces. Our own faces became scarred, too.
We hid in our houses to hide our faces, until our depression burst forth from our rib cages, pouring like hot lava, pouring like blood, pouring like black ink.
It burrowed, the depression, deeply, into the world, making it rain. It rained and rained. We felt biblical. We felt enlightened. We hardly felt the water creeping up past our ankles, up past our knees. We hardly felt our families drowning beside us.
When the skies finally cleared, we knew.
We marched, like soldiers to battle, like prisoners to their doom, like ants to the queen, past our homes, past our jobs, past any land at all. We boarded the metal ship that swayed back and forth in the water without wind, and we greeted each other as if we had always known we would meet there.
Then, and now, we sailed a tiny metal ship. We waited for it to sink. We knew the fate that waited for us, just below, just beyond, just on the tip of our tongues, just a tiny dot on the horizon.
We saw it once, in dreams, in mirrors, in glassy eyes, and we waited until we met it again. It would feel poetic, we thought, and if only we had been inclined to write poetry.
We stayed on the upper deck and we did not fear. The iron made our blood different. The water made us feel lawless. The waves lulled us.
Not so far below now, and creeping ever closer, the sharks grin in anticipation.
erica l. kaufman is a New England based young adult writer. She earned her BFA from Emerson College and her MFA from Lesley University. Her work recently appeared in the Candlewick Press young adult anthology Things I'll Never Say: Stories About Our Secret Selves. You can find her tweeting @ericalkaufman.