[FICTION] The Deep
That first night I burned inside your mouth, inside your pool of tongue-held Tabasco, and after the exchange of oils you suggested milk and I told you I wanted the ocean because I wanted our moment, tight with blood, to soak in cool saltwater because I remembered what you had told me two weeks before: you didn’t want to be that person and you kept slurring your “that-persons” over the shots of apple vodka in the middle of our Circle of Death and your words, those slurs, were like bubbles coming up from the sand, like clams exhaling and mole crabs shuffling, coming up from the deep and sliding up my legs and my stomach and surfacing while we played through those fifty-two cards, and two weeks later we were still kissing, landlocked in the Midwest and numb-mouthed and I could hear the waves, I could imagine the damp sand cool on now-hot feet and on our backs and after I told you yes, you did rip me from the other, you unraveled fifty-two stitches with fifty-two tugs and, with the cool water lapping, our feet sunk further and the sand held us as close as it could.
You had me for a weekend and I cooked tilapia and wild rice and instead of eating in silence, we watched an ocean documentary filmed at night so the reef, unless illuminated by the camera’s only light, was invisible and we watched that artificial light catch coral shooting eggs in the night water to meet the other coral’s phosphorescent sperm and after, when you said you loved me and I said I loved you our words gathered like inseminated eggs and floated above us like the glow-in-the-dark stars on my childhood bedroom’s ceiling.
You drove two hours because you were lonely, drove south around midnight to take me a spot you saw off the highway and were proud you’d brought a quilt, no towels, no wet-wipes, but bottled water to keep hydrated: a now-sexy word, your mouth a now-sexy mouth, and for fourteen minutes we dove under waves and let them push and pull, your mouth open the whole time and for forty-five minutes after: I love you. I love the way you—I’m so sweaty. I brought water. To stay hydrated. We poured the water in, but I could have kept hydrated from the runoff that dripped onto my back and face and chest from spiles tapped into your spine and forehead: salt-free saline, a freshwater source collected on our bodies of ocean water and you kept me—the now sexy word—we were glistening osmotic things floating with discarded ambergris and I took from you, you took more, we were taking it in through the skin and collecting it in our chests, around aortas, and in ventricles, collecting bile and romanticisms and while treading, I wretched and we left the ball of sweet-smelling wax in my ocean; we pushed it toward shore to wash up for someone else to find.
On our way home from a party you admitted you weren’t sure how deep the water was or if you could see the bottom or if you wanted to, so I made you pull over and I thought about running into those trees on the side of Highway 64, running without stopping, letting the hills carry me away to some body of water unfed by you, a place fresh and running and littered with silt, but instead I sat on the curb, mouth gaping, foam rushing, and praying for anhedonia so I tried holding my breath long enough to experience symptoms of sensation loss: the rough surface of the concrete, the dry grass—all gone, but instead the saltwater burned my throat and my nose, it stung where the sun had peeled back my skin and in the cracks of my broken fingernails and you gave me the choice to go back to shore, but I stayed and added more water to your ocean and after, in the calm, we made another discovery: our oceans are the same, almost identical bodies of tumbling shit feeding the same algae, the same Curlfin Sole, the same Aurora Rockfish, all of it pushed and pulled by the same invisible outside thing you claim has damned you “Atlas” and before I found the truth you held it from me in your mouth with the last of the air and kept it hidden behind your teeth until after we dove and sank to the bottom of the deep.
Our water shifts from blue tonight—crab claws click on the almost invisible sand, the stars are fish glittering in water where the light still reaches and as I watch them you are preoccupied with how much air is left because we’re dying on the black ocean floor, two decapitated consciousnesses with still-connected heads, with fifteen minutes left to breathe—thirty seconds to spend watching our lungs expand: they’re on the sand in front of us with our hearts, our chests split open and your voice comes out as a bubble, strong and gulping, you say I love you and I’m quiet, I’m tired, I love you too, but I’m desperate for air, I love you but I love my blood, and something bulbous with bioluminescence and bright mammalian fangs scatters the last of the bubbles from my mouth, your arm does, too, it reaches over to touch my just-beating heart and check for a pulse with two fingers because minutes ago its palpitations kept it up off the floor and wriggling in the water: a fresh-caught fish on the dock, a still-alive segment of an Octopus Squid’s defense tentacle, and now you, my heart only twitching in your hand, push the organs back in, hold my flaps of flesh together, and as you swim up from the soft sand you tell me this is it, this is the last time you’ll break the surface so I can remember air.
Sierra Sitzes has her MA in Creative Writing from Missouri State University and currently teaches dual-credit English classes at a high school in a bible-belted bubble of a small town in central Misery/Missouri. Her work has previously appeared in Paddleshots: A River Pretty Anthology.