She swam up to me once when I was drowning,
a lazy backstroke in a shallow inlet. Her blue
two-piece like camouflage. If I had been able
to breathe, I would have told her to leave
the water. I couldn’t bear her unbound blonde
hair, turning dark like the belly of a whale.

Besides I wanted to be alone for a moment,
to feel the weight of my lungs, the cleanliness
of introspection. There was no room in this
water for both of us to think. I wanted her
to leave, to touch my hand and then leave.

Sometimes she touches my hand and asks
what is this? God, don’t ask me that question.
Hell if I know the answer. I tell her those are
my hands
but she is unsatisfied. My fingers are too
stiff and burning, like it’s a freeze I’m coming out
of. Something unnatural this time of year.

So I hold her hair, blonde, very softly. I press it to
my cheek. I am trying to replicate a dream. In it, she
touches my earlobes and lets me lay my head in her lap.
In it, I look up to her face and think, I am so safe here,
so warm in this dark, that it’s almost like dry land.

Anne Chen is a high school senior from Illinois and New Hampshire. She’s not sure what she wants to do yet, but she thinks she likes writing. She can occasionally be found on Twitter at @badguybalthazar.

 

Photography by: Marcus Dall Col