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Plastic Fish Dreams

By , Brooklyn, NY
A love story usually starts with a kiss, ours started before we even met, in the middle of our mother’s stomach, entwined by birth and friendship from before. Our mothers were childhood friends; they were described as the beauties of their generation. Sally (my mother) had a penchant for boardwalks. They terrified her, to the point at which she was the only person retching in the corner without having eaten a single corn dog. It was the noise, the whole hub-bub of people with their sweaty fingers clutching and pulling apart strands of saccharine cotton candy that slipped and slid down their throats. The smells of deep fried grease and bodies huddled together in a whole ba-boom punctuated with the vivid redundancies of fireworks over and over above the polluted pier. Sally loved it, the terror that the boardwalk brought to her and so she embraced it with all she had. Something my mother (and your mother, Miranda) loved were the fortune tellers in little boxes with outstretched hands, as if to grab the throats of those closest. But it was the cheap little fortune fishes that started our story.

As Sally told it to me, when I was younger and believed in magic, the fish’s blue little body spasmed and rolled across her hand until it finally curled a bit on each end. This, she said, signified that she was in love. (“Sweetheart, never trust them boys. They’re only going to break your heart.”) The same happened with your mother Miranda. They both laughed, bright smiles in the sparkling sun with sand caking the little spaces between their toes. They both agreed on one thing at this reading and that the little fish knew nothing (for they had just been dumped by their twin brother boyfriends, who were “total jerks who just wanted someone to f***.”) They both nursed a bitter soul about love, saying it was for fools - now they were true romantics. But they took the fish as just another piece of plastic, a fortune packaged to fools like them who wanted to believe in fate and destiny. And they went off, flirting with the next cute guy who caught their eye, both of them sporting an almost invisible baby bump. Sally laughed about it, teasing the guy into touching her stomach and then pretending to be scared, and then truly becoming terrified as the wheel began to make its slow ascent towards the sun.

I think I knew I was in love with you when I first screamed. Blue faced and sliding out of Sally’s stomach into the arms of a doctor in scrubs. I heard you scream practically a moment later. The harsh fluorescent lights burned into my eyes, forming little flickering colors that grew larger and then shrunk in and out and back and forth, through time and out of time they kept on going. And I swear, even if I couldn’t have remembered it, even if it was an impossibility, that the little dots spelled your essence (of coconut and teasing) in multiple colors that no one could have ever placed a name on. They were undefinable, just like you are.

I knew I was in love with you when we were in the park, the chill of Winter just leaving us and we threw caution to the wind and water, wearing tank tops that barely covered our breasts. I leaned down, my chest pressed uncomfortably against the criss-cross of the red net bridge, the kind little kids jumped on until they broke through and their mothers filed lawsuits. You were underneath the net bridge and ran your finger down from the edge of my tank top and onto the top of my denim shorts. Could you tell how much I shivered, how much I blushed inside? Simultaneously freezing and burning up … Shaking from your touch, I flipped over and tugged down my tank and tried to calm down my cheeks, red as if from sudden exertion. I think you noticed then, when I turned back and my eye was framed by the crisscrossed strips of fabric, meeting your forest green ones. I couldn’t look away. And you stared back, as if challenging me to a fight.

I knew I was in love with you when we were drunk. And you whispered to me, “You know how much I love you? A big bunch of lots of” and slurred your words to a poem about the moon. You dropped the bottle onto the porch from our perch in the balcony, and it shattered. Droplets of alcohol flew across the yard, illuminated by the flickering fireflies. You looked so vulnerable with your blond hair pulled back into a stern pony tail, with only one strand of hair popping out. And I couldn’t help but say, “I love you too. I love you more than you could ever think I could …” But I was drunk and it came out all jumbled, more like “I love you too ever more could I think I love you.” And when I leaned in, you backed away … Then you ran out of the room, hands trailing blindly against the wall, leaving me with a lingering poem about the moon - brought to life by your numbed scarlet lips and the cold air that cut into my skin and brought about little scratches from nowhere.
Our love story is a story of what could have been; of my love but not yours. My mother warned about me about boys breaking hearts … She never said that girls could too. I can’t believe the fish lied.





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