Those summers on the Georgia coast replaced my parts from the inside out. My blood is not red but a light brown. The brackish water of the intracoastal. Wring me out like a washcloth and then lick your hand. It will taste like salt. Tear the skin off my leg and you’ll find no bones. Just razor clams and joints of cockle shells. Run a brush through my hair. It’s tangled spanish moss and full of wild things. Try to catch them. You can’t. They’ll hide in the knuckles of the old oak trees, nestled in the dark spaces between my secrets.
To arrive at my house, you’ll travel a dirt road that dips and turns through forest shadows. There will be pockets of “once lived heres” along the way. A trailer swallowed by kudzu. A dumpster rusted, with daisies dancing in the cracks. And just when you think the road leads nowhere–just when you’re certain that all four tires are sighing out their air, you’ll see the edge of it.
As you pull up, the house will speak to you only in whispers. The words will pass your ears like mosquitoes. Taunting you with tidbits of the history that pushed you into the world with a moan. A clearing where the old barn and maid’s quarters used to be. A small white john boat now painted by storms and the paws of muddy bobcats. A crumbling stone fireplace that baked Red fish and Snapper in it’s fiery belly.
You walk up the stairs, concrete and moss-stained, to tug at the flimsy screen door. There are smells that live only here. Close your eyes and you’ll know the room. Sulfur water dripping from the faucet in the kitchen sink, gliding down the stained porcelain into the pipes that speak at night. Must from the winter-sealed dresser drawers and mildewed mattresses. Four to a room. Wind gusts of low-tide muck from the exposed riverbeds outside the front porch.
Walls wooden. Storied with the arches of darkened grain and mismatched frames. Faces, black and white in bathing caps. Peeping heads over dock’s edge. Shirtless, gangly boys with rows of squirrel fish pinned to leather straps that crisscross their chest bones, ammunition-like.
You look closer at the picture of her. Your mother’s mother. A beautiful she you never knew. Long arms that never rocked you. Fingers that never ran through your mossy hair. You trace your finger along her face. You run it across her full lips and up to her eyes. She’s younger than you here, but sadder. You step back a bit and see your sweaty reflection in the glass. You move to another room.
A skeleton key, shifting this way and that to open the closet door. Shelves of hats and battered boots that no one wears and no one throws away. Metal boxes packed with rusty tools and old fish hooks. Broken bits from the rods and reels that came home with glory stories of the ones that got away.
And then down the dusty path to the dock. Raised roots so familiar you lift your feet without ever looking down. The bluff–a painting. Trees arched just so as the branches beards let in the right amount of light behind them. Sun bathing the marsh in yellows and light greens. A heron wading in the muddy shallows, watching you with it’s dinosaur eye. Boards splintered, you run your calloused hand along the rail. And then you stop.
Because it’s right now. This very moment when you realize you aren’t just visiting. You are rooted here. Your organs are doing things they can’t in concrete spaces. Your lungs are full. The two chambers of your heart are pumping the Atlantic into every single corner. You slide your hand down and feel the rope tied tightly around your waist. You realize it’s been chafing at your sides while you’ve been away-stained in light brown.
You follow the rope down the ramp to the floating dock and rock in a familiar way–feeling your eyes grow heavy. You inch your hand down further as the rope leads into the water. Your lay on your stomach with one ear against the wood. The slaps and gurgles beneath you pair with the music of the fiddler crabs in your periphery.
You don’t tug at the rope. You know what’s at the end. An anchor so heavy that it could snap your shelled spine into two. So you stay there. Flesh pressed against the weathered wood. Rocking with the rhythm of this place you’re forever tethered to. Humming along as the fiddler’s compose their symphony.
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