The Atlantic was a girl, but not in the way that you think. Not in the way of ships or asses or mothers. She was a girl in the way light can be held between your hands when you are seventeen in Ohio in a field of corn that is buzzing with insects and burning with the setting sun. She had brown hair and secrets. She had hazel eyes and a smile that was a little crooked on the left side. She was a girl, she was everything.
The Atlantic is another name for the ocean. I know you know, but I’m saying that we’ve divided the body as if it were not one, breathing, thing. We have excised the limbs and drawn a line across the neck on globes as if it means something. As if it is some kind of fetish that allows us to traverse her body more easily. This is not the right way to treat girls. When you divide a woman into parts, you also divide her soul. Every action is met with opposition. Every action causes a reaction. Do not cut women into pieces. Do not divide girls into bodies of water. Only go swimming if you want to.
When you love someone you have to let them go. The Atlantic was a girl with brown hair and hazel eyes and she was so sad. She never learned how to let things go—and she loved everything. She had a room decorated in punk posters and painted bright pink on all four walls. She had a boyfriend named Dan who was in a local band that she ran the merch table and website for. They weren’t that good, and she knew. But still, it was something. On Sundays she would save her quarters and bike to the gas station to pick up doughnuts from the little plastic container on the cashier’s counter. One time she tried to dye her hair blonde but it just ended up being orange and her uncles made fun of her at Thanksgiving. She had a mother and a father and two sisters and she loved everything. And it hurt, because she never learned to let things go.
The Atlantic grew up and moved away from home. She grew an ass and tits and a consciousness but somehow, deep inside herself, she was still a girl. It had become her permanent state. The Atlantic got a degree in mathematics and literature. She went to rallies and found out what debt really means. She learned how to put away her eyes and listen. Her family kept telling The Atlantic that this was the best time of her life. Hearing this made her anxious. And when her mother called her on the phone, The Atlantic would take it away from her ear until all she could hear was the tinny cadence of concern echoing across the line. The Atlantic didn’t think her mother ever noticed her daughter doing this. And later, when The Atlantic realized that her mother wasn’t always going to be around, knowing that she had ignored her mother like this made The Atlantic go into dark, airless fits that burned everyone within ten feet of her.
It’s hard to explain currents. It’s hard to talk about motion as if it is not governed by that thing your mother said to you when you were seven. As if it is not dependent on whether or not your father told you he loved you before he died. The Atlantic was governed by motion. How could she not be? She was a girl, she was everything.
The Atlantic finished school and receded. Occasionally she would surface to make tender, brief contact with her family, her lovers, or the dogs that roamed the beach in the mornings. The animals always trotted over to The Atlantic cautiously as first, sniffing her offered hand before allowing her to bury her pale face in their fur. She was not sad, she had always raged like this. Silently, violently. When the owners caught up with their dog, The Atlantic had already receded. She was a queer thing and did not need much love. This is what she told herself under the moon when she couldn’t sleep. This is what she whispered when it was so dark that she could not see. She was trying to make it true, which is the hardest thing of all. She was trying to conjure belief out of salt.
The moon rose, the sun set and The Atlantic.