Specific Ocean


fiction by Alexandra Sadinoff


Push me!

The wind responds, warm and firm, like my father’s hand at my back. Swing-seat flat beneath my thighs. And you? I don’t know how you take the wind. Your sneakers are untied. Laces jitterbugging as you swing.

When the wind dies our legs shoot out. Torsos lean back. Our magic marker hands press into the ropes. Palms push and fingers pull. This is what it means to pump. We’ve learned from our very own hearts. We are hearts on swings.

Don’t look down! Someone says. So of course we do, and see: blue. Deep with swirls of vanilla, dripped from tip-bit cones.

I don’t dare let go. My skirt flies up. I’d like to tuck it under. I don’t dare let go. Your hands are loose around your ropes. Around your skin, stray magic marker lines in Celadon and Persian green, like torn up grass from your back yard which we cannot see from here. Though a patch of green, amidst the blue, reminds us of: planting black seeds picked out of our string cheese, fresh from our small, chewing mouths. Planting Leppy, inside a cookie tin. The last buttery crumbs eaten days before he died. The tin rinsed, flooded, stormed with hose water, its own shallow ocean.

Breeze from your swing sends me easy air, already broken in. And your breath, minty from gum. You reach out with a stick wrapped in foil, but our swings are not in synch and at the moment of exchange our fingertips too short. Especially mine. Especially.

Swinging zillions of miles, in one spot. Developing calluses from the ropes against our skin. What do the ropes hang from? They hang from the sky. Perhaps screwed into the back of a cloud. We are satisfied to feel them taut. We do not question.

At night our swings are front row seats. We look inside the stars, bright dinnertime kitchens. Where parents are ladling soup for their children. Soup dished out the way we prefer. Mine with carrot and parsnip from the bottom of the pot. Yours with broth and bones. Sopping it up with sweet egg-challah.

Pointy and sharp. Sharpy and point. Sometimes we prick our fingers on a crescent moon. Blood dripping down into the ocean. Sharks surfacing and circling, open jaws, to catch a drop, the same way we tilt our heads to catch snowflakes on our tongue.

The moon has other outfits: a bleach stain, fuzzy edges behind clouds.

What do the ropes hang from? You are too busy doing a triple flip with untied shoelaces to wonder. And I am too busy watching the matchbooks, and gunpowder poppers, and razor blades fall from your pockets. Easy for danger.

If you drain it in just the right spot! You say. Often. I don’t know it yet, but one day when I am very old, and you are very gone—inside something larger than a butter cookie tin—I will roll up my sleeve. With my wrinkled arm I will reach in and pull the stopper out. Drain the ocean in the correct spot, in the appropriate way. Our ocean, unlike any other. Watch it swirl clock-wise and counter. To reveal all that we’ve dropped. Re-collect. Find our losses, the contents of entire pockets: lint. Gum. Hexagonal coins from your mother’s business trips. Hexagonal coins from my father, too. Scented candle in the shape of a wizard, never burned. Water buffalo made of stone, a birthday gift from you. Button from a scratchy sweater, knit by Grandma before she got sick. The list is long.

But it is now, now. We are still swinging and pumping. Still dropping. Not knowing I will miss most something I have not yet lost.