Bodies of Water
Bodie says he wants to live in a shanty by the sea when he’s a grown-up. Or a lighthouse. He hasn’t decided which one yet, but it’s important, he says, the decision. A coming of age. We will be there for it, we assure him. We can’t wait to hear his final verdict.
He looks sad, just then. I could be a captain, but I get seasick.
We get seasick, too. We say this borderline desperate to catalogue some similarities between us. If it’s any consolation.
It isn’t. He’s going to visit the koi people now but not to worry, he’ll be home for dinner.
Our neighbors with the koi pond in their back garden love Bodie. We’re not sure whether he loves the elderly couple or their fish pond, but there’s some love involved on his part as well.
Later at night we are awoken by his screaming. We rush to the kitchen to find him sleepwalking again. Up on the stepstool, elbow-deep in lemony suds as he tries to scrub clean dishes that aren’t there.
Why did you wash them? He cries, he flails.
We say we’re sorry. We forgot he’s sad when he has no dishes to wash in his sleep. Once he’s tucked into bed we promise many, many dishes the next day, we’ll have guests over, remember? He hums and clicks his tongue, and we click back, an echolocation that leads safely to dreamland.
The next day the aunties come to visit. We’ve been postponing the date for a while, saying he wasn’t ready to meet them. Bodie sits on the floor watching TV while the aunties bustle about in the kitchen.
I know you said… But him? one asks.
Don’t let him hear you, we say, as stern as we can manage under an auntie’s cool stare. He already thinks he has to earn his keep.
Another asks, What’s with the suit?
We explain it’s a vintage sailor’s outfit, complete with polished silver buttons and a white neckerchief. Like Donald Duck. He was mocked for it back at the children’s home, but Bodie is very proud of his suit. Keeps it in immaculate condition all on his own, but occasionally allows us to wash and press it for him.
Bodie flaps his arms in the living room. He must have seen an ad he likes.
The aunties’ eyes bulge. Ichthyic—Bodie taught us that word.
We extend plastic smiles that strain our cheeks. More sponge cake?
After the aunties have gone we walk to the edge of town to replenish our food supplies. There’s a supermarket close by but we’re banned for life. The managers aren’t inclined to forgive Bodie for freeing the imprisoned lobsters from their tank. He doesn’t mind the walk, jumping over puddles of rainwater, measuring their depth and width. On our way back we buy ice creams from a beach vendor. Bodie scours the sand with hands and eyes. He collects seashells but only the broken ones. Those that can cut. We don’t say anything but we watch, we’re learning.
At home, we put the food in the pantry and he arranges his seashells in their glass jewelry box. He handles them with surplus care, lifts them to the light like puzzle pieces—jigsaw, jagged—only he knows how to fit together.
Look, he says. Look, it’s us.
And we look, and we touch the sharp edges made softer by the whorls of his fingertips.
Avra Margariti is a queer Social Work undergrad from Greece. She enjoys storytelling in all its forms and writes about diverse identities and experiences. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in SmokeLong Quarterly, The Forge Literary, Longleaf Review, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, and other venues. Avra won the 2019 Bacopa Literary Review prize for fiction. You can find her on twitter @avramargariti.