I’ve Been Fine, I’ve Been Good

In Mexico my brother and I are friends. We see the same things. We see the beaches with dead things on them—a pufferfish all ribs with a surprised eye. We see the bottom of the ocean and it isn’t pretty.

In Mexico we follow the men in open-back trucks, guns up, siderails like fences. Green splinters in the sky.

We go to the store to try on shiny things. My brother walks up to me grinning, holding a giant liquor bottle by the neck. “Five dollars,” he says. The sunglasses in my hand have already broken. I buy them anyway.

My brother begins to look at me in Mexico. I wear his contacts. In Mexico we eat octopus and eyeballs and it is sort of the same thing.

I use his wife’s shampoo then put it back exactly, making it exhale before closing the cap, the way she always does.

When a day is finally warm enough, we all go to the beach, lie in black swimsuits among the bird shit.

We see the fish roll the sea-sponge slowly along the ocean floor. It is quiet and I am still afraid of dying.

There are so many ways—you could swallow it up and not make it to the surface, pinwheeling your way into a blackness that catches you. You could get eaten by a hammerhead. So many that there are tours.

The fish, my brother pointing. The fish wearing a cowboy hat, galloping beside a tumbleweed. The whole thing makes me laugh, and so I begin to die.

It seemed so stupid, to die in a reef that wasn’t particularly beautiful; that didn’t have the colorful tropical fish or the ones that looked like monsters, but only the kind the color of mud like in the pits back in Kansas. There were also a few small electric blues, but these were the size of your pinky, so nothing to get excited about.

I was disappointed in my death but I was also offended, because nobody watched it. My brother’s pale body hung like an apparition, like a fresh white thing in the night sky, his dumb finger following the cowboy-fish.

I saw my mother as if I were a bird above, knew her to be draped in black gauze, her skin pock-marked next to the pebbles of the beach and her face in a scowl at whatever my father was saying. Of course my brother’s wife was inspecting that one-eyed fish on the wet sand, her little toes brown and straight across the toes of her sandals.

So I would be alone, even in this. When the cartwheel came, I relaxed into it. There were explosions behind my eyes, until there was whiteness, then blueness, then the sun too hot/thrown.

Skinny brother. White fishy flesh. Laughing. Now Tuesday would still happen. And the days would pile themselves like that always did, one on top of another and too fast.

I had to walk away and head for the crowds. I liked to look at the teenage clothing and imagine myself with narrow shoulders again, with a neat collarbone and young beginnings. I wanted the sort of fabric that is cobwebs and mesh, a few thin straps and glittery fabric—the kind that will fall apart on your skin.