Sometimes you find it’s two in the morning and you can’t sleep so you start writing things…because they’re due for your Creative Writing class in a few hours. Maybe those things don’t make a lot of sense, but it still feels good to write them. I apologize for the forced metaphors.
You may find some accidental innuendos. They’re accidental, but probably accurate. My brilliant friend Katherine is taking a Human Sexuality class, and has recently created a (hilarious) Twitter dedicated to the subject. There’s been a lot of innuendo going around, so I can’t tell if there’s actually anything in here or if I’m just making things up now.
Anyway, here’s some nonsense I wrote about my seashell collection.
Mollusks are soft things. They have mouths, stomachs, hearts, even kidneys. The soft things grow a hard home, three layers deep. The outer layer is organic and somewhat impenetrable, like a steel deadbolt thrown across a door. The middle layer is made of impersonal minerals, too. Inside, next to the soft thing, is a smooth and polished layer. Mollusks grow their own homes to protect their tiny bodies.
Humans eat the soft thing and collect the three layer homes.
When I run away, my mother sends me with her collection of seashells. The seashells have an entire shelf to themselves while my books sit in a pile on the floor. The shells are real which means they are plain, ugly even. They do not have beautiful colors and there is certainly no glitter. Stores sell fake seashells dipped in glue and rolled in glitter. Each sparkle is a blinking memory of a summer vacation, beach houses and lobster bakes. My shells don’t sparkle. They are white and grey. I have on large starfish that crumbles when it’s touched, and one little starfish with unattractive lumps. They are an unattractive shade of brown. These skeletons are colored in muted hues, failed attempts to avoid detection.
The boy I date is rich. His father is a doctor, or maybe a lawyer, a part-time politician. We sit in the bowels of the cavernous colonial; we stare at patterned wallpaper and listen to the wooden structure snap and sigh. His family bought class when they moved into this historic home. The office has leather chairs and a globe on its own stand. The walls are lined with books, heavy texts about medicine or law or politics. A human skull sits on the desk. Wealthy people of a certain class like to leave a human skull in their home offices. They all call it Yorick, and think they’re clever. The boy talks about mortality, says things like memento mori. Eventually, he deems me somewhat too impenetrable. He never bothered to notice my polished inner layer; I never let him see much beyond the hardened grey exterior.
I wrap my shells in newspaper. We move. I unwrap them, rearrange them on a shelf while my books lay heaped in the floor. I pick them up. They are cold and uninteresting. Rough on one side, silken in the inner grooves. My mother doesn’t call much. She certainly never emails or video chats. She says she didn’t grow up with computers, wasn’t meant to understand technology. I write her letters. She sends me illegible replies, all loops and curls. Her letters are my mollusks. I hide them under my shells.
If you hold a seashell to your ear, you can hear the ocean. That’s a glitter lie, another tourist trap. What you hear isn’t the ocean, but sometimes I listen anyway. When I can’t remember the exact tone of my mother’s voice or how her arms feel around me, when I regret running away, I hold her hard seashells close to my ear and listen to the lulling, ghostly echoes of the soft things.