Ocean salt was on my lips and in my lungs,
my cousin’s blond curls slicked brown, my black even blacker;
we bobbed on our foam boards, feet buried in the sand.
But as we gazed at splashing bodies with glistening shoulders,
we slowly raised our feet
and swam Deeper.
My cousin was taller, so I felt it first
when the sand fell away and depths grew cold
and cold fingers of kelp slid up my calves,
and we saw a jellyfish’s stinging tendrils trailing ten feet away,
but I was too wild to fear the deepening dark - or at least to show it.
We laughed at each other like the Adults
and I slid a little off my board to lean against it
and pretend to stand
but really I was reaching with my toes and straining
to catch an abalone shell or a wizened crab,
anything to prove there was still ground,
but there wasn’t.
One of us chose to scream at the jellyfish
so we could pretend that’s what we feared
and swish back to shore,
boards flailing, arms thrashing.
After cucumbers and tomatoes in vinegar for lunch and teeth crunching sand,
after our bodies rolled against towels as pink as our noses
and sunblock ran into our mouths,
we built a sandcastle glittering with abalone
and stabbed my board into the soft sand
between our house and the ocean
as a shield.