Evidence For Undersea Civilizationshttps://i2.wp.com/barrenmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/DenevanMonica_TheRace.jpg?fit=1920%2C1920&ssl=119201920Jessica CaveroJessica Caverohttps://i0.wp.com/barrenmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Image8.jpg?fit=96%2C96&ssl=1
My mother said in a past life, I was born in the sea. On each side of my castle, it was a different season. On the autumn side, I fed deer from a balcony made of shimmering guanine and red coral. On the winter side, I walked barefoot into the snow.
Here is what my mother doesn’t know yet.
Once I had a yellow bruise in the shape of a moth above my left breast, the spot he’d sink his teeth into. Afterward, he laughed into my neck and I would smell his rotting fish breath. He said the marks were proof that I belonged to him. I let him kiss my overgrown nails, wanted them long and sharp enough to puncture.
In the shower I scrubbed until I was raw and burning. Strands of hair came loose in my palms. I decided this was ink. I drew a woman’s face and her body hovering next to it on the wall. I grabbed the black sludge of hair coiled around my feet and it became the night.
Underwater, one day in the castle is one century on land. I don’t move, wrapped in his arms. I stay there for two years. When I leave, the Peruvian restaurant down from his apartment blasts reggaetón and the sky has turned violet and the summer stars are bright as scales.
My mother said she grew up with men, knowing all they could do to us. Their rage, volcanic ash, burying civilizations.
Here is what saves me.
I imagine all my past lives swooping down, down into the chasms of the seabed. All the cities we rebuild for each other, out of whalebone ribs and fire coral for protection. My mother said, “Your job description is sacrifice,” but she never taught me how to staunch the wound of it. On land, I am suspicious constantly. I examine my face to make sure I am there, proof this body is real, is mine. In mirrors, I pull the dead skin off my lips in one long, gray flake, bite down and swallow blood because it calms me when nothing else does. I touch the moth on my breast, feel the crush of his teeth there. I whisper wet clouds into the glass so I can tell her. This future, not-yet born again me. Look. Listen. We are still breathing.
Jessica Cavero’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in SmokeLong Quarterly and Jellyfish Review. Her short story, “Toguro,” won the 2017 Katherine Anne Porter Prize from Nimrod International Journal. You can find her at fightfayre.net or on Twitter at @itangeishatrash. She is working on a novella based on “Toguro.”