Starfish | Kate Garrett

Every day I sit on the rocks and wait for the tide to come in and chase me inland. Clara says it’s because of the stars and where they were when I was born. Today she starts again, before I’ve even gone.

I think you’re actually a crab, Sunny. You skulk around at the edge of the water looking interesting, then you pinch people when they try to touch you.

She’s got a point, but I argue anyway. Why do you play with mud and fire, Clara, if you’re supposed to be a fish, little mermaid? Why not come down to the beach with me and let the tide carry you off?

She ignores my bite, and says working with mud and fire keeps her balanced, that when she creates with these elements she feels more complete. But she and I are soul sisters, she says. The moon rules the tides and it’s the reason I’m a moody bitch, and she wishes she would have been born on Neptune instead of Earth. I’m inclined to agree with the last bit. She says water is our intuition and inspiration. I say, there’s water in the toilet, too, Clara, but it doesn’t inspire me. I pee in it. She says not to be facetious. 

Clara’s new age ramblings are too convenient. I want to feel the things she feels, but like she says, I’m there on the edge between the tide and the rocks all the time, where everything’s in motion and changing. I’m studying the life in the between places, lives that non-biologists forget about. The crabs, the starfish, the gannets. It’s better than being in a box. If you put things in a box, they die. There’s no air. 

So I say, all your star sign rubbish is a big airless fucking box. It’s bullshit. Do you want to suffocate me with bullshit in a box?

She waves me away. Lighten up, crabby girl. I want to throw one of her hippie clay pots at her head.

Instead I tell her fish stink on land, and let the swinging screen door push me down to the water.

Stopping at a tide pool, I lie down at the edge and gaze in. Two little velvet swimming crabs scuttle around one another, retreating under stones, only to meet again and eye each other sideways. Watching them through the surface of the water is like Clara’s mystical mirror-scrying, only I see the past instead of the future. I see Clara embracing me for the first time, when we never had a row because she was new and soft and interesting. I can hear her breath in my ear as her blonde waves blanket my shoulder, mingling with my own dull brown hair as we sprawl on our backs on the sand, arms and legs entwined. 

We used to see the same sun and moon as they changed places, after hours of salty kisses, and the sea foam caressing our feet as we dreamed out loud together.

The crabs are still sizing each other up. They’re so awkward, eyes on stalks and their own comfortable clumsiness. But even these crabs find lovers and manage to get along, at least long enough to fertilise the eggs and look after the family.

But I don’t want a family. I only want the sand and the rocks and the edge of the sea, and the little lives within that space, and Clara. Children are for other women, and they’re doing too much for the population already. Clara is one of those women. She wants a baby.

In the rock pool, a few tiny butterfish swim together. Their movements are smooth. They cut between the crabs and the crabs move back, dubious about these spotted interlopers. The fish are graceful, part of the water, accepting of the wary crabs, and the starfish clinging to the rocks at the bottom, accepting the microcosm contained in this pool. Awareness is unnecessary for these fish; they are experts at just being.

I lay flat, and it occurs to me the horizon is the colour of syrah rosé, and some part of me would like to be sharing a bottle with Clara. But wine loosens tongues, and she’d want to talk about things, and I’d want to hide with the velvet swimming crabs, peeking out with nervous red eyes. But not before pinching out at her, and without knowing why.

Darker violet encroaches on the sky directly above me as the sun changes places with the full moon. The tide is returning. 

Kate Garrett writes and edits. She is the founding editor of Three Drops Press, and senior editor for poetry and flash fiction at Pankhearst. Her writing can be found here and there, online and in print – most recently or forthcoming in Up the Staircase Quarterly, After the Pause, and Blood Moon Rising. Her latest poetry pamphlet, The Density of Salt, is forthcoming in 2016 from Indigo Dreams Publishing. She lives in Sheffield, UK.

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