I walked over to something shining in the sand and uncovered it with a twig. The thing was a dead jellyfish—bloated, coming apart at the seams—and it made me realize something. I started to cry.
“What is it, angel face?” my dad asked from his place on the Mexican blanket.
“I’m not young anymore,” I told him. I wore a tankini with blurry orange stripes.
He laughed, “You’re eleven years old. You have no idea what you’re talking about, angel face. You have decades left of being young.”
If you think it is funny that an eleven-year-old would believe she isn’t young anymore, then you’re looking at the whole thing wrong. You’re thinking about how she’s never had to pay a bill, how she’s never had to bother with words like Mortgage or Equity or APR. You’re thinking about junior high school and high school and college where she has yet to learn all the ways she is unworthy, thinking about marijuana and cocaine and LSD, words she has no associations for. You’re thinking about the wedding she’s yet to have, the man who will love her or not love her enough and the comfort of silver and diamond weighing down one finger as she goes about her day, maybe buying flowers or not buying enough. You’re thinking she has no arrests or failed marriages or even traffic tickets on her record, thinking she has never hit someone with her car and heard the crunch of bone, has never broken down crying in a doctor’s office when asked How are you doing? You’re thinking she’s never used her own body as a means of making money in a moment of complete desperation, never aborted a fetus or made the decision to give a human being a life it never asked for. You’re thinking she’s never been fucked on a hotel bed with her wrists tied to the posts or stood on the windowsill afterwards, wanting to jump. You’re thinking she’s never known anybody to die. You’re thinking her teeth haven’t gone soft or fallen out, that her cells haven’t amalgamated into murderous clusters in her blood. You’re thinking her blood is pure and fresh. You’re thinking she’s a clean slate.
That’s what you think.
You are not thinking about how tired she is in the morning, the way her muscles have turned to stone ever since she learned that she won’t go to heaven, won’t go anywhere, actually, when she dies. You’re not thinking about sitting alone at the back of a school bus when all of a sudden a balloon pops behind your chest bone releasing gray, plasma-like fluid that rolls in beads around your heart, slipping into your bloodstream and radiating outwards to your fingertips and toes creating a total and complete sense of dampness that draws attention to your soul, which is now so wet and wilted, you have to close your eyes. You’re not thinking about how a fifth grade boy is unafraid to reach his hand up a girl’s shirt, even if there is nothing yet to reach for, in the back of the music room when no one is looking (some people were looking). You’re not thinking about what shame feels like when you feel it for the first time. You’re not thinking about the picnic table on Fourth of July where a peach, half eaten, becomes black with fruit flies conducting their soundless destruction. You’re not thinking what it means to see a dead jellyfish washed up onto the shore and think “That’s me.”