I’m not sure what a sea turtle looks like in real life, up close, but I’ve seen pictures on the internet. They look a lot like regular turtles, just in the ocean instead of on the side of the road, swimming instead of dead with big bloody tire tracks down the middle of their crushed shells.
“Are you even listening to me, Mr. Sea Turtle?”
It was her name for me when things didn’t work out. Sexually. My limp, sleeping unit rested on my upper thigh, less like a sea turtle, I thought, and more like a slug in a flimsy sleeping bag. Still, I liked the name Mr. Sea Turtle.
“What happened, do you think?”
Again, she was thinking. Or was I thinking it? Maybe neither of us were thinking it and it just hung there like a thought bubble not attached to anyone’s head. Why is this happening again?
“I wish you would talk to me instead of staring at the ceiling.”
That angry-scary thing was creeping into her voice and it was like she was channeling my mom. Sometimes the angry-scary thing crept in when we were in bed together, when she whispered “Where are you?” or when she asked me to stop ramming her. Not all the time, but sometimes it crept in. And then I thought about my mom. And then it was lights out, hello, Mr. Sea Turtle.
She reached for her pack of Newport Lights and the way she sat up in bed made exactly three rolls of fat around her stomach. She crossed her legs, tucking each foot under her thigh, knees jutting out like bony elbows. The flimsy sleeping bag had rolled down into a little rubber hat on Mr. Sea Turtle’s head. She lit a cigarette and put her free hand between her legs.
I closed my eyes and I was swimming with the sea turtles. We moved through the almost darkness in complete silence. The bed rocked us.
Something went screwy in mom’s head when dad left. That’s when the angry-scary thing had started. She stopped showering. Didn’t go to work. She made me sleep with her at night. There was a smell that would fill the room. Sometimes I got scared thinking I would choke on that smell.
In the ocean, with the sea turtles, everything moved around me. A sea turtle swam by me and brushed against my cheek.
Once, when I was a kid, I noticed a tube of something in the bathroom garbage. I had to move some tissues, which were covered with red lip marks or wrapped around bloody tampons, to see it. Vagi-sola was what it was called. “Vagi-sola.” I said the word out loud while I sat on the toilet, sounding it out like a new word from a new language. “Vagi-sola.”
I felt the little rubber hat roll off Mr. Sea Turtle’s head and drop onto my upper thigh. I flicked it away. When she came, she shook the whole entire bed like one of those Magic Fingers things. I wanted to go back and swim with the sea turtles, but her shaking around like that made it too hard to concentrate. I turned over on my side and Mr. Sea Turtle rested his bare little head on the sheet. It was hard to tell if he was sleeping or dead.
Irene McGarrity has been writing since the tender and awkward age of ten. Her fiction appears or is forthcoming in Hobart (web), DOGZPLOT Flash Fiction, freeze frame fiction, If and Only if, and Minerva Rising. She is an MFA candidate in creative writing at the New Hampshire Institute of Art and an Assistant Professor at Keene State College in New Hampshire. She lives in Western Massachusetts with her wife and three cats. Visit her blog Metawriting at irenemcgarrity.wordpress.com