by Laurie Easter
I unzip the lake, walk into what I am—
More than four years into my grief over losing my husband, I unzip the ocean, part it like the Red Sea, not as Moses or any figure inhabiting supreme God-like capabilities, but as a woman unzipping the vagaries of her life. I unzip the water, but it doesn’t part away leaving me dry; rather, it rushes in furiously around my ankles. So I step into the flavor of it—salty, fishy, scented with dulse and sea palm. The water cascades all around then rises quickly up to my thighs, my waist, my neck. The icy cold triggers a sharp inhalation of breath. The glass shards of my skin turn numb. Eventually, the numbness turns to warmth. I unleash myself, step further so that the water collapses over my head. Tendrils of kelp float like ribbons of hair moving in synchronized waves pulsing this way, then that. The salt stings yet purifies. I unzip my mind, lay down my burdens, my regrets, the secrets saddled onto me. I open my mouth and let the words I cannot speak unspool. Water rushes into my cheeks, consumes my throat, slides down my esophagus, fills my stomach. But I do not drown. I transmute. The pores of my skin dilate, millions of tiny gills oxygenated from beneath the surface. I let go my fear of the deep, dark unknown, of the danger of predators, of the potential for becoming lost. My chest unfurls like the pure white moonflower after dusk, ready for the nocturnal hour. With arms raised above my head and hands clasped together like a prayer, I cast my body outward, spiraling like a spinner dolphin, down, down, prepared to fall into darkness. But there is light, muted yet glistening. And color so bright I forget myself. Coral, turquoise, sienna. I touch the sand on the bottom, for there is a bottom. It is soft and fine, powdery yet with a slight grit. I scoop handfuls and toss it into the air, which of course is water. It scatters and floats, light glinting on the dispersing particles, shimmering, reflecting, and I see that when you are willing to brave the depths, there is beauty and light in darkness. I see floating sand is the mirror of stardust, that somewhere in the sky the same particles, the same light, floats freely in a weightless universe I will one day inhabit when I finally unzip not only the ocean, not only my skin, but this spirit of memory, of corporeal fascination, this containment.
Laurie Easter is the author of All the Leavings (Oregon State University Press, 2021), a finalist for the 2023 Oregon Book Awards in creative nonfiction and winner of a 2022 Next Generation Indie Book Award in memoir. Her work appears in Brevity, The Rumpus, and Sweet Lit, among others. She lives off the grid in Southern Oregon. Find her at www.laurieeaster.com.