by Dessa Wander
At first they thought she was pregnant. Then, after somebody spent an afternoon online, they thought something could be wrong with her inner ears—with the semicircular canals that house the human sense of balance. Or perhaps it was plain vertigo? Chronic nausea? Is that a thing, chronic nausea?
The well-meaning suggestions and conjecture continued while she swayed. For two years she stumbled through her daily chores, perpetually catching herself on countertops and chairbacks, before receiving a proper diagnosis.
It turned out that Alice-who had never left Nebraska—was terminally seasick. Irrespective of her circumstances, Alice was destined to drown at sea. And whether her end roared up from platinum waves with a trident in his fist, or simply held her round white cheek to the linoleum—it was her fated end.
For her part, Alice had known it from the start. If her careworn mother had thought to review the crayon drawings of twenty years before, she’d have found a girl (indicated with yellow spiral curls) at home with giant fish (drawn with one continuous line, like a figure eight laid on its side with one blunted edge).
In high school, easily the hardest years, she suffered nightmares in semaphore. She had a desperate compulsion to stargaze-an unromantic, obsessive impulse to memorize the constellations as they swept across the blackness of the expansive prairie sky. At her lowest, she took salted baths. But by her early twenties, she was nearly oblivious to the constant motion. She rebounded from dishwasher to dinner table, accustomed to the whirl and tilt. She rode hinges in a world of steady cornfields. Protracted melancholy is a hazard at sea, and self-pity is unbecoming conduct for a sailor.
When they found her, calm and blue, her lungs were full of brine.
Dessa Wander is a rapper signed to Doomtree Records in Minneapolis. She is the recipient of a SASE/Jerome grant for writers and a two-time MN Music Award nominee. She spends most of her time writing funny/sad songs and stories.