Marigold Sailors
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Diary, 2.23.1934
My mother told me that crying for the sea will flood the home, she told me I’ll wake up with salt on my tongue and sand in the sheets. “There’s a reason sailors only talk about their tattoos and the coast.” So I don’t cry salty tears, and my mother and I don’t go down to the beach together anymore.

Before I was allowed to leave home on my own, I would sneak down the cliffs to the banks. I left very quietly in the early morning, waving to the fisherman, like the tide slides silently down the shore. I would lie on my side with my hip in the sand, and when the sun was high enough to be reflected on the water, I saw two big white eyes and a red purple glow for a face. I told dad about this trick in a letter, that he should lay on his side in the morning and look out there too and we could watch together, “I bet that’s what god looks like dad.” I put the letter in an empty beer-bottle with a corked cap and threw it into one of god’s eyes.

When I was 6 I asked if he was coming back. My mother replied, “He’s in love with the sea now Rosie. We don’t cry for the sea” I didn’t ask again. In my next letter to dad I asked him if he loved me. Two days later, I found my bottle-letter spit back up on the shore, “Do you love me?” it read. That night I dreamt I was choking up red pearls into the sea’s cupped palms.

Grief is a very ugly creature. It looks like wet coffee grounds at the bottom of the mug and the red orange sunburns on the backs of the town's necks. Somewhere in between bitter and warm—that you press to your lip first to make sure it won’t burn your tongue. I’m not always sure what I’m grieving.

When I was 7 I’d found an empty hermit crab shell, cleared out clean. So I buried the shell and put two grey stones on top, to mark the grave. I realize now that crabs can move from place to place, dad told me so in a letter. So I like to paint them with my mother's old oil paints and let them dry on the windowsill to pass the time. He can see them sitting on the window from the beach. I wish I knew what to grieve and what to let go of. Today I carefully painted an orange marigold on the back of one of the shells. There are long patches of orange marigolds scattered across the grass before you hit sand. I wrote this in a letter, about the marigolds and the sea shells, about mother too (in case he had forgotten these things), and tossed the bottle out into the ocean.

Tonight I had another dream, I couldn’t remember what it was. I woke to the sound of rain. Still dark out. But for a moment it didn’t sound like rain, it sounded like the bristles of a paint brush drawing across the rooftop. I’m still alive, there’s someone in here, I thought to say. But the door must have already been painted shut. The smell of it is getting worse.

I’ve begun writing out my dreams and sending them out in the bottles with my letters to dad. In the dream from last night, I think that I was bathing, but when I looked down under the water I couldn't find the bottom of the bath tub. It went deeper and deeper as far as the eye could see. It felt like there was something there, watching—deep down at the bottom of the ocean tub. When I went up for air the water would not let me out from under its surface. There was a bottle on the shore when I went to toss mine out this morning. Inside a letter. The marigolds sing is all it read today. I knew it was from him again but not what he meant.

I brought apricots and lavender flowers home from the market today, for mother. I put them all around her rocking chair and in her lap, and cut the apricots in half, letting them sit in front of the open window so the breeze would smell like fruit. I’d like to go down to the beach with her again. I filled an empty jar of jam with water and Marigold cuttings, leaving them on the porch so he would know which house we were at. But he did not come home. I did not dream that night, or the night after, or the night after that.

At dusk there was a knock at the door, but it was not him. The woman at the door was holding the jar of wilted marigolds and asked to come in. I told her to come in, but to be quiet. Mother is sleeping. Her face scrunched up like a wet rag, she covered her mouth with her sleeve and went to mother's room. The door opened and the marigold jar cracked across the floorboards. The woman made a sound similar to the breaking glass. We ran from the house. We ran down the coast to the shore and she wept on my shoulder. I told her that we shouldn’t cry for the sea.

We live in new places now. Mother's new home is polished oak with red lining. The woman and the priest and three men buried her like I had buried the hermit crab on the beach. They put her home beneath the ground and I asked the woman where mother was going. She told me she’d live next to my father. I told her my father’s love is only for the sea. The woman held my hand while they shoveled dirt over mothers home. She told me there were shimmering waves and thousands of weeping eyes living inside of her and mother for my father to love. The morning my mother found a new shell the woman took me to the beach. On the shore I found an olive green wine bottle. In it, a letter for me:

Dear Rosie, our love,
do not cry for the sea.

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