Low Midnight Tide, Green Spring Stars
rating: +14+x


The boat rocks. The waves are inkstains, beading a shattered white by starlight. Beyond, the moon is empty, forgotten — all the better that this night can be as black as can be. As the lights of the city dive into the black ridgeline of the spit, I lose sight of the shoreline, the prow of my boat, use my paddle rather than my eyes to find the sea floor. Feel like I’m sleeping. Dream that I’m dreaming. Paddle hard and find my actions autonomous, unwaking.

I seek the waves where the sea glows like the stars.

The boat rocks. The sea is deep. Over taffy-stretched time I round the tied island under the claw-spur I-beams of the naval base gripping the boulders below. My arms are a wildfire of lashed protein, falling apart — if I pulled my skin away, would slurry come out? I gaze at the stars, burning my vision for a glimpse of glory.

It’s not every night the sky is so clear. Without breaking, I reach into my bag and pull a handful of berries from a thin oilslip. Pop them in my mouth. Chew, swallow down, anticipate the bitterness followed by mild sweet. Like alpine strawberries.

Leaning back, paddles in their catch-loops, I prop open my eyes.

And I foresee a beige and white office building that smells of dust spray and HVAC refrigerant — r134a, say the canisters in the alley. Sweetish like dead skin, or stored toenail clippings. I foresee a professional suite whose windows oversee another white wall. Cars roaring, asphalt plumes billowing down the highway.

I foresee sleeping, waking, working, eating, sleeping. Burning time in kerosene flames. Becoming a faulty person. I foresee becoming someone fundamentally unhappy, only able to take actions established in a lifelong routine. Foresee forgetting that there is any other way of waking up other than in resignation.

I remember, I know, I will.

The boat rocks, and my thoughts are a flood of blue and fuschia. I paddle along the coast, edge the fir and spruce and cedar. Pinecones with elk in them, hoofprints evident inside when the scales are pulled back, mouse tails and legs still sticking out. Run from wildfires, hide in trees. Immune, eternal, lumber for the shipyard. Hear, don’t see, illicit logging trucks and their teams. Chainsaws, faint like cicadas a mile out, or a locust swarm. This is a national park. But what fine would stop them? Or, rather, what fine would undo the damage?

The aftertaste of berries lingers in my mouth. I look to the coast, my hair and brows cascading the star-space, and the fuschia future and lapis past fade from my vision, cherry-bright and narrowing. Invisible, like glue set out to dry. Tattering, like spiderweb open threads dragging in the wind. Untouchable, like the mist over the sea at dusk. But I remain and my thoughts on it do too. I never want to go back, but I don’t want to grow older, said I in the future tense, wreathed in fuschia. My skin writhes, and as I paddle the slap of a silent searchboat’s wake pummels me into a roller-ride. I would not want such a complacent future for myself. I am a circus performer now, an adventurer, a reader, a writer, an explorer, a painter, a sculptor. Why would I ever give up what I have for such a dreary life?
For security.
I foresaw it. What pain that is, to see what might be.

In the sky above, I see the future. In the stars below, I see the past. Tonight, there will only be one diversion to times already lived, for the world wishes for me to know my future. But the sea is kind, and this single diversion is a balm to help me collect myself for the change that is to come.

Two years ago, I am in the water.

Two years ago, I came to this bay in the day and drowned myself. A craving fulfilled — my mind stopped scrambling, my heart stopped pounding. I was not found.

A wonder I am still here. I woke on the beach convulsing, tongue chopped in half, skin abraded and screaming at every sensation, new. Water pooled from my lungs, frothy pink like seafoam on the sand. My body refused to die.

Two years ago, I stepped on a path with no end in sight. I looked at the stars that night as the sky broke to pieces, died to its own wounds. I thought the sky did not want to be observed, and I went home after my body dried and mudcrabs picked at my flesh. And sky was quiet.

And then weeks later I came back, hopeless and sludgy. I did not want to live still, and what sky there was brought nothing to my life. Empty stars. Prepared this time, I stumbled into the water in my wetsuit and diving belt, no oxygen tanks or depth chart. Dove down, eyes open against the black.

And then I rose, frantic for air, and knew I wanted to live.

The waves lap, and I am a tumultuous storm encased in stone. This is the way of nightshade-people everywhere. Lip a berry into the mouth, pop it between the canines, dice the flesh through the incisors, grind the seeds between the molars until I am a flour mill, tasting honey-sweet and berry-bright. Nightshade a languid poison, a tiger in the veins, gentle in its slaughter. It is after midnight, but I have time. I am here to hear the stars speak.

The boat rocks. My throat is dry; my veins are full of acid. The trees on the rocking cliffs are a hypoxic rave against the lean sky and stagelight stars. In the wake of my dragging paddles, stars appear in the water.

Here is the trick of the gift of seeing: if one hears their own future, dislikes it, then one is able to change it. Prophecy is never set in stone. Fate only exists when unobserved; once one can see their own future, anything is possible.

My thoughts are butterflies. Before, I had foreseen beige walls. Now, I see only hurricanes.

The boat rocks, the paddles are at my side, and the tide is coming in. Who am I? My body is the salt in veins and the pH of the liquid-ocean bath cradling my organs. Dizzy. My saliva is the sliding sensation queasying but not syncopeing when one is beached after drowning. My chest is wind knocked out at the nadir of a leap from a swingset. My spine is a curved sword rusted red but strong as it was when it was forged in the 80’s.

And I?


There is nightshade in my mouth. I spit a half-chewed leaf from my swollen tongue. I am glad to be sitting, because my legs are broken now. My breath tastes of salt and sand. I turn my kayak to the left, remake the swerve in my rudder and back again to neutral. No motor, only fishfin plastic piece at the back. My arms paddle towards shore, ataxic. Hull scrapes the floor, a sea of teeth — mine. They have fallen out. Stop. Open my pack, handful of berries. My stomach cramps, empty. What else am I to do?

Come home, the sea says.

I stare at her. Her face is curtained by locks of blue-black hair. “But I am here,” I say, and my hands press against the water, lips nearly touching hers. So cold.

“You are two years ago. Come home.

I have no home. Tear my eyes from hers, sit upright. Water dripping from my chin.

Breathe. Pop the berries, shut out the shudders, and I am caked in sweat. Close my eyes, open them, and the sea is quiet.

The sky has moved. I look up.

At nothing.

The stars are streetlights, nuclear bombs pressed against my eyeballs. Spring night freckles my vision. My heart is a honey badger in my chest — I fumble beneath my shirt, my wetsuit, and my fingers are bitten by the warm-cold agonizing beak of my necklace. Delirium, it whispers, and I say, ”Really?” My arm flops — I reposition it to the paddle with my other hand, my third hand holding the boat steady. Or did I use my teeth? There are fires burning on shore: I can’t see the flames, but the smoke lights orange like the mountains at sunset. If it comes into the sea, I hope my body is half burned before the kayak crumples and my flesh sinks down in pieces to feed the beasts. A midnight devouring, a Stygian bequeathment. Part of me knows that something is wrong, but that part of me is not driving. I am morbid, a child. Laugh, move on. Humour is a type of poison — hides emotion from thoughts.

Disconnect, pull the plug, cut the sound. And the silence is black as the water.

There is no pulse in my wrist. I luxuriate, lie back, drift for a time before exhaustion pulls me upright again, find myself dizzy like blood donation.

Who am I? My skin is the hue of the sky at dusk when the stars are bright and the moon is full, and my eyes are the cyanide-white and spring green that trails from my drip-wet idle fingers and the knife-leading edge of my kayak. Unbuckle my lifejacket. Let the last nightshade leaf melt in the back of my throat, chocolate silk. Wetsuit, necklace, nametag to remind me of myself and identify my body should it happen. Plug my nose, slip goggles over my eyes.

Unbuckle the sprayskirt.

Lean sideways, hup, twist, and fall upside-down and backwards into the water, and let the air explode from my lungs with eyes wide open and bare against the ice crystals in the water.

Sink down, head down, unmoving, hair like algae waves in the night. With every movement, encompassing my being like aftershocks: stars. Bioluminescent firesparks. Turn like a seal in the deep, inhale water and don’t choke on the seagrass threads like eels slicking down into my lungs. Bright luminescence blue-bright in my lungs, plummet down with numbed legs and fins and feel the nitrogen bubble the depths of my Stygian heart. I am holding my breath — am I? I exhale and find no air left inside — I am deflating empty balloons. I gasp water, my head tilts left. The rest of my stash escapes my lips, drools purple and blueberry-blue from my lips into the sea. And the sea glows phosphorescent cyan-white right back at me, dappled where I have been, where my breath has gone. There are stars in the ocean, I think with fever and fervour. And I know that I am right.

Inhale. Exhale. One A.M., the final hour. The stars are inside me, coating my lungs. My arteries. When I move, my veins glow; through them, I see time. No fog, no hurricanes. Only butterflies.

Inhale. Exhale. The sea refracting the stars above, the sky a disco ball, I open my eyes.

Look up.

There are two options for my future. I see them side by side.

On one path, there will be nothing. I will continue paddling the sea of change without changing myself. I foresee burning bridges because I need to hurt somebody and I am too numb to feel the damage.

I foresee being so tired I cannot gain stamina again. I foresee thinking pain in myself means I’m at least feeling something. I foresee them gazing at a point above my head. I foresee nothing but guilty relief when I am told, If that’s how you truly feel. I foresee never seeing them again.

Only realizing so much later that the damage I dealt is irreparable.

Only realizing so much later how much I lost.

The boat—-

On the alternate path, there will be something. I will learn, slowly but surely, how to love myself. I will talk to someone when I am in pain, and learn how to do so. I will have a weekly appointment.

The sea alone cannot induce change — she is change incarnate, does not know what it means to be stuck in place. I will learn this. I will learn how to breathe. The marks on my skin will fade. Not cut from time, but fade, gentled like granite brushed by wind and rain. I will learn to accept my mistakes. I will realize that seeing depression as truth is a fantastic way to hate oneself. I will see in oilpaint hues.

I foresee a future, short in coming if I do right by myself tonight, where I learn how to feel again.

Time to make a call.

The boat rocks. My heart is flooded. My lungs hold an acid tang — spew it out, spray green and white, smatter new stars briefly to the sky before settling glowing back into the sea. I wheeze, stridor in every microsecond of breathing. I am spreadeagled across my kayak, wrung out. Ease myself back in, wobble, click the seat into place, and while still caught in the heady rush of self I paddle towards shore.

The sky is grey, pre-dawn. No sunrise yet, but the inklings of one. Something has clicked in my chest, broken in my ribs, hollowed and squirmed and wormed my body from the marrow in my bones to the sponge-flesh beneath my nailbeds. Something is different.

No. It is a decision. A new knowledge. What did the stars say? — and that’s the trick: I don’t know. I only see what I make in myself. I am fantastically forgetful. Of this.

“Come home,” the sea says again. It doesn't mean my house.

I am coming home.

The stars are fading, but I do not look in their eyes. I’ve seen enough tonight.

A grey room awaits me when I leave the beach, but tonight I have the stars in my lungs. When my thoughts are poison — when my bones are broken and my chest aches with tears that have not fallen in months — I come here, to this cove where a dead thing was made, where the plankton in the water glows with little flashes, where a naval base pretends to be abandoned, where loggers infest the woodwork. Garden this place is not — it is thriving, dying, surviving, changing. A shock to the system, samsara. I just need to last another day, another tomorrow, and then I can come back to the sea where the sky lives in the water. And inhale again, and bring the sky home again, and come back. Again.

The nightshade lessens. Dreams suffuse with magenta and teal slipping — my vision comes back in the center. But I am not done, a voice whispers in the back of my mind. I am too lethargic and dream-minded tonight, exhausted from premonitions and views of the past, to block it.

The voice says, You are tied here.

When this place is gone, where will you go?

I am full of nightshade, and when I am not I am unable to find the sea in myself. Something breaks as I paddle: cattails? Tonight is another indulgence. Perhaps tomorrow I will do something. I told myself these very words yesterday.
I can’t do this alone.
No. Change is in the air tonight. And so: Tonight.
I open my phone. I speak into it.
And then it is done.
This is the most important thing in the world. More than even my trips to the ocean. If I do not do this now then I will never, and the cycle will continue. Eye-opening revelations that are forgotten as soon as they come. Stars that fade at dawn.
But now, tomorrow, I have an appointment. I just have to last until then.
Perhaps this is the true nature of the sea. She is a deceiver: She tells you that if you are near, you will change by proxy. No effort required. You forget that to change yourself you must act on your own motives, your own initiative — you cannot live life by sliding perpetually downhill. The sea has her own tides. What have you?

I yearn for change. As I bring my kayak to shore, return it to the shipping container refurbished to be an office with enough room for the boat trailer, fasten it as though it had never been borrowed — it’ll be wet in the morning, but aren’t they always — the twisting in my chest finally shrinks, satisfied as it had never been by leaving my body behind two years ago on the rocks and sand. And in a way that had been satisfied less and less with every trip out here, until tonight. A change has been made. And as the nightshade ebbs, the lie of fortunetelling fades with it, my pupils constricting, twitching, unrelaxing and watering from the glare of the stars and halo of the midnight moon.

I walk from the lot. Strip, change my clothes, stash my bag in the nitrogen-feasting nettles and wild nightshade’s impulsive sprawl across the space between the fence border and Private Property: Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted. Stretch, feel the wonderful sore slush of muscle in my shoulders and laterals. Nightshade only in my fingertips now, dripping out, regret seeping in: what if my actions tonight, impulsive and dysregulated as they were, were wrong? What if I hate what I have done tomorrow. Why not continue as I have been, clinging to life and saying one more day, one more year?

Because it hurts.

Because in this minute I am more alive than I have been in months.

Because I have never been further from two years ago than I am now.

I breathe. Something hot and wet stains my cheeks. The nightshade drunkenly stumbled from my nerve endings, waltzed sloppily out the door-bellows of my lungs, and I am still here. Frail, fragile, broken but here. I have a habit of pummeling myself until I am half-dead and nearly gone. Tonight, I am not dead.

Perhaps I will do nothing in the end — walk backwards from the shore of life — but my actions taken tonight will be better than nothing. Brushstrokes on a canvas are more than an empty frame. I will change.

Time to go home. And so: I get in my car, and I leave the shore where the waves are ink. I don’t long to return to this beach. Maybe one day, but not yet.

Because tomorrow, I will make my own future.

I am here, and the bioluminescent plankton that throng so deep in this dark secluded spot on the coast are plenty. I don’t need to look to know: in the dark beneath at my paddle’s wakepools they burn their charges like those found in the bodies of glowsticks and fireflies, sunlight trapped in little dying flashes. I do not leave them be, for they are oh so pretty, and their sparkles trail after my fingers in the wake like someone has taken all the stars in the sky and poured them into the sea.

I am getting better.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License