We Ran Into the Ocean and I Couldn’t Breathe – Althea Champion

The boy brought my watch back to the blankets we heaped. It can’t get wet, he said. The rocks hurt the boy’s feet. The water licked my toes. We needed to be in or out so we ran. People cheered. I wanted to cheer but all I could do was suck, gasp, fight. I heaved and sunk deeper into the water. I breathed through everything that was cold. We needed to be in or out so we went in. The waves crashed. I fell, splintered, piled up. The boy could only scream and shake, but his green eyes cheered. His lips turned violet. The boy was blue when he landed back on the heap. I dressed the boy with towels and blankets that turned to brine. I licked the salt away but the violets waned only briefly. I should’ve brought my big coat for shelter, or another wool sweater. We could have burned one for warmth and made a nest with the other. Instead the boy draped the one we had over my watch. It can’t get wet. The sun hid despite the boy’s shaking and shrinking. But his eyes cheered, so I celebrated the sun’s stealth; I didn’t want the boy to squint. I had become a thousand smooth pieces. I licked the boy so I knew he was still cold and with me, not just cold. I piled my pieces on top of him. I licked and offered all my breath. I finally stopped gasping.