All Aboard

All Aboard

By Sarah Richman

The ferry smells like bleach, the mold it couldn’t quite get to, and old onion rings from
the lower-deck bar. You hand over your ticket and climb aboard, rubber boots squeaking over the gangplank.

They’re green, his favorite color, but by the time you remembered that you’d already taken off the tag, and hadn’t he cost you enough by now? The boots are yours.

You mash the ticket stub into the pocket of your jeans and scan the rows of seats,
relaxing slightly when you see there are only a few others willing to take a ferry ride in
the middle of October.

You don’t have your actual glasses, just a pair of plastic sunglasses half-forgotten on top
of your head, so their faces tangle into basic geometries; a triangle of nose here, a circle
of ear there. None familiar.

You move past them, climb the stairs to an empty upper deck, and sink into a seat by the
window.

Past the glass, what you can see of the rest of the deck is a swirl of squares, lines, and rectangles. The white rail posts, strung with a grey shimmer that might have been rope or wire, blending into a darker grey, stretched stripe that must be the handrail proper.

You can’t remember the last time you saw a proper edge.

Going bare-eyed is like wrapping yourself in a curtain. Through the fabric, the edges and corners of the world are soft. There are no eyes to meet or not meet, no bruises under the dark circles in the mirror. No searching the crowd for a face you don’t  want to find—only shapes, safe, simple shapes.

You pull your knees to your chest and squint, watching the block of water froth beneath
the block of sky.

Nobody told you how hard it would be, afterward. Your friends were with you up until the end, and a bit beyond that, but then it was just you, still figuring it out.

You’ve been trying to rebuild. Be independent. Be resilient. Be someone who journals. Be someone who packs up that journal and buys a day pass to the ferry, this bloated grey glob that you’ve always wanted to ride.

You’re on it now, at least, even if you can’t see it. You’re finally here, and it’s a start.
You lean back against the damp seat cover and take a deep breath of the cool, salty air.

The water laps as far as your broken eyes can see, but you bet it goes way further.
Maybe, you think, wiggling your toes in your new rubber boots, you’ll take yourself out
there sometime.

The deck creaks behind you, then, over by the stairs, and as you feel yourself flinch you
know that you didn’t, really, come here alone.

Edged or edgeless, glasses or no glasses, you’d recognize him anywhere.

You know his shapes. You can’t not know them. His contours crept from your pillowcase
into your bloodstream. His outline slipped inside your skull.

He’s at work, you think. He has to be.

You know that he isn’t there, but you look anyway.

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Sarah Richman is a writer, author, and poet based in Washington, D.C., where she helps run a combination magic shop and writing center. Her work is published in literary magazines and reviews across the United States and Scotland, and her first book, THE CHEAT, is available for pre-order from Lerner Publishing Group.

To learn more, visit sarahrichmanwriter.com

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