Michelle Yasmine Valladares –India/USA–


The first time I think about Death

Kuwait.  Nine years old. The afternoon is hot and my flip flops smack against the pavement, suck the tar road as we walk single file to the Gulf, Beach towels tied around our waists. When we reach the stone pier my father throws an inner tube out to sea, tethers the rope around a boulder. He dives and his thin arms enter the water with a silent swoosh.  He disappears under white ripples and dark blue. My brother and I scramble backwards down the rocks. Jump in. The sun bakes us a darker brown. Salt forms white silt on skin.

Oil tankers line the horizon.

            How far will my father swim out before he turns back? We pull against the tide, like sea otters we dip and dive, catch my father’s back for a ride.

That night in the upper bunk, I imagine I am dead. No mother. No father. No brother. I squeeze my eyes until the black hurts. Dead.      Dead.       Dead.

My mind turns the puzzle around – Where do I go after Earth? Does a world exist – if I’m not in it?