“You are a ship,” she’d remind me, only not in so many words, and then once more I’d be a ship. I’d be its groaning sails, its white-caked boards, the emptiness of the crow’s nest and the terrifying knowledge of its vantage point. I’d be its rouged and pitted figurehead, blind eyes false-crying ceaseless rivulets of salt spray down scarred wooden breasts. I’d be its anchor, aching for depth and tension, the only metal onboard that could tell sea water from three-day-old tears.

And I’d be its captain, too, captain and crew, and me not knowing a bowline from an anchorbend and barely able to tie my shoes. And port is a drink and stern is the look she gives me and somehow I’d be expected to navigate by those stars wheeling overhead, bright by forfeit after the ocean had swallowed the moon like a starving man eats an onion, stars tracing irregular spirals against a roiling charcoal sky. If I spun, too, I could fix upon the North Star, but I never knew in which direction it might decide to lead me.

Yet even when separated by that impenetrable horizon line, I swear I never needed a sextant to point unerringly in her direction and know that she did something I hated.

So I’d sail the rough, grey waters of consciousness toward her, the backs and tails of strange leviathans breaching the surface everywhere but where I’d be looking. Eventually out of envy I’d detach the anchor from its chain and take its place, diving overboard and letting the ship pull me along in its wake; perception would Doppler with speed and the water would taste like tears, then cerebrospinal fluid, and finally blood before I’d wreck on her jagged rocks and be a ship no more.

When I am not a ship, there is a heart inside me, and that heart is me. I am a chamber in the heart that I am; I am inside that chamber, too. But blood must flow, and I never know which way to push.

(first appeared in issue 2 of Conclave: A Journal of Character)