The year your mother drowned your father claims she became a porpoise. He would drive you to the beach where you’d both try and spot her. “They’re hardly ever visible here,” he’d say, binoculars swinging from his neck.
You remember the day it snowed on the Pacifica beach when you were four years old. Flakes melted the second they hit sand. Your mother picked you up and twirled you in her arms. “Your father claims it never snows here,” she laughed.
You hope your mother is smiling inside the water because when she was human, her face didn’t do that. He said that she wasn’t even very far out in the ocean the last time he saw her arcing. One day, she leapt right onto his boat. “There are hardly any photos of your mother on land.”
He seems unaware of your weightlessness—how living without a mother has made you too light to matter. Your breasts, which seem to have decided not to come out, dip like sinkholes in your chest.
In your mind, there is a photo of your father on his boat holding a porpoise in his lap. The porpoise has leapt from the water and accidentally landed right there in his boat. Even though the porpoise is stuck there, it doesn’t look sad. When you look at it, it’s easy to believe that wonderful things can still happen. Your father reassures you about your mother’s safety in the ocean, that porpoises are terrific at hiding from sharks. He says their low frequency sounds keep them from bumping into trouble. “One of these times,” he says, his milky eyes quiet. Sometimes, you worry that he’s going to fall asleep on you.
There are dangers in having human intelligence that nobody believes in. The kind that is questionable, like snow in Pacifica. “I’m not going to hold my breath,” you say, holding it anyway.