I am a clownfish. I told Aggie this when we met and again after our mothers set us up and she tried to put me in a hot air balloon on an otherwise bland double date.
She didn’t do her research.
“Those them cute ones in the tank at the Chinese restaurant?” she’d said, mimicking some southern belle and winking.
Today, August 21, 1963, she thinks she’s done better with a canoe trip and picnic along Lake Huron. Only we’re in Ontario and she’s packed “fresh” lobster. I wonder how long she’s had it in the basket.
I wish I could have breasts like hers, I think, standing on the beach with my hands shoved deep in my corduroys while she putters around in a yellow bikini and whisks out a table cloth. We need the music from Bewitched. I’d like to try twirling a parasol right now, anything but those fishing poles and the heavy paddles. Man, I’d do anything to get my hands on a perky cross-your-heart bra. For myself.
She lays the pieces of coral crustacean out like surgical tools. I play with a tail and she’s already licking her fingers, gabbing about her friends’ engagements and her progress with tennis and angel food cakes. The sand and everything is too white.
“The girls, you know, they all think you’re a little on the feminine side, can you believe it? But me, I just say, well ladies I like a clean and tidy man. I mean I’m clean and tidy. You must like that about me.”
Under her Rita Hayworth coiffed bangs, she stares over at me before tossing her head to the side, laughing. I feel sick, catching a faint whiff of ammonia from the lobster mixed with the wet algae smell.
The sun is blistering my shoulders and there’s sand in between my molars but I can’t go anywhere because my mother’s already asking too many questions and looking too worried when she catches me with her Chatelaine. It’s just her and I, now that Dad hightailed it to Florida for another woman—the fishing capital of the world, don’t you know it—and she said she wants a new, normal life carved out of the ripples he left. I don’t know how normal can manifest in something like moving water.
Aggie doesn’t seem to mind my inaction when it comes romance. Or conversation. And I know I’m going to have to keep it up and marry this girl who fed lobster to a clownfish and thinks something like blue and pink come from separate oceans.
Maybe one day I can explain about the clownfish.
Renée Francoeur is a 28 year-old Canadian journalist. By day she writes for contractors and by night she blogs, paints nudes and writes poetry.
She won third prize for the 2016 Women Inspirational Poetry Contest. She’s also written for Standard Criteria and Squawk Back and been published in Three Line Poetry and Poetry Quarterly. She is currently working on a chapbook about the intersection of broken heartedness, rebirth and geography.
She loves coconut coffee porter, wild buffalo, striving to bring gender and minority issues to the forefront, old tombstones, baking strange recipes (kale cake anyone?) and sustainable, GMO-free agricultural endeavours.