I walked over to something shining in the sand and uncovered it with a twig. The thing was a dead jellyfish—bloated, coming apart at the seams—and it made me realize something. I started to cry.
“What is it, angel face?” my dad called out to me.
“I’m not young anymore,” I told him.
He laughed, “You’re eleven years old. You have decades left of being young.”
If you think it is funny that an eleven-year-old would believe she isn’t young anymore, then you’re looking at the whole thing wrong. You’re thinking about how she’s never had to pay a bill, how she’s never had to bother with words like Mortgage or Equity or APR. You’re thinking about junior high school and high school and college where she has yet to learn all the ways she is unworthy. You’re thinking about the wedding she’s yet to have, the man who will love her and the weight of silver and diamond she’ll feel pulling on one finger as she goes about her day, maybe buying flowers. You’re thinking how she has no arrests or traffic tickets or failed marriages on her record, thinking she has never hit someone with her car and heard the crunch of bone. You’re thinking about how she’s never used her own body as a means of making money in a moment of desperation, never aborted a fetus or decided to grow a human being and give it a life it never asked for. You’re thinking she’s never known somebody to die. You’re thinking her teeth haven’t gone soft or fallen out, thinking that her cells haven’t amalgamated into murderous structures in her blood. You’re thinking that her blood is pure and fresh. You’re thinking she’s a clean slate.
You are not thinking about how tired she is in the morning, the way her muscles have turned to stone ever since she learned that she won't go to heaven, or anywhere, when she dies. You’re not thinking about sitting alone at the back of a school bus when suddenly it’s as if a balloon has popped behind your chest bone releasing gray, plasma-like fluid that rolls in beads around your heart, slipping into your blood stream and radiating outwards, drawing attention to your soul, which is now wet and wilted, and the feeling is so intense that you have to close your eyes. You’re not thinking about how a fifth grade boy is unafraid to reach his hand up a girl’s shirt, even if there is nothing yet to reach for, in the back of the music room when no one is looking. You’re not thinking about what shame feels like when you feel it for the first time. You’re not thinking about the picnic table on Fourth of July where a peach, half eaten, became black with fruit flies working soundlessly. You’re not thinking about what it means to look at a dead Jellyfish washed up onto the shore and think “that is me.”
Zara Lisbon grew up in Venice Beach, California, and finally realizes how lucky that was. Some of her stories appear in Attic Salt and LA Miscellany. Currently, she is working towards her MFA at Vermont College of Fine Arts. If only you knew how often she wants to retweet porn star tweets but doesn't because then everyone would know she follows porn stars on Twitter.