Ocean in the Twelfth Year
Kayla Thomas


My mother is forever blonde with legs that will always be skinnier than mine. In a picture from ten years ago, I mistake her for a movie star and think, Oh my god, my mother is beautiful. In the picture, all her teeth are showing and she is wearing jeans and a black t-shirt at the county fair. Next to her my little sister holds up a baby bunny. The day was sunny and it glints off my mother's hair like the sun has been looking for her, its single target, and can finally truly glow. I can't tell her all the ways I am sorry for everything that came before and after this moment—how sorry I am for not noticing her beauty, always too caught up in my searching for my own.


My body at 12... has just started the menstrual cycle that will take seven years to become regular. In the bathroom of the Florida house, I scrub sand from my scalp, rub scratches from my bikini, and drip blood on my hand. Afraid of tampons, I use pads and don't get in the water; I change them every hour. After the fifth time my cousin, who is older and has had many periods, says, "There's no way you needed to change again." I say, "Next time you want to come see?"


When Dad first takes me to the beach, he peers out and says, "This isn't what I wanted your first look at the ocean to be. I wanted you to feel how big it is."

He doesn't realize that at twelve the ocean is everything to me, the whole universe. The ocean will not be enough for my father. It will not wash away a farm rotting to mud, five surprise kids, a million farm equipment loans. The ocean won't bring my granddad back; it won't save anyone from anything. It doesn't make him feel small. He feels big in his worry and responsibility. Each wave the ocean brings to shore reveals how empty are its pockets, how little are its needs.

Kayla Thomas is in the MFA Fiction program at the University of Indiana. Her work has appeared in Day One.

Detail of photo on main page courtesy of Andreas Manessinger.

Read KT's postcard.

W i g l e a f               09-09-16                                [home]