To Keep Me Awake and Alive

Traci Chee

If I could I would say to you: Love, come find me. I would say, I'm sometime between the boating accident and my imminent rescue, or death. You'd maybe want to know that to pass time—to keep time—I recite "Jabberwocky." How much time passed? Have I kept any? One-thousand two-hundred and sixty-three Jabberwockies, but that's a guess, really, because it began with the counting and the counting didn't begin at the beginning, that inestimable span of time spent or passed or kept by mulling over my somewhat ambiguous and certainly dark situation before deciding to recite Lewis Carroll: of all things, the only one I could remember or repeat.

It's one thing to be sailing—to be catamaraning—across a sea like a sheet of steel, sharp against the water, with the shine on it and the slithy toves gyring and gimbling in the wabe, and me skimming over it all spiritquick and free.

It's quite another to be capsized, upturned, head-down in the water with the canvas all a-tangle and the rigging and the ropes hanging at sea floor like chandeliers. And this isn't mentioning the wet monster body with a hum like a generator or a fog horn or a big rig on fast freeway: the barnacles like pimples or pustules but rock-hard and concrete-stuck to skin, the jaws that bite, the mouth with brushlike teeth, and, love, isn't it strange I thought of your hairbrush but instead of strands of copper stuck to it there was plankton.

Sometimes instead of reciting "Jabberwocky," I sing Peter Gabriel's love ballad "In Your Eyes," though I don't know why I don't know the words and have never seen Say Anything, in fact I'm not a fan of John Cusack at all but I like the way it sounds when I go snicker-snack and the echoes sing back, in your eyes in your eyes in your eyes. What it is is that it's true, and I never told you this but if I could I would tell you now that Mr. Gabriel is at his most articulate when he says there's a doorway to a thousand churches in your eyes, the resolution of all the fruitless searches.

I go snicker-snack and I sing but the whole time I'm thinking of you and how you told me not to go you said, 'twas brillig, with the clouds all over and the wind going through and through, you said Clyde that's not good sailing weather, and really you were right it's just sometimes this emptiness fills my heart. I didn't know how to say it then but I used to want to run away. I used to want to drive off in my car. What I should have done is stayed put, stayed there and said just once, one-thousand two-hundred sixty-six, it would have been nice to be able to say to you just once, without repeating myself, Love, I get so lost sometimes.

If I could I would say to you, I'm sorry I'm sorry, though however many times I say it it never seems to stick. Could I have told you that sometimes the world comes unstuck in my hands and every moment keeps slipping away? I'm not trying to be uffish I'm just trying to be honest and I'm somewhere between water birth and extinction and that's either a ways off or around the corner, I couldn't say, but I'm worried I'll be left for dead.

I'm sometime before the heart stops, the great galumphing thing like a subwoofer, before the body goes cold and either sinks to the ocean floor and all the little fishies eat me an escape hatch and the pressure maybe kills me or I rush to the surface and take my first breath of fresh air in a million Jabberwockies and In Your Eyeses, or the body is washed ashore and machetes or vorpal blades hack me an escape hatch and maybe I am worshipped as a sort of god-in-the-whale—Callooh! Callay!—or I am dead already and then my body will be cremated and my ashes will go up in the light the heat...

I want to come to your arms.

Even if I know nothing else, not where I am, only that it's blackiest black and I can't see my hand in front of my face, if I have a hand if I have eyes, I know I don't know if I'm here but I know I want to be in the place you are and if somehow you can hear me you will find me between one-thousand two-hundred and sixty-eight and one-thousand two-hundred and sixty-nine singing.

Traci Chee is in possession of a fancy Creative Writing degree from San Francisco State University, and her writing has appeared in Thieves Jargon, Prick of the Spindle, and Toasted Cheese. She likes fish and ships.