We are made from salt and this ocean that shakes the warmth from my toes is waved and briny. There is so much to stare at when the Atlantic is just steps away and yet what I find myself noticing are the bodies. They are tanned and leathery and flat and fat and thick. They are bikini’d and shirtless and covered and sandy. I cannot help but stare at a woman with an extremely small waist and wide hips jutting out of her body like two fleshy waterfalls. Her bathing suit is small and everything is left out to be noticed…so I notice.
I recognize that I am covered. Jean shorts with sand already wedged in each pocket and my black sports bra is beneath thin black tank top and part of me wants to take my shirt off and be completely bare like the tanned male lifeguard and part of me wants a body so blurry, no one could ever tell what I should be wearing.
Old women in sun hats and cellulite are so beautiful in their aged skin because they do not need to flaunt evidence of a gym membership. They are loose and lusty.
Man in tiny bathing suit, which barely covers what is required to be covered, walks around with cigarette weaved between two fingers. I watch his cheeks collapse with each heavy inhale. He is hairy everywhere but on his head.
When I am in the water, I lift my arms and like the sodium-drenched air sticking to my underarm hair. I feel the crushed shells beneath my cracked heels. Seaweed fondles my calves. I jump waves and make eye contact with the sun as it attempts to burn more freckles into my skin.
This island gets crowded as the afternoon settles in. I sit on a borrowed blanket with my dad and nephew as we eat homemade lunch. Bites are occasionally interrupted by shards of sand and I like the way this beach tastes.
At some point, I remove my shirt. I am not bikini’d; I do not own a bathing suit. My sports bra flattens what I do not want to call attention to. I am neither fit nor fat; my body just exists as a canvas of scars and tattoos, which is its own language of poetics.
Here, we can lay out or jump waves and be free without fear of excess or imperfections. On this island, we are New York City because we are the spectrum of so many. Even if I do not see another body that looks like mine, I am here and I am representing this form.
Maybe someone else is noticing my differences, which allows them to celebrate their own.