You come back quiet. She tugs at your hair, stares into your eyes. You blink. This is not what you meant, you say. There is too much ocean in you. Mornings, you walk the shore and stare into the whitecaps as if they might birth your dead crew, one by one. We plank and smoke salmon. We grill cod. We can tuna with carrots. She smiles when you walk toward her. You call her Girl, afraid of the net of a name. You turn to me and smile, a tight-lipped attempt at not leaving us both, a stab at happiness. I wave, my eyes caught in her curls.
You tell me you can’t wait to get her out there, to show her that a horizon never arrives. Like us, you whisper. I hear you over the fan. She pulls the collar of your shirt and buries her face. You hand her back to me and walk to the yard, door still open, salt brine air wafting in.
You place her on the deck in her red boots and untie the bowline. We are in a small space of calm between arguments, your body still tense, hands still thrashing. It is too cold for her out here. The water is deadly cold and we cannot swim. You have no life jacket. You pull me on board and tend to the engine, the rudder. We chug away from the dock, the tension eases off your shoulders, your face. The wind braces, and you howl into it. She howls, too. She teeters on the edge of the boat, hugging the air.
Just before bed, she rolls into the warm reach of the fire’s halo. You snatch her up, hold her to the light. She smiles back and kicks, a game. I place a finger on the page and look up, the two of you. Your hands are softening without the daily scrape of saltwater and cold air. She rests on your shoulder, slip of drool. I watch you both longer than you know. She is almost asleep. Then asleep.