Magnesium S.C. Megale This is dedicated to my family – old and young – and the metamorphosis of themselves for me to discover. “I look like a Transformer.” My comment brings a few ironic smiles. I smile too, but only because I have to. I plow through the dunes and insist to myself that I don’t care about the observations others will make. Attractive guys on the beach are suddenly a moot point, as in the Emperor Palpatine throne that is my seat, I cannot control my body with the same precision – I am not a master of my expressions and posture and wry smiles. I feel small. An organism encased in a metal capsule with wheels the size of monster trucks. It is three times the size of my everyday wheelchair. They wanted me to come, though. They’re sad when I don’t. I don’t want to make them sad. Sometimes I wonder if this feeling is the perpetrator behind depression, loneliness, and other fragments of brokenness that lay still in our minds. We occupy a vessel we do not know how to fill. I sit in a mechanism that is meant to be my sensory into this world, but I do not feel the warm sand cake upon the rubber tire. When salty froth seethes onto its metal, I do not shiver. I want to feel what it feels. Conversation is made among my friends and family and I lean back into the wide cushion like an indifferent Viking jarl, watching the waves bowl onto the shore and forming descriptions in my head that struggle not to be mundane. The truth is, I never wanted to come here. I miss Virginia. Gold dapples on the trunks of its wooded paths and fireflies blink in the corduroy night. My idea of a summer vacation wasn’t rocketing north, to Hampton Bays, Long Island, but south, or west, where the sun grills the sky and Hawaiian shirts and surfing amulets replace the pastel colors of Hamptons sport coats and pants. I look around the beach and will the grayish sand to be whiter, the austere water to be clearer, the lifeguard chair to sprout frills and swell coconuts. I don’t say anything though. I don’t want them to be sad. As we shell in the foam, I lean over my hard armrest and drape my arm down like a panther in a tree. I point Mom and Kelley to which shells to collect. I salvage the minuscule, the broken, the barnacle-coated. “You don’t want this one, do you?” Mom says. I take it and put it in the hat upside down in my lap. “Yes.” Endearment touches her lips, her eyes. She knows. I have come here annually for four summers, several weeks of my life. I try to give up on Hampton Bays. The problem is, Hampton Bays refuses to give up on me. I remember. The wooden hunting bow had sat on the plastic yard sale table. My normal-size wheels crunched beneath the gravel and I jostled as I hurled up the curb of the street. I don’t remember the face of the man who ran the sale. My line of vision consists of belts and shoes, and this time, I hadn’t raised my eyes from the bow. I reached my fingers out to brush it. I thought about the heroism I would feel if I owned this artifact, the ancient dignity. I lifted it, tested its draw, and set it back down. I felt the man’s presence at my side. I think his hair was grey, but I don’t remember, because it blended with the sky. His voice was hesitant and meek. “Do you like it?” I stiffened, because I did, and I expected him to sell me on it. “The bow?” I breathed. “Yes. It’s beautiful.” I backed myself up an inch before he could make a generous offer that I’d still have to refuse. “It’s yours.” I stopped. Why? Why is it mine? I still did not absorb the man’s features. I said, “Then I need to hug you.” His arms enveloped me, gentle and spare, and I felt a kiss planted on the top of my head. The rest of the afternoon I’d cruised around with the bow resting vertically on my footplate; through stores and restaurants. Rise, BJ’s patrons! I had heard my thoughts echo. We must defend Helm’s Deep! Home from the beach, Daddy lifts me into my primary wheelchair. I melt into it with routine comfort. Hello, old friend. Hello, old patron, it replies. I sigh. I get to wear different hats up here. There is a cracked Winnie the Pooh cup that I like to drink from, and that I have to stop myself from packing every time we return to Virginia. Dad’s tall, benevolent silhouette stands in the doorframe. “Shea.” His voice reminds me of leaves that never fall. “Can you come out by the pool with us? We want to talk to you about something.” I coil and brace myself, but feign nonchalance. He is energy and steadiness as I follow him. He reels the screen door back and I trundle into the backyard. Mom is in the pool, and her happiness is more beautiful than her wispy, glistening hair. Dad stops. I stop. I look at him. He’s looking at me. He says nothing. And then he moves to me, and my seatbelt clicks open. He leans down and sweeps his arms beneath me and before I can protest we parade into the crystal water. They laugh, my parents. They are different creatures up here. New sets of themselves for me to discover. Daddy holds me as I slap and gasp and billow in the pool. I shiver – didn’t I say I wanted to shiver? – and my lips turn lavender. He bobs me on his knee, and I know they both delight in this. They never fade. I wrest control by demanding he taxi me to every speck of drowning gnat so that I may rescue it in my newly wrinkled fingertips. I’m surrounded by metal, but I often forget that metal is in me. It binds me and corrects me and is the magnesium in my blood. The kind that builds and creates and detoxifies my darkness. Today is different. Today I’m surrounded by water. Water, and humans. The truth is, I never wanted to come here. I don’t love you, Hampton Bays. I don’t love you. But you give me people to love.