Henrietta Mara and the Socks Her Father Bought Her
Henrietta Mara walked to the edge of the lake.
Henrietta unlaced her shoes and tossed them onto the moon-drunk sand.
She peeled away her long wool socks and let her toes sink into the coarse sand, her skin a murky grey underneath the ceiling of stars.
Her father had bought her these socks.
He had bought them, he’d told her, for hiking in the summertime. He’d take her, he’d said, to the same spot his father used to take him. Where he and his father had lain out in the open air next to a fire they had gathered the wood for, built, and struck a match to set it all aflame. Where her grandfather had told her father about Galaway and the shades of green and grey in Ireland that they didn’t have here. And the way the wind used to move through the grass on the hills, muttering in Gaelic too old to understand. Where her grandfather had told her father Irish tales, some old, some new, some her grandfather had merely seen on television and absorbed into his mythology. This was where her father became a man. Where he learned what fish to eat and which to set free. Where he learned the stories of his family, of his people, of a culture he wasn’t a part of, but his blood still yearned for. Where her grandfather had taught him how to swear, how to love a woman, and how to hate that same woman after taking her to bed and muttering into her red curls of forever.
Henrietta’s father never took her. He never told her about Ireland, or the women he had loved and hated. He only bought her socks.
Henrietta Mara scrunched up the socks and threw them in the lake. She wouldn’t need them anymore. She hoped some fish would get tangled in the bundle and pull the socks down to the bottom of the lake, never to resurface.
She touched the water with the tip of her big toe. It was much colder than the cool spring night. There must be some winter snow that fed into this lake. A shiver ran through her body.
She peeled away her jacket, hesitating before dropping it behind her.
She peeled away her dress.
She peeled away her underwear and stood naked on the beach.
And then she peeled away her skin.
She folded it down like taking off gloves. She let the skin dangle from the bones of her fingers before falling to the ground. She peeled off the skin of her stomach, the skin of her legs, and the skin of her face. She peeled it all away until she stood, blood and bone, under the moonlight.
And then Henrietta Mara walked into the lake.
She let the water curl around her, seeping away her blood and chilling her bones. She waded deep below the surface, letting the water swallow her with a mighty gulp. She let the water press against her body with a painful pressure. She closed her eyes to the darkness of the water and let out the last bits of air her lungs had stored. Henrietta Mara submerged herself in the cold water of the lake and wondered to herself which would be found first, her body or the socks her father had bought her.