Miranda sat in the soaked sand. The ocean pushed and pulled itself to shore like a candymaker ceaselessly stretching taffy. Slow raindrops pitted the beach. The cloudcover muted color and emotion. The sand on dully green shore grass stood out in still detail. The ocean leaked into a noncommittal sky. The jetties made out of blocks of pink granite blended in passively. Nothing melted the landscape’s anxious passivity. The only incongruity is an aberrant, red signpost, indelible at the waves’ edge: “DO NOT ENTER: RIP TIDES.”

She stared at the liquid slate slab and signpost before her. Sand covered her body, and her skin was stiff with salt.

            Been here all night, haven’t I, she thought.

Miranda closed her eyes and tried to let her eyeballs water themselves. She had forgotten to blink for minutes at a time throughout the night. She felt as if the surface of her eyes had hardened and shrunk like the chocolate on top of a dipped ice cream cone.

Idiot! Why are you always thinking about food?!

            I want—

            No, you don’t want. You do not want food, weakling! You’re such a pig.

            Miranda scrunched her eyes tight as insults stabbed her heart’s flesh.           

            Her head ached. She didn’t give credence to it, or tried not to. Deal with it, bitch. Headaches are nothing compared with their laughter. Tough it out. Two more days of cold-water meals will do it.

Opening her eyes, she took in the ocean. It looks like an abyss. Who in their right mind would let their child play in the water?  It enveloped one totally, obscuring the body from its own eyes, and who knows what animals lurked there, just out of sight, an inch from your vulnerable, tender skin? One waded into the vastness of the abyss like a child wading into a polluted lake on whose surface a white fish floats. She was stiff. Miranda rolled her head around her shoulders restlessly. Should she get up?

Abyss? Dead fish? You’re sounding pathetically poetic again. Why don’t you wear skinny jeans, get a ridiculous haircut, and have done? You’re pathetic. I can’t believe you.

Miranda’s head and eyes gave an extra-hard, hot throb. She put her head down on her knees that were drawn to her chest. The head roll had sent Miranda’s senses spiraling like a bird out of her body. She enjoyed the sensation, each time leaping to fly away from her prison. She had control over the images once it started, although she couldn’t know how long it would last. She floated on a breeze made of warm goose feather pillows before finding stars like crystal still scattered over the earth. Marveling at their clarity, she imagined running her fingers over the flawless surface as she circled them. Green and blue spirals erupted into the air, forming swirls and vines with leaves and little lavender flowers all over them. Some flowers danced a waltz about her, rubbing their petals softer than silk against her face. The vines dripped into a frothy, green liquid and poured into a yellow coffee cup. The gust from the liquid going to the coffee cup blew the scent of seaweed into Miranda’s nostrils, and she was back.

The voices hurled expectations harder Jolly Ranchers at her. Miranda didn’t want to open her eyes, but she shifted in her spot.

The rest of the world agrees with me.

Maybe she should run now. Burning calories was admirable and time-efficient. It beat sitting here. Baked to cracking point by her thoughts. The gravity weighed heavily on the shore like syrup in the bottle. She slogged through it on her twice-daily runs. It was like she ran from a tornado as their eyes propelled her.  They glided down the school hallways in a golden fog of royal confidence, disdainfully glaring down their noses like she inhabited a separate bubble of common, dirty air, glancing sideways at her as if they were afraid to get too close to her, the dog dung sitting next to them at the cafeteria table. If she ran fast enough, could she pop their confining bubble of expectations?

She compared her proportions against things like the cafeteria table and people’s hands, bulging backpacks and the scarred, wooden bathroom doors.
            You’re three times as wide as the bathroom door’s width! Imagine three doors standing together. That’s you. You’re huge. Fat. Awkward. Ugly.

The despair of these words sent her careening out of her body again. She hovered a hundred feet above her body and to the left. She was turned in the air toward her body. The arms were flabby and gross. They almost seemed to glow in the half-light of spotty cloudcover. Hair, dishwater blonde, flapped in an ocean draft. A white face partially showed, although her brown eyes were concealed. A double chin that would never go away no matter how radically numbers dripped like wax off the scale protruded. A t-shirt drooped over the frame like a wilted wildflower.  It still couldn’t hide her special brand of ugly. She wanted to scrape off the ugliness like she scraped icing off a slice of cake. It couldn’t hurt any more than her skin already did. Her hands and arms were thick with blood and scars. Layers of them. Blood oozed from her veins and dried there.  Proverbially. Only the sissy I-just-want-attention-cuz-I’m-angsty-and-hormonal emos cut on their arms. Mutilators, though, cut other places. The places no one saw.

Opening her eyes, she noticed the bright bits of sand that clung to her body. Sand could turn into crystal. She remembered learning that once in a junior high science class. People took sand back to a factory and created things out of it. The sand was heated and perfectly melted before it was shaped. A team of workers blew it into shapes, worked it, cut it, and cooled it. The glass needed to be constantly reheated to shape it because it cooled quickly. The heat kept it supple until it reached its final form. Her mom once had had a crystal vase full of lavender daisies. The lavender in the vase sparkled along with the crystal. It shone like a gemstone in the window’s full sunlight. The flowers had been the only bright thing in that apartment. But that was the week that… But they died. The flowers had died. They, in the crystal vase, still shone in her memory.

The waves murmured; the seagulls skittered gracefully over the sand.

Ugly is to the bone.

You’re worthless. Crude. Worthless. Awkward. Clumsy. A fool. Pig!

It could all go away.

A picture punched Miranda’s mind.

The ocean seethed. The gulls cried. The voices screamed.

A muscle in her neck jerked. Her legs lifted her.