The sea within by Tara Isabel Zambrano

The sea within

Before, the earrings looked green. Greener than the Arabian Sea at the Marina Bay in Dubai. The last time we visited, Ma got the stud earrings from an expensive shop in the hotel lobby. And every time I looked into her eyes, it seemed she’d replaced them with the gems in the earrings, cold and shiny.

Ma suspected the earrings stained her green. She said her body felt like an island submerged underwater. Inside, her bones swayed like anemones. She claimed she knew every color the sea held: throbbing red of the living, blue tint of the dead. Shamrock dreams that rose with the light and made waves. Ruby souls that stuck to each other and formed corals. She wrote poetry, collected pinecones and carved her initials everywhere. Her eyes shone like mad, glowed in the dark. Up close her face looked porous, every air pocket on her face exuded light. And a delicious strain squeezed away her breath making her look more beautiful than ever.

The tulips were blooming in our front yard when Ma died. They removed the earrings and released her ashes into the Arabian Sea. The priest, who performed her last rites, said, Ma’s soul was not in harmony with her body. It reached out for love in the wrong places. After everyone left, I took the earrings from her dressing table drawer. They looked as if they’d faded a bit, smelled of her, until they didn’t. I stood before Ma’s photo adorned by a garland, a lamp’s light flickering in her kilowatt eyes. I pushed the studs through my piercings and the space between us continued to shrink. When the last of her sank into my skin, I promised myself I’ll hold the sea within. Outside, yellow and white lilies waved in the breeze and the sun came up. Like a bleeding heart, first orange, then red with streaks of green.


The sea within


Tara Isabel Zambrano lives in Texas and is an Electrical Engineer by profession. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Vestal Review, Wigleaf, The Minnesota Review and others.


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