Couple of missed streets and wrong left turns brought Sally to Sally. Same names, different haircuts. Cute. Predictably cute. A seaman and a squab. A squab is what he’d end up calling her, weeks later. She knew it was a pigeon, but he said it was the finest tasting bird he knew, and that satisfied any offense from a body comparison. Plus, he was good at sex, and she had never really found that in a man, and so she kept ringing him back, or ringing his bell, and he in turn, kept ringing hers.
She wore her hair in braids, he wore his hair a mess. He wore his shirts tucked in, she wore stockings under short, colorful skirts. Sallys is what they’re friends referred to them as, once they were around together a lot, which was quite early on. The second date was a group dinner with Sally Squab’s friends. They dressed neatly and were experts at movies. He watched their hands roll and tumble and present their feelings as they shouted over one another from one gut busting joke to the next. He liked them. They asked him lots of questions.
Sally told Sally’s friends yes, and no, and eventually, after a third frozen margarita, a story of a long stretch at sea, where he was a hired hand, and how he spent two weeks bruising his belly against the hull of the ship as he vomited whatever was left to vomit over the side and into the ocean. It was the relief of defeating this quesiness that brought him back to the boat a week after. He needed to answer the question for himself, would it always be this way, gut to the hull, or was there another side to the sea? He fell in love with imbalance.
They listened to him fill in the gaps, his wide hands motionless in front of him, folded one atop the other. When he finished he rolled his fingers over the cold glass and positioned the small straw to sip from. He sucked the thick lime drink up, dwarfing the cup by his size, as the questions came one after the other back at him, asking more about the crew, boat names, one pretending to know something about sailing having spent a few days on as many boats when he was younger. She kissed his ear that night and breathed into his neck on the walk home. He tore her stockings open from the center. She made his ears ring when she boxed his head between her legs.
When she met his friends they were grunts and murmurs. They twisted the cloths of their hats and shirts in their rough hands as they spoke. They were calloused and sunburnt, with clothes that found fashion in comfort. Perhaps fashion was comfort Sally concluded looking at them all, wearing it so well.
They drank fast and smashed handfuls of salt snacks in between beer glugs. They hovered around her, leaned close as they talked. They pointed their thumbs as they referred to their Sally, patting him hard against the back, elbowing ribs. The bar was lined with colored christmas lights, everyone’s skin was red or orange or green. She pictured the lot of them hovered in close quarters, lit by similar lights, bobbing in the boat, hovered over hands of beat-up playing cards. They smelled like fish, salt, cigarettes.
She told a story about hiding her freshman dorm roommate’s boyfriend in her twin bed, under her twin covers during an unexpected visit from the girl named Muriel’s parents. The boy held his breath while he was under her covers until he passed out and they ended up needing to have Muriel’s dad slap him back to life.
Sally and Sally only fought after his third trip out to sea. When he returned home he’d been gone a month. It wasn’t about loyalty or distrust. It was just about the silence. He was a ghost when he was not with her. When I am there, he told her simply, not pushing to argue any further, I am there. And here, I am here. I cannot stand in both places at once.
She said, then you should only be here, she motioned to her room, to her bed. She placed her hand against her chest and nodded to him. She took his hand and placed it at her hip. She took off his hat, hung it on a hook in the center of her bedroom’s wall. We don’t need to talk about it again. But when you are here - he nodded before she finished the sentence. She kissed him in the living room, his mouth filled with sea salt and brine, the bristles from his face rough against her lips. He lifted her body as water filled the apartment, as the sea swept them into its depths. They never came back up for air.