Open Water

Julie Marie Wade 

I could never be casual about sharks or sex.  It isn’t in me—the one-night stand, or the one-day scuba expedition in Nassau. I read that humans floating near the ocean’s surface appear as turtles, wrinkled and plump, to sharks passing by in the deep.  I read that sex with a stranger is potentially more dangerous than a dog bite.  This, of course, if sex is unprotected, but how to protect yourself from other vulnerabilities—or from sharks, for that matter, as they are fond of eating turtles and may grow rapacious at irregular times?  To say it another way:  I have always taken sex and sharks quite seriously.  When Batman asks for the Shark Repellent, I think Robin should hand him some condoms, too, and a copy of the Kama Sutra.  We are talking about extremes here, apogees of ecstasy and risk.  I cannot hear Janis Joplin croon “Take another little piece of my heart” without thinking of Bobby McGee followed almost immediately by Jaws.  I cannot watch Shark Week without my mind wandering, at least once, to The Remains of the Day—evisceration is evisceration after all.  I read that teenagers lose their virginity, on average, at the age of seventeen.  I read the average shark loses 35,000 teeth in a lifetime. Is there a correlation somewhere?  Would you rather be a Shark or a Jet?  I believe it is possible to die from unrequited love, though the death certificate would most likely read of natural causes. Some sharks are now endangered species.  A good love story may be panned or praised as science fiction.  One strain of gonorrhea, once contracted, will kill you in two weeks’ time.  Some shark attacks have survivors.  I have never had sex on the beach, neither the cocktail nor the leisure sport, though I have been in over my head, both amorously and oceanically.  At a certain point, it’s all open water.  I’m lucky I have any limbs or any sense left.


Julie Marie Wade is the author of Wishbone: A Memoir in Fractures (Colgate University Press, 2010; Bywater Books, 2014); Without: Poems (Finishing Line Press, 2010); Small Fires: Essays (Sarabande Books, 2011); Postage Due: Poems & Prose Poems (White Pine Press, 2013); Tremolo: An Essay (Bloom Books, 2013); and When I Was Straight: Poems (A Midsummer Night’s Press, 2014).  A recipient of the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Memoir, an Al Smith Individual Artist Fellowship from the Kentucky Arts Council, and a grant from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, Wade teaches in the creative writing program at Florida International University.  She is married to Angie Griffin and lives in Dania Beach. 

You’ll find biographies for all contributors to Phoebe 43.2 here. 

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