October 2, 2017 by The Citron Review
by Mandy Shunnarah
We amble on a Dead Sea beach where in place of sand is crystalline salt, like piles of broken glass, like diamonds that have lost their shine. They cut all the same, and the tender arches of my feet, without the cloak of callouses, are sliced with each step. He curses me under his breath, not quietly enough.
During his railing minutes, I say nothing. Another lecture for the uncountable offenses I cause simply by being.
The beachcombers’ and sunbathers’ stares tell me: You shouldn’t let him talk to you like that. You need to leave him.
“Are you with a Birthright group?” the more curious among them ask, sensing our Americanness. There is no way to tell them we feel at home in a place prone to threat because we are about to implode. We don’t know how to explain this is supposed to be a vacation. He’s not even Jewish. And I’m half Palestinian.
I let him do the talking. He leaves that last part out.
I soak in the Dead Sea, everything but my face submerged, and will the salt: purge me of him.
I float, buoyed by the mineral that makes drowning impossible, and consider putting my head under, letting my eyes dissolve in their sockets. It would only take a moment to make real the blindness everyone tells me I already have.
A curly-haired toddler bespectacled in goggles splashes a few feet away. He swims without floaties, without worry. He doesn’t yet know all lakes are not as dedicated to keeping him alive as this one.
We are this place so battered with conflict. In the tunnels beneath ancient cities, in the playground bomb shelters painted like caterpillars and dragons, and in the mountains where soldiers watch with rifles poised, we grasp at something that is not there and has never been.
In the water where nothing can live, I see I cannot live with him.
Long after I emerge, the salt makes my open pores burn, all my shaved parts aflame. On our walk back to the kibbutz, I cauterize. Across the lake that masquerades as a sea, I wave goodbye to Jordan, knowing I bid farewell to more than this place.
That night I ask him if he ever really loved me. He turns away and pretends not to hear.
I smile at the ceiling, hoping he doesn’t see.
Mandy Shunnarah is a writer and book reviewer living in Columbus, Ohio. Her essays and reviews have been published in Entropy magazine, PANK, The Missing Slate, and New Southerner magazine. Her work is forthcoming in Fourth Genre and other publications. To read more, visit her website, offthebeatenshelf.com.