Jo considers water’s fractions


She hears voices. This is what it’s like to be dead. But if she were dead, she probably wouldn’t think this. The voices are the same as before. Are they warning her? A woman in the woods—what’s she saying? The voices are just out of reach. Or they’re everywhere—all around, rippling through her muscles. This is dead, then, possessed by something outside, unknown—a dark vibration.

Jo, the voices say. Jo Jo Jo Jo

It’s nothing, an echo, a vessel for o. How long has it been like this? It’s always been like this. She’s walking around in the woods, at school, asleep. A buzz in her ear, a secret.

This secret death. Is she static or dynamic? Astral or grounded? She hasn’t been eating. This will be her last, paper-thin form. A transformation’s complete image. Maybe that's what the voices are saying: You’re so light now. Glide to the next plane.

If she had company—if she split herself. The voices each split. Where would she be then? In the hospital or outdoors? Part of some machine, a memory? The voices are suddenly quiet—all light.

The wave folds her instep. What is possible in this container, bounded? She eddies.

In what location is this territory? If sound jets in all directions? If sound cannot be seen? It isn’t like anything.

She sees the shells there. This place feels unsteady, sand is moving the way the water does. The place is the limit of her vision. Over the roar she sees no one but imagines herself onscreen.

Back in resonance. Jo looks in the mirror or glass that mirrors her. The glass, her eyes, ripple frequency. Each sight line in line, then pulling apart.

The floor tiles slope toward the shower drain.

A wave comes, and she swims under. Up, out, and then another. She swims under. Up, out, and then another. She swims under but when she comes up out of the water another is upon her. Just enough time to close her mouth. The turning under, over her body, the enveloping motion, her body’s impossible surrender. She touches the sea floor, little air pockets.

Voices make the sound she’s in, but they’re not there. She’s exhausted. They sing loud. Over her head but not up.

Crickets on the bridge of her nose. I coalesce in echo.

What sounds are these and where? Her own mind, blood pumping. If the wave breaks, it’s just itself again, unlike her legs, wrapped together skin on skin. The wave can hook its fingers and the water collapses into something else inside it, curls in bubbles, wraps her hair and arms into a wild tangle. The sea floor is up.

If she folded into the sea like flour in water.

What color under there? The phytoplankton? The bat ray? Each morning her eyes open. A set jaw, swimsuit pulled off.

What accumulation is there in multiple angles? The vertices taking weight? She hasn’t put on what they thought she would. The tile floor, the chair in the corner. Jo sits on the paper. Tomorrow she’ll bake something in a cake tin lined with parchment. Yesterday she’d been horizontal. What thin line the pen makes. What round cough in the doctor’s mouth.

Jo tries to frame her thinking in time and space. Puts a date at the top of a page.

At school there are hallways, interiors. I’m transmitting this.

If there’s sound in the water, where does it travel? If it moves all at once, in a pressure wave beneath the waves? The lockers and tiles echo: the lighting, voices.

Today their voiced hum, the crackle of insect legs. The stacked strata. It isn’t another language in her ears.

Everyone says the same thing no matter where she is.

Jo feels variable. Rather, replaceable, that she could count for anything.

Where does the wind begin?

The water’s edge makes no sound. Jo takes in a breath.

In this landscape she has choices: conch, marked shell, phone, sand grains, washed-up kelp, garbage, horizon. So much water, lines extending right and left, courses, each wave as it separates from the distance—she doesn’t know. These lines radiate, are their own distinct kinds of waves and wakes. Does she have to tune in to a certain frequency or can they all flow together?

She worries the tip of her elbow. To call.

Messages conveyed all at once, no tongue, all openmouthed. Tunnel, turn your neck.

Open your mouth! What worry. Now on the side of the ocean, now the riptide, now the trailhead. Tomorrow’s concentric sound lays its hands out.

What’s separate? This line, a head. I sing? Sound in the ear.

Interference. Hands on her body. In a video? No.

If the hands are an echo, what calls them first? Or one hand is and the other its mirrored match? Two shells, infinite waves, this place.

Slink forward. Copper wire under water. Jo the animal, Jo an extraterrestrial. Eye fiber. Mirror water. Faces lean over closed eyes.

Kelly Krumrie is a writer and teacher. "Jo considers water’s fractions" is an excerpt from Math Class, her first book, forthcoming from Calamari Archive in early summer 2022.

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