On the beach, by myself, I was walking back to the hotel that had my parents in it, had just crossed autumn-cool sand in barefeet, a sneaker dangling from each hand. In the parkinglot there was a man in a truck watching me. I was fifteen. Old enough to know he was watching, too young to do anything but be scared. Adrenaline, my throat, my nervous hurry made me clumsy, I dropped a shoe. When I stood up again he was out of the truck and walking toward me with a terrible face.

I knew if I ran he would laugh and I did not want to be laughed at so I did not run. That is stupid logic but I was trying to make it all normal, all ok. My brain was going rape rape rape but I did not run, just hurried. I could see the balcony of my parents' hotel room but the shades were drawn. There was no one else around, it was the off season, the snowcone shack was boarded-up and still. There was no one else around. He could easily have raped me. As it turned out, he didn't.

On the beach, by myself, I was walking away from the hotel that had my parents in it, knowing a cold beach was better than the same old words. It was the off season, there was no one else around. Sun and glare and crowds and burnt skin were things I wanted, but I never told them that.

I would not realize until later that I had frostbite. I knew it was very cold and I knew my windbreaker was not enough but it was good to feel the wind slice into me at all the gaps - my ankles, my neck, my wrists. Everything around me was sharp. There was no comfort anywhere, and the world was busy proving it. How was I reduced to parts? I have no explanation. The best picture I can come up with is Scaffolding. Years of stoicism had stripped life down to its terrible stark components. No cushions, no warmth, I was sheer utilitarian structure. You sleep you eat you do what the world expects, you sleep you eat. When you are a robot you will be astonished by the simplicity of your life. It's the closest thing to beauty you can stand. I was sixteen.

That day on the beach I was not thinking words like Dreadful or Pain. No need to apply false emotion to an emotionless topic. I only knew it was wise to escape the hotel room and walk miles on hard sand by myself.

I do not know how far I walked but the sand was interrupted by rocks, bigger rocks, boulders. Till I was climbing over them to go on. Going on was what I did.

The rocks were sharp and wet and cut my hands but that was all right. The rocks had beer cans and condoms and trash and dead turtles and that was all right too, it all fit.

Everything in my head was very sharp, ideas sliced themselves and each other. Like reaching into a knife drawer without looking. Thinking is the risk you run. It was what I had. My brain was going suicide suicide suicide and I knew that when I got done climbing over the sharp rocks, when my logical body signaled me with logical hunger or exhaustion, I would either be killing myself that afternoon, or I would not. As it turned out, I didn't.

On the beach, by myself, I walked and walked, trying to hone myself to a pinpoint, a laser diamond-cutter of thought, all of me focused, distilled, a beam from an angry star. I was angry and exhausted. It was the off season. There was no one else around.

It seemed that the way out of anger could not possibly lie with humans but with starfish, octopi, dolphins. Everything who lived in blue and green seemed charmed to me, specially chosen to live in a buoyant silent wraparound. Silent. I did not hope to be a mermaid. I was seventeen. The most I hoped for was communion, or forgiveness.

My brain was going dolphins dolphins dolphins. anyone. please. They could not help but be kind, I thought, they would fix me, if I could only make them come. Dolphins are rumored to be psychic, to be better at our brains than we are. Maybe it's true. Maybe, I thought, I can sweep myself out over the ocean like a lighthouse, telling them This is the way, come here, please, I need you. Maybe they will hear me and maybe they will come.

As it turned out, they did. I have no explanation. This is true: a school of dolphins burst out of the horizon, sunned silver in the sky. The flash of resilient slippery skin, their constant dance with gravity. The joy of them. They were far away, but they were there. I was seventeen. My heart was pounding and my heart was pounding. There was no one else around. I have no explanation.

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