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The Great Barrier Reef

From: Colorado Review
Volume 40, Number 2, Summer 2013
pp. 50-61 | 10.1353/col.2013.0055

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Mercedes and I left the Dvd case lying on top of my Tv, like idiots. Last night we watched 1 Night in Paris. We love Paris Hilton, against all reason. She’s all over the cover in black lace, her blonde hair in pigtails. I know what Mercedes thinks—that I want Adam to find out about us, but I don’t know.

He’s sitting on my made bed in a white pane of sunlight cast from the casement window, watching me brush my hair. His eyes are begging for something half-believable to hold on to. I tell him I don’t know where this came from, seriously. “I don’t,” I say again. “I really, really don’t.”

I can lie better than this, but I’m tired—Mercedes and I were up until five, and Adam will believe me because he wants to believe me.

When he came over this morning, like he comes over every morning we don’t wake up together, I’d just walked out of the shower steam into my bedroom to find him holding the case.

“I know you’re not like that,” he says, avoiding my eyes now. “I know you didn’t watch it, Digs, but why is it here—in your room?

My name is Digby. I hate when he shortens it. I have told him this. “Mercedes must have watched it by herself after I went to sleep. I fell asleep in the living room. You can ask her.”

“You slept on the sofa?” He stands, hands on his hips. “What about your back? You have a match tomorrow.”

“Oh well.”

I hear Mercedes’s shower kick on through our shared wall. I slide on my red tennis skirt. This helps. He loves these stupid skirts. He’s loved them since tenth-grade Spanish class, when he passed me a note asking me to homecoming in his rocky Spanish. Now we’re seniors in college, and we’re engaged. And this is what I wanted, I tell myself over and over again. This is what I wanted to happen.

I met Mercedes nine months ago. She’s Chilean. She transferred here from some school in Long Beach, California. She says I remind her of California. When I ask how, she just gets soft eyed, like she’s looking through me, and says she can’t explain.

She’s our number one seed, and she also scuba dives. It’s what she’s going to do after we graduate in a couple of months. She’s invited me to come with her this summer to the Coral Sea, but I’m supposed to get married this summer. The place is off the coast of Queensland in northeast Australia. She’s going to research the crown-of-thorns starfish outbreak on the Great Barrier Reef—the largest coral reef system in the world. It can even be seen from outer space.

I keep finding it with my finger over and over on the map in her room. Her walls are full of maps—the waters she wants to dive. On the side, she’ll help supervise dives for tourists.

We live in the college tennis house. We’re upstairs; Kat and Lily, the four and five seeds, are downstairs. They always sleep at their boyfriends’, though, and they take tennis seriously, so they don’t hang out with us. Mercedes and I lose most of our matches, even though we shouldn’t. We don’t care. Nobody cares—it’s Division III.

Adam and I spend Monday and Thursday nights together. After we go out to dinner on Saturdays, we have to have sex.

Outside my window, wind carries away the dogwood blooms so the south lawn looks dotted with melting snow. Some days it’s still winter; some days it’s like summer already—that anxious in-between season that twists my heart. This year even the Xanax isn’t making it disappear.

“Digs? I’m sorry about the whole Paris Hilton thing. I was out of line. Forgive me?”

Yes, I say, of course, and kiss him on the lips like a sister. I love him like...



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