Gazing at the Caribbean over the tip of my nipple is a study in nonchalance. I close my left eye, line up the right side. Freckle. Nipple. Toe. Sea. Switch. Nippletoesea. No freckle. The men here eye my hips. Fuerte, finger grazing the swell of my outer thigh, gaze barely skimming my cleavage. Still, as I sway in this water smelling of pineapple and salt, as I spin and my breasts follow, straining against the waves, I imagine the beach-strolling, dome-capped policeman in white blowing his whistle, flagging me out, covering me up. In the Atlantic, when my cousin and I skinny-dipped, one of us would tread water and hold bathing suits as the other swam. Here, the beach policeman just walks by as I bare my breasts in the shade, on a day full of clouds in rounds that roll and puff while waves plop heavily, lazily, drowsy from carrying hole-boned coral. From above, this place must look scattered with breasts – bowl-cut huts, frothy palms, spheres of fronds under which women shade-bathe topless. Even the pretend lighthouse (that’s really a bar) wears a plump round sunhat. In the Carribbean, the breeze brushes my breasts as I once again stride into the sea. Black suit bottom slick like a seal. Strong hips. The sunlight globes inside of me. If it were dark, I could use my breasts as flashlights.
Heather Frese is the author of The Baddest Girl on the Planet, winner of the Lee Smith Novel Prize. She has published numerous short stories, essays, and the occasional poem. Her work has appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review, the Los Angeles Review, Front Porch, the Barely South Review, Switchback, and elsewhere, earning notable mention in the Pushcart Prize Anthology and Best American Essays. A native Ohioan, she currently writes, edits, and wrangles three small children in Raleigh, North Carolina. Follow her on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter: @Heatherkfrese.