Amanda K. Davidson is a writer who creates fiction, performances and essays. Her published work includes Arcanagrams: A Reckoning, Chapbook, Little Red Leaves (2014); The Space: Fragments for a Family, A Belladonna* chaplet (2014); and Apprenticeship, Prose chapbook, New Herring Press (2013).
Davidson has received the Mellon Grant, Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY (2014) as well as the Graduate Award for Distinguished Achievement, Creative Writing Program, San Francisco State University, CA (2010). She has previously completed a residency at the Millay Center for the Art, NY (2011).
Image credit: courtesy of the writer
Excerpt from Flotation
F. believed in signs and omens and therefore detected them everywhere. When we lived together, on the boat, every train whistle that rolled across the landfill was a message, a prompt. On the second longest day of the year, F. announced, “I’m catching the next boxcar north.”
F. needed to travel light, so we threw a few things overboard. A bovine pelvic bone that hung above the galley table, attached by a piece of twine. It plunked and sank. Next to go was Sheila, a foam head. Sheila floated on green wavelets, her blank eyes staring toward us. She bobbed backward out of the harbor, small, staring, smaller, staring, past the breakwater, gone.
F. said, “Well,” and swung her knapsack on. The dock bounced with the weight of her steps. Bay water spanked against boats. I kept my eyes fixed on the breakwater, where Sheila had disappeared. When F. stepped off the dock, onto dry land, I felt the sea level change slightly.
For the rest of the day, I sat above deck with my back pressed to the mast and practiced being a sundial. The second longest day of the year was a good day for practicing to be a sundial. I wanted to hold still and feel time pivot around me. I thought that my shadow would reveal how time worked by shifting neatly from one side of my body to the next. I was afraid that with F. gone, signs would drain out of the world. I thought if I could become a sundial while the presence of F. was still close to me, while the part of me that opened in her presence was still open, that maybe I could hold that interspace open forever.
The boat rocked. The boom swung and strained against its line. Light pressed on every corner of my face and shimmied up from the water, confusing my shadow. I believe that is when I fell out of time, or rather, when time fell out of me. Inside my eyelids, blood swam around frantically. I thought about Sheila’s head, drifting farther and farther out to sea. I thought about F. Where was she? A train whistle blew. It meant nothing, and soon passed into silence. Darkness fell over the harbor. I piled my belongings into a wheel barrel and slept, that last night, in the landfill, stuffing handfuls of dried grass into my clothes for warmth.
When I woke up, faint light leaked over the eastern hills. I found my way to the chain link enclosure at the center of the landfill where I had buried my Certificate, in the dirt, in an airtight jar, so many months before, on the day that F. and I moved onto the boat.
On the boat, the facts that supposedly adhered to the Certificate seemed less solid. Trumped up, even. F. had refused to take the Certification courses. I admired, envied, resented, fantasized about, wished for and feared such a refusal. Often we ignored the Certificate, as if it did not matter. And yet underneath or alongside all of my choices, stories, wishes and refusals, there was a Certificate, and underneath or alongside all of F.’s choices, stories, wishes and refusals there was no Certificate. It didn’t matter. It mattered.