Oceans and sea spray, cockleshells, mist and sunblock. Always the sunblock. Cakey and glue like, it owned me since I was a baby, being born in the dark chocolate tone of my skin. It would wear me like a white sheet, I always put too much. I hated it, hated it. Sunblock ruined all the fun. The swishing waves, colorful screams across the hot july beach days, kites flown high up in the air, and sunblock, always the sunblock. SPF 15 never would do, skin baked so quickly, chocolate to dark chocolate to blueish purple. Too much sun turned me purple, I never thought that was beautiful. Off to the water, back out, reapply. It always took so long, someone always had to get my back. I couldn’t reach myself. It smelled of chemicals, what was I slathering on my body. But I had to, covering myself like a mummy, preserving my golden brown butteriness, my mark of age, my youth. It was important. So laborious though, spray sunblock never worked.-NJ

Sunblock always made my brown summered skin purple, a filmy barrier of me against the sun, a sticky trap for the sand and the dirt and the dust of Myrtle Beach.

Sunblock is South Carolina in a house with all of my cousins, who are me and who I am, and all of my aunts, ,who I'm made of, and all of my uncles, who are less me but still a little, yes. It is spending all day getting dark and not really taking the threat of the sun seriously, because Oh, Sweet Melanin! the gift that frees us from the stress of the sun, the fear of the rays, the gift that leaves a scrunchie-stripe on my wrist in less than ten minutes and I marvel at my skin that I'm blessed to have been taught to love.

How can I talk about it without talking about that smell. I need to be a better writer to capture what a perfect smell that is, how it always smells the same and brings you back to the beach, even when it's winter and I'm cleaning out the bathroom cabinet and get a little on me, that white glob of chemicals a time machine to better times, to brighter suns. I remember Hawaii with my dad, waking up at 5 am to watch the sunrise, and I could cry at how much he loves me, and how great he is at saying it and how great he is at saying it in ways like waking me for the sunrise in Hawaii. He had a video camera and it rained a little and we sat on the beach and talked about Me, and here I am, the Me we were talking about, flailing about in New York City. -KM