Terre Haute sits 940 miles away from the nearest large body of water, that body of water being the Gulf of Mexico. This always made Seashell question her Aunt’s decor. The blue walls of the studio apartment reminded her of the outside caging that encloses the Tilta-Whirl at Coney Island. She always wanted to ride it, to get a glimpse of the Atlantic from that perspective, whirling and sick. But when she saw the walls this time, she was instantly reminded of the crooked, hand painted sign that sat at the bottom of the Tilt-a-Whirl cage.
The sign read “Height Requirement: 48 inches to ride without an adult”. This always confused her for multiple reasons. The sign was always propped up on a slight tilt against the fence. Like It was never hung properly again, assumingly, after it fell, but it was always freshly painted. Did the sign mean 48 inches past the sign, hung? At this moment and every moment after that, she would tower over it. She would grow out of her youth and forget the Tilt-a-Whirl —not forever, just not until now. In reality, the ride would’ve denied her any real view of the ocean. And barely a view of the scuffed steel floor. Between all the spinning cars, she would never see the faux-fresco Creation Of Adam airbrushing, which involved Poseidon, a seahorse, and what seemed to be a box of wine.
Seashell’s Aunt’s furniture was always covered in plastic. Not just the couches, but the tables too. Even the lawn gnome that sat just before the front door, wore a small, clear, rain slick à la Patrick Bateman, but if the coat was yellow, he’d transform instantly into Gordon’s fisherman. “Who was she expecting?” she would say to herself looking at the sea of plastic on the floors and ceiling. A mermaid? Ha, by the time she would’ve made her way from the beach, she’s be a fishstick.
Her Aunt’s treasure chest of clothes and jewelry were always her favorite part of visiting. She used to be able to fit both of her little feet into one of Aunt’s shoes, now it’s a perfect fit. Staring through yellow tinted sunglasses she looked around the room. It reminded her of a faux sunset, especially when the shadows quickly moved across the painter’s plastic.
As a child, her Aunt would hand her a seashell and ask her “what do you hear?” She would always think of being under the water, swimming, and the muted voices from above the water, pretending they didn’t know Seashell wasn’t a shark. It was different now, the shell didn’t seem to make any noise at all. Life’s a beach, sand gets in where it shouldn’t, but she was ok with that. Seashell would just enjoy the memories of when it did, and remind herself that the water is only 940 miles away.
Below photographer Brooke Gardiner plays with her obsession with sea creatures, beaches, aliens, and drags friend (and OC’s own) Seashell along for the tide, well the ride, you know what we mean.