I am going to miss the mermaid.
The mermaid taught me many things. She taught me to write into the shape of the box that has me confined. She taught me to fear being alive, and she taught me I don’t really need my legs at all. She taught me to go forth and conquer this world, but never to let anyone touch me. She taught me to keep moving, always moving. She taught me America is a story of people moving from one place to the other. She taught me there is no ‘there’ there, but every time, we hope there will be. She taught me that where we stand is good enough, always good enough, even though there are so many cultural forces saying, just keep running.
The mermaid taught me how to breathe underwater. Actually I never could breathe underwater, but she taught me how to fake it well enough to convince everyone it was true. I am drowning in the water in my own lungs, right now. I have been drowning in my own emotions, my own rage, yes, but more than that my own grief, for my whole life. The mermaid taught me tears are scary things, that if the wrong person sees you cry they might come close and hold you and then where would you be? And if the right person sees you, they might use the occasion of your weakness to put a stake right through your heart. The mermaid taught me that needing touch and needing human contact is a weak and pathetic little-girl thing.
The mermaid taught me to push even the people I love most away. The mermaid taught me to never explain, never offer sympathy, and most importantly, to never ever stay.
I am leaving I am leaving. I am the girl who leaves. I will push you until you fight me. I am undiscovered territory. I am violence, I am jungle. I am the place boys enter and I am the place men leave.
Mermaid girls, we’re all the same. A little crazy. Hella damaged. So fucked up it makes us sexy, but wait. The rapist took everything else, but he has still left us our teeth.
We have so much to teach you all. If you would only listen. Instead of pressuring us to keep running. We are a horse you are chasing because you covet our speed. We are a dolphin you are chasing because you want to know if you can be loved by another species. We are the supercool badass new species of fish you catch and slice open for scientific reasons.
We are the beloved dog you hold the power of life and death over. We are the cat who sits at the window begging for just one breath of outside air before she dies of a broken heart. We are the animals whose capacity to give birth you have ripped out of us because it is no longer convenient.
You say you love us. We no longer believe. Can you blame us, really?
In the end, we all break down. In the end, we all break. We all become this broken thing. Swimming in water dense with oxygen we cannot breathe. Sliding through the sea begging water to become solid sand beneath our feet. We miss our feet. We miss our homes. We miss the sound of our own hearts beating.
Some days I want to take the train to NYC just like a stalker and show up at his office just so I can smell him again. I want to piss in a toilet right after he does. I want to take his skin between my teeth like Sylvia Plath. I want to forget that I am an ugly girl, and ask him to dance. I want to forget that I am a fat girl, and ask him to put his cock between my lips. I want to forget every voice inside my head telling me I am not good enough for him.
Some days the only thing I want inside my mouth ever again is his cock. I think I could live on his cock. I think I would never have to eat again. The anorexic’s dream. A life of sex, and not of nutrition.
The mermaid has been missing food, all this time. She dreams of hunks of bread, of mountains of meat. And she dreams of him, shooting down her throat. Don’t think less of me, for saying so.
The mermaid wants a feast. The mermaid wants him deep inside of her. The mermaid is not human, is not bound by human reason. The mermaid knows what to do when he looks at her like that, when he tries to pull her close without arms or words. The mermaid wants to close her lips over the skin of his cheek, to suck and suck like a vampire bat. I was raised to be a good Jewish girl. I was trained to wait for permission, to wait for my wedding night, to wait for him to tell me to do it out loud. I was trained to languor in silence. I was trained to hate my sexuality. I was trained to believe my sexuality is a jaguar, poised to leap at his throat. I was trained to confuse bloodlust with the other kind of lust. I was trained to wait.
Wanting him sits heavily below my belly button. He made me want to get married. He made me want to have kids. He made me want to climb into bed and not leave, for days and days and. He made me want to suck him down, to suck him red. Makes me.
The mermaid’s face is placid and calm as the surface of the sea at dawn. The mermaid sings a siren song, sings to men she hates. In her heart, she hopes someday the skeletons will all rise up from their watery graves, and find her. Teach her what to say.
The mermaid sings and sings and writes. The mermaid writes the same words, over and over again. Time, take me. Love, find me.
The mermaid dreams of his mossy blue-green heart and his red-bright cock. Screams at him in her head to stop being somewhere else. Cooks stews that he will never eat and sleeps in a bed that he has never seen, in a house with three other men who she very carefully does not fuck. The mermaid perches by the window in the one large chair she has taken over and she stares out the window at the same streaked sky and the same old tree. The mermaid takes photos of that tree and that sky. And dreams of better days.
Women get very good at lying. The mermaid was always a lie. I guess I figured he knew that. I guess I figured, at least I tried. Tried to save him from my sexuality and tried to save me from his rejection, and. Tried not to throw my arms around him and say, you idiot, what don’t you understand?
Turns out the answer was, plenty. He is a man, he does not have to understand women. He is white or white-passing Jewish, unquestioned, no mother not white passing white-identified dark-skinned woman like my own. He is rich enough to worry about a down payment on a house. We really do live in different worlds, and not because I am crazy, either. But because. I am not my identities, but my identities circumscribe my life. This is the way of the world.
But on the other side of all those fences I did not build. Those walls of bad decisions and cultural scripts and trying to communicate to patriarchy and him and the Greek Chorus, all at once. On the other side, where I am. There is no mermaid, here. Just me.
And the only thing I really have to say to him is, fuck me, or kill me. Take my damn heart, or put me out of my misery.
I am a woman born to a patriarchal religion and a patriarchal culture pressured to assimilate to a broader white-washed colonialist patriarchal culture. The worst thing I could ever do is say, I want you, only because you are you. Only because I am me.
The worst thing I could ever do. So I said nothing.
I said nothing, except, I feel like I am dying.
I said nothing, except. I am writing a book about mermaids.
I don’t want to die a mermaid.
I don’t want to die a silent girl.
I am not a girl at all, I am a woman.
I am not a girl at all, and my sexuality supposedly belongs to only me. That is what third wave feminism has taught me.
This is what I want, and. Man who is not a boy, but I wish I had met you that way. When we were both small. When I could have been your best friend and your first kiss and the whole rest of my in-between watery life need not have happened this way, so lonely.
When probably it is already too late for me, in every meaningful way. But it is the nature of the human heart to hope.
Man who is human, who saw my legs but did not see. What do you think?