Saturday 26 June 2021

'The Shape of a Merman’s Shadow' by Melissa Saggerer

When you see the tail first, you think that’s one hell of a fish. Moving upwards, you begin to wonder at the sculpted muscles. So athletic, not a typical catch. Mammalian, so… human. The arms, trailing fingers, and then his head, unruly hair gathered in a top knot.

You count your breaths, before going under. How many seconds can you make it? You dive below the waves where you can’t hear the gulls. Play with buoyancy, your body displacing the sea. The sting of the salt in your eyes distracts you. You can taste the seaweed on your tongue, the brine seeping into your pores. The merman swims back and forth, like a shark.

You forget how many breaths you’ve wasted.

You think of the mermaid falling in love with the sailor. You think: kiss me. You think of the sirens making the sailors crash. You think: run. Your feet have no land, and your swimming needs work. Your heart is torn, and the drape of your shirt is ruined by the water. You’re graceless, unflattered, powerless. A whirlpool of ballooning emotions.

When he weaves up to your face, when your eyes are locked with his, his golden irises are bigger than you thought they’d be. His shoulders a swollen expanse. The space between you, closing. Your heartbeat drums through you-- it quickens; pounds rippling waves into the water. The need he stirs in you, encompasses whole oceans, equal in weight only to the fear.

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