For Annalise of the heavenly voice. For you, there had to be singing. May the year open up to you and share its wonders!
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At night I would sing myself awake. I was a mermaid. I sang when I played, or ran past the magnolia trees to school, or when I hunted for seven kinds of white flowers—pearls, foam—for the summer solstice dreaming. When I was little, my mother told me I would dream that night of true love. I spent the night dreaming of mermaids. They wore twists of seaweed across their breasts and in their hair, and all their murmurings sounded like water. Their hair floated and their skin changed in the strange green light.
I still dream of mermaids. A girl’s hair catches in my fist and she turns slowly to glide her cheek along mine. She is cool where I am warm. Since she’s a mermaid we’re not quite doing anything wrong.
Sometimes her hair is black, sometimes so black it’s blue. Sometimes her hair is coral red, or pale as sand, or brown as a sand-fish. When I’m gone—elsewhere in my thoughts—she hunts fish or pries open oysters or makes pets of morey eels and octopuses. Her hair floats in water, a halo, or it drags heavy with water. Her skin is foam-white, or pearl-black, or smooth and dark as the edge of land swept by the water. Sometimes she loves me. She sings and looks in my eyes—her eyes are gray, her eyes are sea foam lavender—then she vanishes. Since she’s a dream, she comes back always. In water. In my thoughts.
You are a mermaid. Like me. You float and vanish into green-black water. You disappear in pearls, the clear floating sky of thoughts, of wish. When you sing, I forget that anything is wrong. Anything at all. When I wake, I can almost feel your hair, a twist of damp beneath my palm.