the problem with mermaids

I receive emails about where this post goes every time I take it down, so I’m leaving it up. There has been a piqued interest in my life lately, for reasons I do not understand. I assure you all that my life is very uninteresting, that it is quiet, and that I’m fond of it. I love to work, particularly when it requires a lot of analysis or argument. When the night falls, after long hours of documentation or drawing proofs (I have more than one job), I sit by the window in restaurants to try unfamiliar dishes and enjoy the company of a friend. I love soft jazz in the bath late at night. I read books in the city rose garden. On the weekends, I create worlds.

I sink into the warmth of the sand or into the chill of the redwoods. I don’t partake in either activity for too long. I love heights and suppress pleasure when there is turbulence on a plane. I keep my close friends at a distance. Sometimes my phone rings at 4am. I grope over my desk half-asleep to find it. It’s a friend in the same timezone, calling me to talk. I’m someone like this to her, I think, amazed, elated. The kind of friend to call at 4am.

I flip through pages of the Qur’an, dissecting every word. I groan and let it fall on my face, dragging it over my mouth. My scarlet lipstick stains the margins. I scrawl notes over them with the slender tip of a pen. I shiver at the thrill of entering a warm car during a cold night, and at the way my perfume, Stella, reminds me of it. I am pleasantly surprised when someone hugs me and it is long and tight. I don’t think about needing it. It doesn’t make sense to want.

I tell myself if I run fast enough, I can break through this dimension and cross into another. I never do. I erupt in passion instead.

Sometimes a man tells me I have this look in my eyes like I want him. I am actually thinking about the aliens responsible for Tabby’s Star and whether they can teach us to harvest energy from celestial objects, after which we will live peaceably until the end of the cosmos. Those are dreamy-eyes, not I-want-you eyes. His voice is interrupting me.

I avoid my favorite movies, because they are overwhelming. I listen to my favorite songs on repeat until I cannot feel them anymore. I slip into velvet, into lace, use sesame oil on a good day, on a day that I feel like I have a future, somewhere. I tell myself I am a witch stripped of her magic powers. When I was in elementary school, I convinced all my friends we had magic powers. I tell myself I should forgive myself for lying to them like this. I don’t.

My life is an empty wreck because I live in my dreams. I look for dream flowers to beautify the smokey reality. But, too melancholy to separate the flowers from their lovely homes, I leave them in my dreams, too.

I kiss the spines of books. I don’t cry. I sip sparkling pink lemonade out of a wine glass. I apologize for falling asleep on the shoulder of a friend. “It’s so crowded,” I say quietly. “Can we leave?” I wonder why every biography turns into this. I lose one high heel at the door and throw off the other two inches into the carpet.

“Zeina,” I text. “I haven’t found better legs.”

A longing I cannot name consumes me. I don’t cry. I pull the Qur’an against my chest. I fall asleep holding it. I think, sometimes, that I feel more passion than a woman is supposed to feel, and I don’t know where to put it. I don’t know where to put it.

And I promise you that’s all that I am. There is no depth to this, no mystery. There is no elusive secret.

3 thoughts on “the problem with mermaids

  1. Sometimes I am consumed by a fiery longing so strong I want my watery essence to engulf it and in the process save me from this inexorable devastation of drowning, this delicate desperation, when I gasp at myself in the mirror and watch myself cry and touch my skin exuding a sort of nervous blushing heat, when I feel myself turning to melted snow in front of men and wonder how, when I was so okay the moment before, and I fall on them and want to be held, and then I collect myself, only to melt again as I clasp Arabic script to my chest and say I’m not crying, I’m not crying, but I am, and it destroys me.



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