(this is an attempt to queer a known fairy tale narrative, this time told from the perspective of an ex-member of the deep-sea-folk-community)
it’s been a while…it’s been a while since I last saw you. It’s been a while since one of the watchers of our community said that you did not return, and we all knew what that meant even if noone ever explained why it was impossible to return.
It’s been a while since I arrived on land. I don’t remember getting on land for good, that must have been somewhere else; the first city had no ocean, just a big river, and when I arrived there, I was on board of a ship, don’t ask me how that happened, my memory is totally blank when it is about the journey.
When I got off, my feet moved all by themselves as if they would know where I am supposed to be headed. I knew which subway line to take and on my way to it I looked into shopping windows and didn’t recognize myself, I mean, I didn’t ressemble a being from the deep-sea-folk-community any longer. It dawned on me that I might not recognize you either, your ’new appearance‘.
To my astonishment I could understand all the words, knew what they meant immediately, people did not pay much attention to me, I looked ’normal‘ to them. I found keys in one of my bags, and when I arrived at a certain station I got off and just went straight to a house, put the keys into a door, climbed the stairs to the fourth floor, entered a flat and at the same time my new life as a human being.
I went out everyday, just drifting around, wondering why it was so difficult to walk, as if my feet would weigh tons, and still it was a pleasure. I looked into my mailbox often, although I did not know what I was waiting for. Finally one day, there was a letter, and soon two other letters, and they said I did apply for university studies. I could choose between 3 cities and different universities. I took the train to the closest of those cities nearby, a small town rather, it looked like a picture book come alive, the whole scenery. I walked a path up the hill in the middle of the town and stopped at a rock on which butterflies were opening and closing their wings, opening and closing. I read that as a ‚yes‘.
Now I am living here since September and the semester will start soon. I don’t know if I really can talk, haven’t talked much yet, and I wonder if it will work, if I will know something to say, if it will sound ’natural‘. I am so accustomed to silence.
I miss the glances you and I exchanged. That was my favourite communication.
I had a nightmare: I was back into the water again when I saw something floating by, then I realized it is you, but you were dying…
A drowning ‚mermaid‘, you wouldn’t believe it!
They picture us as ‚mermaids‘, did you know that? I am sitting in the library now, mostly preparing for my studies, but I also took some collections of fairy tales from the shelves.
They picture us as girls or women and I giggled a little, because it seemed so absurd. Because noone of the deep-sea-folk ever thinks in these categories. We are hybrid beings. That is all there is to know. You would never count all the single parts that add up to one being and say: This sums up as that and that gender. I guess they will read me as whatever they want to. Also, the fairy tales claim that the mermaid protagonist wanted to be human because she* was searching for romantic love. And when I read this I want to rewrite the whole tale. Although I have to admit, it is quite beautiful and sad what the guy named Hans Christian Andersen put down on paper.
‚I’ve come a long way…‘ we both know I did not leave the folks and become human for any romantic lovestory. I missed you. And I wanted to find out if this life that books described existed, I was curious.
Remember, when we took our excursions to the deserted islands? The watchers always told us which islands we were allowed to visit and for how long. We swam together to the surface of the water, broke through, that is how it felt, like a break through. Getting on land we soon found out why we were allowed to visit this or that certain island. It was a very didactic choice.
Sometimes we stumbled over dead corpses, they were supposed to remind us how cruel human beings could be, we shouldn’t feel attracted to the idea of becoming human. At one of this places, there was an abandoned house. I went in, looked into every room, while you stood at the beach as if waiting for a sign of the watchers wanting us to come back. Meanwhile I had taken a seat in some chair, there were a lot of books, and I started one, found out that I was able read it. I decided I have to return to that room. So we happened to be there more often, you at your guard, walking up and down the beach, me sinking into other worlds while reading. You had to knock at the door or at a window after some time.
I retold every story I had read to you, I changed a little when I thought the plot needed it. You listened when we were back at the depth. Folks wondered where the new narratives came from, but they did not intervene. Soon you enrichened the traditional tunes with some adapted lyrics of those stories I told.
I never would have thought you’d be the first one to leave.
I never imagine you with a ‚prince‘ by the way. I like to imagine you sitting on a wall of bricks with a woman. She ist taking your hand. And you answer her grip but you still look in front of you. A long time. Then you turn to her and you kiss the palm of her hand.
Sorry, but you don’t know how happy this makes me, to imagine it this way. You, not alone, and not this typical man-woman stuff.
(That man-woman stuff in the books was the disappointing part, I was more fascinated by beings having to create meaning all the time, unable to avoid creating it out of all that happens)
I had to think about the bargain with the wizard. I had an appointment at the doctor’s today that reminded me of some things the wizard said:
The wizard said I had to give up my grace, I did not know what s_he was aiming at. Now I get some idea. It has something to do with my body and the perception of it. The wizard claimed that noone would find me an extraordinary being, at the same time they would perceive me as different and this ‚different‘ wouldn’t have any positive connotation. Now I wonder after reading all those narratives, why s_he did not ask me for trading my voice. Did s_he ask you for trading your voice? Yours had always been the most beautiful. Also s_he did not say what would happen if a certain goal won’t be achieved, like reciprocal love or whatever, in the mermaid narrative the protagonist becomes foam on the sea, because she spares the loved prince and his bride. Did wizards become less traditional? S_he warned me, I would feel everything ten times more intense after becoming human. How could that have been scary? All emotions we knew in our deep-sea life were basically contentement, a vague longing for less repetition maybe, sometimes melancholy. That was it. To have a wide spectrum of feelings seemed more an incentive than a threat to me
Before I left the wizard recited: Things themselves wouldn’t be that bad, just the perception of human beings of those things as ‚bad‘ would be disadvantageous.
The doctor was not very satisfied with my health condition today
And tomorrow semester starts…
Does anyone call you by your name, Lou?
It is midnight, I am feeling so anxious, in a few hours, you know…will they accept me as a human being…or will it be like that paradoxically prophecy by the wizard?
I wish you’d swim next to me, and the moment we ‚break through‘ the surface and meet the beams I just would want to think;
That is your name.