“I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.”
― T.S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
The Love of Sea and Shore
The buzz of alcohol hummed in my head behind the cacophony of drunks hustling each other and the girls that served them. The dim light in the bar and Derek’s distant tone lulled me into a half dream as his story took shape in my mind.
The colorful tale of his mermaid unfolded in my mind, and as Derek spoke, the picture on the wall called to me, entranced me, and filled me with desire. The dream of leaving my rough and lonely life for the arms of a woman that could love the monster I’d become held me captive. I’d change for her. I would let her change me to a kinder form. I dreamed of a mermaid of my own as Derek continued speaking of his encounter with a sea maiden as if he were in a cathedral in love with the Virgin Mary. I listened as he continued.
* * *
“Days turned into weeks as I worked every day to dismantle the ship’s deck and other useful items to build a secure shelter in the rock overhang. It was dangerous, I knew it. But, I wanted to face the sea so I could see any ship or plane that came close enough for me to signal. I ate the last of the rations and was forced to fish and gather coconuts and clams for food.
I took my goggles, swim fins, and harpoon spear fishing near the rocks where the water was deep and clear. Beams of sunlight cut through the water like a thousand searchlights. I saw fish in the light and then they were gone in the shadows cast by the sheer cliff as it dove straight down to the bottom too deep for me to see. I decided I needed to risk moving further out to get a better look at my quarry when there came a splash near the rocks.
I saw her in the light beams and then she was gone only to reappear like a ghost. She swam like a seal or a river otter, darting in all directions. I surfaced to fill my lungs and then prepared to dive again thinking I’d only seen a marine mammal when we came face to face under the water. She floated like an angel, her legs together and her arms out by her side like offering a hug to welcome me. Her hair floated and opened up like tendrils of vines reaching for the light.
We stared in disbelief at each other. In front of me was a woman like any women, yet naked as the day she was born. Her hands had long fingers with webs like an otter, and her feet were shaped like an ordinary woman’s except the toes were almost a foot long with short claw-like toenails and great billowing webs of skin between the toes.
It was her face that held me captive. My lungs burned for air, but I couldn’t move. Those large round eyes were black as midnight on a moonless night, and they were looking straight at me wide with wonder and curiosity. My lungs won. I broke the surface and gulped for air like a drowning man.
Before I could gather my wits, her angelic face was just inches from me. She spoke in a voice like she was singing a lullaby to a child. The next thing I knew, she pulled me to her breasts without shame and began to swim toward the rocks carrying me in a firm embrace. Those toes spread like fingers turning her feet into fins that surged with power as she kicked and undulated in a slow but powerful rhythm.
She swam on her back and held my willing head to her neck. The slow arch of her hips pressing, receding, then pressing to me again was like making love. I felt the warmth of her through the currents of water washing over us and her heart, my God, how her heart beat strong against my chest.
I was beside myself, possessed by her apparent attempt to help me ashore. I believe she thought I was distressed or drowning and only wanted to help. I grabbed the edge of the rocks and looked back. She was gone. A glance underwater revealed the sunlight flashing across her back, the mound of her buttocks, and legs as she corkscrewed away into the shadows out of view.
For days, I looked for her between gathering food and firewood. I still had water left in the tank on board what was left of the ship. It was only a matter of time before the sea claimed the rest of the boat and I would be on my own to survive. Still, I couldn’t bring myself to leave the shore to look for fresh water.”
“Damn, Derek. The mermaid sure had an affect on you. Aside from being a bizarre erotic moment, why did you fall in love with her like that?” I asked not knowing what to make of his description of the mermaid or his strange attachment.
“It was her shameless beauty and acceptance of me. She had no fear of me. That profound display of innocence and caring gripped my heart and wouldn’t let me be,” Derek replied as he sipped his beer and again looked up at the picture.
“Did you ever see her again?” I asked, urging him to continue.
“Aye, I did and under the strangest of circumstance. I was standing on the rock where she left me before when a shark began circling. It was hunting its next meal. I saw the shark dive down and disappear into the depths, and as I peered over the edge, My mermaid shot out of the water and hit me square in the chest. I fell over on the rocks under her as the shark followed her half on the rock and thrashing the water with his tail to get at her. She screamed bloody hell and wrapped herself around me like rigging and wouldn’t let go.
I managed to kick back enough to avoid the shark as it slipped back into the water. We made our way back over the rocks to the shore with her in my arms. I could see she was bleeding from lacerations and took her to the shelter in the cliff and lay her down to tend to her wounds. She was terrified and in shock. I gave her a shot of morphine from the ship’s medical kit not knowing if she could tolerate it or not. In no time, she was cooing and looking around the shelter with a glassy stare.
The shark had missed her, and probably a couple of teeth on the outer row of its jaw caught her right thigh. I sewed her up and wrapped her leg. She kept touching the bandage and looking at me chattering in that soft voice. That’s when she tapped her chest and said something that sounded like Meera. I figured it was her name, so I told her mine. She kept touching me and saying Dreek, Dreek, over and over again. The morphine had her head in a place she’d never been before.”
“I think you have my head in a place It’s never been before too, old man,” I murmured then hailed the waitress to get Derek another beer, so he didn’t have to keep asking. I ordered a coffee for myself. I wanted to stay awake for the ending.
Dedicated to the Goth Girls with the soul of a mermaid.
Image source: pinterest.com