By Maia Harrison
Funny, how I can die a thousand times and still it’s never enough. A thousand dances with nails in my feet. A thousand moments frozen by your bedside, nervous dagger in hand. A thousand dawns, wailing in the tide of your rejection, sea foam and brine hardening me like a pearl just before I splinter into the pink air.
After a hundred years, I’ve become synonymous with any pretty sea cow. Children recite the well-worn psalm of my life and death and see my likeness everywhere. To them, every mermaid is me, so I am every mermaid. And does that mean that every dark-eyed, drowning adolescent is you, my prince? Your thousand reincarnations chafe me, a hand running the wrong way up my scales. I could never ascend to heaven enough times to sooth the raw and itching welt you’ve left. I’m marked, unique as one of your fingerprints, and still as mute and impotent as ever, while you look through me to choose your bride. I am a singularity. But not you. No, you could be nearly anyone. And somewhere, you live out your happy ending alongside some vixen less tongue-tied and cryptic than I am. If you had held me close, just once, you might have heard the ocean roaring in my rib cage. You might have learned something of sacrifice.
If I could do it again, I’d kill you. I’d trade a thousand human souls to be crushed with you in the waves. But instead I watch you from every story-book and television screen and logo reflected in a child’s eyes. I’m silent, but believe me, I’m there. Posing on the dust-jackets of tattered Disney VHS tapes. Staring from the cans of tuna you stack dutifully in the cupboard. Smiling at you from the cardboard of your Starbucks cup. And with each sip, I wriggle inside you, like a fish.
Maia Harrison’s work has previously been featured in the Orlando Sentinel and Touchstone Literary Journal, where she served as Editor-in-Chief from 2009 to 2011. She has served as a contributing editor to the Barrier Islands Review, and was the recipient of the 2011 Sullivan Award for excellence in Creative Writing. She received a B.A. in English with a creative writing minor from Stetson University in May 2011, and currently works as a Learning Specialist at Daytona State College in Daytona Beach, Florida.