Psychopomp Magazine Summer 2015 - Page 18

18 | Psychopomp Magazine

Lisa Nohner

Scales

You’ve never seen a human body up close, but your sister did. She was fifteen the day she swam to the surface. When she got there, fate or the weather pitched a man directly into the sea. He came plummeting from the bow of a ship, and your sister said that he was white, then blue, then nearly purple before she decided to haul him to the shore.

She left him breathless on the sand.

He was just too messy, she insisted, twirling kelp around her fingers and unwinding it into her mouth. Too unruly. His body. Those legs. I didn’t even want to touch him.

The legs that sicken your sister represent that which you crave: the ability to run away. Underwater, everything conspires to touch you. When you pass plant life, it inclines to meet you. It tangles through your hair, lights on your bare shoulders, and trickles down your sides to kiss the small of your back.

Fish, though, are much worse: like inattentive motorists, when you break through the frenzied wall of a school, they flitter across your eyelids, niggle up your nose, scuttle halfway into your ears. Sometimes, you catch a few hitchhikers nursing at your fingertips and pry them off by their tails like so much tacky jewelry.

Then, there are your sisters. Modesty has no place under the sea, and mermaids are the most possessive creatures. Someone always has her webbed hands traversing the feral landscape of your body. Someone’s cloying mouth is always suctioned to yours, tonguing your teeth for leftovers or parasites. Someone’s lips are always fixed to your cheeks, thieving painful kisses.

Even when you do manage a moment alone with yourself, the ocean behaves like an affection-desperate lover. She ebbs and flows around you, smothering and stroking you to sleep. A life beneath the waves is claustrophobic. And far too short, ending in only the worst way.