Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Vampire Mermaid

(part of the VampireMermaid story....)

"It's a city that chews people up and spits them out."  She was sitting next to him on the banks of New Jersey, listening to him talk.  He was smoking a hand-rolled, flicking the ashes into the rocks fringing the Hudson like his stubbly mustache.  She watched his mouth move with smoke and words.  She followed his eyes.  There stood the Manhattan skyline, a set of killer chompers, the Chrysler and Empire a pair of fangs, the box-buildings of the projects, molars that would grind and pulverize.

"Yeah, well, you don't know my block,"  she said.  Her block had the only tree in a five-block radius.  She imagined its gnarled tawny trunk to be like her backbone, tough after all these years of holding her up and pushing her forward, a bit twisted from the weight of the world.  The tree was crowned with a halo of petal green leaves, soft fringe, like baby's eyelashes, like an explosion of good ideas after a drought of creativity, a burst of spring after a long, brutal winter.  She loved that tree, it was a misfit, like her.  It was probably the only reason she stayed in Manhattan.

"I think it looks more like a row of books," she squinted into the sunlight the Hudson was splashing into her eyes.  "Like the way disorganized libraries lean on each other."

She leaned on his shoulder and it was bonier than she remembered.  He smelled of sandpaper and vanilla ice cream.  "Tell me more about your block,"  he said.

She told him about the pale blue stucco church that looked like it belonged in the dusty desert of the South West.  She told how she'd spend hours with the tree and the church, writing of places with no tree and no church.  The gilded cross crucified the strip of sky between 4th and 5th, sending shadows onto her notebook as she filled them.  She told how she had begun to lace white Christmas tree lights in the heart-branches of her tree one night so it wouldn't feel so out of place in this lit-up city.  She had to lean far out her fire-escape to get to the tippie-tops.

Soon his lit-up-cigarette was the brightest light on the shore.  The night had begun to throw its dark blanket over the City sky, obliterating any chance of stars to wish on.  The teeth-buildings lit up into a beaming grin, the tip of the Empire suddenly blood red because it was almost Valentine's Day.

"Look at that Vampire City,"  he said.  "Luring people in and then sucking their blood right out."  He took one last drag before throwing his light into the water.   She watched it float, down-current, against the reflection of Manhattan, a city streaming in silver lines like tear-stains on a dark cheek.

She turned to look at his face in the half-dark.  There was always something half-dark and beautiful about his face, even in the daytime, like there was a whole side of him she was waiting to be revealed.  She'd known him for so long, but there was a part of him that was deeper than she'd ever gotten to, even though she knew how to swim to the bottom of dark waters.

He turned and smiled, his pointy cusps growing in front of her eyes.  She always loved that part, like they were excited to see her.

She lifted her skirt a bit, and they both watched her legs fuse and extend into a long blue-silver tail, like Darryl Hannah's in Splash.  Only prettier.

"It's a city of magic, only everyone is chasing the wrong kind,"  she smiled, and so did he, the whites of his eyes gleaming as white as his fangs.  His bright smile lit up the branches of her heart, she felt less alone next to him.  She flexed her tail like Popeye's bicep catapulting herself into the water.  She disappeared under the frothy surface, only to reappear several feet away.  She turned to him and waved high as an Olympic swimmer.  When she returned, she had the seaweed hair and saltwater lips he always wished to puncture, but Mermaid blood wasn't good for him.

He waited for her to return with handfuls of little silver fish wiggling like extra fingers in her palms.  He would puncture them underneath their eyeballs and suck on them like half-empty ice-cream cones.  It was a dirty habit, but it kept him from dirtier ones, she figured.  She always said a little prayer for the fish as she scooped them up with her long fingers, the kind of prayers she heard while sitting outside the blue stucco church in her daytime life.  

Her daytime life was one of walking and writing and waitressing at the restaurant.  Everyone at the restaurant assumed she was an actress, and she just said yes, for she was always pretending to be something she wasn't.  Normal.  Normal like the girls who came into the restaurants with their boyfriends and split the bill.  Normal like the owner, who paced back and forth counting busboys' mistakes and tips till nighttime.

Nighttime was messier than day, even for normal people.  She'd watch them roll out of the restaurant on Friday nights at 2 in the morning like rowdy sailors on port call.  They'd swerve like vampires with full bellies, leaning into each other's necks.  She would watch for the glint of fangs, but never saw them.  What she saw were watery eyes, like everyone had been swimming too long and had gulped too much salt water.  Drinking too much salt water was an easy way to forget, every guilty mermaid and merman knew that.  She wondered what these land creatures could want to forget so badly.  She watched them lean out the restaurant door, sea-sick into the night streets, then totter off like small boats in choppy waters.

But Monday nights she did not have to pretend.  Monday nights she could lean on his shoulder and watch the sky turn off and the city turn on.  Monday nights she could grow into herself and he could, too and no one would flinch.

(to be continued....)