Sunday, March 21, 2010


It was a blue watercolor dreamscape, shades of cadet and steel and midnight swallowing one another alternately, endless night. And she was blue like the waters that held her, blue like the sea above and sea below, blue like mother and father and home, forever the same shades without mercy, forever the same pressure, holding her down, holding her in, and even buoying her up.

But she had heard the sapphires, the dazzling cerulean, and oh! the turquoise. Up, up, till she’d almost broken sky, some promise of something, of light. She dared not touch it, lest it scatter her like the dingy shades of blue, into sparkling bits of something better than herself, something unimaginably other.

It haunted her, that light she longed to listen to, that light that liquid lingered in the jewels of the sea, in the depths of her own blue heart. But more…it was that she listened and loved alone, that they never spoke of the sapphire song or the turquoise harmony. Only the darkness, and then not the darkness of the deep but the darkness of the mystery that lay upon this world like a heavy body, dead, and breathing decay down into the sea.

Day after day she floated beneath the turquoise stars and wondered at the vast world beyond her, the world with other shades of blue. Then she would flutter gracefully home, leaving a wake of cloudy blue behind her.

When she reached her blue home, the door was ajar, the effects of a younger sistser, and deep in thought, forgetting her mersong, she slipped in and up to her room. By dinnertime, she heard her family congregating and swam slowly down, melancholy, and forever blue.

They did not speak to her, and she served a plate and sat down in her place in silence, picking at scallops and frowning at seaweed. At last one of them asked of her, whether her younger sister had heard from her. And then her older brother. The conversation continued between her worried parents as if she were not there, and they did not sing to each other as they sang. They sang at her as if she were empty chair only.

She felt as if the blue had swallowed her at last: body unbearably blue, she had become completely camouflaged by her surroundings, nothing but blue at last. And she began to cry quiet blue tears that were swallowed by the vast blue sea, but when she sniffled them back, her mother gasped, her father listened to her with wide, glassy blue eyes, her sister let out a squeal, and her brother beside her jumped back, knocking his chair to the woven seaweed floor.


“Daddy?” she answered from her blueness.

“Have you been there the whole time? Where is your mersong?” he demanded.

“Daddy, couldn’t you hear me? I’ve been right here in front of you--”

“How can I hear a silent mermaid?”

“But…I hear you, Daddy, always. When you wake in the mornings and swim down--”

“Because I sing!” he bellowed.

“Not until you reach the kitchen,” she answered. “And Mama in the garden--”

“I sing in the garden!”

“Sometimes you get lost in the anemones and forget, and there is only the memory of your song.”

“You imagine it! No one can hear a silent merman,” her father objected as her mother wept.

“With your other ears, of course you can,” she answered in surprise.

“Other ears?” Her father’s face turned toward her mother, but his gaze missed her by a head. He rose then, and swam over to his daughter, and put his hands a the sides of her head.

“Two ears. As I remembered. No more of this nonsense now. Mersong at all times, child, or you’ll be kept to your room, so we’ll know where you are!”

“No, Daddy, not those ears,” she reached for his hands and moved them to her face. “These,” she sang softly.

She closed her face as he felt those other ears. Then he moved his hands to his own face, and at last, softly, “Daughter, these are not ears. These are dead orifices for tears. Mermen do not hear sadness; their tears become one with the sea.”

She thought of the other blue, the mystery and shattered gems. She heard them only with these ears, she realized. Perhaps they were tears then, the bright blue baubles that contrasted with the boiling sea. Perhaps they were being drawn up and out, sadness swallowed so that the mersong would go on.

But they did not sound like sadness to she who could hear them, and so she took her brother with her to hear the sapphires sing like silver bells, for his curiosity was piqued by the ears in his face.

But the other blues did not sing for him. There was mersong for him only, for him only endless blue.

“These are not ears,” he concluded, “for mine do not hear.”

“But it is a different kind of hearing,” she said, closing her face-ears to try to explain, but when she closed them, the song was gone. The sapphires and azure illuminations did not just stop their song, they stopped altogether. They were not. There was only deepest, saddest blue, and that without tone or melody. No steel, no cadet. Only midnight forever. Only endless eve.

She opened them again and listened to her brother--not his mersong only, but his blue fins streaked with violet, his strong blue form, his lavender hair flowing behind him. She heard it in his fins, just a snatch of the turquoise melody, just when he swam near the surface song. As if a piece of heaven, a bright star were buried there in him. She looked at her own fins and saw the same: cerulean sparkles that did not belong to this blue world.

“Open your ears!” she cried, swimming toward the surface at last without fear, for she was made of the stuff above, and as she swam she realized the great blue tragedy of her people: they who sang the mersong were deaf.

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