Saline (pt. V)

I was learning to leave the white water for the swell, the way I was learning to leave Sweet Sixteen. I had picked out a sealskin in the same colors as the one from my first memories: magenta and black. The world isn’t always in earth tones, neither was I. Like how for special occasions, I was learning to wear dark lipstick or opalescent blue at the corners of my eyes.

* *

The first time I heard a heartbeat, I thought I was under a pounding wave, yet the world was so strangely calm. 

Come over so we can take a long walk on the beach, he teased. Ironically, Tobias met me in the mountains, but he was the first person that called me a siren. No one had ever called me a siren. In truth, it made me feel afraid. I had always been taught that sirens were dangerous and drove men insane. Tobias and I had both read how Odysseus almost wrecked his voyage by listening to the sirens’ sweet song, growing frantic while his crew watched him with their ears plugged by wax. How he struggled with his binds, begging them to untie him from the mast–until his fever broke after the ship had finally sailed far enough away.

What was my sweet song? I had a hard enough time speaking my mind. Maybe it was because I let Tobias hear me play the violin. Maybe it was because he was from the landlocked midwest.

Even so, I had just started to get used to the idea. I made him a shell necklace as a Christmas gift but we didn’t make it through January. When I turned to look at my tail in the mirror–I saw I was a dolphin again. Incidentally, that summer he went on a study abroad trip over the Atlantic. I heard he met a real siren on the ship. 

* *

I twisted to crack my sore back. I let the painting sit out for two weeks before I touched it again.

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