Thursday, 25 June 2015


In my bathroom, a bare chested girl combs her long red hair every evening, her scaly tail pinned beneath her forming a comfortable cushion. Seeming both attentive to and distracted from her task, her gaze passes through and beyond me, and yet each day we share a similar moment. Reach across a gap: she looks into my bathroom and I study her in her secret cove.
As she makes a play of combing her hair, I take my daily shower and wonder what it must be like to be seated in a dusky light with the tide washing a pebbled shore beside you. Is she content or benumbed? Has life hypnotised or dulled her? Does being a mermaid have its burdens? And its compensations? I imagine it might be hard to have the head and torso of a woman, the heart of a siren, and the unwieldy tail of a fish. Too many pulls in different directions. Is that too part of being a woman or is that what being human is? Torn, dispersed by brisk winds to any possible path like a bit of paper. Split like an atom under duress.
I make many such assumptions as I rub away the grime of the day under jets of steaming water, as I let numerous rivers trickle to my scrubbed bare feet. The condensation undoing knots, eroding rocks in tight neck and shoulder muscles and revitalising my tired brain. A cascade washes away so much: a foul mood, lassitude and drudgery. As with a cup of English tea everything looks better after a shower.
Lately though the sea nymph has been bothering me in a more forbidden way. I've sensed a subtle magnetic shift as if she's trying to repel me from or entice me to the picture. The effect has chiefly been the latter, despite my attempts on rare occasions to look away. Avert my gaze to my unmasked reflection in the mirror, try to look through the windows to my troubled soul. To find the seeker who's always searching.
But behind my back, over my left shoulder sea Eve taunts me, compels me to spill my secrets with her parted lips; urges me to confide my surface gripes, my inner torments.
And despite my objections to being thus used, I do.
I ramble. Hesitate. Make contradictions. Create excuses and obstacles. Talk myself in and out of new ideas and practical steps. Revisit old ones.
She's an impassive listener and yet she manages to open me as you would an oyster: always hopeful she'll find a pearl of information, and when she does she'll place it in her ever-present collecting dish.
My bathroom has become a confessional: from within the cubicle there's an outpouring of thoughts and doubts, a justification of words and actions which the acoustics throw back at me. I hear my own words for a second time as an echo; a voice that overlaps my continuing vocalised thoughts.
I divulge as I scrub, she untangles her hair with a semi-interested expression.
After, there's no pardoning; no instruction to recite three Hail Marys. No forgiveness for my permanent confused state. The admission comes to an abrupt end as soon as the water's turned off and clouds of steam make their quick escape.
As I towel myself dry, there's a lighter feeling, although often no solution has been reached. Any action that might have been decided upon will be lost by morning, so by evening the unburdening begins over. To a sea nymph. To a picture of a mythical creature that hangs on my bathroom wall.
Why her...? And what does she do with the pearls I give her?
Are they safe? Are they sometimes polished and scrutinised, stored as a treasure; or will they, at some point, be used against me? Will I enter the confessional one day and have no need to speak for my own voice will be replayed to me? To remind me of those idiotic thoughts I verbalised, reported I believed, or even foolishly acted upon.
It's a nightly ritual that, I believe, will go on as long as she wants to wear strings of pearls around her white throat.

Picture Credit: A Mermaid, 1900, John William Waterhouse