Beautiful Sea Creature

by Emily McPhillips

I wait until we’ve ordered our food, until the tapping heels of the waitress tap like the seconds of a clock ticking in the next room over, and it is then that I look over again, and see the woman I thought was someone, who is someone, who is her. I know doubly that it is her because she is sitting next to the mirrored fish-tank, and her orange hair swims in a double helix with the tropical orange fishes, and it is all as beautiful as poetry stored in bound leather-notebooks, seen twice in a tank of sorry eyes batting back-and-forth. I wonder if the air that I’m breathing has ever felt so isolated, and why is it that I feel like we’re both sucking on the opposite ends of the same straw when there is so much air for us to share, tons of it for free, but only using that small space that hangs between our lips. I’m coughing now, trying to get rid of something maybe, or maybe just trying to weaken a strong moment of trying silence. I don’t know things anymore. I want to be a beautiful sea-creature and swim the oceans of the world instead. Things like this are hard, and I know that he has seen her too, because he is trying too hard to make me believe in us; to make me remember how much he loved making love to me last night, but I’m not there anymore, I’m a time before that trying to fit in with the time that is: now, present, here, my situation, and it is like a battle between myself and my former self, where all the other parts of me fall somewhere in-between and watch with the patience of a ceremonial turtle. I want to ask him, ‘Is this real?’ and for him to tell me that we’ve just been having some strange dreams lately, because we’ve been smoking a bit too much, and that it’s okay because he is having the same dreams, too, and I’d think how weird but cool that is, and I like the idea that he takes little parts of me away with him when he sleeps. As I look at him now, I think I have these big Bambi eyes that he must know need him to say something, but he says nothing and I feel like that horrible weak female that I hear so much about but never really understood – that rabbit in the headlights who knows its certain future a few seconds before it becomes the actual present, and it is that horrible feeling that warns you that you have been through this before, it rushes to your head like a dream you’ve remembered suddenly, that for a time you were trying so hard to remember and then felt happy as this wanting passed, and now that it is back again it doesn’t quite fit in anywhere, and it steps shyly into the perimeters of thought. A past army of myself begins to surround me; protectors and hunters with fierce sounding attributes, that are now spending their time learning how to take care of me, and they are so much tougher than I am, but helpless too, tough and helpless and failing at every post as they wait only to take orders from me. Why can’t I see him? I am looking right at him but he isn’t there, he is not how he should be – I see him with more potential than this, and I’m refusing this image, I’m sending it back with a complaint hanging around its neck. The restaurant rises like a roaring stomach on a high tide, and the tables turn to lifeboats, and survival is becoming a destructive emotion, as only so much of this can survive. I feel like I could just give this all up, and let all my worn out history decide what I should do from here; but there is no success, just unfamiliarity, feelings that try their hardest to flee unnoticed – spies amongst us and within us, that are missing each other, brushing past each other as gently as sheets blown off a washing-line. An unwavering palm rests on mine and tightens and pulls, and uses strength, and invests in me something as invaluable as what is familiar, and it is nice knowingness that I want more of. It is him, and it feels like we have outran our shadows, and I want to keep this going, I really want to try; to keep surprising ourselves with all we can survive through – feeling breathless for each other, feeling stationed in love.

Emily McPhillips blogs here.

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  1. #1 by Teresa Stenson on June 26, 2009 - 2:18 pm

    Rich with emotion, I really like this.

    Some great descriptions. I like the repeated use of water, and just the agonising of that moment – when the narrator has seen HER and she knows he has seen her too, and what it means to them.

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