The crater of day, the mermaid said, a list of things forgotten. People I’ve seen wearing bandages. Child athletes as adults. Cars I’ve driven as a function of phases of the moon. People I’ve witnessed vomiting. The fish in the river are acting weird. They’re lining up like birds and singing, not like people, like cables in the wind.
Something about the way they grit their teeth.
The river banks are hardpacked clay. Practically only blackberries grow there and when it rains the layer of mud that forms is thin and slick. There are barns and trailers and beyond that a mall and houses. Once it was fields and it’ll be fields again.
The colors in your crayon box are brighter than the colors in your life. Pastel houses, white truck, grey carpet, brown paneling, cork floor. Blue jeans, t-shirt, blue jacket that you got on sale. Brown fridge in a brown kitchen. Even the produce section has gone dry and is a uniform red and green, red and green, maybe orange.
The fish running in the river are silver and making a silver sound. Nothing is golden, nothing is salmon, not even the salmon. A kid at school has over 100 crayons in his box. You thought a couple dozen was a lot, it’s more than you got last year. For you it’s a lot.
Even the peaches in the U-pick orchard are washed out in this light, brighter than seems good. It stuns your retinas even if you squint. When you’re used to darkness nine miles down that’s bound to happen. The fish tank burbling in your room is no comfort so far removed from your natural habitat, and plus the snails are taking over.
What is the difference between a refuge and a prison cell, a cage and a lifeboat, I wonder. The bathtub needs a little hot water. If a zookeeper chains you to the tub it’s a cage. If kids bicker outside the door it’s a refuge.
The tiles are a brown that somehow looks as faded as the somehow faded blue walls and tub.
(Some dream, thinks the mermaid.)
Traffic today was like an unmedicated insane asylum and someone was crying at work. Two old guys got in a fight at the store, about something. One was a customer one was boxing the customer’s groceries. He cried too, when the store manager sent him home.
Bath beads of a brownish-yellowish cast are arranged on the counter in an accidental pentagram, just out of reach. From whom were they a gift? What is their scent? Honey?
(The mermaid wonders about colony-collapse disorder, like so many phrases more beautiful than what it signifies. The mermaid tries to remember what she was doing before the dream, what she will do when she wakes. Watch coins of sunlight through the holes in a sunken pirate ship? Fly somewhere on a business trip?)