An old woman died here.
We are in the bath.
She lays across from me, the faucet pouring over her tongue.
“I love doing this,” she says, sticking her tongue back out. The water falls over it, trying to stay on, failing.
She leans back. Her feet are on either side of me. She looks at them.
“It’s not right.”
I run my fingers along her calf.
“What’s not right?”
“Those.” She eyes her feet aggressively. “I should be a mermaid.”
I shake my head, smiling. She splashes me, “what?”
“Nothing. Why a mermaid?”
She shrugs. “Then I could be free.”
“You’re in a bathtub. I don’t think you’d get far.”
“I’d go down the drain,” she explains.
“Oh yeah, so you’re a shrinking mermaid?”
“Yes,” she reassures me.
I nod. “And you’d be free?”
“From everything,” she tells her feet.
“And where would you go?”
She looks off to a corner of the room. “To the bottom of the ocean. Marry a fish.”
“I hear fish make the best husbands.”
“They do. They are too stupid to ever know what they want.” She frowns. “Kind of like you.”
I pinch her leg. “Ouch!”
“I know what I want.”
She rolls her eyes. “You have a head full of fish.”
“Smart fish,” I argue.
“What are smart fish?”
“Fish who know what they want.”
She rolls her eyes again. It looks painful.
“You’ve lost the metaphor.”
Now I roll my eyes. Turns out, it is painful. We lay in silence, the water gets cold.
She looks at me.
“I think that’s what I’ll do.”
“Become a mermaid.”
I frown. “How do you plan to do that?”
“It’s only a wish. Then, you’re a mermaid.”
She shakes her head, “It’s simple, watch.”
“Sh!” She closes her eyes.
It starts at her thighs. They grow scaly and smooth. She pulls her legs out from around me as they fuse together into a tail; pinkish. It flops down onto my chest. It’s a bit slimy.
She opens her eyes. She smiles. She reaches behind her, pulls out the stopper. The tub begins to empty. She begins to shrink.
“What if I wish to follow you?”
“You can’t,” she says; head the size of an orange.
I cross my arms, annoyed.
“And why not?”
“Because you’ve got a head full of fish,” she calls, voice small, slipping down the drain.
I roll my eyes. It really is painful.