on becoming a sea monster

Sugar and spice and everything nice. Snips and snails and puppy dog tails. 

It’s nice to know what you’re made of.

I’d like to know.

I am desperate to draw you up a map of myself: all dotted lines to buried treasure and warnings of krakens and all of it. I am swells and dragons and calm seas and sunken ships and I would not so much lure you here with my siren song as I would awkwardly call out to you from my rock:

Hello! Would you like a snack? What can I get for you? Tell me, please

Make of me a quilt, make of me a bulletin board, make of me a scrapbook. (I would visit you in whichever form you like best, I think.) Patch my heart over with faded movie tickets, with yellowing theatre programs, with greetings cards and postcards mailed for no reason beyond “I was thinking of you. I love you.”

The questions that have been plaguing me for what feels like years now: “Who are you? What’s your story? What’s your deal?”

My name is Dani. To some: Danielle, still. To some: Way, newly. To one small group in a rehearsal hall over a momentous weekend: Tall Boy or Keith.

I started out by putting on bedroom productions with my Beanie Babies, and now I create theatre.

I started out by writing poems about the grass, and now I write nearly every day. Every word I can remember as often as I can.

((My favorite word in German is “radiergummi.” It means “eraser.” (Don’t You) Forget About Me.))

I started out by loving animals so much that learning about endangered species made me cry and write letters to the President, and now I think I love all the things I love with this same fervor.

In 2011, dear-friend Antonia (bold and fiery and sweet and perfect) called me “Heart-on-Sleeve-Baby,” and maybe this is the truest moniker of all.

Hello!

(I shout to you from my rock, the saltwater lapping at my heels, hermit crabs scuttling over my bare feet. It’s fine. I like them there.)

I think perhaps that I love you. It’s all here, written across my thin skin. I am a feelings-elephant; I never forget. Here’s my heart! I put it in a box for you. Would you like it? It just needs some sunlight and water, I think.

I love you. I wasn’t wrong about it.

The point, (if there is one): I am no mermaid. No lovely, languid thing sunning myself on a rock to entice you. I can’t sit still long enough to be alluring. I twitch, I tremble, I need to flail and howl.

But the sea monster that I am becoming.

(Dani, just re-watch The Shape of Water and deal with your nonsense. Damn.)

The sea monster that I am becoming.

You will hardly know who I am or what I mean

(Thanks, Uncle Walt.)

I will not drag you down: by the throat, by the ankle, by our interlocked fingers. I will tread water for you always always always. I will become strong enough to do so, I am trying. If I sink under from time to time, it’s just to let the waves rush over my gills, to feel something like relief. It is bright up here, and the sun stings my alien eyes. I am coming back up always always always.

I will make you crowns of kelp and shells and I love you.

 

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