I've spent most of my life feeling like I'm underwater. I have always been fulfilled by the empty noise at the bottom of a swimming pool, the way silence feels, the words it translates have always meant much more than promises people made to me with their mouths. There is fulfillment in emptiness, in waves turning over, in the way water seeps through clothing and into your pores, as though it cannot wait to be reunited with your inner secrets. There is meaning in the droplets of water that gather on the sides of a sweating glass of iced tea or the quiet showers of rain as we are falling asleep; the world longs to be drenched, to be hydrated. There is something inside of me that has always been swimming towards the center of the earth, to the farthest depths of space. I have never stopped having dreams of being a mermaid.
I've spent most of my life trying to fit into molds that were made for other people; dresses and bras and friendships and definitions and positions and normalcy. But the things that filled me were sparkling and burning and wet, salty and beautiful, lost from the sea, made from the earth, stories that were written on caves, myths that were once truths. I have always been thirsty for freedom, for a hammock hanging between trees where no one could find me, for a message in a bottle dropped into the ocean, for answers to questions that tasted less like manufactured lies and more like unwashed fruit. When I was a little girl, my Nanny took me to the library and we read all of the books written for children about mermaids. Not Disney's, but the raw, dark nymph that found her way onto abandoned ships, rocks, and seashores. There has always been something endlessly seductive to me about running away to the sea, I have always heard the siren call. It wasn't the desire to grow a tail or seduce men or sleep under the shelter of seaweed. It was the parts of me that no one understood; the parts of me that made it easy to untie my heart, the parts of me that ran away in the nighttime or hid under the bed like fearful cats, the parts of me that we had to keep pouring water on to keep alive, the parts of me that I left outside to dry, the parts of me that couldn't be touched or classified or taken away. The parts of me that I learned were magic. I knew what it felt like to be in a room full of people who looked at me like I was from a different place, because I was made of different things than them. I found my truths in words that others had written, piece by piece, I'm still finding them. I found them in songs played over and over until their words became prayers. I found them on shower floors, in letters from people who loved me, in stories of the smell of the sea, of reckless abandon.
I have always seen the exit signs, first. I have always kept one foot in the doorway. I have always clung to the part of myself that is undeniably free, irrevocably independent, perpetually running from the sun, the moon, and other ways we tell time. And it is a part; there is a woman who likes to sit at kitchen tables and hold onto hands, people, and confirmations of reality; there is a woman who does not like the way tears taste and the way water fills underwear and the way loneliness feels at night. There is a woman inside of me who was made for land, made for life, made to carry burdens, made to stay, made to stand, but she is protected by a woman who can always escape. My escape is mine to own, to write, to pour onto pages and out of myself.
There has always been a foretold element, as though someone wrote the story of me, my prophecy, my rights, my wrongs, onto my skin, like scales. And I have spent my life trying to find the words, the actions, the people, the places that make their neon glow. And it wasn't a story that someone told before, and it wasn't the story of following dreams or belonging or success. It was learning a language that hardly anyone but me understood; the language of my identity, of writing words on walls that seared through the paint. I used to think I had a sickness, a disorder, a frantic kind of anxiety that was determined to eat me from the inside out; but time and faith and love prove that my scales are here for a reason. There is something inside of me, a fish, a witch, a mermaid; something that predates everything I know, and this is how I have learned to understand the world. I wrote it, I write it, I am writing it every day, onto my skin and the skin of the earth around me. I have to keep writing until it all falls out, until I have written it all and I can run to the island that comes to me when I close my eyes and fall asleep. I have to save as many people as I can, love as many people as I can stuff inside my heart, before I can dive off the cliff and into the blue, before my tail will grow in. I have to stay, on Earth, in the here, in the now, because there are other identities written onto my skin, there is love, there are answers, there are solutions, there are secrets. I have scales to illuminate, I have neon conductors to uncover. I have to stay, I cannot run away until I have found all of the scales and nailed them to walls were they cannot be unseen.
My perpetual need to run away; my perpetual desire to be left alone, to be freed, my fear of suffocating, my love of empty boats and need for star nightlights, it is necessary, for my survival. I am strange, I have always been strange to you. I have been crazy and evil and unloved. I have been twisted and sick and cold. I have been because I once had to be. If you see, if you feel it, the pull, the need for things that cannot be bought or stolen or claimed, the unattainable property of magic, of love, of change and revolution, then you understand what it feels like inside of my soul.