Waterbaby by Avra Margariti

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Waterbady by Avra Margariti
Illustration by Sue Babcock

I’m not going to lie, I thought you were a corpse
when every spotlight was on you; a trick of their glow.
But now, after hours, the visitors all gone
my broom sweeping the peanut-covered floor
I can see the truth of you:
the only real mermaid among dead monkey torsos
sewn onto rotting fish tails
in a tank of dirty green water and floating algae.

I myself am an amateur contortionist
squishing my own organs, turning into a tight meatball
small enough to be barely grazed
by the ringmaster’s whip.
I bet I could fit into the tight quarters of your tank
jump rope with the monkey’s viscera
weave through the fish’s skeletons
so I can hold your hand, but I’m afraid
I’m not much of a swimmer.
Or a lockpicker, for that matter, the tank padlocked thrice
only the fishfood holes gaping open
even the water filter clogged.

Night after night I visit your tank to watch
your blond hair moving sluggish in the stagnant water
your shriveled breasts, flaking silver tail.
A beauty the spectators throw insults and peanuts at
and don’t recognize like I do.
Your webbed fists bang against the glass
eyes locked onto mine.
I place my scarred hand over yours
as you mouth words I cannot make out through the grime.
Yes, waterbaby. I love you too.

BIO: Avra Margariti is a queer Social Work undergrad from Greece. She enjoys storytelling in all its forms and writes about diverse identities and experiences. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Flash Fiction Online, Daily Science Fiction, The Arcanist, and other venues. You can find her on twitter @avramargariti.