Thursday, March 11, 2010


Caitlin’s younger brother Corey matters even more to her than her mermaid collection.  If she can’t have him in her life anymore, she doesn’t want anything…

Caitlin:  There’s an old glass salad bowl on my desk at home, full of mermaids.  All I have to do is reach in, and grab a memory.
     Like this one – She is missing her tail, so technically she’s a little girl with a sparkly bikini top and nothing on the bottom but jointed legs.  When I was four, my parents took me to Catalina Island, and they told me a story about the mermaid fairy, who lived off the shore of the island, and who brought good little girls mermaid dolls in their sleep.  I woke up in the morning with a little girl mermaid under my pillow, a mermaid as young as I was, but with a real tail that came off and everything.
     There’s a picture of a mermaid fountain outside a bar where my mother took me, six, and my baby brother.  We used to go there everyday after my mother picked me up from school, and stay until just before Daddy got home.  I ate grilled cheese.  She had a small bowl of lobster bisque and three vodka doubles rocks everytime.
     The mermaid with the broken tail fin.  I pick it up.  The ceramic is cool against my cheek.  The edge of the broken fin matches the scar on my eyebrow like a jigsaw puzzle.  Corey threw it at me when he was eight.  I needed seven stitches.  He said seven was his favorite number, and he cried.  He always loved me, and I always loved him, and we always had each other.
     Until I was fourteen.  He was ten.  It was the first time he was sent away.  My parents couldn’t control him.  He was ten, but he sent me a letter asking me if I could get him any acid and bring it when I visited.  I wasn’t allowed to visit, they said he wouldn’t get better if he always had me.  Here’s the mermaid I got in New Hampshire at Storyland, where my mother took me while my Dad visited Corey at “camp,” they called it.  I was too old for Storyland.  Corey was too young for “camp”.
     This silver mermaid on a leather cord was a gift from Corey the day my mother was a year sober, and Corey was home for the weekend.  He stole the mermaid, but I didn’t tell.  I never told.  He said he wanted to put a bomb in my mother’s car that would blow her up when she got in to go to one of her meetings with all her new friends.  He was so angry, always so angry at her.  I never told.
     The mermaid on a rock, topless, from the white elephant sale at the carnival where I met Corey when he was thirteen.  I brought him clothes and food.  He said he didn’t need it.  He smelled bad.  His teeth were brown.  One was blacked out from a fight.  He wore an old army jacket from my Dad’s closet. He said, “That’s a nice mermaid, Kath.”  He said goodbye.
     I don’t have a mermaid for today, but I found this head, copper colored with flowing hair, and it could be a mermaid’s head.  I place it in the bowl.  My Mass card doesn’t have a mermaid on it either, but I place it in the bowl, too. 
     When I was five, I told my mother everyday, “I want a baby.”  She’d be tired, and her hair would be wild, andf she only wanted to kiss me goodnight, her good girl, and she’d say, “If we have another baby, it will cost money and time.  What if we can’t get you that mermaid costume you want?”  I said that was okay, I just wanted a little brother or sister.  She said she’d think about it.  In the end, she got me the mermaid costume anyway, and a mermaid Barbie too, that I used to take a bath with.  It’s in the bowl with its glamorous eyes stained from our hard water. 
     “Goodbye Corey,” I say.  Then I pick up the bowl and throw it.  Mermaids and memories break and scatter and I suck in air, but it won’t come.

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