by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz
Can you see the water rising?
I also see the whales coming up from the deep. Do you hear their songs? Do you hear them calling?
Where are you going, sister my sister? Where are you going?
Ella embodies all that I am not. Her shoes are red and when she walks her hips sway.
Ella touches me gently with her lips and worries over the wound that refuses to heal.
“Don’t give up, Ading,” she says. “It won’t be long now, so don’t give up.”
Men, so the stories go, hunted us in the waters of long ago. They harvested our tears and made elixirs of our bones.
Monster and prey—that’s how they saw us. This is the truth as told in our great-grandmother’s grimoire.
When they came for us, we had no choice. We took the spell and ran for shelter to the land.
There’s a man on the boulevard. He stands head and shoulders taller than Ella, and when she comes close, he tilts his hat in greeting.
“Hi handsome,” Ella says. “Are you looking for company tonight?”
The man clears his throat. His adam’s apple bobs up and down.
“Nah,” he says. “I’m okay.”
“Oh,” Ella says. “Man alone on the boulevard. What do you mean you’re okay? Did the missus leave you? Did she kick you out of bed or something?”
The man’s face turns pink and he coughs.
“Got no missus,” he says.
They stand there, Ella leaning towards the tall man and him unsure of where to lean himself.
“Look,” Ella says. “If you want company, I know a nice bar where we can drink and talk.”
He looks at her uncertainly.
“What’s in it for you,” he says. “What do you want?”
“Nothing,” Ella says. “You just look all sad and lonesome by yourself. Come on, Mister. First drink’s on me.”
Whales are coming up now, and the water’s still rising. The moon is in the sky, but it’s low.
Bloodmoon, grandma used to call it.
Can you hear the whales calling? Are they almost here.
‘There’s still time,’ I whisper. ‘Still time.’
Sister, my sister, make haste. My wound throbs. I bleed. And time slips like water from my fist.
“You know,” the man says. “I bought her a house. Grand Villas, that was the name of the place where she wanted it. Big house with marble floors. Eight bedrooms, two living rooms, and a swimming pool—furnished it for her, I did.”
They’re sitting close to each other at the bar. The man has a whiskey on the rocks.
“What’ll you have?” the man asks.
Ella shrugs. She scans the shelves and settles for a vino.
They sit there while voices swirl around them. Someone’s on the stage playing the cello and a long lean figure breathes song into the microphone. Wrapped in music and shadow, Ella yields to the comfort of wine. Beside her, the man keeps talking. She lets his voice flow over her, another song running counterpoint to everything else in this space.
“Fully furnished,” the man says. His theme hasn’t changed. He’s still on about the house and his dream of forever.
“You know how much that cost me?” he says. “And maids. What does one woman want with so many maids and so many rooms? And now, she says she doesn’t want me.”
Forever is a naive dream to carry in your pockets. Ella doesn’t believe in forever, and all we really want is to return to where we want to be.
“Well,” Ella says. “Perhaps she knew she couldn’t make you happy.”
She tips her glass and sets it down and just like that she has him.
“Perhaps,” he says. “Would you stay with me? Would you stay and let me give you forever?”
I see waves rising and rushing towards us. I hear the deep sea songs of my siblings.
‘Lovely deep,’ they sing. ‘Beautiful water. Algae and shrimp.’
‘Are you coming or going?’
‘Wait,’ I say. ‘Wait. Surely we have time, and night is not yet over.’
When the band plays, Ella sways onto the floor with the tall man.
“Come live with me and be my love,” he says.
“Such pretty words.”
“I’ll buy you a house,” he says.
“I don’t need it,” Ella says. “I got a home of my own.”
“A home with me,” He says.
“What do you think I am?” Ella says.
He laughs and pulls her close.
“A goddess,” he says. “A mermaid. A beautiful creature made of moonlight and sea.”
The sea is rising and the moon is full of blood and our siblings are calling.
You know what they say.
There’s a trail across the water.
Come on, don’t delay.
She lets him follow her out of the bar. They walk along the boulevard, arm in arm. Her leaning into him.
“What’s that perfume you’re wearing?” He asks.
He leans in towards her. She tips her head and he sniffs.
“It’s me,” she says. “Just me.”
Her laugh is low and warm.
He laughs too.
“I like you,” he says. “I really like you.”
Sister, come to me walking across the water.
Come to me, speaking the tongue of angels and dripping with the perfume of the stars.
Not yet, not yet.
There’s blood in the wine and the tears of our dead drip down into the sea.
Break this spell with a harvest of tears. Heal my wounds with the elixir of pain.
Ella has brought him to our garden–our secret place, our hideaway.
Ella, what are you thinking?
He looks around with his big eyes. Looks at the garden filled with all the blossoming plants we could find. Orchids and roses and lilies, pitcher plants and vines and one mango tree.
“Sit,” Ella says. “Sit here and look up at the moon. Tell me what you see.”
The words pour out of his mouth.
The story of his life fed into the air, soaked up by the blossoms. His heartbreak, his despair, his agony, his joy, all spill out in a string of words and sounds. He sobs and he laughs and he stutters and then at the end, he falls quiet.
Ella’s hands thread through his hair. She strokes his ears and she strokes his cheeks. She strokes his arms and his shoulders and his hands. She keeps stroking him until all the color leaves his eyes and his cheeks turn pale and cold as ice.
“There now,” she says. “There now, don’t you feel much better. So much sorrow, so much pain. I’ll take it all away and feed it to the sea.”
The moon dips lower and still she talks to him.
Right before his body turns transparent, his eyes flicker, he gasps and then he utters his final words.
“Thank you.” he says. “Thank you.”
Has the sea arrived, sister dear? Have the whales stopped crying?
Here’s a harvest of tears for your cup. Here’s an elixir to heal your wounds.
Hear the thrum of the surf in your ears and the song rising up from your belly.
Finally. Finally, sister dear.
Raise your eyes one more time to the bloodmoon. We’ll sink down together into the waves. We’ll go together side by side to where our siblings sing and wait for our return.
© Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, July 26, 2016