Fish Boyhttps://i2.wp.com/barrenmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/mondal14.jpg?fit=1347%2C897&ssl=11347897Anne GudgerAnne Gudgerhttps://i0.wp.com/barrenmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Anne-Gudger.png?fit=96%2C91&ssl=1
Nestled on the bottom of the ocean. Lightless. Black past zero—the blackest black. Me in a half lotus. Half because my lunar baby belly disappeared my lap. Half lotus me with fish eyes that stared sideways. Fish gills I was sure would fail if I dared swim to the surface. A hole in my heart where love leaked into the sea.
“You’re going to be okay,” people said like this was true. Didn’t they know my husband died three months ago? Spun and crashed into an oncoming car on a snow dark night under the rib of the moon. Died before the man in the car behind him could open his door. Didn’t they know nothing would ever be okay again.
“You’re going to be okay,” sounded like “You-rrrre-go-innggg-to-beeee-o-kaaaa,” in my underwater world. In the cold of deep water. In the ice of me.
I fingered my dead husband’s boy ID bracelet with its stretchy steel band against my wrist. The one he outgrew past kindergarten. The one his mom gave me. The one that almost fit me. This tiny steel bracelet with his name engraved in four letters: Kent. Tiny crisscross marks etched a wrist map in my skin.
My mermaid sister swam down to the bottom of the sea. She wrapped me in her arms. She wrapped me in her muscle mermaid tale. She wrapped me in love.
“Swim with me to the surface,” my baby sis said and I stared at the bubbles bubbling from her perfect O mermaid mouth, her ruby lips.
I cried tsunami tears in her hair. I shook my head.
“It’s your fish baby’s time,” she said, her words sliding on your and time.
“There’s a trail of memories we can follow to the above,” she said and flicked her mermaid shimmer tail.
I dug my chin into my chest, her chest, my hair, her hair.
“What if your fish boy wants to see the moon in the night sky?” she said.
“I’m right here,” she said and cradled my hand in the wet of hers.
“We’ll learn to breath air together.”
She wiped my salt tears. She slid one hand around my baby round waist, tucked me close to her mermaid curves of hips, and pushed off from the inky black. As we swam from the blackest black, pinpricks of light from the above refracted and wavered in their water world. Ink black turned raven, turned charcoal, mixed with ocean blue, turned sea blue. My mermaid sister’s scales shined in the shimmer light: rows of metallic blue emerald sequins stitched in waves up and down and around her mermaid body. Starlight bloomed to sunlight, as we broke the surface and the sun sunned us.
When my boy was born in a frigid hospital room with celadon walls, harsh lights, steel trays, Pine-Sol colliding with blood smells.
When the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck. Twice. Blue Boy. Blueberry crossed with baby blue. Limp baby. Puddle baby. No wiggle. No flex. No air trapped in his tiny lungs. All the air trapped in mine.
When Dr. H unfurled that slimy cord with sausage fingers. Unfurled. Once. Twice. And my fish boy who swam to me who swam through me who swam out of me, gasped and cried. Fish boy cry flooded the cool room.
When he wobbled his head and looked through me with his sea blue eyes. Not sky blue like his dead dad’s. Deep water blue.
“Check him for scales,” I asked my mermaid sister, ocean water dripping from the ends of her hair, pooling at her toes.
My cleaved heart throbbed. Thundered. Whispered.
“Count fingers and toes,” I asked my mom who only repeated on repeat: “You have a boy. A beautiful boy.”
This boy. Hair dark as a wet log. Honey skin. Lungs with their web of bronchi like naked winter trees. Lungs with cry power. Pierce the dark power. Harpoon my heart power. His flutter heart on my bass line heart. Boom, boom, swish. My fish boy: 6 lbs. 9 oz. of yum, of love profound. A love tsunami flooded the hole in my heart, stitched it with filaments of blue bliss, stitched it with gossamer threads from the ocean, from the night sky, from the moon.
Anne Gudger is an essay/memoir writer who writes hard and loves harder. Her words can be found at Real Simple Magazine, The Rumpus, Entropy, Tupelo Quarterly, Atticus Review, PANK, and elsewhere. For more see her website: Annegudger.com and Anne Gudger on Facebook.