The worst part is the thirst, a crashing wave of it every few hours. Thank Poseidon for the fleur de sel they keep on hand to top the fancy caramel lattes. When she’s homesick, she eats it by the handful. Between customers, she touches the tender places where her gills used to be, stares blankly around at her new life. Her girlfriends come in for iced mochas, teetering confidently on their new legs. Some of them are trying out high heels or the strange sight of toes in flip flops. Come on, they say, we’re going out to get some boyfriends. She smiles. She guesses they all got what they wanted—a little house by the shore, a little sun on skin. A new way to breathe. And her job? Really, she’s lucky.
Still, everyone asks so much of her. It’s hard to get used to the deep fried smells from the Shrimp Shack next door. At closing she stops herself from taking a swim in the mop bucket. She can never go back there, not even under the guise of a scuba trip. None of them can, that was the deal. Sometimes she thinks the sea-witch appears to her on the ceiling of her room, though it might be a trick played by early morning ocean light. The witch’s deep voice curls out of the pink conch shell the mermaid keeps on her bedside table. She says, by the way, being human means washing the same dishes every day. Did I forget to tell you that?
Milo Gallagher’s poems appear or will soon appear in The Kenyon Review, The Grief Diaries, The Fem, Crab Fat Magazine, Potluck Magazine, and Anomaly. He is an MFA candidate at Mills College. You can follow him on twitter @miloemilyg.