Marcie Bower, erotica editor, stretched her fingers. Every day she deleted story after story from her email, and today was especially busy. The last time her index finger was this tired was years ago sitting cross-legged in the attic of her aunt’s house with a stolen Playboy and¦ Well, that would have made a pretty good story, she thought.
Marcie lit a cigarette, coughed, and threw it out the window. She clicked ahead.
Dear Ms Bower.
Oh, boy. Another cover letter. Writers were forever attempting to wheedle, cajole, or insult their way into acceptance. When would they learn to write, and not sell?
Dear Ms. Bower, the letter began. (Polite, at least. Dear Bitch was not at all the worst she had seen.)
Dear Ms. Bower,
I don’t know if you remember me. Recently I sent you my story, ‘Mermaids’. I have not heard back. I have sent you many stories and you do not write back. You never write back.
Ms. Bower, I want you to know something: I am not sending any more stories. You simply don’t believe in me, Ms. Bower. You don’t believe in me, and you don’t want me. But even though I am not sending you any more stories I want you to know who I am. You should know who I am. You owe me this much, Ms. Bower.
You owe me.
Marcie Bower rubbed her chin. She was going to delete the letter, her finger was poised, in fact. But she hesitated. Clearly the girl was upset. Marcie lit another cigarette, coughed, and threw it out the window. She read on:
First, I am a woman. Just a woman. I am slender, with dark hair. I am thirty-four years old. I own a cat. All day I work in the office of a large insurance company.
All day men and women walk past my desk and all day these men and women have many things on their minds. They have work things and weekend things and social things and boy things and girl things. They have many things on their minds except for one little thing:
They don’t see me. They don’t see the shy girl with glasses and bad skin. They don’t see the quiet assistant in pants and common-sense shoes who does their work and never complains and didn’t go to her high school prom but stayed home and cried all night. They don’t see me but I can assure you one thing: I see them.
I see the way a man looks at a woman when her back is turned. I see the way people who are supposed to be working touch each other when they pass. It is a very light touch. It is a secret touch. Once, I saw Mr. Abernathy kissing his young intern. It was quite a long kiss. I saw him reach up and place his hand on her breast. She opened her mouth and arched her back. She held his hand there, on her breast. She had terribly sensitive breasts. I could tell.
Another time Angela DuFresne, who heads legal and never smiles and has short red hair and wears a mood ring ran into her office with Lois Spatz. Whatever business they had must have been very important because they slammed the door and turned down the blinds. But they were in such a hurry and their business was so important they didn’t turn them down all the way. I pretended to look for something on the floor and through the blinds I saw Lois Spatz climb onto Ms. DuFresne’s big desk. She pulled up her skirt and put one high heel on the computer monitor and the other in the mail tray. Then Ms. DuFresne sat in her chair and with her face hidden between Lois Spatz’ legs. They worked so fast and so hard and it was such very important business the monitor was finally knocked over and broken. The next day Angela DuFresne ordered me to call supply. She still didn’t smile.
I’ve seen couples run into bathrooms and dildos fall out of purses and blowjobs under desks and really Ms. Bower do I need to continue? The point is when people don’t see you, you are invisible, in a way.
No one believes in mermaids, either. No one looks for mermaids in the sea or on desert islands or at desks in big companies but they are there. They are watching, and they have feelings. Don’t think they don’t have feelings.
I’m not saying I’m a mermaid, Ms. Bower. I’m not crazy. I’m just a lonely girl who writes, but Ms. Bower, if I were a mermaid this is what I would do:
I would visit you.
When you are swimming in the ocean or resting on the sand or dreaming in your bed before dawn I would swim up to you. Maybe in the sea of your dreams you would think my lips were the lips of a young love, forgotten so long ago. I would touch you and my fingers on your skin would be like that first touch. My cheek on your belly and my kisses would be like rose petals dropping along your skin. My hands would wash your thighs and caress your hips and my nose would be ever so close and you would want me to, Ms. Bower, oh you would want me to but I wouldn’t! I just wouldn’t!
Because you would have to do something first:
You would have to ask.
When you did ask, when you finally said you wanted me, then you would find how much a mermaid really knows. Because like the sea, my tongue will enter you. Tonguing, tonguing, my nose in your pubic mound, I will slowly, oh so slowly rise up. As surely as the sea rises I will rise up.
Oh, Ms. Bower. My lapping would be the gentle lapping of waves higher oh and higher. I’d find your pearl, your firm pearl, and the seashore and sea oats of your thighs and the glory of your ovaries and that secret pearl at the tip of my tongue as I am lapping, lapping around and around and then my god like the breaking of the highest wave breaking breaking (oh will it ever come will it ever come) breaking and coming in a rush finally COMING (Oh here it comes!) the ORGASM m’lady and my mouth on your pearl and my god my god my god…
And so, Ms. Bower…
The letter continued another line or two before signing off but Marcie Bower had closed her eyes, lost in the tide of words. Maybe in this case, she thought, encouragement was needed. Encouragement, and just one person to say, “I believe.”
Marcie opened her eyes.
Shit! In her reverie she accidentally deleted the whole thing! The auto-save was off, too!
Oh, well, back to work. Already more letters filled her in-box, though she doubted, quite sadly, there would be any more from mermaids. Marcie Bower, erotica editor, lit a cigarette, coughed, and threw it out the window.
c 2006 Nikki Sinclair