Monday, September 11, 2006

Breakfast With The Mermaids

I come here because it's quiet, of course, and really somewhat dim and the coffee is good and the eggs are not too bad. I've hardly ever seen another soul coming here at this hour, so it's as if they open just for me, save the rare chance I hear the distant sounds behind my seat that indicate that others are being seated. But I never see them, not even in the glass. I suppose that is also why I like coming here, for in an aquarium restaurant it is all right to dine alone, to never look at anyone or anything, really. One can stare out into the faintly settled green water, which blurs and grows suddenly dense and dark a few feet out into one's gaze at this hour, perhaps to see a solitary fish or perhaps even a legendary mermaid. It's not likely, though, for at this hour, the water is cold and dark. If anywhere, I imagine, they might be breaking the surface somewhere, breathing in the mist of the surface as we might have an early morning swim, though I don't know if that is something they might do. For whatever they might do, they have a reason, but one of their own sea-born reasons, which is to say they do as they like, the sea is such a place.

At this hour, the curtain of the water is unlit and behind the glass you can only see indistinct softly emergent moieties and dust, vague shapes, like one sees when one closes one's eyes ery tight. It is better than at night. At dinner time, you can see the patrons of the restaurant, their tables dimly set out beneath a dark sea, fishes swimming behind their images. And few mermaids sometimes come, irresistibly attracted by the glow of the lights beneath the water, their appearance made even more spectacular and ghostly by the lights, catching them like footlights on an old dance hall stage, they come, for the flattery of further attention, to see the band and the evening gowns. We know nothing of their own nocturnal life, if they had one before us, save that they come and go as they please.

It's best as it is now, a quiet dim glow with nothing to see, coffee and eggs. The terrible thing about the morning is generally how much activity there generally is. Here nothing is happening, just a bit of leader before the show starts.

Lunchtime is the worst. Crowds of tourists ordering sausages, wags pressed against the glass, rapping, laughing. Great schools of mermaids pass by, with the sun behind them, looking like angels. People always tap on the glass, and rude young men make the most vulgar jokes and displays, knowing that the glass protects them from their being understood, from their inexperienced desire, from their fear. People come, to fill the place, to kill the afternoon, to drink bock and ginger beer, to drape themselves over the railing and make a display of themselves. They churn about the tank in a great noisy school, pouring mustard into their buns: unfailingly each kind of person makes the sort of banal remark they were created for: the wags make exactly the same witless jibes, the pendants the same commentary, the roués the let slip the same tired lascivious innuendo; the prudes hasten to complete the circuit quickly. And everyday a husband with a smile both lecherous and doting will lean to his plain wife and say that were she to let her hair down and float naked, she would be more beautiful than any mermaid; the plainer the wife and the more excited the husband, the sooner it comes.

All this the mermaids see. They float above us like birds, they pass us silently, unoccupied with our present as ghosts, their expressions and identities as unreadable and unchanging as fish.

Now is better. Only the eggs and coffee and the green fade of the waters. No mermaids, or fish even. Nothing but a dim diffuse light in what might be an empty nothing save the cold dim disclosure of the waters, an arm or an elbow, the tuft that is not sea grass, but hair, of sailors and men, so unfortunate to have loved and been forgotten.

okay, enough with the fish people already

TURN #79: WEEK 65; WORDS: 68,760