Dreamed 1998/1/11 by Chris Wayan
I'm in the steep parking lots around a hilltop museum like the Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco, but quite a bit smaller and dumpier. A neglected place--that's why skateboarders like it. I'm not into it much, but my girlfriend is zooming around the lot. I love her but I find it hard to keep up with her. It's especially scary to watch because she's lying down as usual, just inches above the road. At least she's using one of those four-wheeled sliders mechanics use to get under cars--a little bigger than a standard stick.
She's not reckless exactly, it's just that she CAN'T stand up, since she has no feet. I think. I don't really know if that's a living tail or a finned sheath dress. But whichever it is, it never comes off, because she's a mermaid. I still don't know if that's a race or a species or a cult that sews their feet together or what--she won't talk about it. But whatever it is, she's it. I've known her a long while, and she's no fake. She's truly... it.
Loving a mermaid can be tricky for other reasons. They normally don't let humans even touch them. She's been letting me, though. I just have to be very slow and gentle. She's come a long way.
Like now. She coasts up and grabs my hand to brake her, laughing. I stroke her arm, touching her favorite sensitive spot, inside her elbow. She shivers in pleasure...
Her name is Claire. Mermaids normally don't have proper names, at least not ones they're allowed to tell humans. But we agreed on this human name together. It's even her legal name. She seems to like having one.
I want to know her sea-names too, but it's dangerous to question mermaids: their magic treats even simple queries as prayers or invocations, with effects neither human nor mermaid necessarily intends. But I risk one question: "I know what Claire means, and it fits you. Clear, but also light in French--Claire de Lune, that's very you. But what are the root meanings of your other names?" Magical law forbids her to tell me her true sea-names directly, but this will let her slip around the law if she wants to. From the roots, a thesaurus will let me deduce her hidden names! If she's ready to trust me with them.
I wait to see what she'll answer...
Mermaids in most folk traditions lure men in too deep--emotion? Unconscious? Death? But here, I handle difficult magic well; and Claire seems to be making equal efforts from her end. Up and about on land, via an earthy and comical prosthetic the Little Mermaid should have used but didn't.
The Palace of the Legion of Honor is closed for renovation; skaters do use the empty lots.
Fairytale beings often have many nicknames, but one true hidden name; I always assumed the single name symbolized the creature's archetypal meaning--that is, single-named creatures are often generic. Humans, on the other hands, often have several true names--individual name, family name, names and titles earned via rites of passage. Such names reflect our multidimensional characters. If Claire has multiple true names as I thought, it suggests she's not symbolizing a principle or an aspect of the self (like an anima), but is a multifaceted personality. For me as a shaman, that's a sign I'm dealing with a person not a symbol--Claire's either an external, independent spirit, or such a huge part of me that it's debatable just who "me" is.
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