Sunday, June 23, 2013

Right Here On the Ocean Floor

Clad in seashells, the girl with the magenta tail waved energetically as crowds cheered her on. A seahorse and two jellyfish followed soon after, eager to escape the blazing sun.

Meanwhile, my group perched upon a railing, sipping water and peering ahead to the upcoming baton twirler.

We had just taken the train with a few mermaids, so a few other aquatic organisms weren’t a shock.

We weren’t in an aquarium, nor had we taken a dive into the ocean (that happened a little later). We were at Coney Island, watching The Mermaid Parade.

I was a tad surprised when I first heard of the annual event. I
couldn’t understand it – what was it celebrating? Who had declared, “We Shall Have Mermaids”? It was definitely a New York ‘thing,’ (which I’ve taken to be an all-encompassing definition), but I wasn’t sure if I’d feel like an outsider, oblivious and agog.

People have described New York as a hostile place, where people will run over you without a second glance, a place overflowing with humans of all descriptions. 

I think it’s all a lie. The city has been overwhelmingly friendly to me, from the Italian barista who explained the art of a latte, to the businesswoman who adjusted my sweater as I ran out of the train station. I don’t feel anxious – I feel comfortable, relaxed.

As we rode to the parade I thought of this, of how I could find a home here. As the Ferris wheel came into view, I realized it wasn’t just the city that had welcomed me, but the friends I had made here – friends who were excited to share the mythological mayhem.

My straw hat fluttered to the ground, blown by an ocean breeze. I leapt off the ironwork and snagged the hat from the small tree it had landed on.

Andrea turned to me. “Next summer, I want to be a mermaid.”

“Me too.” 

By Em Maier, University of Pittsburgh, Inc. 
Edited by April Castillo, SUNY New Paltz, Woman's Day

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