Everything I know, I have Learned From a Mermaid by Nevit Ergin

I first noticed that the distance between two points was getting longer and the mirrors that used to smile at me all those years were not friendly anymore.

          Yet I was taking my daily vitamins, exercising regularly, watching my weight. My well-informed friends repeated that if I kept it up, I would stay young, healthy and strong for long time; perhaps forever.

Old age and death was for others, not me. I was different.

I worked as a manager of a department store. My family believed I was destined for that job. When I was born, my father bought a cradle from this store. My mother dressed me from same place when I was toddler. So my first sneakers and jeans came from there. I became a young salesman, starting out in the bargain basement. I worked every section of every floor, year after year until I was promoted to manager of the entire store. I took my job seriously, like a maestro of an orchestra, I demanded absolute control from every section. Then I created harmony and profitable operation.  I thought this would last forever.  

Who assigned me to this job? The Big Boss. He is the only one who hires and fires in this place. He doesn’t show himself, but He was everywhere all the time. He wasn’t responsible to shareholders or any other authority. His justice was different from our justice. We talked about Him all the time but none of us had ever met or knew Him. This ignorance did not stop the speculation. Some of us thought of Him as a great-grand father, but most of us thought He was just a Big Boss. One with whom we should get along.    

When I received the pink slip I was not disappointed. I knew, things were not going well for me lately. My inventory was well exceeding sales, not only cutting the profit, but also creating storage problems. I used wake up in the middle of the night coughing and short of breath. The doctor told me that my heart was failing. I was disappointed more than alarmed. My body betrayed me. After taking good care of that miserable heart, it couldn’t even pump enough blood to let me lie down and sleep.

That brought a new idea to my mind: death. I realized I had no idea about the life. How could I know life if I haven’t died yet? Being born in time and space carries some liabilities such as getting old and sick, eventually leading to death. But if we were going to die why were we born? I was sure this question had been asked before. But no one has come up with evidence creation really took place. Did ever existence existed beyond assumption? (H.S.)  

My retirement party came the day after I collapsed in middle of my office. It was a sad gathering, participants were dressed in black. Although they had serious expressions on their face, they were relieved to see me in that position rather than themselves.

I was allowed the stay overnight at the office. After they left, I visited every corner of the store. I used to think these were parts of my body but I noticed they were already becoming stranger to me.

I left the store the next morning before anyone arrived at work. I felt like my heart was beating outside of my chest. The air was cool and fresh, and the place was empty with no shoppers in sight. The shopping center belonged to the stores. I heard the friendly conversation of mannequins through shop windows. A few workers were cleaning the street and watering the plants. A bag lady was sitting, sipping her coffee. I said, “Good morning,” as I passed her. She smiled back.

I used to know this place very well but everything looked strange and new today. I walked aimlessly for hours just looking around, stopping here and there. Then I came to a narrow passage at the edge of the shopping center. There were a few restaurants, flower shops and a street sign written in French. It read “Rue de chat qui peche” or “Fishing cat Street”. It resembled Utrillo’s Paris street scenes. Windows with green shutter, small balconies with flower boxes full of geraniums and climbing ivies. Next to the sign was a bistro with a gas lamp over the door.

I tried to reach for the door knob, but someone behind warned, “That’s not the door.” I turned and came face to face a small elderly man. “The door is on the right,” he said, pointing to the door with a smile. I was surprised, and asked about the door in front of me. “It’s only a mural” he said. I pointed to the pots and flowers, he shook his head, “So are they.”

The door he opened carried a sign reading “Authorized personnel only.” He kept the door open for me, but I hesitated. “I am not an authorized person,” I said. He pulled out a piece of paper from his pocket and looked at it carefully. Then he said, “Yes, here you are.” He didn’t show me, but apparently my name was there.

We passed through the door into a dimly lit hallway. At the end an open door showed the sea and sky. There were some small houses, “Playhouses, only for display,” he explained.

I asked “Are we outside of the shopping center?” He looked around and said “Obviously.” “But where are we,” I asked again. Instead of answering he pointed to a sign with the following words inscribed in granite.    

“For thousands of years natives who lived on this coastal area disposed of oysters, crab, mussel shells, animal bones, household items, and elderly people into a large pile. Later this was called a shellmound.” Keeping the shellmound out of sight was a tall fence built around it.

“How about the mural, who is the painter,” I asked. He was anxious to take me there. There was a small studio next to the wall. One of its doors was open to the shopping center, the other opened to the beach. I saw a tall man with curly grey hair. He was bent over the easel and did not see us. “Master,” the man said, “I brought a new resident here.” He turned. The first thing I noticed was the emptiness where his eyes were supposed to be. I tried very hard not to fall in that abyss.

“How could you paint so beautifully without eyes?” I asked.

 “Eyes can’t see themselves without looking in a mirror (HLS). I am making a mirror to see myself,” he replied in a soft and deep voice.

 I wanted to look at the painting he had just finished. A mermaid held a mirror as she combed her hair. It was colorful, beautiful. I asked “Was she real?” “Yes,” he said. “When a moon is born in your heart you’ll see her.” “I’ll pray for that,” I said. “Pray for your essence not for the divine plane” (HLS) “Time to go,” said the small man as he held my arm. I was annoyed by his continuous presence and dominance. He realized that and  excused himself, leaving me alone.

The sun was setting as I walked along the beach, then night came like an expected guest. Darkness covered the sea and land. I could hear hesitant surf around the rocks.

A faint golden light appeared on the horizon. I sat on the sand watching the new moon rise in its glory. When I started to feel sleepy, I realized I did not have a place to spend the night. I forgot to ask the gentleman who took me around about my accommodations in this strange land.

I started to walk back to the direction I came from. Then I heard a voice: “Where are you going, you were already there.” (HLS)

 I turned and looked carefully, there was a woman sitting at the top of the rocks. I walked toward her, and with amazement I recognized the bag lady. She was mysteriously beautiful. She held a mirror in one hand up to her pale face. She combed her long hair a gold comb. Her shapely body was covered with scales. “It is me,” she said. “Bag lady in morning, mermaid at night. Fish in the water, human in the air.”

“What is the difference between you and a human,” I asked.

“The difference between us is you were immersed in the river, there was water in your six dimensions. How could you see the water? (R.R193-35) You have to be in the air then the water, this way you will know the water.”

I jumped. “Do you recognize me,” I asked, trying to help her remember me.

“Tell me where am I now? Air or water?”

“Neither one”, she answered. You are between the two realms of Being.” (H.S)

“Intermediate stages between night and day, like dawn and dusk, shore and horizon.” There was a silence. “Look at these shadows,” she said, showing me the shadows of trees and rocks under the moonlight. Our shadows were nowhere.

I felt chills all over me. She put the mirror in front of my face.

“What do you see,” she asked.

I saw the face of nothingness.  

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2 Comments so far
  1. Ask A Doctor September 21, 2009 11:23 am

    Is this a true story, and has it been published in any book

  2. Cori Hetzel November 10, 2009 7:24 pm

    thank you for this beautiful story that speaks directly to my heart and soul. we serve the One we love in many ways and this way is most Divine.

    With you in the Ocean,
    Rahima Qalbi Ashki