And the Tides They Turn Us Under

A faux selkie skin at graduation, I could not find my real one in time. How many children tell their tales, I’m a prince in exile, a princess kidnapped at birth by these monsters? They are not my parents. They are not my kin. And like them, I told my tales.

But my parents didn’t come to my graduation two years ago. They were afraid of seeing naked graduates… or so I let the story lie. Except I did not have my skin, so there was no risk, and so I had to cut one from synthetic fur, drape it over my arm, the one that held the diploma. Sometimes the one that held the unicorn. It shifted. I was gentle with it, as gentle as I would have been had it been real. It’s good practice.

I am a liar, yes. It’s why you love me. But I am also a selkie, and my secret origin is this: my mother told me a was a sickly babe, could not hold food. She said I got better, but I know the truth. The real child died, unable to stomach this world, and those who call themselves my parents wept for days, and did not report it. They knew myths. They had ideas. Such ideas are risky things, but sometimes they pay off.

They wandered Cape Cod. I know it was Cape Cod, because Cape Cod tugs harder than any other place by the sea. The further north I get, the more the sea sings, and I go a little mad, so I know it’s the right place. It stops up the coast and when you get to Maine, the song is from the south then, drawing me back, a bird circling on a tether.

That day they found her, a selkie, with a new pup, sunning themselves on the beach. Did they watch long? Did they envy? I only know the outcome: they scared off the mother, scooped up the child still in human form, and took the little seal skin. They must have loaded it into their truck– they were driving a grey Ford from the 70’s at that time– and drove the selkie child and her skin away from her home, away from the beach, away from her mother and all familiar things.

And so I grew up, fae and wild, never quite understanding all my longings, my desires, until I saw it. In the attic, I almost held it in my hands. The mother person caught my gaze and then caught my hands, and I never saw that dusty fur again. They hid it again, somewhere out of sight, and though I hunted the house entire, it never again soothed my sight, calling me just outside my range of hearing, tugging just beyond rationality.

Adult now, I still can’t pry its location from their smiling faces. So I cut its remembered shape from a bolt of fake fur to take with me. Because my graduation costume was myself. I went as myself as I see me from the inside, a contrast light and dark, bound to mortality by pomegranate seeds, a Pagan to the core, woven of the stuff that makes stars and beaches and computers. Winged, yes, but above all, a selkie. I needed at least a prop.

So my false skin does not fill the gap, but it comes close. We are remaking ourselves every day, retelling our tales. They get bigger in the telling.

To this day, I sleep with it next to me, scrap of faux fur in a familiar shape. A hint, a whisper. It’s what I need to keep searching, to assure myself the sea will still have me one day. It’s what I need to remember that I’m me.

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