Sarah Tuttle-Singer
A Mermaid in Jerusalem

Happiness is a butterfly knife under your pillow and other lessons

Can I just tell you? There was this time when I lived in a room with big huge windows, where Elvis and Jesus would judge me from the walls with watchful eyes when I would stumble up the stairs, high and low…

“There’s good energy,” my mom said when she moved me in, behind the dark glasses that hid the dark circles dug deep by chemotherapy and her restless daughter.

“It’s so feng shui” she said again, when she saw the bamboo plants in the corners, and the fountain on the dining room table and the Chinese landlord fluttering around in a Hawaiian shirt.

And I rolled my eyes because she said — literally — “feng shui” the way it’s spelled and not “Fung Shuwei” the way you’re meant to, not that you’re meant to always say it — COME ONNN, MOM —  just because there’s bamboo and a fountain and Chinese man in the living room.

“You’ll be happy here,” she said without a question mark when she hugged me goodbye in that sunlit room before the boxes were unpacked, before I could even think about reorganizing my life into the closet, into the corners, before she could smooth down the blanket on the bed just like her mother had done for her.

There simply was no time. She had six months left to live.

And I was happy there in that room with the red xmas lights that I draped across the ceiling, and the patchouli incense and the Gustav Klimpt posters and the bookshelf full to saturation. In that room with too many candles and a cigarette ashtray built into the desk, and my little tin box of weed and the bottle of jack in the lower right desk drawer. In that place where I learned how to shoot whiskey and share soap with strangers, in that place I would read with no direction, where I would sleep with a butterfly knife under my pillow.

“Live,” my mother said when she hugged me. “Life is a banquet and most poor sons of bitches are starving.”

Elvis and Jesus didn’t blink from the walls, but I did. I understood in that moment, in that last summer we sort of kind of shared together. Such IS happiness, I saw then and I see now: People and books and shots of whiskey and  that delicious sense that every day could be your last.




About the Author
Sarah Tuttle-Singer is the author of Jerusalem Drawn and Quartered and the New Media Editor at Times of Israel. She was raised in Venice Beach, California on Yiddish lullabies and Civil Rights anthems, and she now lives in Jerusalem with her 3 kids where she climbs roofs, explores cisterns, opens secret doors, talks to strangers, and writes stories about people — especially taxi drivers. Sarah also speaks before audiences left, right, and center through the Jewish Speakers Bureau, asking them to wrestle with important questions while celebrating their willingness to do so. She loves whisky and tacos and chocolate chip cookies and old maps and foreign coins and discovering new ideas from different perspectives. Sarah is a work in progress.