If you ever want to come over some time and drink Laphroaig or Blantons, and smoke nargilla with me on my porch, you won’t find me on any map, even if I tell you where I live.
There’s no address — it’s just a little slip of dirt road with a big old fig tree and a few goats and a chicken coop, and a brown mare that wakes up at sunrise and airs her grievances with the world. there’s a tractor that parks a few lots down, and workers from Thailand cook with lemon grass.
It smells amazing.
There are a lot of cats on our road — mostly they live on our porch because we feed them.
They have names: there’s Icy Jaffa, and Pravda, and Seamus and Maeve, and Weasley, and Minerva, and Gingy the Little Fucker, and George, and Kitty.
Kitty is actually a dog.
We have no mice.
I live next to a green sea of rolling wheat, and sabras, and olive trees and clementine orchards. I measure season in her color, and where the sun hits her when it sets.
As soon as winter rolls around and we get real clouds, I spend dusk chasing light as it ripples off each leaf, each stone.
I love the sea — the real sea — and I miss it. I was born in Venice, California, and I dream often of riptides and whirlpools, of crashing waves… I dream of floating. I dream of foam and wind and the fall and rise of billows. I dream of tiny jeweled islands in the middle of the sea with little rooms with big huge windows. I dream of whales and dolphins and mermaids.
God, I miss it — the real sea. The sound of the waves and the smell of salt. I miss taking off all my clothes and walking past the lip where the foam meets the sand until the water covers me.
You can’t do that in the middle of a row of cactus. Trust me. I’ve tried. It hurts.
And there’s something else you don’t know about me: I AM mermaid.
Actually, if you’re an immigrant from one place living in another, so are you.
It means we are both-things and no-thing — we can’t go back to the Old Country and belong as we once did, but we will always be different in our chosen place of living.
We are outsiders with shiny scales.
We are both sort of familiar and sort of frightening to those around us.
My kids know the truth about me — and on dusty nights after long days when my daughter hates her differences — that she isn’t like all the other kids, that her mother can’t help with homework the same way Shira’s mother can, that her mother doesn’t always understand what they’re supposed to bring or do, and she’s stuck having to explain the rules to her mother, she will creep into bed with me and whisper “I forgive you for not understanding. You’re a mermaid. And I am the daughter of a mermaid.”
My son knows ,too. The Beam and I were by the Green Sea’s edge — I was on the phone and he was chirping at my heels, and I told him to go out into the fields and find me a shell. Any shell.
I wanted a shell, but I knew there wouldn’t be a shell, but this would give me time on the phone and give him something to do.
He scampered off toward the olive grove, and was barely gone a minute when he turned around and ran back.
“Look mama!” he said, and I looked, and clutched his little hand was a littler shell, the same color as his finger nails – shell that once helped hold a clam, maybe a million years ago.
I have no idea how it got there – we aren’t anywhere near the sea. But maybe once, we were.
“Why are you surprised? You’re a mermaid. Of course there are shells!”
The shell gleamed in my hand.
That night, we named our road with no name: Shvil HaTsedef — Seashell road.
Still, Waze can’t find us. Google Maps, neither. But we know how to get there.
I’ll never fully belong here — not the same way my kids will, or the same way you belong somewhere when you were born there and stay there long enough to die there.
But the soft light off the billows of orchards, wheat and cactus light the way home, where mermaids be.