Send Feet Pics

by Nelly Geraldine García-Rosas

  1. Her dating profile says she is a mermaid and she is merely 9 km away from me.
  1. Two truths and a lie: I can tell how you’ll die by looking at your bare feet. I’m a seven-hundred-year-old mermaid. I work for the axolotl conservation program.
  1. I send her an awkward message asking about the axolotls. They’re dying, she answers, and I can’t do anything to save them. They need their lake back. I assume that her job is not a lie.
  1. Mexico City was built on a lake that does not exist anymore. Lake Texcoco is a ghost that roams the city and draws in floods when the rain feels compassionate.
  1. In her profile photo, she is looking directly at the camera. The background is covered in dozens of turquoise mosaics like the inside of an empty pool. Her vitreous eyes pierce my mind. Her freckles are made of gold; they shimmer like the sun. Beautifully disturbed by the wind, her long hair swirls as if underwater. The lips slightly open, are about to say something.
  1. She is in a band. It is that kind of dreamy, moody alt-metal that I used to listen to in high school. She sings like the wind trapped in a cave. My favorite song of hers, “Ambystoma Mexicanum,” is the experimental kind of ambient I can gorge on. It is about longing and solitude. I listen to it several times a day, and every time I discover new, subtle things. I’m hearing a flute. A wooden flute. A seashell conch blown over the bass. Her voice seamlessly mingles with the music. She tells me the vocals were recorded inside her bathtub to achieve a liquidyecho sound.
  1. Our city preserves the memory of water. Names of places, shapes of roads, shoals of people swimming through metro tunnels. Ghost water flows everywhere, haunts our hearts, inundates our minds. We live soaked on ancient memories that are not even ours, and we cannot dry.
  1. In another photo, she cuddles an axolotl. She’s wearing a crown that resembles external gill stalks. The wide-headed amphibian must be 30 cm long. Its color is a dark olive with golden speckles that are not too different from its lidless eyes. Both have long, slender fingers.
  1. She keeps texting me back. We flirt. Or rather, she flirts with me. I mostly talk about her hands, her perfect fingers. And I imagine them caressing me as they do the axolotl in the photo. I blush and I’m glad she cannot see me.
  1. She has sisters. I don’t know exactly how many—three or four, maybe five—. I have seen them in photos. They all have beautiful freckled faces and long, airy hair. But the only one who always look like she is about to say something is her.
  1. I ask her for photos of her hands. She requests one of my feet.
  1.  Do you think people can miss a lake? She texts. I say I miss going to the beach. We should probably plan a trip together in order to know each other better. She says it’s not the same. The ocean is too salty. Lake Texcoco’s waters were the perfect amount of brackish. I reply that I can make a briny soup in my bathtub for her and add a winky face.
  1. They say you can hear the ocean when you hold a seashell to your ear. If you hold a clay jícara to your ear, you can hear the sound of lake Texcoco.
  1. Water, she texts, it’s gonna be water. Your feet scream water all over. I send her a series of funny emoji that ends in a shrug. I listen to her song, that one about a bath, a woman and an electric cable. In the lyrics, fish are born from the boiling water. Her voice starts soft and gradually becomes a shriek. Two guitars and a synth battle each other to have the privilege of blending with her yowls. I hope this one’s the lie.
  1. Let’s meet up, she finally suggests. I reply that since she works with the endangered axolotls, we should meet at the Xochimilco canals. We could ride a trajinera raft, have some drinks, winky face. If the embarrassment over my awkwardness were water, I would have brought back lake Texcoco already.
  1. Only the Xochimilco canals remain out of the five lakes that once were the basin we now know as Valley of Mexico. But those murky waters won’t last forever. Axolotls, named after the god who refused to die, are inevitably perishing. Not even ghosts can save them.
  2. I meet her at the docks. We board a trajinera raft called “Saint Adjutor.” She offers me a drink. Her hands are even more beautiful in person, they are covered in golden freckles, like her face.
  3. We talk about her axolotls. She says we are heading to the chinampa where she carved intricate canals for them to live. That’s a lot of work for those hands, I say. I don’t have a winky face emoji to save me from my awkwardness. She laughs a blue laughter. I think about her song, the one with lots of percussion. I cannot understand the lyrics, but I somehow feel them. In the background, I can hear splashing sounds and a woman softly crying. It’s called “Lullaby.”
  4. We disembark in the chinampa. She walks as I imagine her hair moves in those photos, like swimming without water. She goes near the edge of the canal and crouches down by the tall grass. She calls me. Her hands point at the muddy water: a brown axolotl rests near the surface, it is missing an arm, its external gill stalks move placidly.
  5. I look at her. Her lips, slightly open, as if about to speak.
  6. Something grabs me from the water. Long, slender fingers. I feel a cold shock. I can barely see. I feel more fingers or algae or roots. I sing in my head one of her songs, the one about oceans of darkness. I cannot breathe. That is true. I open my mouth to sing and drink a ghost, instead.
  7. I hear music. A seashell conch seamlessly mingles with her voice.
  8. “I’m only six hundred years old,” she says like a liquidyecho. “That was the lie.”

© Copyright Nelly Geraldine García-Rosas


Nelly Geraldine García-Rosas is a Mexican immigrant and a graduate of the Clarion West class of 2019. Her short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, Nightmare, the World Fantasy Award-winning anthology She Walks in Shadows, and elsewhere. She can be found online at nellygeraldine.com and on Twitter as @kitsune_ng


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