The waters were calm when the face peered from the deep. The sun generous on brown skin. But this was no reflection. A gasp escaped.
He never knew sea nymphs had noses, round and wide. He never thought to dream one would show up with blue locs and a full mouth. Gap between proud teeth, with terracotta smile and scales tinted burnt sienna.
Anchoring his humble boat, he sat back and pondered his sanity, because the sea nymphs he’d illustrated from the descriptions of renowned authors did not resemble his father. They did not have his mother’s mouth, or his great aunt’s cheek bones. They did not have shaved heads shaped like pharaohs. Those author’s never told tales of burnt umber eyes rippling in the Atlantic.
Figuring he’d imagined things, he peered back into the water. He glimpsed himself again, or so he thought. He faced his brother again, yet he did not. The sea nymph danced in the current just below the surface. The sea nymph shouted and sang in his native tongue.
The sea nymph’s observer sat stunned, but somehow attuned to the rhythm of underwater drums. His bare soles began to mimic the beat on the boat floor. He noticed, and stopped. He peeked over his modest boat again and grinned. The ocean heaved for the sea nymph’s kin had joined his dance. They’d flowed right into his song. The young man laughed as images of family reunions flowed into his vessel. As he watched an elder sea nymph, scales worn like sea turtle skin, her locs pale as sea froth, twist and whirl in the current created by her descendants. He was certain the first nymph was her grandson. She smiled at him through the deep blue and a gap stood proud between her teeth.
The young man’s boat, now heavy with memory, continued to sink. The young man treaded water as if trying to dance. He felt a hand graze his hand. He felt his toe balance on a current. He noticed a breath offered by the salty water. He took it and he danced as his boat descended, returning home. He danced. He forgot his feet. His clothes, heavy and sodden, floated to the depths. He darted between currents. And the sea nymphs circled his graceful descent; their movement like praises of fervent prayer. Bodily he began to glow, mud brown skin casting shadows on passing shoals; the shoals left a glimmer of their bioluminescence across his spine. The currents swam a familiar song around him as his boat’s shadow dappled his descent. He began to sing and the language was a loving kiss on his lips; a kiss he had once loved and forgotten, but now loves again. The language was his as was the sea and the people who remembered him.