Three Lyric Essays
By Colette Arrand
“Always tormented by headaches. It uses psychic powers, but it is not known if it intends to do so.”
– Pokémon Yellow
With the headache at its peak, my grandmother takes my hand and lets me in on her secret, that she possesses a sixth sense, tested and proven. Once, she says, she helped the police find a cache of drugs. Once, she gave them information about a murderer. She pointed to an oil portrait on her wall. “That was me,” she said. “I was beautiful. I commanded respect.” She told me to ask about my future, that she might know what it held.
When I was with headache, I found it very hard to think about anything but the fact of the headache. I described them as a pickaxe. I described them as demons. I described them as fishhooks and railway spikes and the hands of a giant, squeezing. In this state the future seemed useless, but I asked my place in it regardless. “You will be a priest,” my grandmother said, fingers to her temples. “Or you will be an author.” I ask again and again, but she never mentions a future without headache.
In school, we learn about genetics and how traits often pass from parent to child. One weekend, when my father has me, I ask if he has inherited grandma’s ESP. I tell him about her drug bust. I tell him about the future. He laughs and says that the drugs were his, taped behind the furnace in the basement and eaten by the dog. She found bits of marijuana clinging to its lips and called the police on her son. Later, she gave the officer a picture of her posing on a bed, and he was released without charges. My dad was always getting arrested for something. There were always more pictures.
My grandmother comes to see things where nobody else can. There’s a little boy living in her ruined cuckoo clock, a young devil using her rocking chair as a storehouse for drugs. These objects disappear; even the painting of her disappears. When I visit, she asks where she has gone. She means the painting. She means her beauty. She means whatever vision she had of herself as a young girl in Canada, the first thing her extra sense told her that she believed. My father was not in that vision, she tells me, and by extension, neither was I. My visit does not last long. I am a confrontation. Proof that her senses exist. Proof they can be fooled.
“Seel hunts for prey in the frigid sea underneath sheets of ice. When it needs to breathe, it punches a hole through the ice with the sharply protruding section of its head.”
— Pokémon Ruby
I dream of the first boat launch, what that might have been like. A crowd gathers by the shore of some sea. We have yet to name the seas. A man stands with one foot on the sand and one on the prow of his vessel, everything paling before the vast blue expanse at his back. He grunts something about history. Already, we’ve invented history. A woman smashes a clay pot against the boat and the crowd roars because now they have ritual, too. The captain of the first ship launches himself from the shore. Has he figured out tides yet, the cycles of the moon? On this, my dream is unspecific. My consciousness remains on the shore, so all I know about the captain’s struggle is that the waves are high and the invention of the oar left something to be desired. Still, he pushes himself through the surf, growing smaller on the horizon. He is too far away from shore when his boat discovers an outcropping of rocks or coral reef, when the commingling of the wood he spent so long shaping and smoothing and the elements he hadn’t foreseen birth the first shipwreck.
Now when I think of ships I also think of how “shipping” is short for placing two people who are canonically separate into a relationship. How this is what I have done with you. Our story is a sea long frozen over and forgotten, but I am beneath its surface still, in need of air. I continue to dream of the ship captain. Sometimes he makes it farther, disappearing beyond the horizon. The crowd murmurs, then dissipates. I remain, but he never comes back to shore. Perhaps his ship has invented the sea monster. Perhaps it has invented the iceberg. The sea is always mysterious. Even when placid, it bears the potential for some calamity.
“Lives close to water. Its long tail is ridged with a fin which is often mistaken for a mermaid’s.”
– Pokémon Red/Blue
When a sailor sees a mermaid, immediately he wonders where he can put his dick. When a mermaid sees a sailor, she wishes her teeth were as sharp as the teeth sailors give her in stories. She wishes she were all-fish. She wishes she were all-woman. She wishes she were something else entirely, knowing sailors consume fish and woman alike. She wishes for storms to batter the sailor’s ship, and a strong tide to drown the sailor. You are not a mermaid. When a sailor dives into the sea for you, you have a meal. Most days, your meals are easy.
Colette Arrand currently lives in Athens, Georgia. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming from Hobart, The Atlas Review, CutBank, and elsewhere. Online, she curates the pop-culture blog Fear of a Ghost Planet, as well as the WWE/OKCupid mash-up, Date with a Wrestler. Find her @gh0stplanet.
Photo: The Pokeball of Psyduck by Jonathanjo. Used freely under Creative Commons License.