I always had a love for other people’s possessions.
I should have learned my lesson a long time ago. My grandmother had warned me ever since I sat and played at her feet in her beach house in Hua Hin where we visited every summer. When the other children had gone home, she’d bend down from her rocking chair and pluck pieces of their toys — a doll’s arm or a lego or two — from my grip, and tell me, “You can’t keep things that are not yours.”
But I would always shake my head and laugh. For I was five, and thought I knew everything there was to know about the world.
A few summers later, I stole my cousin’s bike and pedalled it from the kitchens right down to the beach (there wasn’t a fence then) and wrecked it riding over the waves. A few summers after that, I found the erotic novels my aunt had hidden in the library. Then a few summers after that, when I wanted to try smoking for the first time, I stole my brother’s cigarettes from the pocket of his jeans.
That was how I met you: trying to light one of those cigarettes without burning my fingers while sitting on those rocks as the tide came in.
First you were a flash of silver in the corner of my eye. Then a spark of red. A splash. And I turned just in time to see your tail disappearing beneath the waves.
I should have learned my lesson then: after I dropped the lighter in surprise and you emerged from the water with it held between your forefinger and thumb. Or when, summer after summer, I kept coming back with all my questions: “Is it true that mermaids can recall your past lives?”, “Do you really save sailors from shipwrecks?” or “What does the sunrise look like in the ocean when there’s a storm?” Or every time our lips touched and I told you, “I love you,” and you said, “I’m not yours to love.”
But I would always shake my head and laugh. For I was eighteen, and thought I knew everything there was to know about the world.
That was before my grandmother’s last operation. Before the sale of the house. Before the university years and all the hotels and resorts along the beachfront.
Now I have to drive myself down from Bangkok and cut a path through a crowd to get to those rocks. From where I sit I can see the banana boats out in the water. The white women in their bikinis sunbathing on the beach with their husbands attached to their hips. A group of local children are selling their wares among all the sandcastles. All the deckchairs. All the noise.
The tide keeps crashing against my feet, but you will not come.
Yes. I should have learned my lesson a long time ago. I am yours, but you are not mine. You belong to the sea.
Pim Wangtechawat (she/her) is a writer from Bangkok with a Masters in Creative Writing from Edinburgh Napier University. Her writing has been published in various literary magazines and websites, including the Mekong Review, the Nikkei Asian Review, and The Selkie. Follow her on Twitter at @PimsupaW and on Instagram at @pim.wangtechawat.