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Rusalka - Hannah Cole

It’s like drawing in sand.

This is what Rusalka whispers through the crack in the bathroom stall, referring to the men she meets in places like this.

When we’ve resumed our places she finishes her beer, puts it down out loud. The one she was talking about notices, because of course he does.

They exchange the basics, then she asks him back to her house on the lake. They stumble past me, smashed together, tittering. I can make out the word breaststroke.

She’s given to sudden pronouncements.

“I don’t hate men. I just don’t need them. They just take it the same way.”

This is the same night she told me, “Honey, in this world, you’ll only have as much money as the closest male lets you hold. Don’t you forget that.”

She says the western notion of romance is just mating insecurity.

Her idea of love: a hairless leg.

In the parking lot behind the bar, her new friend nicknames her Rucksack. He pulls her up onto his back. Rusalka draws lazy arcs with her arms as if the air was water, leaning her breastbone against the nape of his neck.

He can’t see it over his head; to him, she just grows heavier.

Mating insecurity — isn’t that just another way of saying the will to survive?

Now I’m alone, my breath drawing in droplets on the bar’s dirty window. When I was a girl, I thought I’d have a house on a lake by now. Or at least a hand on my thigh, under this table.

Yards from his Volkswagen the man’s steps falter in the gravel, then he kneels on it, bending like a calf in front of the Christ child.

Freeing her legs while she rises into the sky, Rusalka keeps swimming.


Hannah Cole is a minimalist fiction writer based in Tennessee. She studied illustration at Memphis College of Art and later became a founding member of Memphis Writer’s Group, a local workshopping collective. Hannah draws her stories from life, myth, and the unconscious, seeking to uncover the inexpressible.


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