“It was wonderful,” she said. “I can’t describe it. The water was warm, and they came right up to me. One of them nudged me with his nose.”
I lay on the examination table, while the technician positioned her equipment, talking non-stop as her clever fingers adjusted switches, and centered the sonogram wand over my breast.
Her words were simple. The images she created in my mind were complex, fashioned of a yearning to have experienced that warm water, to have moved with the long sleek bodies, to have felt the unsettling sensation of the friendly nose nudge from this almost but not quite human creature. I wanted that so much, like a hunger. I wanted to have been the one swimming with the dolphins. I didn’t want to take her experience away from her, I just wanted it for myself as well.
When I returned home, I asked my husband if he regretted anything, if he wished he could do something that he hadn’t done yet. He almost answered me, then stopped himself. I’m curious about what he didn’t say.
I remember a long ago bar in upstate New York and a mysterious and somewhat romantic older man who ran the place. Turk. What a name to conjure with. I remember my husband’s fascination with Turk. We were newlyweds, just learning how to fashion a life in tandem after living separately. Thinking back, I have to wonder if perhaps he felt something back then like my yearning for the dolphins, a chance for a do-over, an opportunity to test another path.
Perhaps this yearning for other lives is why we love fiction so much. Realistically, we can only play out the hand we’re dealt by our geography, by our parents, by the genes that have been handed down over centuries and the choices we make with that raw material. The political and economic events that shape our environment anchor us in a certain reality.
But through fiction, my husband can don a paisley vest, light a slender black cheroot and place his bets in a high stakes game with Turk. I can slip into the warm blue water off the coast of Florida and swim with the dolphins.
Dolphin photos courtesy of: