02.14.2013 - 02.14.2013
When the day is done for everybody else, and they collapse into bed in an easy sleep, I am still awake, writing. It grows late, my eyes burn. And yet how can I leave unwritten that moment I dropped from the zodiac into the water, only to find myself astride a 12-foot long "baby" whale shark? I was astonished and then in awe--of his speckled skin, his smooth leatheriness, and his sheer size. And then it occurred to me what a powerful fish this was, and how tiny I was in comparison, but by then it was out of my hands, he was swimming away, perhaps indifferently, perhaps with irritation.
My adventure is a great joke among the other passengers. It will be my only claim to their memory. That girl who sat astraddle the whale shark, who was as big as our boat, that whale shark who shouldn't even have been there--it was the wrong time of year--whose fin slicing the water at first seemed like a sting ray but then revealed himself to be something much grander. It must have been strange to be swimming one moment by himself and then the next for twelve humans to fall into the water at once, dropping like small bombs all around (and on) him.
That was the morning. In the afternoon two sea lions (or fur seals, I couldn't say which) bumped me in the back. I turned around thinking to see what Chris wanted and found myself staring straight into their inquisitive eyes. Perhaps my squeal and gesture of surprise startled them for they swam a bit away before looking at me again. Oh it's play you want, I thought, and began to swim after them, but I was interrupted by a much larger sea lion and, remembering the warnings about bulls, I backed away slowly.
That, then, was the afternoon.