The thirty dollars I paid to go on the whale watching tour was a small price to pay to be reunited with my former lover.

I breathed into my hands, waiting anxiously with the other passengers on the boat, each of us alert to sudden movements in the water. But I did not see her first; I heard her. It began as a low hum, a barely perceptible noise hanging in the air. Then as it grew in pitch, I knew she was here, about a mile west and approaching. My music teacher always said I had an ear for echolocation.

And then there she was, just as I remembered her. The small of her back appeared first, peeking above the water, and then her head, as wide as a sedan, rose out of the ocean. I knew she recognized me too. Her eyes were drenched in tears.

The other passengers bunched up to the side of the boat, caught up in a frenzy with their cameras. The captain’s voice came on the speakers and described the animal as a gray whale, one of thousands who pass by California on their annual migration route, but he had no idea. This was no ordinary gray whale. This was Gabrielle.

I took off my shirt, shoes, and socks, then pushed the other passengers out of the way. Without saying a word, I leapt off the boat and crashed into the water. Gabe swam up to me, and I got a closer look. The years have not been kind to her—her skin bore the scars to which her species was particularly susceptible—but she was beautiful just the same. I held her close, and the world felt just like before her father banished me from her home.

It was almost five years ago, at about the same place. I had been swimming alongside her while her parents swam further up ahead. Hiding from them was usually not hard for me. First, I was about the size of a cockroach to them, and second, if I refrained from shaving for a couple days, I could easily pass for a floating piece of seaweed. This time, however, I may have been too frisky, because Gabe accidentally let out a giggle.

Her father, the behemoth of the group, spun around and saw me. Outraged, a stream of water shot out of his blowhole. This may seem unbelievable to the more uneducated among you, but unlike human beings, the males of this species have blowholes too.

“Who intrudes my home?” her father asked. His voice shook the water.

I identified myself, but he was not impressed.

“But dad, you never like the guys I bring home!” Gabe complained. “I love him!”

“You’re a whale, Gabe! A whale! How do you expect me to tell our relatives that you’re dating a piece of seaweed?”

“But he’s not—”

Gabe knew it was no use to continue. Ignoring all of us, she sped up and swam away. Her father glanced at me, then left with a grunt. I thought then that I would never see Gabe again.

But, things were different now. Gabe has grown into a woman, and could make her own choices. I did not even have to ask before we began our dance.

I circled her like a firefly around a lamp, marveling at her bulbous body. Slowly, I began brushing up against her, feeling her skin against mine.

I do not wish to spare the details because it was a beautiful, loving thing. She opened her gargantuan mouth, and I entered her, wading with all my strength until my entire body was inside. Using her baleen, I filtered myself of plankton that have attached to me, then left it for her to swallow. This may seem a bit unsanitary to some of you, but I hear there’s a lot of protein in that.

When it was over, we stayed silent, just enjoying the moment. Even if neither one of us wanted to admit it, her dad was right. I was me, and she was a gray whale. Sure, we could have bouts of romance every now and then, but how could any of it last? I knew that she loved me, but how could she even try to integrate into my life? I cannot afford having to buy tickets for 101 seats every time we go to the movies, not to mention the buckets of water I need to throw on her to keep her wet. And of course I loved her, but I could not swim 10,000 miles every year and pretend I’m okay with it.

In the end, we accepted that it was best we moved on with our lives, and I promised her that I would come see her every once in a while. Perhaps one day, I told her, I would see her with her own family, and I would know then that we have made the right choice.

I let the current carry me back to the boat, where the other passengers helped me up. They thanked me for keeping a whale around, and were all eager to show me the photos they took. In one of them, Gabrielle was smiling at the camera, and I made sure I would be sent a copy when we got back to shore. Nobody seemed to have any clue what had just happened, except for a young man in his 20’s. He came up to me, holding a beer, and raised his hand for a high five. I hated to leave anyone hanging, but as I told him, I simply wasn’t in the mood. He seemed a bit offended, but by then the boat was starting up again, and somebody said they spotted a dolphin.

One Comment

  1. Nancy on January 4th, 2010 at 12:10 am

    i thought Gabe was a guys name..he worked with us last night

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