could see it.
That is cool, I have to admit. You’re a trip, Caitlin. I never thought of that, the planet before anything could see it. There might as well have been no day, no light.
And then the jellyfish opened their eyes.
I imagine them like dogs sleeping on a carpet, slouched down and then one of them puts its head up and takes a look.
Sorry. I’m not a fishhead like you. I don’t see the world as fish. I see dogs.
Can we get a dog?
Caitlin. You know you’re allergic.
I want one anyway.
That’s my daughter. I’m just like you. I’ve always wanted the things I can’t have. But the trick is to just focus on the pizza and enjoy the salt and cheese. And then we watch a movie, and then we go to sleep. Close your eyes now and enjoy the salt and fat.
I tried it. I closed my eyes and focused on salt and fat and oil, and it was good. I was only a mouth in the darkness.
I watched only a few parts of the movie. Mostly I watched the shifting light on the balconies above us, great rock formations on a seawall extending upward to a surface I couldn’t see. We were set back in the lowest cave, the safest place, in the largest school, all hung vertical like razorfish but not inverted. The roof above us the floor to another cave. All eyes peering outward into endless expanse, open ocean, heavy curtains on the walls in folds like dark rippling of light in the depths, always seeming to move closer. The faces around me all registering the same emotions at once and maintaining perfect spacing, flash of cheeks as they turned their heads and then gone in darkness again. Crunching sounds as they fed on the reef, always feeding even as they watched.
All was the same as when I watched TV with my mother at home, except now we were in a large school. Two of us or two hundred of us, there was no difference. All silent still, watching, looking outward into the light, waiting. And the sea itself unchanged. Sound magnified, booming, and only sound marked time.
Even as a kid, I felt this sense that there was no why to any fish or person. The school could be one hundred and ninety-nine instead of two hundred, and this would have no effect on the ocean, no effect on sound or time or light. I was always vanishing. In that theater, I appeared and disappeared and reappeared, all without effect, and the rock above remained constant, and the formless air. I tried to do what my mother did, tasting the salt and fat and oil and now watching patterns of light before sleep, but I could never immerse. I was never able to find my way into any tank at all.
We drove home in darkness, this car the smallest cave, glow of instrument lights on my mother’s face. Moving at impossible speed, as if our wheels had no contact with ground. My mother lost in the movie still. She had grabbed my hand in the tense or sad moments. I don’t think she was even aware she did it. Immersion came naturally to her.
When we arrived home, she was tired and quiet and we simply went to bed. She didn’t make me go to my own room, but her bed might as well have stretched hundreds of feet across. The freedom of pizza and a movie was over. Now there was only her exhaustion and another day of hard work waiting after a sleep too short.
Too soon we were back in the car, driving again in darkness, north in a stream of lights, some massive current sweeping all of us toward the greater light. Seattle something resting on the ocean floor, enormous starfish with bright ridges and fingers of black between. Bioluminescent glow pulling everything near, individual lights of aircraft in the depths above like deep-sea anglers. Their bodies invisible, shapes drifting through darkness and cold and no sound. Nothing known.
I could believe the day would never come. Daylight seemed unlikely, and unwanted. The city so much more beautiful in darkness. I was bundled in my jacket and hood against the cold, and I would have drifted along with my mother for any length of time