Hey, did you know I have special needs? Did you know if a girl doesn’t kick people or knock over her desk, she’ll be mostly ignored, no matter how strange she is? I didn’t want to play Sorry or Barbies, or watch Chitty Chitty Bang Bang again–I wanted to look at anchovies.
what I wanted to be when I grew up
When I was a kid, I wanted to be a trucker. I wanted to travel and thought it would be quel romantique, to crisscross the country in my big rig, delivering the goods. Seeing sunrises from my cab sounded like heaven. I wanted to travel the long empty roads, in solitude and silence.
I also wanted to be a marine biologist for a while, as I loved fish, other sea creatures, science, and the sea. A fish with iridescent scales was everything to me. Fish were my favorite to draw.
I went to Monterey Bay Aquarium as a kid and stared at the anchovies in the anchovy tank for a Long Time. Hmm, sounds indicative of a sensory issue. It made me way too happy. I wish the adults who knew me had a fucking clue.
“Little Laura-Marie, would you like to come see the other animals, at this aquarium?”
“I like these fish right here.” They swam in a column, a circling school. Some had their mouths open.
I loved the ones who darted. A fish going the wrong way. Their silver glinting, their shapes, a smaller or bigger one, how close they stayed to one another. Wiggle motions, the endless swim, their muscular bodies. It was mesmerizing.
“We really should stay with the group. You can watch these fish for one more minute. Then we’re going to see something else. Ok?”
“Ok.” Then the parent-chaperone would get distracted, by Bobby hitting people again, or someone left their jacket in the little theater, and she went to retrieve it.
“You stay here. I’ll be right back,” she’d say. I would stare at the anchovies for as long as possible, and return to them when given the chance.
Hmm, I forgot it was like that. I loved the jellyfish. The huge, flat Mola mola they had for a minute was special to me. I could relate to the Mola mola–weird, large, scared-looking, and not much understood.
I got a thrill seeing sharks, especially hammerhead sharks. But sharks were a boy thing I wasn’t supposed to like. I ushered myself away from loving sharks, trying to do gender right. So many things about me were scorned–I could not afford another problem.
The otters were cool, to see them eat, dive, play. I was not that into penguins.
Something about the mood–a section with dim lighting, a reckless feeling from the hyper kids on holiday. Sunscreen, water bottles, sweatshirts, excitement. An adult wearing a visor, holding a map, telling a kid, “Don’t run!”
In the gift shop, I overheard too much conflict. “You can buy one thing. No, put that stuffed squid back. You have enough toy cephalopods at home.” Just kidding–they didn’t say the cephalopod part. “Come here–no, you have to pay for that. I know you’re hungry. You can eat crackers later.”
I bought a teeshirt that depicted anchovies. It took my breath away, when I saw it among the other shirts for sale, folded in a teeshirt column. Can you imagine how big my eyes got, when I saw that shirt? I wore it more than any other shirt I had, until the black was faded to gray, the fish were no longer very silver, and I was bursting at the seams.
It’s making me cry a little bit, my wish to go back in time and nurture that kid. It’s ok, I became a poet and teacher, and everything that happened. Disabled zinester activist suits me, don’t you think?
But what if someone had cared about that love I had for anchovies and helped me?