So it turns out there’s already some huge book about a whale and so my whole adventure—the high seas, the Indian guy that liked to misquote The Simpsons, the roaming holes in the boat, a harpoon slicing Billy Budd’s hand (plus the convoluted reasons we started calling him “Seattle’s Best”), getting drunk on terrible wine, and that HUGE white whale that—I swear to God—burped at us—none of it can be told without people thinking about that other whale book. Even though that other one is a million years old, or something, and no one has actually read it, from what Chip tells me. Chip says that any grand adventure, even one where a Nintendo DS falls overboard—even though I grabbed it with the net and it still worked after it dried out—can’t be told without people trying to find parallels between my whale story and the other one. People are always looking for meaning in everything, he told me. Even stupid shit. Which was kind of odd because he told me that on the first day of our trip, before the boat even left the pier, before the whale, before I even thought about our whole adventure. He said it with that old-guy voice he uses when he says “important” things.
Obviously, I’ve never read the other whale story, but even if it had a part where everyone on the boat tries to see how many Starbursts you can cram in your mouth, I bet mine would be better. (Bob won. The Bob who pronounced his name Baahaab. The other Bob sounded more like Boob, which, surprisingly wasn’t as funny as it should’ve been. Probably because of all the scary tattoos he had everywhere.)
So anyway, even though I can’t really tell my story without all those hang-ups, I can talk about how that damn whale would not leave us alone. Every five minutes someone yelled, “Thar she blows,” and Woody Gansevoort would say, “That’s what she said,” every damn time, even though it made no fucking sense. Which is why we laughed at it, I guess.
I asked Melvin, after Chip got all weirded out at the reappearing burping whale, what if I changed my story to a giant squid or something? He said he’s not sure, he’d never read the other whale book either, or any book for that matter. At least, that’s what I think he said—you know, the Starbursts. But, I think if things are different enough, it should be fine. People need to hear about this huge, motherfucker that followed us around and consumed our view.
I mean, think about it. Way out there on the ocean, trying to do some water sampling for this stupid university project, no land anywhere near us, and all we kept seeing is this gross-ass albino whale, circling us, bobbing all around, and like I said, burping. Always there. Always around us. Not bothering, not attacking, not going away.
When Chip finally stopped being weird he said I should just go for it, tell my whale story, because that’s what people do, they tell and re-tell and regurgitate stories, and there’s nothing new that can be said anyway, so why try? At first, I was glad he was talking again, even though he was all pissy about it. But then he got that old man angry voice. He told me if I do, I should make it shorter than the other one, because that’s all people like, is short and simple things, but maybe I should have a few allusions to the other book. Just enough for people to maybe think I’m clever. Don’t know how clever I can be when I didn’t even know “allusion” was somehow a different word from “illusion,” apparently. Chip’s kind of an asshole, I’ve realized. He probably can’t help it, being named Chip. So what if people like short? Life is short, is what I would’ve said to him, except I knew I would sound too much like him, which pisses him off even more.
So I’m going to go for it. But I’m going to focus on something special, and not all that goofy shit. I’m going to focus on like how the whale wouldn’t leave us alone, or better yet, right before he left us alone. I’ll describe near the end of the trip. That’s where, I swear, like ten seconds before we saw land again, when the whale made its last pass, when I was at the back of the boat by myself, and the whale came up yet again. But this time (for the first time) I saw one giant eye. I’m not making this up, but he (or a she?) looked right at me with that giant eye. And in it, I saw an entire universe, a deep well of mystery and color swirling all around. Then as it got closer—this part still freaks me out—I leaned over, and for like a billionth of a second, I saw myself—all myselfs—young, old, super old, born and dead, reflected perfectly in that huge, glassy eye. For some odd reason, this made me feel warm and good inside. Like I was remembering something, but I don’t know what, a time when there was just warm and good. Something from before. Before my dad was convicted of financial fraud, before my mom dated the asshole soccer coach, before my sister moved to France without saying goodbye, before Uncle Herm killed himself, before my grandma only being able to cough the last five months of her life, before they cut down all the trees in my favorite park, before I fell off my bike in the third grade and got this scar. Long before.
Then the whale disappeared and that’s when I had told Chip I wanted tell a whale story and he told me about the other whale story. And that’s where we started, so that’s where we’ll end.