ORPHAN ORCA A-73, or as I like to think of her, "Vashonita," is with me again today. She hangs out between West Seattle and Vashon Island somewhere underneath my consciousness. I board the ferry and hoist my binoculars. There she is, smack dab in the middle of her customary three-mile radius.
The biologist from the National Marine Fisheries Service tells me this is one of her good days. A scientific-looking guy from an aquarium is next to me. A couple from Snohomish want to borrow my binoculars. A blond guy in a SeaWorld baseball cap is drinking a latte. Over there, the Coast Guard cutter is circling.
I came because I've been dreaming:
I'm swimming. A whole pod is talking to me at the same time. I cannot translate snorts, whistles, and moans. The language is unfamiliar. But I get the gist. They tell me to get lost. I'm not of their pod. And they leave me in a place with a lot of wacky traffic.
I feel hungry. I'm craving salmon. Fresh salmon with dill sauce. I suppose salmon with lemon would work. Half a salmon? OK. I'll settle for a herring.
I can't help but notice my rash. It itches, but I can't reach it. I need a Seaweed Soother toxin-release treatment from my day spa. I feel the polychlorinated biphenyls bubbling up inside me, and I'm worried about my breath. No one has actually complained, but I suspect I may smell a bit like nail polish remover when I yawn. I pray it's simply my winter blubber burning off. Note to self: must somehow scrape tongue today.
Parasites have attached themselves to me and are feasting. Not many—just one or two are around. I must be wary. Keep up my guard. They show up at 6 o'clock and occasionally on Sunday. I can't purge the ones I have, but with vigilance, I might ward off the others.
I'm not a loner. My lifestyle is not by choice. I yearn daily for my birth pod.
But I've changed a lot since they last knew me, and I'm not sure they'll accept me—even if I could find them. They might mock me. Swim circles around me. Tell me I sound funny. Ask me where the heck I've been. Inform me there is someone new. I know Grandma would do her best to look after me. But she's one old dame. She would never cross the pod. Granny is not a boat rocker.
Life in Puget Sound is kind of dirty. You should see the things that float by. I admit I wouldn't mind a little visit to California. It's that time of year. I want to float lazily, buoyed in warm water as I soak up some rays, and eat the killer snacks proffered to me. To be honest, I'm not too good at preparing my own meals. I would absolutely prefer to have dinner presented to me. A fillet is not necessary—just something living and edible. Tasty is a plus.
I also wouldn't mind having my head stroked. Maybe if I travel far enough south, I'll become a star.
Animals with hard bodies are stalking me. Noisy vibrating monster things and smooth paddling wood things. I run from them, but they pursue me. I think I am being followed.
I lost my mother. She knew she was going. She told me my circumstances would change. She told me the key to life is adaptation.
I miss Mom.
I have stress.
I want to go to school. Learn a new skill. Medicate my rash. Attract a fine-looking mate. Flourish in a nurturing, sustainable community of like-minded orcas. See a bit of life. Surmount halitosis. Show that old Canadian pod.
I have dreams and aspirations. I have potential. I have what it takes. I was born free, but I'm flexible.
I will survive, one way or the other.