Thursday, March 31, 2011

Fish Tales and Adulthood

I'm visiting the Texas State Aquarium alone today. I go where I want, when I want. And as often as I want. Well, not really.

I'm dodging two classes of high school kids on a field trip. And one group of junior-high school girls and boys. The tweener girls all dress alike, gather in gaggles and giggle. The tweener boys walk into walls.

The high school kids blend naturally as coeds, and they carry school papers with lots of blanks for them to fill in, so they crowd around signs, tanks ad docents eager for answers to pencil in.

I hang on their periphery, enjoying them enjoying themselves. Until I come to the seahorse exhibit. And then I merge with them. I become a teen again.

We (me and three high school girls) seek out ghost shrimp and seashorse in an interactive exhibit that has a plastic bubble inside the tank. One at a time, we can crawl under the tank and stick our head up inside that bubble to become one with the seahorse community.

The girls go first. One at a time. We giggle and chat as they scramble down onto the floor and then pop up inside that bubble. And we take pictures. And giggle some more. Now it's my turn.

I get down on the floor and scoot, not scramble under the tank and, and slowly rise, not pop, until my head is partway inside the bubble and a distorted watery world unfolds along with a faint odor of chewing gum.

My legs cramp and I'm bent in such a way I can't breathe too well. Enough.

I lower myself slowly to the floor, then use a granny handle to lug myself back up outside the tank. Where I discover I'm alone again. They left me.

Memories of teenage angst assault my psyche. And they make me smile, because now I'm all grown up. And I no longer need to adapt, to change in ways that make me melt into the crowd.

So I'm happy to be alone again. To go where I want, and when I want as just me.

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