Have you heard about the 52 hertz whale? It’s the loneliest whale in the world. It sings its sad love song, hoping to find another but no other whale can hear it only because it’s different. Everyone talks about wanting to help the whale. Yet, when a similar whale do presents themselves in front of them, all they do is simply ignore it.
We passed silhouettes of large figurines of giant squids, whales, and the likes. The soft blue light emitted from the surrounding tanks were casted onto them, making them appear daunting in the half-darkness. However, the girl in front of me strode onwards with confidence, as if she owned the place. Well, technically her father owned it. Still, that doesn’t ease me that we’ve just broken into his aquarium. She was crazy, but so was I for agreeing. But I had a reason for doing so.
Today will be the day I’ll tell her to stop.
We met one fateful day at ward 47 of Bayview Hospital. A cast was plastered around my leg, elevated by a pillow. Bruises, small cuts and gauze pads decked my face down to my arms. I was admitted to be hospitalised after I’ve been pushed down a flight of stairs.
Another case of bullying and I was the unfortunate victim.
Boys were meant to be rough, noisy and rude. But I was none of those, further ostracised in school for my passion. The cause of my sorrows was propped up against the white wall, miraculously unharmed. Still, my hands itched to grab hold of it like it was my only source of comfort.
I stretched out my nearest arm. It still wasn’t enough. I tried scooting closer instead but the discomforting, sharp pain that shot through my broken leg each time I moved restrained me from doing so. Eventually, I resigned to flailing my arm uselessly along the side of the bed.
Maybe if I concentrated hard enough, I might be able to use the force. Use the force, Garry!
A pair of hands shot out from nowhere, startling me as they bought the violin case closer with an amused laughter. Her smile was wide, eyes bright. Her black hair was tied back into a ponytail, a pink dress donned her body. She was a girl of my age. As a boy from an all-boys school; sixteen, young and seldom fantasizing about females, I couldn’t help but to feel overwhelming shy and conscious in this situation. I must have seemed like an ugly, dying rat; lame. Well, literally.
What was she even doing here?
“Can you play this?” I could only managed a small nod, taking hold of the case. Excitement washed over her. “Play a song!” It sounded more like a demand than a question. Needless to say, I gave in to her request.
It was my chance to impress a girl after all.
With the violin supported on my left arm and my right hand grasping the bow, I took a deep breath. Steadied, I played “Till I find you”, a piece made by Yiruma. I was sent into a state of tranquility as I played a familiar song.
Like all peace, short and due, it was soon interrupted by a loud yell and pitter-pattering of footsteps. “Maia?” It sounded like they were searching for someone. The voices got louder.
The girl who sat on the edge of the bed, got up immediately and dashed out through the opened doorway, not before popping her head back in. “By the way, that was beautiful! I’ll see you next time!” And just like that, she was gone. I was left alone, clutching the violin close. My cheeks flooded red with unannounced gratitude.
It was the first time in ages hearing a praise.
It was also how I came to know her name.
The rest of the days were a blur. Maia was a regular at the hospital, claiming she was seeing her relative. She would often visit and I would play a song or two. It became a routine until my leg was well again. We kept in contact even after I returned back to school.
The persistent bullies were expelled after my parents have furiously expressed their outrage towards the superintendent. However, their goons remained. They’ve learned to hone their skills in verbal assaults rather than physical ones. They’ve continued their rain of insults; ‘A sissy-queer-fag’, they taunted over and over.
Humans are the worst.
I stopped playing the violin.
As we walked on through a lit tunnel of myriad colours and floating jellyfish, she told me her favourite animals were blue whales; How they were the biggest animals in the world; How they fed on the tiniest sea creatures; How a human can fit into one’s heart, despite how daring and morbid that was to imagine.
If a whale could love another with all their heart, would a human be capable of doing so with their entire being?
No. I don’t believe in something like that. Most of us could never amount to something that big. This is why we settled with a promised, well-known phrase: “To love you with all of my heart.”
What a silly metaphor that was.
We reached our destination, a wide clearing with a large glass wall loomed on one side. The same blue oceanic light filtered from it. This was the largest aquarium in the entire building. School of fishes whizzed around with manta rays tagging behind them. Large groupers hid in the shadows of a cave while yellow tangs darted among corals. I could understand why this was her favourite place.
Without another word, I placed the black case down, taking out my violin. Ready, I started with a shaky tune. It’s been a year since I’ve graduated, but the scars of being bullied deeply remained. I silently reminded myself. ‘It’s ok. There’s no one here besides Maia. And the fishes.’
I knew what she was doing. She was trying to regain back my courage with these secret night practices. “Awful! I would have kicked their butts if I was you!” she once said. I loved how bold she was, something I wished I was. She had told me everyone around her was overprotective, sheltering and disallowing her to do certain activities. But she wanted to live freely. So, on the impulse of her daring suggestion, we would meet every night on the tenth day; An escapade.
But my agreement might be detrimental to her.
I confronted her one day when I picked up a piece of paper she dropped. A report and list of unfamiliar drugs. A signature that agreed to chemotherapy. I had suggested we stopped our reckless escapade. But she begged, insisted that regardlessly, she will die.
I felt guilt trapped.
Whenever she would ride her bicycle, she ends up in a really breathless state. Each coughs grew harsher and painful overtime. Recently, underneath that beanie she wore, concealed a balding spot. Her body was slowly withering.
There was a chance for her to get better with rest…
In truth, I just couldn’t bear to see her disappear before my eyes.
I ended the song, high on emotions. “Why are you doing this?” Her eyes were welled up with tears, similar to mine. She spoke barely above a whisper. “Have you heard of the story of the 52-hertz whale?”
I finally understood, realising why I possibly couldn’t bring myself to stop after all this time.
How could I when we were both alienated whales in the vast ocean of life.
[The “longer” version of my short story for narrative class]