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Suburban Seal Enclosure

I’m standing there, smiling at the seals and waving and hoping that they smile back. I’m wondering if the seals can see me and if they know that I’m waving to them and not to the building or the other people or anything else, just to them. I’m wishing that I could swim with them because wouldn’t it be nice to be a seal? I’m trying to get closer but the railing is in my way and my parents hold me back and I keep waving. And this is how it is, every day. Until we move away from downtown, away from the aquarium, and I start first grade and then it’s only like this maybe three times a year. And then more years go by and they take away the seals and then it’s never like this again. I’m older and taller and waving at only the suggestion of seals, an empty spot outside of the Baltimore Aquarium.

There aren’t a lot of seals in my new town. There aren’t any aquariums. There aren’t a lot of buildings at all, just a bunch of nice brick houses with sprawling green lawns and some grocery stores and pizza places and an elementary school. There aren’t a lot of people, unless you go to a lacrosse field. And even there, you’ll know almost everyone on the field, almost everyone on the sidelines. If you don’t know someone, you’ll know someone who knows that someone from an elite lacrosse travel team. I tried lacrosse once. It didn’t do much for me and I never learned how to cradle. I felt a little isolated here - I couldn’t make sports team connections like the others could.

My mom always thought that she knew every single person here. We’d be in the cereal aisle of the grocery store and I’d be grabbing a box of Cocoa Puffs and a few feet away, a woman in a navy blue polo shirt would be grabbing some oatmeal. “Excuse me, do I know you?” my mom would ask and pretty soon, they’ve realized that their sons were going to be in the same middle school class. I always thought that the reason she thought she knew everyone was because everyone looked so similar. Maybe she didn’t know this lady in the polo shirt and khakis, but she knew ten other ladies in the same thing and she got them all mixed up in her head.

And soon, I was inside the seal enclosure, or at least the suburban version of one, just like I had always wanted to be. I was past the railing and past my parents and it was all supposed to be okay. But it wasn’t. Turns out I wasn’t meant to be a seal. The seals all wore ribbons in their hair and khaki shorts. They all looked the same and I tried to blend in with the crowd, but I wasn’t a seal and so, it was all pointless. I tried to look past the enclosure, but I realized that seals didn’t see the businessmen hurrying to work or the street performers juggling or even the little girls waving to them. And neither did I because someone had put a film around the enclosure. We could just see each other and it didn’t take long for me to get sick of looking at seals all the time.

This “world”, if I can even call it a world, has made me want more. I want to break out of the enclosure and walk along the street. I want to be able to see seals, but also be able to see giraffes and the homeless man wrapped in just a thin blanket in the middle of January and the tourist families snapping pictures in front of important monuments. I want to hear not just the seal yelps and tales of lacrosse games, but the honks of urgency in traffic and debates about world issues and conversations in other languages that always pique my curiosity. I want the shark tank, the whole aquarium, the aquarium and the zoo, an entire city, the world. I want diversity in my life. I dream of this diversity. I dream of meeting new people, having new experiences, going new places. I dream of the world beyond this seal enclosure.





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