The story of how Stenella attenuata did not get her spots back. Or how she hid. Or why, unlike Pantropical Spotted dolphins elsewhere, do Pantropical Spotted dolphins in the Atlantic (not to be confused with Atlantic Spotted Dolphins in the Atlantic) appear not to have spots?
She hid. The best way to not be spotted (in the descriptive infinitive) is to not be spotted (in the passive sense), or vice versa. Because once they spot you that's it. So she hid. That's one way to say it.
Another way to say it is that in the warm Atlantic anything is possible. And even the strongest swimmer must reckon with the attenuations of the bloodwashed Atlantic, the site of a sea change in the meaning of skin. A need for stealth.
What do I know about this? I know about hiding. I know about creating an opaque image unattenuated by grief, insecurity, shame. At least I think I do. Many times I have showed up and allowed you think I am here by myself. Not attended by ghosts. Not haunted by everything. The best way not to be spotted is not to be.
But what if something else is possible, and my sweat is at stake. What if the repression of my freckled faults and fears is exactly what will stop me from honoring the ocean of my love which is older than slavery and lived millenia without shame. What if my swimming unseen sacrifices the wisdom that would waken within you if you saw. What if I've trained you to ignore me at your peril and mine. What then?
There are many dolphins in the genus Stenella, striped and spotted, spinning and the hybrid Clymene. What if we are all necessary in our specificity. Can I trust you to love me with spots. If I'm clocked is the time up?
I do know that sometimes people have seen a part of themselves too messy to bear in me. Do I cherish my wildness more than I fear their rejection? And sometimes if I feel all my emotions in public I can't make myself speak, but sometimes I speak anyway. And my first marine mammal lesson was that if I breathe I can speak while I'm crying. I can breathe through saltwater. I can live through this mess.
Mammal recognize mammal. More recognize more. I love you and your spots and the spot we are in for all that it is teaching us. I love you and your skin as the meaning of skin meets its most strenuous test. I love everything you hid and everything you gave and everything you showed and everything you made while you waited for me to notice. And the ocean is wide through my every pore. Salt recognize salt. More recognize more.
Photo by Robert Pitman, Image Source Whale and Dolphin Conservation