I met My Dolphin 15 years ago. It was Christmas Day at Kitty Hawk. I didn’t have any kids yet and the presents were done. I was not hungover; those sorts of mornings happened later. It was a nice Christmas; in contrast to my Christmases growing up- they were very scary because of my Old Man. He would try to stay out of his cups for some holidays and that was always much much worse. I remember wishing that he would just drink and get it over with. Christmas Day back in those days were like distilled fear; I’d get smacked around and go for long walks in Virginia until late afternoon broke and my Old Man’s no drinking pledge would subside.
I was older now, but I still got anxious Christmas morning and liked to go for those walks alone. I needed to feel that wind . . . that cold December wind brace against my cheeks. On Christmas, Kitty Hawk has grey skies and bitter salty winds in beautiful abundance. I liked the way the wind smacked me around safely.
I left the beach house front door, shut it smartly, and remembered to lock it and check it. You can’t trust locks and doors at the Outer Banks the rust and decay is ubiquitous and the salt blows through everything like alpha particles clumsily meandering in space toward wherever they want to go. My shoes made that scraping sound where the salt and sand and shoes come together. I turned and looked ahead to the Dunes that I’d crossed thousands of times. There’s always these openings along the beach road that takes you along the length of island, until the next bridge, and the next barrier island and the next and the next. I always entered to the left entrance where it’s filled with countless footprints no matter what time of day; the wooden entrances just don’t have the same feel. I always looked both ways first, not for cars but to see just how empty it was both along the left and right. I went up and down the Dune entrance, seeing the ocean with that green color it has.
I was about to exhale, but then I heard the screams.
I saw a man trying to pull a beached dolphin back into the ocean. It was low tide and he would be pulling and then the dolphin would roll back to shore. Then, I was upon the man and breathing deeply. I had run at a sprint without thinking. The Man was skinny and no older than 30 with a full beard with beat up jeans and a wool sweater. He grabbed me and had tears in his eyes.
“Help!” “I can’t get him in! I already called emergency marine life, but they’re not answering.”
I grabbed the rear fin – (assume that what it’s called), the man grabbed around his center, and we dragged the dolphin towards the water. We were losing our footing. I remember digging against the wet sand, pulling as hard as we all could. His skin was rubbery, but rough from the sand. He tried to help us by bucking to get back into the sea. His blood was on my hands and washed away. With a pull of all of our strength, the Man, the dolphin, and I fell into the mini-shelf where ocean, sand, and pebbles met. The waves would hit and push us all back. This pattern went on ’til our hands were numb and our clothes were heavy and soaked. Every step was like fighting through foot deep wet snow. Finally, the three of us were exhausted.
I pulled the dolphin to the beach by myself; the Man told me that he was going for help, but we knew he wasn’t coming back because he couldn’t meet our eyes. I hugged My Dolphin and looked into his eyes- they had clear awareness and thought; that’s when I knew that for the first time in my life that I was going to have to help a person die.
My Dolphin was so scared. He wasn’t bucking or squirming anymore; we were too tired for that. He was in my arms and looked at me pleadingly. I shook my head, held my tears in, and told My Dolphin- “It was going to be okay. It was going to be okay.”
He sighed, looked away for a moment at the sea, and looked back at me- calmly. His eyes were telling me that it was going to be okay. My Dolphin died in my arms. Then, I let myself weep.
I’m sure that he had a name among his family, but I’ve always called him My Dolphin that is who he is and will remain to me. We all die, but My Dolphin passed in the arms of another person who loved him. We were going to be okay…. we were going to be okay.