Dance of the Whale
Martin Hooijmans | Lars de Ruyter
Chloe was not in the mood for the day trip her grandpa had organized for her. She had been, but then her dance recital had gone the wrong way, to her big shame. Everyone had stared at her as she missed the first step, and many had laughed when the inevitable fall came, even some of the parents in the audience. She particularly remembered the one dad who, holding his daughter in a firm embrace, had flashed her his fake smile and said that perhaps she would be better off choosing another sport. Chess or darts for example.
It was not that the girl had been born with two left feet. She just didn’t understand the music, didn’t feel it. She understood perfectly well what the concept of rhythm encompassed, but had never recognized it in anything she had heard. Her parents had picked up on it, wishing all the best for their daughter who loved dancing so much, so they had gone out to several record stores to collect music from every thinkable genre. Chloe had been exposed to country, rock, reggae, R&B, hip hop and even the kind of heart tearing music kids with heavy black make-up enjoyed listening to, but nothing worked. The next step had been countless series of doctor appointments, all of whom, including the alternative ones, had been baffled by the child’s condition. At the end of it, all they could conclude was that she had no sense of any music that existed, but that she certainly was not tone deaf. The offer to publish her case in scientific magazines was politely declined by mom and dad, who were on their way of attempting one last thing for their daughter: learning how to play an instrument. The results had been interesting at the least. From the very start, no matter what instrument Chloe tried, she understood it, and all teachers had to agree. The tones she produced, however, were seen as odd, unique in a way that would never land her a record deal. All attempts at learning modern pop songs failed miserably, and before long no teacher was willing to take the little girl in anymore.
“Chloe?” came grandpa’s soft, gentle voice. “We’re here.”
The girl climbed out of her deep thoughts and suddenly noticed the sounds of racing winds and arguing waves. She had never shared it with anyone before, deeming it perfectly natural, but for all her problems with rhythm, she felt like it was ever present around her, especially so when the sounds of nature were strong. It soothed her, and she suddenly felt grateful to her grandpa for taking her there. He, as the only member of the family, had always understood what she went through, claiming he shared the same gift, as he liked to call it.
“Shall we go outside?” grandpa asked. “There is something I would like you to see.”
The car was parked at the foot of a little pier, overlooking a majestic bay of the deepest aquamarine, enchanting in the light of the rising sun. Chloe gasped at the beauty of it, following grandpa onto the pier. At the end of it, tears sprang into her eyes as all of a sudden dozens of whales seemed to rise from the water’s surface, fountains springing from the holes in their backs before they once more sank below the surface.
“Will they come back?” Chloe whispered, eyes glittering from the tears.
“Perhaps,” grandpa smiled. “But perhaps the real beauty is not in seeing.”
The moment the words left his lips Chloe understood what he meant. All of a sudden the bay seemed to resonate with a sound lovelier than she had ever heard before. “The whales?” she quietly asked. Grandpa nodded, smiling expectantly.
Chloe listened some more, then realized it was not merely enchanting sound. It was song. The whales were singing! She felt the notes course through her every vein, and as if her muscles remembered movements from times long past, her limbs sprang into motion. Chloe, who had always had so many problems finding the right patterns, now couldn’t help herself as she danced around the pier, to the kind of song that baffled scientists all over the world. She danced until the sun stood high in the sky, until the sweat gushed from every pore in her skin, until sheer exhaustion brought her down. Then she cried harder than she had ever cried before, not out of grief, but out of happiness. Pure, pure happiness she had never felt before.
Her tears did not stop when grandpa picked her up and brought her back to the car. They did not falter when he gave her a little wrapped box. And when she unwrapped the glossy paper, the tears only kept coming, harder than ever, splashing onto the family of whales that donned the cover of the CD she now held in her trembling hands.