Michael was a kid that most people saw and tried not to see at the same time. He was 10, dressed in a purple shirt and khaki shorts, talking exuberantly to anyone who would listen about the waves the boat was making, his electric hope of seeing whales, the colors of the ocean he could name. “Have you seen a whale?” he asked me after designating me a friendly listener. I told him I had. I had seen many whales. I used to work on a ship, I told him, as a merchant marine. I’d seen many deep-sea creatures. “Why are you on the whale-watching tour then—did you miss the ocean?” I laughed. Yes, I missed the ocean. I told him I was here to see a friend. “I’m here to see a whale,” he said. “Up close. I want to really see him—and I want him to see me.” I told him I’m sure that any whale who got to be seen by him was a lucky whale, and would be very happy. “I love whales,” he said, “I love a lot of things.” He named off several animals he loved, dramatically, said their names more loudly than folks around us wanted, I could tell, and then he hugged himself, as if he were trying to hug all the animals he loved at once. I said to him, “We’re about to see something much bigger than a whale.” “What’s bigger than a whale?” he laughed. I said, “Leviathan.” LEVIATHAN! WHAT’S THAT?
I looked around at everyone staring at us. I told Michael how the Leviathan spends many years sleeping on the bottom of the ocean, and how the barnacles collect on it because it doesn’t move for so long, and the anemone make their homes on it, and then it stirs, like an earthquake, and moves to another location, taking them all with it. A man behind us, who had been listening, said, “That’s a demonic creature mentioned in the Bible that will destroy humankind.” He quoted several verses, ‘proving’ the Leviathan was evil. I told Michael that there were many things that people made up stories about. “It’s really sad when people don’t understand the real you,” I told him.
He heard me, and his eyes got wide, searching my face, maybe for recognition. Then, right beneath me in the water, suddenly there was a giant eye. Other people saw it. They were pointing, excited. Michael gasped, and it took him a second to realize what he was seeing. He waved with both hands, jumping up and down. “Oh Mister Leviathan, I see you. I SEE YOU. Do you see ME?” I teared up next to Michael at how badly he wanted to be seen—by anyone, by anything. Just like my friend here, coming here to be seen, not as something evil, but for what he truly was: Magnificent. I waved at him, “Hello old friend,” I said. He blinked at all of us. Michael waved, shouting “I LOVE YOU WITH ALL MY HEART!” I told Michael, “He heard you. He saw you.” Then Michael hugged the railing, and then me, and then, finally, himself.
(inspired by a true story told to us by Jason Alspaugh)