I want to be a seagull. So oblivious to everything below, so high up into the bright blue sky. Their ability to dive-bomb an unsuspecting kid’s french fry right out of their greasy, snot-covered fingers; cawing at literally anything for no particular motive or reason; their hungry selves beating their wings against the ambush of the wind like going up a slide. I’d want to fly, fly so high, and then come gracefully down, like my own rocket launch as far up as 100 feet. Imagine what 100 foot air tasted like! Oh, boy. I want to be a seagull.
Above me was a colony, circling around like a vulture does to prey, aiming sights on their next victim – a lone banana peel. I’d still want to be a seagull.
I was being carried by Lily. She was like a second mother to me; I was tightly cradled into her arms, as if I were her beach ball, safe and protected. It was quite easy for her to make me feel this way. She was so much larger, and I, her little baby.
Lily was, in a sense, also a baby. Just a bigger baby. She toddled behind her parents, her chin squished into her neck like a big chub of cuteness.
So many people were milling about, going from the little ice cream cart (which probably was now ice cream soup) down near the boardwalk, to playing beach games, to taking a dip into the calm water. I never understood it. Why did they want to swim and bathe in salt? They weren’t a seasoned elegant dinner. Though, it was a nice day. The sun shone on us like an extremely bright spotlight that burned your eyes, waiting for you to begin your speech or concert or play or whatever. The sky was a bright, cheerful light blue, free of ugly, ominous clouds. It was nice.
We took a little spot far from the water’s edge, off to the side. From my short perspective, all I could see were people lying on towels and lounge chairs, tanning amid the occasional leg of a passerby. Lily stood still eagerly, bopping her head from side to side as she waited for her parents to set the blankets, while keeping a tenacious grip on me.
The dazzling sand sparked in the rays, like golden glitter. My nostrils flared as the salty air travelled up my nostrils, releasing a hypnotic trance on me. It was quite soothing, to be fair.
“Can Marly and me pway sand houses now?” Lily asked with a spring.
“Let me put sunscreen on you first, we can’t let the sun eat you!” Her dad replied, rifling through their bookbag.
“What about Marly?” Lily pouted, raising me in the air as if her parents didn’t know I was here.
“He doesn’t need sunscreen.” Her mom told her, not giving a second glance.
Lily made quite the fuss of being scrubbed by oily liquid, but after the little tantrum, she sat me down opposite herself a few feet apart.
“Marly, we gonna build sand houses, ‘kay? They will be as tall as the sky!” She exclaimed.
I didn’t know how to speak yet. I just flopped around excitedly.
She piled sand over sand for what felt like forever. What was worse, she was munching a melted chocolate bar. It was smeared all over her hands, in streaks around her mouth, and soiled the sand. Lily offered me a piece but her dad clearly expressed a no. I was too small.
I was very bored. Lily’s mom had propped a makeshift umbrella for me using an old newspaper draped over a stick she found. But I could barely see anything, except Lily in her own little world, creating sand ‘houses’. I could not see the big rocks behind me, or even the gulls above. I didn’t want to make sand heaps. I wanted to explore. I was at a beach, in the summer, and the weather was nice, but I was still coddled and cosseted. I was a baby, but I wasn’t.
Lily’s dad fed me bits of crumbs, and I nibbled and caught them out of the air like they were airplanes and I was a seagull flying impossibly high. The parents bought hot dogs from the extremely overpriced food truck manned by an anxious teenager who kept looking at the line that seemed to stretch and stretch like a rubber band.
Lily’s lips were now painted red and yellow; she was a messy eater. ‘Just eat like you’re a seagull swooping down with precise accuracy,’ I thought.
At that exact second, a seagull came in and bombed the solitary napkins that were right next to me. Lily shrieked, and her parents attempted to shoo it away with their plain hands. The gull seemed to flap harder and create more chaos in response. It was quite fascinating, seeing it up close. The pattern of feathers and its intricate structure, and how it’s beady eyes locked onto mine as if I were its next meal.
It stopped flapping its wings for a moment. The bird crept closer to me, its beak aimed for my head. It was poised in an attack position, and I never even knew what an attack stance for a gull looked like, but it just felt like I should defend. I didn’t know if I was screaming, crying, or laughing, but those noises were drowned out by my tunnel vision. It was palpable, intense, and I was scared. I doubled back on my thoughts earlier – perhaps I… I didn’t want to be a seagull. I didn’t want to be a seagull if it came and ate someone like me.
Lily got up and stumbled towards us, screaming, “Marly! Marly!” Her mom held her back with a single arm, and her dad finally stood up with a book and haphazardly waved it around like he was swatting a fly and not a bird.
It flew away, the stolen napkin still clung to the beak, but the eyes. Those menacing eyes tracked me. Like a portrait in a haunted house. Was I the gull’s next victim?
Lily’s eyes narrowed as she also watched the bird fly away. Like she was ready to tear her hair out and strangle the bird with it.
I started to calm down, I wasn’t moving all over the place now.
Lily lifted me up. “Are you ‘kay?”
I stared at those big curious eyes, and hesitantly nodded. I was lying. I still had this slight twang that the seagull would come back. Swoop me up like one of those fries.
It was all a blur shortly after that. I kept nervously glancing upwards for a gull to come down and swallow me into its slimy, probably napkin filled throat.
The day didn’t feel quite as nice anymore, the sun cowering behind dark grey clouds, the sands cold and unsettling. The tide seemed to pick up, and thongs of people shuffled back, some leaving, while the ones who bravely stayed offered gloomy faces and lazy reactions.
We had gone on the boardwalk for a washroom break, and then stayed for a bit, window shopping. Lily found a plushie and said it looked like me. I saw it differently, it was way too big. And the proportions were wrong.
We sat and ate ice cream. I couldn’t have any, as Lily’s mother bluntly replied as Lily begged and begged. But even if I was allowed, I’d have refused; I wasn’t in the mood. I was too scared to be holding a literal painted target, as if deliberately asking the gulls to come. Free food everyone! An ice cream cone, along with a side of Marly! Or Marly is the main and ice cream is dessert! Or ice cream is the main and Marly is the dessert…
Lily wanted me to see the sea. Her parents sat down on our little blanketed area, commenting, “We’re too full honey, go on yourself. Be careful!”
So we went to see the sea. And even in my current mood, it relieved the tension in my heart.
The sea was a rippling blanket of brochure-blue. The horizon was slit with a silver tint, and the mesmerizing silhouette of a bird was flying in the place where water and sun met. Its wings were a blur of slow motion and it soon faded from sight. The waves in the distance were like white creases on a vast cloth of blue, and the aureate-like star was like a grand ending to a heart-felt movie. The trees were lined in serried rows, bowing their heads in obedience to the sea. The sand could’ve been mistaken for stardust, its shimmering glaze complementing the rollers of blue fabric across the sea.
And the gulls were, for that instance, at the back of my mind, as heaven was brought in glorious recreated form down to the views of us on earth.
Lily balanced me precariously on the edge of an inclined wet sand pile (I thought the pile was a ruin of what was once a majestic castle, with its drawbridge taut and mighty; the towers armed with an abundance of sacrificial warriors at disposal, but all it took was a little lap of the water and down it crumbled, expecting the enemy from front but not guarding behind. Before destruction, it might have looked like my castle back home.)
Lily hobbled towards the water, laughing and yelling with joy. She splashed the water, and droplets flew on me. The salt was like poison, bitter and foul, clawing at my flesh. I was not a seasoned elegant dinner!
Lily went under, then shot back up, her eyes wide as she admired some pebbles she’d grabbed from below. Green, blue, black-spotted stones with lines and stripes and designs. She rush-hobbled over to me.
“These are for you Marly. I spesh’ly picked for you.” She gave them to me. I loved them. In the glimmering haze of sun, they basked like lazy cats. The stones had beautiful thin golden rings around. It would look nice near my castle at home.
Lily created mini waves, her arms ricocheting off the water, slicing smoothly like a knife across butter. Then she stopped, her face and brow pinched, lips pressed, about to unleash noise that would shatter glass.
Her parents ran over, as if by clairvoyance, as Lily howled high-pitched eldritch screeches, flapping her arms, eyes tightly shut. She’d gotten water in her eyes. Saltwater is poisonous.
All three ran off to somewhere I couldn’t see, forgetting me. Past the emerald-white striped umbrellas, the people tanning glaring as the three passed.
And the seagull came back.
I didn’t know if it was the same one. But its eyes disturbingly showed my reflected image, its wings closed, strutting slowly to me, the wet sand behind like dinosaur prints. The yellow bill was dripping with something, and its red spot below the beak looked something much worse than just a natural mark.
I was frozen. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t scream eldritch screeches like Lily. I couldn’t launch off like a rocket, careening into space. I was frozen. On such a balmy day of late summer, the ice creams like a waterfall to the ground and kids squalling in their strollers, the majority of adults tanning in the sun; I still was frozen.
The bill was huge now, awfully close to me. It was like being filmed as a movie star; this scene with added suspense, the gull’s stern emotions captured from a multitude of angles, and my apprehensive self glued to the spot.
The bird bumped into the glass, surprised, then raised its head around the sky in embarrassment, probably. The bump sent shockwaves through the bowl, however, and I teeter-tottered on the edge of the cliff, the sand below far down. If I fell, I’d roll all the way into noxious water. I’d explode, my flesh flying in small chunks to this suddenly mundane environment.
The gull came close to me again, its face distorted through the water, the head too round, the beak almost two-dimensional, kind of like a poorly proportioned toy. It tapped on the glass very cautiously this time, and immediately retreated a few paces back, as if expecting me to just jump out and swallow it whole.
It cawed, its eyes bulging, its throat wide open, like calling for reinforcements, or to show its buddies this peculiar thing. I was still frozen, however.
The gull looked up into the air again, then shifted back to me, as if accepting no one would fly down to his rescue. The same terrifying beady eyes. All gulls had them, no? Perhaps all the gulls were terrifying.
It advanced yet another time, its wings now halfway outstretched, showing dominance. I was still frozen, cowering as far back as I could. The gull’s steps threw sand, some hit the outside of the bowl, smearing it brownish-yellow. And it continued, closing in, the gap narrowing.
Lily was nowhere to be seen. I wished she was here, her narrowed eyes as she yanked her hair and strangled the bird, or even her father. Or her mother even, a makeshift umbrella for me as an extra layer of shield. But they were gone.
The gull pecked on the glass, once, twice. If I could read animal emotions, I’d guess the gull was furious, irritated, and out to kill. Kill, then eat. Eat, then search for another victim.
The bowl rocked again, and I felt the same way as the first time I met Lily. She was giant compared to me, and I was a speck. I was petrified, and fearful of what would happen.
And the gull pecked once more, and the bowl lost balance. It tipped, the water sloshing down with gravity. As I fell, I could imagine the seagull having a sly grin plastered to its face, if gulls could even grin. The gull, standing over the edge, knowing what it’d just done, letting it happen willingly, wanting it to happen.
The bowl bounced once on the side of the sand pile, threatening its structure, and I was thrown around like a basketball, the glass battering my face multiple times.
Sand flew from every direction into the bowl, and it was sour.
It pressed tight against the glass as the bowl stopped bouncing and started rolling, inevitably following an invisible path towards the sea.
No one seemed to notice me, or the gull, still perched on the edge, watching silently as fate was coming for me. Lily and her parents were nowhere to be seen, like a magician performed a vanishing trick and never bothered to bring them back.
The water that kept me alive seeped out every time the opening faced the sand, as if the bowl was losing blood.
And I kept rolling, rolling with the bowl, I was in a washing machine, tumbling, tumbling, my insides getting thoroughly cleaned from inside out; or I was a bowling ball, ready to strike the ocean, then fall in the ball pit to never be seen again.
The bowl reached the seawater, and I floated for a few seconds, but a wave caught us, and I was ripped from my temporary home, the bowl crashing beneath on the rocks, smashing into a million tiny pieces.
The poison burned as soon as I came in contact with the sea; my throat was hollow, my gills feeling spicy, my insides swelling like it was about to…
I let the water take me; I was exhausted. I felt like I had been swallowed by a seagull then thrown back up again.
Lily still wasn’t here.
The waves thudded against me, pushing me away, wanting me to be beached; dead. But the waves weren’t strong enough. I’d soon explode. Saltwater is poison.
Above me was a colony, circling around like a vulture does to prey, aiming sights on their next victim; they knew I was dying, only a matter of when. I was, in their eyes, that same, lone, banana peel. I was food.
They circled, circled. Their beady, menacing eyes almost visible, and I knew, I just knew, they’d have sly grins plastered on their faces.
I am a goldfish. I now live in saltwater. At least for one minu