This really happened
POSTED ON FEBRUARY 24, 2014 / BY ERIN T / LEAVE A COMMENT / FACEBOOK
When I was nine and my sister Naomi was eleven, our parents took us to the Natural History museum in London for the first time. Like any child I was fascinated by the dinosaur displays, the buttons and interactive games.
But the thing I remember most clearly about that day are the whale bones.
The skeleton of the blue whale took up the entire room, hanging ominously from the ceiling like a phantom observing the mortals passing below it. The bones were a dull bronze, as if they’d been white once but had been left out past their expiry date.
I remember running the length of the ribs, trying to count the steps. It hurt my head to imagine that such a ghastly, claw-like structure also existed within my own tiny chest, holding my organs captive like the bars of a prison cell. I couldn’t imagine sharing anything in common with the relic that hung above us, silent, a mere shell of the impressive mammal it had once been.
Naomi did not share my fascination.
“It’s not even real,” she said, barely glancing at it, more interested in the new pink flip-phone she’d gotten last month.
“What? It so is.” I glared at her, offended that she didn’t seem to care.
“It’s obviously fake. Come on, can’t you tell?” she rolled her eyes, in that patronising way big sisters do when they’re trying to assert themselves as the older, more mature one.
I looked helplessly up at my father, hoping for reassurance. His familiar smile, thin lips and a high forehead, wise grey eyes set in a face lined with age. “Is she right, daddy?” I asked. “Is it really fake?”
He put his hand on my shoulder and said: “We all have our own truths, Erin. Sometimes they’re the same, sometimes they’re not.”
I peered up at the skeleton again. In the cavities of the skull, the spaces between each rib, I saw glimpses of the sea, flashes of something that had once existed, now saturated with the past.
That day, I decided that the bones were real, no matter what Naomi or anyone else said. They were real to me, anyway, and that was enough.