The Seal

Kimberly's picture

I am having one of those days where I am not sure if I am mentally and physically well enough to work. We all have them, but if you are one of the vast numbers of the lower middle class, you do not get to choose: you’re going to work.

This month (and this whole year) has been a rough ride for me. Summer is always a low time. Despite being incredibly grateful for warm evenings and fresh fruits being in season, I have never liked the hot season. After the June Solstice, my personal fortunes always run low, I find myself out of money, pressed for time, and physically diminished. I mean that literally, as summer decimates my appetite for food.

I have theories about genders and seasons, perhaps to be discussed at another time.

Last night I had a dream about a seal. Some background here: my dreams have always been negative. I remember dreams I had when I was six years old — they were kind of hilarious and mostly terrifying, ominous, and tinged with darkness.

To make a long story short, my dreams have not improved with age.

I dream in anxiety.

The recurring dream I used to have about being trapped in high school tortured me to the point where I attempted to exorcise it like a demon by writing a story about a high school girl forced to live forever — the result was my first novel, Forever Fifteen. Did it work? Sort of. The high school dreams were replaced with dreams about being trapped in college. A horrible, horrible dream I had about being witness to the aftermath of a young woman’s rape ended up in my novel River’s Heart. In River’s Heart, the protagonist goes on a killing spree afterwards and genocides the males responsible for the rape, which was how I would have ended my dream if it were possible. Nightmares (both my nightly ones and the ones in real life) don’t resolve so easily.

Anyway, the seal. I had a dream about interacting with a seal.

Because my dreams are stupid, the seal was swimming through a channel dug in someone’s suburban lawn. The seal was part of a traveling zoo of sorts. Someone found out I was a vegan animal lover and invited me to hang out with the seal, who swum up from her channel and flopped onto a couch where I was sitting.

Now I’d like to take a moment to make an observation about vegans and non-human animals. I have always had an empathic streak which has been difficult to turn off. Most vegans have this, and it gives us a touch of Dr. Doolittle- like ability to bond and have instant rapport with a great many domesticated and wild non-humans. Once you stop eating animals and cease the presumption they exist for your own use, there is a psychic change that occurs around you. Some non-human animals can sense that and gravitate towards it. Birds will often not notice or care if a vegan is around, whereas they will fly away if a regular egg, milk, or meat-eating human enters the scene. Dogs who are terrified of new people will jump into a vegan’s arms. Most recently, I witnessed a bumblebee who was obsessed with my friend Mike, hovering around him, landing on his shirt, and perhaps desiring an interspecies make out session.

The seal was one of my instant animal friends. She let me hug her and kiss her head. We played for a dream-hour until it came time to go. Neither of us wanted to leave because we were pals, fast friends, compadres. I had to leave and she had to jump back into her channel. In the next scene of the dream, I was trudging away towards whatever list of tedious human to-dos I was obligated to perform. From a distance, I saw the zookeepers hoisting the seal’s sedated body and preparing to shove her in a trunk so she could be taken to “perform” somewhere else.

I woke up in emotional tatters. I am shredded. I don’t know how to get out of this and force myself to function today.

My one thought to the zookeepers, the hunters, the free-range farmers, the SeaWorld spectators, the buyers from kitty and doggy mills, the animal torturers, the human breeders who abandon their “pets” for the new baby, the buyers of animal-tested products, and the meat-eaters of every stripe and walk of life:


I don’t want to hate my fellow humans like I do. I admit it. Sometimes, I don’t just hate the sin.

This is every vegan’s cross to bear. This is the real reason people are afraid to become vegan. They are terrified of what their own anger towards their fellow humans will be. They are terrified at how angry they will be at their own hypocrisy and their own past actions. They are terrified of owning their true emotions.

There’s no solution to the way I feel today. I just have to feel it. I have to suck it up. I have to try to think of the seal and all the untold billions of animals like her being exploited, enslaved, murdered, and driven extinct instead of my own miserable self.

I have to try to get over my hatred of a species that feels entitled to enslave and eat beings who wanted to live and to attempt to do the tiny, tiny things that are within my power to reach them. I need to try to find courage when I have none. I have to gather the will to exist when it would be infinitely easier to embrace the void.