Monday, November 08, 2004

the little plastic castle is a surprise every time

illusions of grandeur

When I went to Singapore, some time back now, I went to an aquarium. Normally, aquariums bore me. There is something so unfeeling about watching fish swim about in a glass cage. Last week, at work one day, we were asked how many pets we had owned as children and were told "fish don't count." The fish my family owned left an impression on me. Though my brother and I liked them well enough, the fish did not seem to like us. Or more accurately, did not seem to like their captivity. Once a week, my father would find one of them wriggling about on the carpet. These escape attempts happened so often that my father finally took pity on the fish and returned them to the store, asking the shopkeeper to set them free. I very much doubt that the shopkeeper actually followed my father's directions, but I always remember the feeling, at such a young age, of realizing that pets are not just playthings for one's personal amusement, but living beings.

Still, this fish was so breathtaking that it held me captive at the aquarium. This aquarium was striking, because, half way around the world, the fish are so strikingly different. This fish perfectly camoflauges with its surroundings, and looks, at first glance, like a plant growing on an ocean floor. I have always been intrigued by animals that possess this ability, shapeshifters and chameleons. I like the idea of blending into one's surroundings, of adaptability. It always tickles me pink when I am visiting a city and am stopped by another tourist for directions. It was not until I traveled half way around the world that I felt, for the first time, like a true tourist, like a fish out of water (cringe, couldn't help it). What is most interesting about the chameleon, the camoflauge artist, is that it changes superficially as an act of defense. This act of subterfuge changes nothing on the inside.

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