A long time ago, when I was just a tiny fish in a big sea, I started school. And I wasn’t in school very long before I had a talk with my soul.
I took it aside and I said, “Look, you don’t belong here.” I don’t remember what it looked like exactly, just a quivering slip of a thing that took life way too personally and didn’t have a hope of surviving in the sea. So I hustled it off to a cave where it would be safe, and I went back to school.
I learned quickly. Puffers tend to be pretty ambitious and I needn’t tell you that we have a range of natural talents that set us apart from most species in the sea. I developed a tough, spiny skin, a sharp beak, and a downright poisonous nature. I was determined that no one in this fish-eat-fish world would ever eat me, and by the sharks, nobody did. I grew bright and colorful and when I got all puffed up, why, I could out-dazzle the sun! I never wanted for food and I had no fear whatsoever of being eaten by anyone else.
You might say I had everything, but I didn’t. Something was missing. A hole began to form inside of me; a feeling of emptiness that food could not fill. I seemed to be developing a big disappointment in life. I guess I expected life to be more exciting. More deep. Or at least more friendly. I had lots of friends, don’t get me wrong, old puffers like to stick together, but I didn’t feel at home in their company. I was always on edge, competing with the others, never letting down my guard. We fed on the little guys, boasted about our hunting prowess and grew crustier by the day.
It was enough for them, but not for me. There were days when I felt like I could easily be swallowed up into that hole inside of me. I actually started to fear it.
I feared the enemy within.
And then one day it hit me, smacked me right on the cheeks. I knew what I had lost. I had lost my soul. I thought, Where in the sea did I put that thing? And why in a shark’s name should I miss that? It was good for nothing. In fact, as I recall, it had been getting in the way. You can’t survive with your soul hanging out and getting hurt by everything. A soul is an aberration, a fluke. Nature’s mistake. (That’s alright. Everyone’s entitled.)