I too, alone, survived to tell thee. A whale tells this, white as Biscay froth, a tale black as caviar. I almost lost heart. Albinos do, doomed special while feeling like the rest. We’re dark unto ourselves. We? I am the only one. I have never bred. I have never seen a white male or a white mate. I never had company save for him. Only, during brief heaven, a mother who nudged and nourished. Shunned, I go from ocean to ocean, falling in love with icebergs and fluffy fog, and, nearer shore, with snow and polar bears. I am forbidden nothing, but there is nothing I can have. What sex am I? Did Ahab know?

Squinting aft, I see him, rib cage and all. As the years went by, he began to rattle, then to chime. I read his last will and testament from his lips, then took him down for the count, poor piscuniak of a mariner. Then I whale-hummed at him, just to be friendly. I wanted somehow to swing him loose, then pop him down, minnow-small and feather-frail. Install him on the bulby mound of one vast kidney according to Jonah Law. A pet, a familiar, a love.

But dislodge him I could not, and I soon knew his coming for what it was: a test in the form of a sign, a sign in the form of a test. Could I brook his presence without wanting friendship? Ahab was my birthmark. Yes. “Ishmael, art thou sleeping there below?” Then answer would come: “Moby, I am thine, for ever.”

It was all hopeless. Call me, I began, but my still-thundering jelly of a heart floated upward through my mouth, jump-a-thump, and all that’s left is an infolded compass-rose, miming its thanks, murmuring a dew.