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  • Lagoon jelly
    Scientific classification
    Kingdom: Animalia
    Phylum: Cnidaria
    Class: Scyphozoa
    Order: Rhizostomeae
    Family: Mastigiidae
    Genus: Mastigias
    Species: M. papua
    Binomial name
    Mastigias papua


    All week long, I was sick.
    When people reached for my hand, I stopped them: holding up my palms, explaining I might be contagious, suggesting we bump fists or touch elbows.

    I was not contagious.
    I kept myself at arms length less because of my germs and more because of theirs.


    I did not expect you.
    You, at the museum, commingling stories of science and love. Wooing my students, both girl and boy, with blue marbles, an albino alligator, tales of sea turtles.
    I did not expect you to lead us to the shallow pool where we dipped our hands into frigid water, running fingers over spiny urchins, rough starfish.
    I did not expect you to show us the jellyfish, light illuminating oral arms translucent pink, electric blue.
    And I did not expect you to hold my hand - not once, but twice - when you talked about the intimacy of the ocean.

    The first time, you reached for my hand.
    The second time, I reached for yours.
    I had forgotten how long it had been since I'd been touched.


    I forgot to tell you not to touch me. To warn you I was sick.
    And then I remembered.
    You leaned into everyone else to say goodbye, wrapping your arms around each of them, both girl and boy. But with me, you kept your distance.
    You knotted up your hand, rapped my knuckles and said goodbye.
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