A Lobster’s Life
It was weird waking up as a lobster. For one thing, I used to be the kind of person who was always cold. I didn’t mind the cold now. The problem now was the overcrowding. I imagined myself writing a letter to the editor or something along those lines decrying the treatment of lobsters.
But then, lobsters aren’t really sentient, are they?
And if I am, then maybe I wasn’t really a lobster. But I had a healthy thick shell, dark like the ocean, with the promising hint of red around my claws. Also, there were other lobsters, everywhere. Standing on top of me, pushing in against my sides.
What if one of them was Jack! Hey! Jack! Is that you? Looking into the beady eyes of the lobster beside me, there was no sign of recognition. Or sentience. Not my husband.
It made me wonder what that lobster saw when it looked at me. Did I look indifferent? Because I wasn’t. The push of other lobsters, the pinch of the random claw made it hard to breath, hard to think.
Looking around, I could see magnified by the glass of the tank the garish glow of Christmas lights, and rows of tables and chairs. Our friend Lisette’s restaurant. I remembered we were supposed to go there on Monday when it was closed, for a special Birthday dinner. My fortieth.
I’d been looking forward to it, but right now, craving for the freedom of the sea overcame me, water everywhere, plenty to scavenge, the feeling of sand beneath my claws.
Again, I renewed my struggle, but the pressure of the crowding bodies around me made it impossible. I felt the pinch of their desperation too on my tail, my side, my neck. Maybe part of me was still human, because shell or not, it hurt.
I was a pacifist as a human, well, just yesterday! Now, my own claws shot out repeatedly.
Get away from me, all of you!
Another jarring pinch got me.
A pink five pronged claw came towards us, pushed aside the others and for a moment I could pinch my claws and sway my tail in the filthy water completely unobstructed. The claw closed around me, and pulled me up, up high in the air like a prize. Rescued!
“This one,” it said, and I looked up at the face of the creature. I expected it to be another lobster, but then I realized I was still after all human in my little lobster mind, because my heart nearly jumped out of my shell. The grinning man holding me up was my husband!
Joanne is going to be so excited, I could hear him saying. Joanne. That was me. We’re going to cook this one up to perfection.
But Jack! Wait! It’s me, Joanne. Joanne will not be pleased, Joanne will be dead!
I struggled as the hands that I once loved, the hands that I always perceived as gentle, kind, and warm, placed me with that same familiar care into my own large bowl of water. It felt clean and cool.
The minute I touched the water, I relaxed. I should have trusted Jack, because now I was alone in my own little lake, no more fighting for space with the other lobsters. No more pinches, impossible to escape. A veritable room upgrade.
Leave it to Jack.
I stretched out and scuttled around, content. My lobster brain was taking over, and why not? I was after all a lobster. I could see just over the rim, a large pot off to the side. There was fog rising from it that made me think of the morning mist over the sea. There was something old Joanne wanted to remember, something about lobsters, and pots, and Joanne’s birthday. But right now, all I could think was that I am a lobster. I was rescued from that claustrophobic lobster hell by Jack, my husband.
Somehow, he could see through my transformation, somehow, Jack would make it all right.
Blang-Blang looked exactly like Bartholomew Davidson, except that he wasn’t. He’d eaten Barty ages ago, and enjoyed the meal so much that he opted to take on his shape, in memory of the best meal he’d had in a hundred years.
The two small proofs of his subterfuge were the sensitive seam that held him in, disguised as a bulbous red pimple, and the divine smell that he emitted. He couldn’t very well walk around this planet with a tail and hope to be taken seriously, now could he? Even he knew that much. He’d clearly chosen a very respected fellow too. As he walked down the corridor of his new job, people dove to get out of his way, and held their noses when talking to him. Out of respect, Blang-Blang held his nose as well.
He’d managed to slip his guardian and travel here all alone. He’d wanted to prove himself, and nobody ever gave him a chance. You’ll get yourself eaten one of these days, Blang-Blang dear, his mother always said.
Everyone thought he was stupid, but look at him now? Two days as Barty Davidson, and no one was the wiser.
“Barty, can you take a look at something for me?”
It was that sweet smelling boss of his. He smiled smugly as he followed the petite woman into her office. Like everyone else, she must have finally recognized his importance around here.
“Did you think no one would notice, Barty?” She said.
His jaw dropped. But I’d been so careful, he thought.
“That’s a nice perfume you’re wearing.” he interrupted, hoping to distract. Not many humans smelled as good as he did, but she definitely came close. He leaned a bit forward and discretely sniffed.
“The reports you handed in were completely off topic. And your suits have been far too vibrant. One might think you were happy here, Barty.”
“Oh, but I am, I am!” He sputtered.
That smell, was distracting. His boss stepped towards him, and he backed towards the window.
“Barty was never happy before.” She said, pausing to scrutinize him. “Do you know what makes you and me different Barty?” His boss asked. As she leaned forward, he nearly fainted from the ecstasy of her scent.
“You-” She started to say, poking a finger into his flaming pimple. Howling from the pain in his seam, he did the only thing he could to get away. He jumped out the window.
And she finished talking to his retreating form. “You- don’t remember that Barty can’t fly.” She looked out the window and heard the satisfying splat.
Blang-Blang very nearly ruined the plot for world domination. Sliding out of her human shaped outfit, she unfurled her wings, swooped down, and ate the stupidest alien in existence. The Blang-Blangs of the universe slipped through, now and then, and it was her job to eat them. After all, it just took one stupid alien to ruin it for the rest of them. She’d have to remember to send a letter of condolences to his mother.
“I never say my full bank pin in my head as I punch it in- just in case there’s someone nearby listening in to my thoughts. I’m right to distrust, aren’t I.”
“You ok, honey? You don’t seem quite yourself.”
It was true. My smile felt strange, like I couldn’t quite figure out the mechanics involved. We were standing in the freezer section of Bill’s Grocery at the top of our street. Fish eyes glared through plastic packaging and old crystalized ice in the freezer beside us.
I felt sure that the world was going to cave in on itself in 5-4-3-2-1 seconds, so I decided to say it out loud for the first time.
“Deon and I broke up.”
“Oh. Gigi, I’m so sorry.” Marlene made a clucking sound, her hands twisted in front of her. I could tell her, because she didn’t really matter. She was already inching away, eager to tell Frank the latest about our chance encounter.
“I’m not ok.” I felt rebellious just saying it.
“We noticed you weren’t coming and going quite so much, and haven’t seen him around either so Frank and I wondered. You know how we like to sit out on the porch and get some air- can’t go all that far these days what with Frank’s feet.”
I didn’t want to hear about Frank’s feet. I wrapped my arms around myself, my hands clasping my bare arms.
“I won’t think hateful thoughts about him because that invites dark spirits inside me. But then, I also try not to love. Love is an absence of choice. I turn desperate.” I took a breath.
“Desperate to make him happy, desperate to tie him to me, leaving no room for questions like- is this wise? Are we good together? Might someone else be better? or- maybe it is a deal breaker, the way he picks his teeth at the table, thinks he’s cute when he finishes my chocolate like some errant child that I can mother and shake my head at indulgently. I am not his mother!”
“Huh” Marlene said, sneaking a look at her watch.
After four days in a house devoid of oxygen, my skin was now alive with goosebumps running up and down my arms.
“Seems to me dear, that what you need is a vacation. And to go to church. You’ll find the answers there I’m sure. I know it’s a comfort to me when my mind’s in a whirl.”
She was preparing to push her shopping cart on to the dairy section, leaving me alone under the flickering florescent light.
“Do you ever think about these things?” I grab her arm tightly. “That it could be so easy to love, except that it would become dangerous? It’s like being open, like air on air. Do you see the danger?”
“I really love you right now Marlene.”
Marlene’s hands twisted tighter in front of her.
“I get it. We’ve never had a real conversation before now. Why not? Why don’t we talk about what’s really on our minds?”
Marlene took my arm and gave it a motherly squeeze, leading us both out of the freezer section, and abandoning her cart. I was shaking, and just noticed that my feet were drenched.
I nodded. There was a lump in my throat.
“I fear love as much as I fear hate. Why is that?” I said.
“Honey, let’s get you home, alright?” She was rifling through her bag and pulled up a tissue.
It occurred to me how I must look. My hair was greasy, my clothes were the same yoga pants and purple shirt I’d been wearing for days. My face was overflowing with tears that I hadn’t noticed until now. Flowing like it was being pumped from an unending source. It soaked my shirt, and soaked down to my feet, bare in the old flip flops that I wear around the house.
Why was I talking to Marlene about love and hate? About my barely-acknowledged fears around mind reading and pin numbers? My muscles shook and tears flowed fast. They were creating deeper rivulets in the aisles. Somewhere, a baby was crying. Other, urgent conversations floated down the aisles now. Marlene stepped over the newest puddle that my tears had created, and helped me over it as well.
We watched as my tears became a veritable river, the newest puddle connected with the larger rivers forming down the freezer aisle. I could barely stand under the weight of the water still in me, and Marlene held tight to my arm.
So much water, and still, it continued to fall.
Marlene’s grasp on my arm became frantic. The supermarket no longer had simple rivulets in each aisle from my tears, there was a river, a roaring river, and pandemonium was breaking out.
I had been right. The world was falling in on itself in 5-4-3-2-1.
I welcomed it. I thought I saw the dead stare of the frozen fish float by, but was lost under a wave. And the tears kept flowing.
“It’s ok.” I sent the thought message over to Marlene, helped her to float on her back, her short dyed red hair darkening in the water. “Just relax.” I thought at her.
I wanted to wipe the fear from her face. I wanted to let her know that this was our world, what it really looked like once we got past all of the polite talk of the weather. And this same river, quickly forming into a small lake, was not mine alone.
“Relax Marlene.” And I willed her to hear my thought; and then she did. She stopped flailing, and her face smoothed over the fear. She looked at me then, really looked.
“I don’t understand.” I thought I heard her think.
“This is what I was scared of and now no longer fear.” I smiled through the waves. “This is love.”