I awake at 2 am, with this recurrent, crushing feeling of emptiness and longing, which is not sated after I roll over to spoon Sadie on the bed.
I realize it’s finally time for me to visit Octopus Joy.
In the kitchen, Sadie whisks our egg whites into a froth. She’s whistling La Vie En Rose. Early in our courtship, she had said it was her mating call.
I’m not going to tell her about Octopus Joy.
I stand above Tank #12, chewing the end of my snorkel, adjusting my goggles. The guy in the booth overlooking all the private tanks gives the thumbs up, and I plunge headlong into the water. Surrounded by a small grove of swaying kelp trees, I touch the sandy floor, scattering broken bits of abalone and oyster shells. I swim a circle around the perimeter of the small plexiglass enclosure, twice.
In between rocks, two eyes like fleshy horns peek out from the crevice. I go limp in front of her and wait. I paid for an hour in the tank, and I wonder if she’ll ever come out.
Her round pupils constrict into horizontal slits as she watches me hold out my hand. A purple tentacle unfurls, touches my fingertip, recoils, then extends again. She slithers out of the crevice, and soon my arm is covered by suction cups, popping and snapping, tasting and feeling my skin. Her warty dark flesh turns a smooth, speckled pink.
She launches herself from my arm, and floats toward me, landing on my chest. My fingertips glide over the back of her tentacles, so supple and tender, yet alive with movement. Then I remember what the guy in the booth said. Look, but don’t touch. Something about not wanting to denude the animal’s protective mucus layer. So I let my arms float free, as her soft balloon head bobs against me, a tiny undulating creature moving along the white sweep of my chest.
Sadie and I are on the couch, watching Audrey Hepburn sing “Bonjour Paris” while dancing along the banks of the Seine River.
She lays her head on my shoulder. “Do you remember what you said to me at top of the Eiffel Tower?”
I’m still thinking about the suction cups. Shimmering, color-changing skin, and flicking tentacles. Those all-knowing eyes cresting the top of her pulsing mantle.
Was there reciprocation? Did she experience some kind of real octopus contentment with me?
Next Tuesday, I’m putting my swim trunks back on and visiting her again in Tank #12.
Sadie nudges me in the ribs. “Are you listening to me? Why aren’t you answering?”
“I’m listening,” I say. “I remember.”
Only six more days until Tuesday.