Sunday, February 01, 2009

The Monterey Bay Aquarium's two Giant Pacific Octopi were asleep in the upper corners of their respective tanks, their arms gently gripping the windowglass. Surrounding the female octopus were long white trails of what I first took for candlewax: octopus eggs.

Crush of bodies around the tanks. Disappointed voices: "They're sleeping." "They're asleep."

Small tentacles waved gently in the tanks' currents, like a napping cat's paws.

We went away and returned when the other visitors were gone. L. and the cats went to look at another exhibit and I was alone in front of the male octopus' tank when his arms suddenly uncoiled and he slid gracefully down and stopped level with my face.

A pause. Then his arms flexed, slowly lifting himself to meet my gaze with his old hooded eyes.

A moment of perfect communion. And then, like stealthy Dr. Lecter taking leave of Clarice Starling*, he arm-over-armed it back up the glass and to sleep.

* "Hannibal Lecter, polite to the last, did not give her his back. He stepped backward from the barrier before he turned to his cot again, and lying on it, became as remote from her as a stone crusader lying on a tomb." (Thomas Harris, The Silence of the Lambs)

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