(for those who missed the Cephalopod Appreciation Society Meeting last night, here's a rough transcript of my presentation)
So, as you might have caught on by now, Octopuses have three hearts. Two Ancillary, or branchial hearts that pump blood through each of the two gills, and one Main or systemic heart that pumps blood through the body. Something to do with the blood being copper based and the transportation of oxygen. I was explaining this three heart fact to a friend who came back with the question: do all three hearts beat at the same time? an excellent question indeed. So I turned to the nearest marine biologist and asked: do all three of the octopus’ hearts beat at the same time? and their response was, I don’t know.
Ok. So I decided to do some research on my own, to see if the hearts open and close in tandem, or in sync, or in not in any pattern at all. And here’s what I observed.
So this Octopus walks into a bar. She finds herself a seat at a table and starts writing. The Main Heart, it’s wide open; she loves writing. Ancillary Heart 1, also open; there’s a trivia game going on and she knows some of the answers. But Ancillary Heart 2, we observe, is closed. Closed in like, a piece of paper folded over kind of way. She's meeting an octopus there, it’s a date but not a date date, she’s not sure what the other person has to say about it, is kinda excited kinda not excited about it.
Then we observe a shift in the surrounding marine life make up. A fellow Octopus Friend, Octopus Friend A, swims into the bar. A is for acquaintance, Our Octopus can’t remember his name but has had friendly conversations with him in the co-op check out line, has taken a vehicle in to his shop to get looked at. Our Octo’s three hearts, 1 Main and 2 Ancillaries, remain open/open/a little less closed, respectively. Octopus Friend A doesn’t see her, swims out of the bar checking his phone, only to return moments later with Octopus Friend B in tote. And then a fascinating shift occurs, upon seeing Octopus Friend B, Our Octo’s hearts opens all the way, only to snap shut on all three counts. The fact of them (Our Octopus and Octopus Friend B) being friends for years overshadowed by the more recent-ish fact that the Octo’s ex-crush decided that cephalopods weren’t her thing but then opted to date Octopus Friend B two minutes later. a queer situation indeed that, while having lost its sting with the passage of time, still, a full year later, echoes in Our Octo’s mantle cavity.
We observe Our Octo’s second right arm reaching in to said mantle cavity to shrug the heavy blanket of un-ease off the Main Heart, using soothing caresses and logic. Main Heart opens, albeit a little begrudgingly. Ancillary Heart 1 takes the high road/bigger picture approach and graciously opens with a sing songy ‘Namaste, Sister’, Ancillary Heart 2, muscles fatiguing with mulish effort, holds its death grip of a closed fist. Our Octopus dips her head down and continues to write.
The tide is slowly going out.
And then, a new situation. The expected Octopus Non Date Date swims in, a big ole grin on her face that Our Octopus can’t help but return. Main Heart and Ancillary Heart 1 swell, and harmlessly flutter half closed, like blankets pulled up in a flush of modesty, and then slowly and in tandem, with the rhythm of the ocean of conversation, they both bloom to full open, Main Heart remembering that a. establishing good boundaries is a functioning part of her cephalopod instinct inventory, b. eventho octopuses are evolutionarily predisposed to be solitary, it’s ok to spend some time getting to know a new octo, especially since their den is two doors down from your own den, and Ancillary Heart 1 thinking that, this is nice, my bed is nice, conversation is nice, Octopus Non Date Date is nice, my other friends are nice, this bar is nice, sleep is nice. Unlike other octopuses, Our Octopus is diurnal.
Meanwhile, Ancillary Heart 2, it can be observed, momentarily ditching the self defeating relationship grievance tune, opts to remain closed, but a different kind of closed, one that can best be described as ‘cringey’, a certain kind of tension born of not being totally clear about this Octopus Non Date Date while on a date with her new For Real Octopus Date Date, a communication misstep due partially to the fact that Octo Non Date Date got scheduled in the half beat before the octopus friend date became new For Real Octopus Date Date so soon ago. For the record, this disclosure was accompanied by an impressive display of flurried 8 arm back pedaling. Both Main Heart and Ancillary Heart 1 look over at Ancillary Heart 2 with compassion and silent knowing. Yes, they too, would rather be hanging out with new For Real Octopus Date Date, but for now let’s be present with Octopus Date Non Date, yeah?
The tide’s pull, it is steady.
And soon we see Our Octopus making her exit. And it is here that we observe the final shift. Swimming down the lit up evening streets, having left her Octopus Friend A, Octopus Friend B, Octopus Non Date Date to their own devices, Our Octopus reflects on her greater environment and place in the world. thoughts drift between noting the pleasantly cool temperature, deciding on which late night snack to prepare upon returning to her den, thinking on the intertidal interactions that just transpired, all the sands of memory that got kicked up in the process, then settling on thinking on New For Real Octopus Date Date, the short amount of history between them, the vast sea of potential that stretches out before them.
In response, Ancillary Heart 1 bursts open so wide, it's practically inside out beside itself.
Ancillary Heart 2, forms the tightest of tightly closed tight knots, curled up in the bitter shadow of previous relationship hardships.
As for the main heart, and if it’s open or closed, well, it seems further observation is in order.