Athena, the Octopus, Solves a Puzzle
by Alexa T. Dodd
The new octopus at the children’s aquarium was named Athena, and as we waited for her to emerge, I thought of the almost-too-faint second line on the pregnancy test three days before.
“Where is it, Mama?” asked my sons, and I felt a whimsical hope that Athena would swim toward me, impart some of her ancient wisdom as I weighed my new fears and hopes.
Eventually, she stretched her tentacles for the puzzle toy handed down to her. Her keeper explained that Athena could camouflage with her surroundings, that she had three hearts to service her impossibly flexible body. Later, when the bleeding started, I thought of what it’s like to have more than one heart beating inside you—that rapid, submerged pulsing in a doctor’s office that I’d cherished through two complete pregnancies. I thought of how Athena’s skin had changed from muddy brown to bright red, just like my blood as it left me. I thought of how the keeper described her body, growing and shrinking in response to her world, and I envied Athena, even as I felt a kinship. After all, my two sons—longed for, surviving, whole and perfect—are the gift of the miraculous malleability of my own body.
Watching her move with boneless grace the rocks in her tank to hide herself, I’d felt the beginnings of the loss. Later, grief like a tide rushing in and out, I thought of her slender arm, poking through the darkness, impossible to see if you didn’t know she was there. The feeling, like loss, as she disappeared, like privilege, for having witnessed her at all.