Love in bubbles and out on sand. Chipped pink seashell nails clawing at my salty husk and dragging me from the sea and into an orange pail. Merde, what a beauty. What a freckled girl with broad and bleeding hands. My brothers scrambled, groped at plastic like we were humans and invincible. I lay, tail softly undulating, looking up at her, her white shirt that displayed the horizon line of her peach brazier. Quel une visage. C’est quoi cas? Amour? C’est pour les humains. Je suis une pauvre homard. Oui, un homard. I was born in this bay to be plucked and boiled and broken. Bitten into until I am red fragments of the ocean’s pottery. She will place morsels of me in her mouth soon, une petite morceau de mon coeur. Cas c’est amour.
Sea and skin do not mesh. Sun crisped the salt on my back as I shoved everyone aside to be close to her. Une femme fatale, a Canadian girl vacationing in Maine. No native girls had that bipolar complexion. The warm face and icy fingers. Girls from Maine were icy all over. There was never a thaw in these parts. Something was always frosted, whether it was a maple tree or the heart of a lobster, une pauvre homard. The pail sloshed as we were carried ashore, and beneath the sounds of Alouette one could hear the clacking of claws like a thousand castanets. Mon femme fatale placed the bucket down and I could see the grid of a wet tiled floor to my left. She swayed away, her muscles taut like a predatory cat, her shirt quivered and stretched like the tides when the moon comes too close.
I saw the pot, then. Comme un caulice pour Christ, it sat like the saddest rich man in the world, for it was empty inside. This was where I would go, with my brethren screaming s’il te plait, s’il te plait as if we were human, invincible; as if our straining white muscles were not the very reason we were here in the first place. Then again, I was here because of my straining white muscle that beat for the Canadian girl with the seashell nails and the breasts that spilled like anemones spill from underwater crags. Oui, mon blanc coeur. Sa blanc seins.
I knew of my broken-boiled-braised fate, and chided the acid sea for raising me to die in the mouth of my love. Dans la bouche de mon amour, mon vie. I would not be there to witness that moment when, santé, glasses were clinked and drawn to lips and the champagne, my funeral beverage, was tossed back. I wouldn’t see her in her new dress, the one she bought for this moment without knowing it was for me that she looked pretty, or at least that was why I hoped she would look as beautiful as she would. She would look beautiful, pour certain, pour moi.
I wish I could be there as more than my white muscle, my empty shell. I feel like every wounded soldier with a pretty nurse, like every soldier given a kind look and then reminded he is going to die. I am going to die and she will live on, mon vie. She will live on, her muscle beating for some Quebecois boy who owns a bike and fishes from the lake everyone abandoned because of the smell. And then she will realize that he is just as rotten as the fish he brings her, and she will wipe the gunk from her heart and move to Vancouver and love again. Encore, encore.
How little will be left of me then? If I could control my remnants I would lodge in her teeth, a sharp shard, and every man that kissed her would bleed when he ran his cigarette-stained tongue over her Himalayan teeth. Sa blanche dantes comme le neige. I would like to travel with her, catch a red flash of my own shell every time she opened her mouth to cry. She will cry when she leaves Maine, leaves me dans la compost, dans le garbage. I think I will hear her echo through the tin. It is agony to love something on two legs, for it can always walk away. And it always will, if you are a lobster and dead and the girl kept no part of you in her teeth so she is gone gone gone and will never remember to visit Maine again, or see the back alley where I will rot for far too long, waiting.
She still sings Alouette in the kitchen. I can hear it over the rush of water plummeting into the big pot. Everyone squirms at the sound.
Alouette, gentille Alouette
Alouette je te plumerai!
This is why I call her the girl. No one has made her stop singing a children’s song, or maybe she sings it in secret pour mon freres, et moi et moi et moi. Chanté pour moi et moi tout sol. She sings and shifts back and forth, the water under her feet trying to rise with the soles of her shoes. Trying to dance as she dances. The pot is halfway full, the perfect height. She lifts it from the sink and walks and walks and Christ she slips and the water leaps like glass horses and crashes into the pail, onto the floor, mon belle fille. She swears, lifts the overturned pot like she is restoring a fallen king to his throne. There will be no boiling now, not yet.
A man enters and swears something ugly, pushing the girl into a corner so she can watch as he fixes her mess. The vacation has grown sour, like when sun sticks to stomach after the beach, or summer flings all have girls back home. The man mops until the floor is dry but for the girl’s tiny footprints, which weren’t erased. They tie her to the scene of the crime. He refills the pot and hauls it to the stove, turns on the flames, and waits for it to bubble. Sa oncle est tres mal y tres forts, mais ma fille est tres belle y bon. Belle y bon.
She is alone again. It takes her a moment to emerge from the shadowy corner, and though she will never notice, a spider web's home has tagged along on her back. It will fall before she can notice it. Je suis commes ca. She looks beautiful when she cries. She cries into our pail, looking at me and no one else. Maybe she is crying because of the man who pushed her, showed her how it was done, or maybe she is crying over me because I am in love with her and she can see it. Maybe she thinks I have died already from the pain of a broken heart and the salt from her tears. They sting my skin, mais ne pleure pas. S’il te plait. Ne pleure pas.
She stays there a while, staring downwards and watching as her tears dive into the pail. My brothers are divided. Half have calmed down while half are more agitated than ever, sensing the silence means change. The silence means the girl is ready. She glances at the pot. No bubbles. She begins counting us. This is how I learn that she will not be dining alone. Cinc homards, and I am one of them. Number three. The third to go, though I wish she’d reach for me first, and let me sit in my death chamber, feel the water heat up and have some more time to think before the bubbles and the burning.
What a beauty, even as she hides her pink seashell nails, her scratched hands. She puts on gloves as if I will put up a fight. How could I ever fight what I love, what walks away. She begins again.
Alouette, gentille Alouette
My brothers are frantic. It is as if they can sense the change in the air, feel the bubbles in the pot pop on their husks. She does not notice the bubbles in the pot yet. I am glad no one has a voice to remind her. She looks down at all of us one more time and sticks out her tongue. C’est quoi cas, amour? C’est un coeur que rupture.
Suddenly she reaches in and the one on my left is the first to go. She slides around the floor holding him outstretched as she sings faster and faster.
Alouette, Alouette, Alouette!
He is writhing before he has even been thrown in the pot. To dance with her--what a last sight to see-- her blurring face smiling so broad, the floor patterns of noir y gris y noir y grís. Everything a whirl and her face the eye of the tornado. That is the way to go.
Je te plumerai la tête
Je te plumerai la tête
Et la tête, et la tête
Et la tête, et la tête
She slowed down and I fell back into the cavity left by my swirling brother. My nearly boiling brother. The girl approached the pot, her spider web tail swinging. Without another moment she dropped him in with a kerplunk and never stopped singing. I tried to ignore the crackle, the splashing sound of attempted escape.
Alouette, gentile Alouette
She sang on, une chanson de mort. She approached again and grabbed the brother to my right, though he snapped at her hands, tore at her glove. It did nothing. She would boil my brothers and I would love her all the same, would hate her for walking out the door once I was burned and never return. Hated I would never see her again for she would never take a piece of me when she left. Girls like that brush their teeth and cry with their mouth closed. Girls like that don’t let anyone come along when they go off to kiss boys who smoke cigarettes and fish in polluted lakes. They walk away after the song is over. Alouettes finis. C’est cas. Cas c’est amour.
She performed the death dance again and again, until there was only one left to go into the pot for dinner: me. I wondered if I would even boil surrounded by all those bodies, but as she pulled me into her waltz, I caught a glimpse of them all, laid out on a paper towel, very still. The room was still, except for the two of us squeaking on the damp tile floor. No one else might exist right now. It could be the girl and me and no one else and I would never know because soon it will be just the girl. This crushes me, that she will be alone, that I will be dead. Danse avec moi, tue-moi, mais fait attention avec moi moi moi tout seul moi.
She is out of breath, now. Her Alouette comes out in choppy syllables.
Her dance is almost done. The squeaking sounds elongate and her face becomes less and less blurry. I hate seeing her in focus. It makes everything ten times worse because she is the kind of beautiful you can’t keep to yourself. Thousands of others will see her and love her and live on but I am the only one who will die. Mais c’est par de quoi. Rien. Rien de tout.
This our final waltz. I have watched the tilt-a-whirl ride by the pier slow down this way a thousand times, and now I know. My insides settle as she catches her breath. Cas c’est la denouement. This is the end. She approaches the pot and I can see the debris at the bottom, the bits of barnacle and the beady eyes that fell out as my brothers scorched. Maybe my eyes will fall out too and get to glance up at my girl, mon femme, as she washes the last of me into the sink.
I want to grip her finger, convey that this is not the way it should be. That love should not end in boiling water. But I don’t want to hurt her, and I know she wouldn’t understand. So when she carries me to the pot, I don’t bite. Je cache mon dants. She pours me in and the water feels warm, almost comforting. Until it burns.
Davis Dubose Marler