Have you read The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien? It’s an amazing book for a hundred reasons, but one thing that sticks in my mind is the way O’Brien describes love. (No, this isn’t going to be one of those kinds of posts; hang in there.) First, near the beginning of the book, when a soldier thinks about the girl he left at home:
[H]is love was too much for him, he felt paralyzed, he wanted to sleep inside her lungs and breathe her blood and be smothered.
Then in the final chapter, a first-person account of a childhood infatuation:
Even then, at nine years old, I wanted to live inside her body. I wanted to melt into her bones — that kind of love.
Seriously, he’s a damned good writer.
Anyway, most of us don’t actually get to inhabit the objects of our affection — except maybe figuratively, but where’s the fun in that? In the ocean, though, there’s one incurable romantic who’s got it all figured out:
Sacculina is actually a kind of barnacle, though it doesn’t look at all like the ones on the beach. As a pretty young female larva, it finds a good-looking crab and punctures its exoskeleton at a soft, bendy joint. Sacculina then injects itself into the crab’s body, growing into a balloon that sits in the abdomen. It extends long, nutrient-leeching tendrils into every corner of the crab, like this:
The parasite has so much control that eventually the crab stops growing, hunts down food for the barnacle’s benefit, and even — after the barnacle’s mate moves into its abdomen too — takes care of the resulting larvae as if they were its own. (Say it with me: Awwww.)
Okay, so maybe that’s not exactly what O’Brien meant. Maybe it’s not the most healthy, mutually respectful relationship in the world. But if nothing else, I bet that crab writes the best angsty love poems.