His beady eyes glared out of a rough greenish-beige face shaped by multiple chins and hardened by scaly skin that piled up at every nook and cranny, until his neck resembled a compressed Slinky and his mouth the beak of a long-fossilized pterosaur. He looked exactly like all the other males around, exactly like her, and she didn’t mind that look.
So she looked again.
Slowly, the two swam together. Silently, he glided above her, settled atop her shell, and ruffled his penis around in there until it was stuck.
She could feel the age-old duty of her mother’s mother’s mother crashing atop her brain like a heavy wave, but there was no stopping it now, this connection called love.
She needed air, but he was insatiable, his weight pounding down upon her every second. While he gasped and snorkled at the surface, she was hardly able to keep from sinking to the abyss, let alone tilt to the degree required to get her nostrils above water. As breath slowly sighed out every cell in her scaly body, she focused on the love flowing into her, a steady stream. It was doomed to cut off, she knew, unlike an ancient river that flowed forever. Yet, until that rock plunged into the stream of love to disconnect them, she was safe in his flippers. Or so her oxygen-deprived brain told her.
So she kept treading, waiting for breath and breakage. But it was not as simple as that.
More males, each approximately identical to the one currently drowning her, circled around the couple. One bit at her male’s back flipper, scraping her own toes with his jagged beak. Another bore down on her male with a wrinkled paddle, trying to scrape him off her carapace so he could rewrite the genetic code of the futures that would come of this love. She didn’t really care which letters were in the code and whose signature dangled from the double helices, but she’d already invested significant effort in this first love and she feared being forced to start all over. She hoped her current male would fight back valiantly.
Instead, he gripped tighter to her body, tipping her down ever farther from precious surface air. He bit into her neck with grim vigor; his toothless beak sank between her multiple chins to ensure that he would hang on, even if her head got ripped off in the process. His mark would be on her forever, the same mark as would have been left by any other beak of any sexually mature male of the correct species. But it was her mark, and she would harbor it always between storm and drought.
The challengers were pulling hard at her partner’s back flippers. She could feel him slipping, the flesh on her throat tearing slightly.
But he clamped on, adding a new bite mark on the nape of her neck. One final thrust and it was over.
The weight disappeared from her neck and back and she rocketed to the surface for air, air, sweet air. If only she could make love to air. When she’d had her fill, she returned below to find the blue sea deserted by all the males. She would never see her mate again, and she wouldn’t recognize him even if she did – but maybe if he bit her…? She wondered. She had a long commute to wonder during: 2600 kilometers of blue. The trail was lit by moon-glassy jellies and dancing green kelp, and other shadows drifted, her sisters.
What awaited her was the heavy duty borne upon her by her mother’s mother’s mother: a breathless, scorching, scratching belly-down lug up the crowded sand, to dig a nest and let go of the love – her creations and his forever intertwined. Most of it would become food for seagulls; a lot more would become hairy roadkill months later when the newborn love turned the wrong direction and walked into the merciless street of cars.
When it was time for her to depart, chances were, she would end up slashed by the intertidal rocks, paralyzed on her back, soft belly facing the accelerating white sun so the morning could cook her alive. Chances were. She didn’t think about chances. She thought about love, until like a used-up sugar pill “he” faded into the gray of the other turtles, all on the same path to hard dry shores. Their eyes, after all, were the same, every gaze.
Image credits in order of appearance:
By Brocken Inaglory – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10541778
By Eco cruising (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
By Andries Oudshoorn – 080317-70 Oman – Turtles at Ras al JinzUploaded by mangostar, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6833872
By No machine-readable author provided. Ezpete assumed (based on copyright claims). – No machine-readable source provided. Own work assumed (based on copyright claims)., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=514129
By Paul Émile Chabas – Metropolitan Museum of Art, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35403334