Love and Anglerfish

There are fish whose bodies become part of their mate’s so thoroughly that they cannot be separated except through death. In the dark of the ocean, far below where the light warms the top of the water, one of them pilots the other, forever choosing the direction they both will swim. The other becomes almost limb, a kind of nearly useless appendage, a small hanger-on whose will won’t ever again be only their own.

In case you ever consider that love might be logical, remember the anglerfish.

People are often no better. The principles of electricity are this—you stand next to someone, learn about how electricity’s strength depends on nearness, feel the whole of your body, stupid with want, and like the summer night insects, darting and diving near the patio light, the light that would burn them, the light that would singe the spread of their wings so that they could no longer fly, you want to be closer still. You want them to never leave. And isn’t that the problem, when your arms, an empty circle, hold space, instead of a body?

Compared with the female, the male anglerfish is small, dwarfed so much by her size she might as well be a sun, and he just a rocky satellite orbiting her being. Male anglerfish who never find a mate starve in the ocean’s depths—for them this “love,” while it will consume their being, is still better than the alternative. The alternative, for them anyway, to be alone, is death.

We as people seem to mistakenly believe the same is true for us, and so we make bad decisions—almost more often than we make good decisions—because for many of us, we are so afraid of being alone that we would rather there be the wrong one than no one.

But, remember the anglerfish. If we might starve while alone, we might still starve while together with another, if the person we choose is not sustenance enough for our soul. The principles of want are this—you can stand near a man, feel yourself dumb with it, learn to burn yourself out on the edges of him, see how you will no more survive seeking his center than you would a star’s, the very marrow of you, once electric and singing, now going dark, no longer a lit bulb illuminating anything. The principles of want are this—you could cry, you could yell at stars over houses in the dark while everyone is sleeping. You could watch trees at night surrounding a house, their leaves swaying gently in a wind, feel yourself rootless, small, impossibly obsidian, a dark thread now running through you. You could learn how not to be seen.

Still, you remember the anglerfish. Love isn’t logical.

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