Keywords: union; desire; joy
The sandhill crane has a unison calling; the female will call twice with a harsh howl into the open wild and the male will reply with one.
The male seahorse, before bearing the child, will entwine his tail with a female mate’s to show his growing affection for her; the female will fight off anyone she perceives to be a competitor.
The grey wolves form an authoritative bond that protects them from the pack members, who sense their power, and appreciate their longevity as leaders.
The barn owls share a language of death; the male will bring dead mice and hoot to their love interest, who then hoots her interest in return.
The shingleback skinks mate for life, with the male showing physical affection toward the female and always walking with her, albeit a few steps behind.
The humans do not mate for life but they often try to; they often expect and believe they can. The suitor – whether they are male or female – will bring their love – whether they are male or female – living offerings, such as flowers, and perishable goods, like chocolates. They mark the permanence of their love by providing their interest with things that have a limited lifespan; but the thought is there.
The humans, after exchanging enough of these tokens, will make their relationship a publicly acknowledged one whereby one will propose a permanent bond to the other, who says yes – but not always. When they do say yes a ring of ownership is exchanged before eventually two further rings are exchanged, in front of other humans who will cry and cheer and send well wishes to the bonded humans, who will then go forth into a life of marital bliss.
Here is where observations of the humans have perceived varying results.
The humans will sometimes live together for upwards of twenty years, creating smaller humans and intermittently professing their love and happiness in this state. They will try to maintain the exchange of perishable goods and they will try to maintain excitement, by mating outside of the ideal seasons sometimes for enjoyment alone, with no thoughts of reproduction in mind. But sometimes, despite all of this, the humans will drift apart. The perishable goods will be a waste of both time and money; their mating will be less frequent and often less satisfactory; their love, like spoiled chocolates, will freckle with the undesirable marks of forgotten anniversaries and missed special occasions and a thousand other things that humans do or don’t do when they really should, or shouldn’t.
But sometimes, this does not happen.
Sometimes humans can be seen into the latter years of their life and whether this be their first, second or twenty-eighth attempt at mating, they can be seen together. A walking cane in one hand, likely, and handbag clutched tight by another whose confidence isn’t what it once was. They will walk, as together as they can in their old age – and after three hip replacements between them – and they will still ask the other what they’d like for dinner, or whether they’d like to stop for a rest, or whether they remember that time when…before picking a memory from a whole deck of cards made up entirely of their shared experiences together. They will have had times where they have called into the wild in the dead of night; where one has flirted with the other by bringing gifts; indeed, where they’ve joined forces into a hierarchical power couple, one protecting the other from the pack of humans around them. But they have had times – continue to have times – like these; where they sit together on a bench, in a world licked by frost, and talk about the weather, how they shouldn’t stay out long because of that arthritis, how they’ll have a nice cup of tea when they’re home…
C. S. Barnes is an author, poet and academic from Worcestershire. Her debut novel, Intention, was published in January 2019, with her sophomore novel, Copycat, following this in June 2019. Barnes’ third novel, Play, will be released in April 2020. She also writes poetry under the name of Charley Barnes.