Sunday, June 27, 2010

Porifera Love: A Play in One Act

I have not posted much fiction on this site…mostly because it is too long. But I enjoyed this little piece and thought I’d post it.[1] I wrote this while I was supposed to be studying for my Aquatic Invertebrate Ecology final. I justified it by telling myself “You’ll never forget the Porifera life cycle.

Warning: The first line is quite a bit more crass than the rest of the "play".[2]

Porifera Love

Fera: “Well, I ejaculated this morning.”

Pori: “Good for you. Hey, you never know.”

Fera: “You know, you said that last year.”

Pori: “And it is just as fitting this year”

Fera: “This makes three years for me…more for you. I’m honestly getting tired of it. Just sending it out there. I mean, what if we are alone here? We still don’t have any evidence that there are others of our kind close enough to matter. I am probably just sprinkling the lake bottom with the spent relics of my misguided attempts to reproduce. Seriously, I’m thinking about…”

Pori: “Here we go again. If our populations are thin here, the last thing we need to be thinking about is asexual reproduction. Robust populations…”

Fera: “Screw meiosis. (Pori giggles at the pun) I’m officially thinking about fragmentation. There is no evidence that there are others out there. It might be time to take matters into our own hands…”

Pori: “What’s a hand?”

Fera: “It’s an expression.”

Pori: “I don’t know how you could even consider fragmentation. Honestly, we really should wait until dark to talk about this. You are probably scaring your algal symbiotes.”

Fera: “They’ll live. I know it isn’t romantic. All hot and diploid. But maybe it is time to just grow up and get past sex.”

Pori: “You’ll never talk me into fragmentation. It is just too existentially violent. You really want to rend your psyche into pieces? You really want to wake up the every morning and know that you are no longer the only you? Little gemules of yourself spread who knows where. It’s creepy.”

Fera: “It really depends on how you look at it. What if it’s true that sponges aren’t actually individuals at all, but colonies of self-interested cells?[3] If I am not a unified self, anyway, but a colony then fragmentation makes a lot of sense. I would just be starting a bunch of little me franchises. Most of our kind eventually resort to it, Pori. I’m starting to feel like I want to persist as more than just a filtering shell of myself.

Pori: “Oh, I see what this is about. You are just feeling existential since I told you that we will continue to filter water after we are dead.”

Fera: “Come on, you have to admit, its creepy. But, yes, the idea that I will keep filtering water after I go all abiotic[4] has got me thinking about stuff. “

Pori: “You are a sponge, Fera. You are about two defining characteristics away from being a plant. Thinking is not your strong point. But in the filtering and sperm propulsion departments…you are king of the lake.”

Fera: “Well, if you object so much to fragmentation, there is another option."

Pori: “Don’t say it!”

Fera: “I’m just sayin.”

Pori: “Don’t say it!”

Fera: “It would alter the nature of our relationship.”

An uncomfortable silence hangs in the water between the amorphous organisms. The sound of water jetting from their osculums, usually unnoticeable in its constant familiarity, became deafening.

Fera: “I mean, we are very close and…”

Pori: “I’m not doing it!”

Fera: “Come on, you never know until you try. You might make a stunning lady. Seriously, you might be really sexy.”

Pori: “I’m not turning into a lady…you turn into a lady.”[5]

Fera: “Well, I guess I kind of assumed you would do it.”

Pori: “You would.”

More silence

Fera: “Awkward.”

Pori: “Identifying a moment as awkward does not make it less awkward.”

Fera: “I guess relationships are complex even when you aren't.”
[1] As I am still mostly confused about what constitutes quality blog content.
[2] Biology students of all kinds forget that sperm is not a topic of polite conversation. Once, when one of my classes ended, one girl said to another behind me, “We talked about sperm in every one of my classes today. I bet English majors don’t have to deal with this.
[3] Actually, it is no longer debated whether or not sponges are individuals. The cells are too specialized and interdependent to be considered their own organisms. The debate is if sponges have ‘tissues’. If you put some of my tissue or your tissue or the tissue of any non-sponge animal in a blender and press the red button…it will remain blended. But a sponge will reassemble its cells into their appropriate position and functionality.
[4] Sponge morphology is so well optimized for filtering water that it doesn’t require the thousands of little flagellated ‘motors’ to push the water through. An empty sponge skeleton will continue to filter water.
[5] Sponges can go through a one year process of changing sex.

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