Saturday 24 June 2023

'Can Jellyfish Feel Love?' by Martha Lane

Golden jellyfish, isolated in their saltwater lake, cultivate algae by following the sun. As though they have faculty, as though they are wise. Really their nervous system recognises the light, knows they need it. Nothing more. This is as close to a decision that they can make. Your reflexes programmed; steps taken beyond your control; you migrate to the Red Lion.

A lion’s mane jellyfish the size of a blue whale was discovered once, tentacles nearly 100ft long, far reaching. Doesn’t need to be near its prey to cause it damage.

You come home, stale breath leading the way. Cigarette smoke knitted into your hair. You don’t say much, but you close the laptop, tell me I shouldn’t even be looking. Make it clear you aren’t getting on any planes.

‘Too Faro away,’ you laugh. A belly-shaking boom. Headliner of your self-acclaimed one man show. ‘Too Faro away,’ you repeat, explain, wait for me to smile.

‘Portugal has beer too,’ I whisper to no one.

The Portuguese man o’ war isn’t a true jellyfish, it’s not even one animal. It’s a colony of creatures with specialist jobs, all with the drive to survive.

Imagine. Harder some days than others.

People think a group of jellyfish is called a bloom or a swarm. But really, they’re called a smack. There isn’t a part of the ocean jellyfish haven’t drifted. Hundreds of thousands of smacks, impossible to avoid.

Jellyfish have survived every mass extinction.

Jellyfish produce their own light.

Jellyfish can’t sting each other.

We could never be jellyfish.

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