The following is a story about the relationship between a young man and a particular octopus. It is based upon actual evidence of the capabilities of octopi to both reside on land for up to 20 minutes as well as to interact with humans.
Joshua was anxious to get to the beach when he woke up early on Saturday morning. He had just graduated from high school and had just been developing interest as to his future. What he did know was that the ocean condition was forecasted to be excellent for board-surfing for at least the morning. The graduation party the night before had once again been an uncomfortable event for him. Amanda was there, but he had yet to develop the confidence in himself to approach her. He did not know how to compete for her attention compared to his ‘cool’ friends. Discouraged with himself, he left the party early looking forward to the next morning on the waves.
As was his routine for such outings to the beach, he prepared his lunch of a baguette with layers of fromage & jambon, as he would describe to others if asked. In the last several years, he has fancied himself as a Francophile, given his family’s extensive travels along the French Rivera; Hence, his description of a ham and cheese sandwich. Unlike the French, however, he did not butter the inside of the baguette. This foreign influence is due to he and his parents going to the Rivera each summer ever since he was 10. But that time was not spent board-surfing since the Mediterranean rarely provides the necessary waves to do so. Instead the family’s time on the Rivera was spent either bareboating out of Cap-d’Ail or relaxing on the secluded Plage Mala. However, as enjoyable as sailing is for him, board-surfing remains his favorite water activity given the 'oneness’ he feels with the board and the waves.
Joshua is accepted by his few friends to be an individual with singular activities and not a team player. Having no siblings, he often pursues those activities that are not typically of interest to others, but satisfy his somewhat unique interests as a teenager. These pursuits include his studies of marine life, French cooking, and the study of constellations leaving board-surfing as his only interaction with his friends.
Joshua parked his Jeep on the side of the road that was separated from the beach by dunes. He untied his board from the top of the jeep and carried it and his backpack carefully across the dunes in that he rarely wore shoes when going to the beach. Once at the beach, he dropped the backpack on the beach, fitted into his wetsuit, and headed directly for the water. Indeed, the surf was up and quite manageable for his considerable skills. Within several minutes, he was far enough away from shore to permit a suitable ride once he selected an appropriate wave. Straddling his board for several minutes, he selected a wave 50 meters further out that he would ride. As the wave approached, he laid face down on the board and stroked the water aggressively to ‘catch’ the wave. He stood nearly upright with his arms stretched out to his sides to maintain his balance as he instinctively moved forward and backward on the board to maintain his acceleration on the wave. By using his feet, he could angle the board on the wave to ride it to a point where he would jump off and grab the board before reaching shore. He did not use a lanyard to link the board to his ankle. To do so was not acceptable amongst his crowd.
After 6 rides, Joshua was in the need for nourishment; the baguette was beckoning him. As he approached his backpack on the beach, he noticed an unusual object mounting his baguette that was protruding from the opening. Continuing, he soon realized that the object was in fact an octopus. Joshua had read that octopi could actually come to shore for up to 20 minutes or so. And, indeed, this was the case. He remembered several additional points. First, scientists had recently determined that octopi can ‘hear’ in a limited frequency range. Second, they are quite intelligent as one of the most highly evolved invertebrates. Lastly, he had seen a video on YouTube (//www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_a_WHIGFXQ) regarding a diver that had indeed achieved a level of communication, a level of a relationship, with an octopus. With that knowledge, he gently separated the octopus from the sandwich. Purposely, he looked directly into the creature’s eyes just below the bulbous portion of its body and made several low frequency noises. Joshua did not have any expectation of what those actions would mean to him for some time.
Craving his baguette, as well as getting back to the waves, Joshua walked to the shoreline to release the octopus into the water. Was it his imagination, or indeed did the octopus begin to move away and then turn back for a moment to look directly at him … and did it just change its color to brown? Joshua shook off those thoughts and returned to the sandwich, which he devoured within minutes. He gave no further thought to the octopus. He returned to the water with his board and surfed for another 2 hours. He became exhausted by the amount of stroking to move the board out into the surf after numerous rides. His parents were starting to press him for addressing his college pursuits. So on his drive home, he started to think about the submission he would have to make with the application to be accepted into marine biology at University of Miami.
Sunday was predicted to have compelling waves, and again he was up early to head to the beach, baguette avec jambon & fromage in his backpack. His parents did not require him to attend church on ‘surfing’ days. It was their opinion that to do otherwise would only lead him away from the church at this point in his life. They were right. Getting to the beach about 8:30 he dropped his backpack at nearly the same point as yesterday. The surf was more challenging this time, but still well within his skill level. He took several bites of the baguette, placed it next to the backpack, and headed directly into the waves once he had fitted into his wetsuit. This time, it was not necessary to wait for any waves. Upon reaching his desired starting point, he was on his board to catch the next wave. For the next 2 hours he made ride after ride without any resting in between. Finally, he decided to go on shore to finish the baguette and the water he had brought. To his amazement upon exiting the water, he saw an object on top of his sandwich. Again, it was an octopus that seemed to be the same size as the previous day. As he approached the creature, it moved to the sand and turned to look directly at him with its tentacles evenly spread around its backside as if it was sunbathing. It remained motionless and did not try to escape. Joshua hesitated for a moment to pick up the octopus again. As he reached down to do so, the color of the octopus changed to a brown which was a bit darker than the sand. Once in his hand, Joshua could sense that the skin of the octopus changed from fairly rough to rather smooth. This time he could not ignore the interaction with the octopus and decided that he would do some research on the Internet when he got home. He would find that octopi do in fact have such transition capabilities. The seed was planted as to the composition he was required to submit with his application to attend the university. He released the creature into the water and returned to get his board. Again, the octopus turned to face him as it laid in the shallow water until a receding wave pulled it back into deeper water. Clearly, the octopus was not afraid of him .... and perhaps, Yes! perhaps, it even desired to remain in his presence. As the octopus disappeared into the surf, Joshua said to himself "See you soon 'Huit'!" (Huit is the French word for 8, pronounced 'wheat'.)
On Monday, the weather was particularly nasty with a strong Northeaster including driving rain which was not inconvenient for what he had to do that day. Although anxious to get back to the beach to explore his initial thoughts for writing his composition he had another pressing responsibility. His parents made it clear that he needed to find a job for the summer to support his personal expenses when he attended university. The parents were well-off, but their Protestant ethics were clear as to handling responsibility to one’s capabilities. So, on Monday he conservatively dressed, i.e., no jeans and must wear socks, and headed out to submit job applications. His priority of when to work during the day had changed. He decided he would apply for late afternoon and evening positions so as he could continue his morning visits to the beach both for surfing and investigating (e.g., snorkeling) the ocean environment to support the writing of his composition for his application submission. For the latter, he would need to buy a waterproof camera. He knew better then to approach his parents to pay for the camera. This expenditure was his responsibility just as the insurance and gas for the used Jeep that they had purchased for him as a graduation present. He fully appreciated the financial responsibility that his parents expected of him.
It was only the second merchant that he approached that offered him a position, on the spot no less, which was perfect for his time requirements. Tony’s Pizza Parlor was short on filling two positions for the intense summer market. The first position was a pizza maker, and the other was a delivery driver. Both were required for the prime shift from 2-10 PM. Joshua was clear that he was available for any mixture of week and weekend days. Tony and he shook hands, and Joshua would start on Friday to first be trained as a ‘chef’. Tony was straightforward. “Joshua, if that doesn’t work out immediately, then the driver position is available to you. Upon leaving the pizza parlor, Joshua headed to the camera store in the complex to find a waterproof camera. The camera he selected had to be ordered which was fine for him since he didn’t yet have the cash. Given that he now had a job, his parents would provide him a loan if the camera arrived before his first paycheck. That evening, Joshua was researching for information regarding how to write a scientific study, not yet knowing the actual subject other than dealing with marine life. His initial feeling was that his experience with Huit could be the primary subject. But, that had to be determined with more visits, if possible, with the octopus.
Tuesday was promising to be a decent day at the beach for relaxing, but not for board-surfing. The wind was predicted to be mild with no waves. There was no hurry to get to the beach at that point. Instead of the surfboard, Joshua grabbed his mask, fins, and tankless diving equipment that was excellent for exploring relatively shallow water submerged. The beach at which he had seen Huit was rich in marine life, but no coral. It was the former in which he was most interested for writing a composition.
He arrived at the beach just after 10 in the morning. It would take him 20 minutes to fit into his wet suit and set up his diving apparatus before heading into the water. He knew that he would need to go out at least 30 feet before the water would be at least somewhat clear given the weather disturbance the day before. Once sufficiently offshore, he swam to the bottom to move forward searching for what he could find. In about 5 minutes, as he turned to his right and then left at a depth of 10 feet, he suddenly noticed an octopus at his side. He stopped and came to a vertical position as the octopus moved around him and then in front of his mask. In the restricted light available, he noticed that the octopus was both the size and color of Huit the day before. Surely, THIS was Huit! Joshua held out his right arm and the octopus attached itself to it gently with 2 of its tentacles. The octopus then let go of his arm and attached itself to Joshua's facemask for a moment before again moving directly in front of him, as to say: "This is me." Joshua then opened both hands in front of him, and the octopus moved to rest his body directly on the hands. Joshua was sold. Huit would be the primary subject of his composition if the relationship continued.
For the next 30 minutes he moved through the water randomly with Huit moving in parallel. For the next 20 minutes or so, Joshua made several particular motions with his hands with each associated with a particular touch of the octopus or a movement in a certain direction. Within several iterations of each motion, it was clear that Huit understood and responded accordingly. At one point Joshua reached out and gently held the creature close to his facemask so that they were eye-to-eye. Amazingly, Huit let out a squirt of ink away from Joshua. He let go of the octopus and gestured with his hands to indicate a certain direction. Huit swam away slightly and then remained stationary. Once again Joshua stretched out his hands and Huit came and rested on them. Again, Joshua brought him eye-to-eye resulting in another squirt of ink. He knew then that the composition was going to be about this relationship with Huit that he hoped to develop further with 3 to 4 visits per week over the next 3 weeks.
It was time to leave in that his tankless breathing system would be out of energy soon; He had not fully charged it the night before. He headed towards shore, but soon lost sight of Huit in the murky water. Once on the beach, he removed his wetsuit and sat down to eat most of his baquette leaving some near the shoreline should Huit have followed him. That evening he did further research on the intelligence of octopi, which it turned out to be significant. He became aware of a number of experiments that had been made regarding the ability of octopi to recognize objects. Given his experiences that morning with Huit, he started to develop his approach for his composition. That is, once he had his underwater camera, he would document Huit's responses to his motions. However, he realized that he was missing one component. It would be most effective to have an assistant to handle the camera to free him to interact with Huit most effectively. He had no immediate solution for that requirement.
On Wednesday Joshua spent the morning reading about the procedure and structure for scientific studies. In the afternoon and the early evening after dinner, he developed his procedure for moving forward based upon what he had read. On Thursday, he called the camera store and was told that his camera would be available in the afternoon. Yet without the cash, he approached his Dad for a loan explaining what he was doing. His father was amazed at what his son had done, and gave him the cash to proceed as a gift. Later that afternoon, Joshua purchased the camera and spent that evening reading the manual on how it was best used.
On Friday, Joshua was at the beach by 11 and proceeded with setting up for his dive. With the camera mounted on his left side, Joshua entered the water that had cleared significantly from that on Tuesday. He was only in 10 feet of water when he was spotted by Huit that came directly in front of Joshua's mask and paused. Joshua righted himself and held out his right arm for Huit to rest on. With his left hand he brought up the camera to focus on Huit and take several pictures. He then changed the camera to video mode. He withdrew his right hand and extended it to his right side. Huit responded accordingly by resettling once the arm was outstretched. With the camera now capturing Huit's motions, Joshua made several other movements with Huit consistently responding as he expected.
He suddenly remembered that he was to work that afternoon, and he left Huit by placing him on the ocean floor and swimming ashore. Huit did not follow. He was back to his house in less than an hour and prepared to go to work. Without thinking, he left his camera in the Jeep. Upon reporting to Tony's Pizza Parlor at 2, he was welcomed and put to work immediately in the kitchen to be trained on tossing pizzas and the various options that were available on the menu. By 10 PM he was exhausted but showed no indication of that to his coworkers. Tony was immediately impressed with his capabilities and told him that he was good to continue as a 'chef'. Prior to leaving the restaurant, Tony asked him to make a late delivery of 4 pizzas to a party that had just ordered. "No problem Boss. Thank you so much for this opportunity for the summer." At 10:15, Joshua was out the door with 4 pizzas to be delivered to 35 Ocean View Drive. He knew the approximately of the address and that it was a very exclusive, gated community. He did not recognize the name on the order. Upon being permitted entrance by the guard at the gate and reaching the designated house, he carried the pizzas to the front door and rang the door bell. To his great surprise, Amanda came to the door. He was totally taken by surprise, not only to see this young lady that he privately lusted over, but also by her recognition of him. "Hi Joshua. It is nice to see you." He gave her the tab, and she paid it with a handsome tip. He thanked her and started to walk back to his Jeep. She then commented: "Joshua, it so late to be working. Are you finished for the night?" He turned back to face her, and shyly said "Yes". She continued, "Joshua, we are having a pizza party, dahhhhh!, and several people have already left. Would you like to join us? I really think pizza should be eaten when it is first served and not as left overs the next day." "Aahhhhh, well ... OK, I haven't eaten since noon." She laughed kindly and said "Come in my fellow graduate and meet my friends, some of which you may know," He knew none of the 3 girls personally. Apparently, the 3 guys that were there had left earlier to shoot pool. This was not the crowd with whom he was associated at school.
Being new to the party, he received a number of questions, e.g., Where you in my advanced English class? Did you date Karen Bliss? Don't you have an older sister? Did I see you at the WWII Veterans' charity event?, etc. All of this discussion was embarrassing him as to his lack of involvement with the topics about which he was being asked. He decided that he needed to leave this crowd even though he desired to make some headway with Amanda. He stood and said to Amanda: "Thank you for inviting me in, but I have a long day at the beach tomorrow. I have much to do in the next 3 weeks to prepare my application for the University of Miami." Amanda sensed his lack of comfort with her friends and engaged him directly. "Joshua, I also plan to attend the university. I am curious as to which discipline you are pursuing." Her sudden interest seemed genuine to him, and he briefly explained about his interaction with Huit and his intent to take up Marine biology. Amanda expressed great interest while the other girls quickly went into other discussions about some of the jocks at the school. Now he and Amanda were talking face-to-face as he presented more details, including the need for an assistant to film his activities with Huit. Hearing that, Amanda came over to the sofa on which he was sitting, ignoring the other young ladies, and sat next to him. She quickly stated with that she would be thrilled to assist him. Joshua responded enthusiastically. "WOW! That would be great!."
The two continued to talk about Joshua's plan for performing this study with its focus on Huit. Suddenly, Joshua stood and said that he would be right back. He went to his Jeep and brought back the camera to show the pictures and videos he had taken that morning. She actually giggled as she viewed the pictures and videos. Amanda paused for a moment and then suggested that she could manage the visual documentation including formatting the portfolio to integrate with the study's script. "After all, Graphic Arts is to be my field of study at the university, and this activity could benefit my studies as well." Trying to be cool, Joshua stated slowly "Hmmmm, that could work well for both of us then. Can you dive with a tankless apparatus?" "Absoultely" punching him lightly on his right arm, as if she had been insulted. "Did you not know that I was on the swim team? (He did. He had seen her several times at the school's pool. WOW!) "And, I have been diving with my family since I was 10. I actually have my own tankless equipment, Thank You. (stated with faux sarcasm)" "Super! Amanda. We are a team. I will pick you up at 9 tomorrow morning." It was now after midnight, and the 3 girls had already departed on their own. Amanda walked him to the door. As he was exiting, she reached up and kissed him on the cheek. "I am very excited, my fellow graduate, to do this study with you." Joshua knew not how to respond, and turned to go to his car. "Goodnight Amanda." He would think about that kiss on the cheek and his lack of a 'cool' response until he fell asleep.
The next 3 weeks were very rewarding for Joshua, as well as very challenging. He and Amanda spent many hours together, both in the water with Huit as well as at a coffee shop to work on the composition prior to going to work. He was fascinated with her skills as to visual perspectives as well as with her assistance in the structuring of his observations of Huit with him.
It was their last trip to the beach to document Huit that their relationship was to change formally. As she concluded the filming of Joshua's interaction with Huit, she swam over to Joshua lowering the camera to her side via the attached lanyard. Instinctively, Huit moved to the side as she approached Joshua to be mask-to-mask. She gave him the gesture for both of them to go towards shore. Once, they were at a point that they could stand, she lightly grabbed his left arm and pulled him into her. She raised the mask from her face, and he did likewise not knowing what was her intent. She then brought her hands up to embrace his face and said quite plainly "Joshua, I am falling in love with you." She then kiss him. He was stunned and said nothing. "So there Joshua! What are you going to do now?" The reality was now replacing his fantasy and he decided to take a bold step for himself. "Amanda, I have been so attracted to you from afar since 11th grade." "Amazing" she returned "So have I been attracted to you." They both laughed and walked hand-in-hand to the beach, having first taken off their fins.
Once on shore, they gathered all of their equipment and sat down next to each other looking out across the water. They had a lot to discuss as to their individual interests and to explore that which they had missed about the other during the last 2 years of high school. This was love in the making.
With both of them having been accepted and attending the University of Miami, they became both a couple and a 'team' in various marine biology studies. Each college-break they would return to the same beach and seek out Huit, the catalyst for their relationship. When found, the creature would now approach each of them face-to-face, and swim parallel to them. It was in the second Winter break that Joshua and Amanda went to the beach for their swim, and Huit was not to be found ... and never would be again.