Nelson didn’t like that I was oysteresque, and that hurt. That is, Nelson didn’t like that I was oysteresque, except when he wanted to fuck me. Like now.
He got some vocals going along with his a-bonging banging rhythm. “That’s right, girl.” His thrusts slammed the headboard into the wall. “Feels good.“ Slam. Slam. “Oh, oh, oh yeah.”
His cock pulsed, stretching me. “Pearls!” I grabbed his ass and pulled him in hard. “Oh, God. Shuck me! Pearls. Pearls!”
Afterwards, as his heavy breathing tapered off, so did his appeal.
“Pearls again, Claire?”
His lips moved, making words. Lick me with that hot, angry mouth. My mollusk meat was still riled. It quivered.
“Did you take your medication today?” he said. “Or did you lay around, doing your oysterblivion again?” Another night was ruined.
We finished the Chianti. He used his reasonable tone on me. He said that I was lazy, and selfish.
I heard it like “shellfish,” and cracked up.
That made him mad. He used to say that I was an artist.
Men love oysteresque women, at first. The aphrodisia scent, the love of sex and rhythm and cum. Later, they don’t like all the resting that’s needed to produce the pearls. They just don’t want to let you filter.
I wanted to doze off into oysterblivion right then. “Who cares,” I said. “You go on home now.”
“I live here, Claire. We’re married.”
It was hard to think right, I was so tired. I shut my shell on him. He still polluted my environment, though.
“Don’t you even ignore me, because you know I’m right. And don’t start that shell bullshit, either. You don’t have a shell.” He tapped my shell. “You’re not an oyster, Claire.”
I could not produce good pearls in this pollution. I would have to leave.
“A room for one, please.” I handed the girl my ID card.
“Yes, ma’am. How many nights?”
“Is this Papeete? Is this Tahiti?”
“No, ma’am. Um, ma’am? This is actually Pupitre, Texas.”
“Oh. Well. That’s probably my fault.” I was so tired, it was hard to keep swaying. There was itsy bitsy movement in my tummy, a baby pearl. It needed rhythm. I did my arms like a hula girl, for extra luck. “I will stay for one year.”
“Ma’am? Please excuse me for just a minute. I’ll be right back.”
The girl looked all scaredy-cat, slightly retarded, perhaps. “Sure, honey, take your time.” I hoped she wouldn’t take her time. Ah, there was a chair. I sat and waited, fiddling with the strand of akoya pearls around my neck. They tapped together pleasingly, snick, snick, snick.
“Mrs. Seibert? I’m Jon Hayes, night manager. Are you doing all right tonight? Is there someone I can call for you, anything you need?”
“No, thank you. I just want to rest. Can I have some water? And six ice buckets, please? There is a pearl farm around here, isn’t there?”
“Uh, yes ma’am. Certainly. Our guest shuttle runs to Pupitre Lake Freshwater Pearl Farm every two hours. Hold on, let me get you a brochure. And, uh, those other things, too.”
Finally, I was in bed. I had plastic hotel cups full of water lined up on the nightstand, and a stack of ice buckets. Sip the water, swish it around, spit in the bucket, again and again. Sip, swish, spit. Filtering. Slipping into lovely, lovely oysterblivion. Pure nothingness, just the cool rhythm of water.
The next evening, I still hadn’t made it to the pearl farm. Migrating had been hard on me. After a day of rest, I craved a good dinner.
The room service menu had milk, of course. I needed the calcium for strong pearls. Whole fish was for the iridescence in the scales. Fresh summer strawberries, and a glass of red wine, too, were for the rose tint I wanted my pearls to have. Red, fruit-based foods fostered it. The only thing missing was the bonding agent, but that wasn’t found in food.
The large, golden South Sea pearl on my finger shone in the lamplight. It had been a gift from Nelson, from our wild moonstruck time when we still pitied everyday people. I moved my hand this way and that. The pearl wailed a sad Polynesian song. A hui hou kakouâ€¦Until we meet again.
“Room service!” The knock at the door startled me.
“Mrs. Seibert? Here’s your dinner. And a bottle of Merlot, on the house. For you and your husband?”
Jon Hayes, night manager, had brought my dinner up himself. Men were very drawn to my oysteresque aroma.
“No husband. Nope, I’m not Mrs. Seibert anymore. Now I just go by â€˜O’.” I made that up. After I said it, I liked it.
“Oh?” he said. Or maybe he said, “O?”
He’d do. The fat ones put out a good load of bonding agent.
We held eye contact, checking that we understood each other.
“Thank you. Would you like a glass?”
“My pleasure, O.”
A new man’s touch feels like sparks. The shock shuts my shell. The thrill opens it, my mollusk meat puffs out. Both things go on at once and I’m all a-flutter.
I got to that best place with him. Pure nothingness, topped with wave after wave of hot, naughty pleasure. He kept at it and I lost control of what I said.
My yelling about pearls didn’t slow him down. He moved his pillowy blubber on top of me like a melody.
Then it was over. He rolled over and went to sleep.
He needed to go, because I needed to filter.
He wouldn’t get up.
I opened the window to air out the thick fragrance of my aphrodisia. Then a few guys started milling around in the parking lot below, so I shut it.
Messing around with my personal collection calmed my mind. These were the pearls I’d birthed myself. I lined them up in order. I liked to track my progress. The earliest ones were small and gray, crumbly gravel. As I had honed my craft, my pearls had gotten larger, rounder, more lustrous.
I couldn’t fight off oysterblivion any longer. I grabbed the supplies and shut myself in the bathroom. The delicious dark enveloped me. That, and the sip, swish, and spit rhythm.
“Good morning. Hey, what are you doing?” Jon Hayes yanked my shell open.
It was like being stripped in public. It was awful. “Nothing. Rinsing.”
“Rinsing? What are you rinsing? Did you sleep in here? What are you doing with all the ice buckets?”
He started coffee in the little drip maker, before I could think of how to tell him to leave.
“What are these, rocks?” He held up my best pearl so far, an eight millimeter baroque, beige with spotty pink nacre. “Kidney stones! I’ve had them. What are you—”
“No! Those areâ€¦ nevermind.” He had little pig eyes.
I shut my shell, and sheltered in place until he went away.
At the pearl farm, rows of long plastic pipes floated on the water. Big nets full of pearl mussels were tied to them. The breeze off the lake carried the scent of fresh aphrodisia.
“Your name is Zero?” Tino, the tour guide, lifted his sunglasses to read my name tag better.
I stuck my chest out to give a better view of my name tag and my cleavage. “It’s â€˜O’.”
“Oh. O. What it does stand for?”
“Nothing,” I said. “It’s just â€˜O’.”
Our group toured the sorting shack, the little jewelry factory, the pearl museum, and the gift shop. Towards the end, I was disappointed at being too tired to understand much.
We got off the tram at the water’s edge. One of the big mussel nets floated up around its plastic pipe. It was empty.
Once the group had filed past, I eased down on the dock, and put one foot into the water, then the other. Secure in the net, I slipped into the cool green lake.
Ah, yes. Sip, swish, and spit. It was fine, froggy water. The lake held me tight on all sides. Pure nothingness. I was home.
“Look Mom, they caught a lady in the net! Look, she has her school shoes on! Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom!”
Men sloshed through the water. They ripped open my shell.
The people from my tour group came running back. How embarrassing. Everyone made a fuss over how the kid had “saved me,” especially its pregnant mother. I’d have spanked the brat for getting into adult business.
The mother had a big earnest pan of a face. She was unlikely to be pregnant with anything interesting, probably just a baby.
“Oh, my God!” My mollusk meat got confused in all the commotion, what with two men handling me and a few others in the midst. “My God. Pearls!”
Tino the tour guide snickered.
Nobody else seemed to notice that, at least.
He said, “Thanks, gentlemen,” and held his arms out for me. I was too tired to argue. Maybe I should have, because he walked off with me, away from the others.
“Where are we going?”
“I take you to my hut, O. To rest.”
Oysteresque women are slutty-natured. In spite of my doubts, I couldn’t help but run my hands over his chest, feel his biceps, put my finger in his mouth.
He wore a big, irregular pearl on a leather cord around his neck. I rolled it between my finger and thumb, hoping to conjure a soothing whiff of South Seas coconut or maybe a feel of ocean waves. It came to me. This one thumped. I tapped his chest in time with it.
“Ah yes, it has a heartbeat,” he said.
Tino knew the language of the pearls?
Inside, he put me to bed. I slipped into the dark, too tired to even ask for water.
I stayed in Tino’s hut, sorting and stringing pearls when I could, filtering when I couldn’t. Sometimes at night he’d take me out and put me in the lake.
He came into the bedroom one day just as I awoke. “I want to do it a different way to you now, O!”
“What, you want me to suck it?” I reached for his zipper.
“No, I will use my new technique, and shoot microspheres in for you to cover in nacre in your thing!”
“Micro-spheres? You aren’t talking about some kind of seed pearl, are you?”
“Yes! Wait, I will get for you some red wine!”
“You mean you want me to produce cultured pearls?” Cultured pearls were a joke. They were strictly for poseurs. My shell started to close.
“Yes, but you see, it creates many pearls at the once, not just one. The finest, roundest pearls. I will take them to New York, New York!”
“Butâ€¦ how would the micro-spheres get in?”
“I have blown them into my enormous penis with a straw. When I fuck you, they will hop to the town!”
“That doesn’t make any sense.”
“Yum! Give to me some sugar. And some pussy.”
He said he didn’t think it mattered that I was already hosting a pearl. In the end, I could not say no to such exuberance. What did it matter, if it made him that happy.
“Just once, Tino.”
So, we did it. Or he did it. I watched the ceiling.
“There now, O. You rest.” He put pillows under my hips, and brought me my water and bucket. He left me there, to give his micro-spheres a chance to implant. My shell was closed.
It really is romantic, carrying his pearls, instead of my pearls. I’m sleepier than ever, but he doesn’t care. He takes care of everything. I’m huge. I can’t even imagine how many I’ll have. A lot more than one little pearl a time like before, that’s for sure. I hope it’s a necklace.
The cramping started after midnight.
“Tino. I think I’m in labor.”
“What? No! Thick nacre takes two years. Go back to sleep.”
“Goddammit!” He got up, and put his pants on.
The nurse looked at my chart. “Claire Seibert? Mmm-hmm, and it says here that you’ve had no prenatal care. What. So. Ever.
Tino and I tried to keep our faces straight. Just wait.
The pearls must be giant. Maybe they’d have the rose tint.
“OW! OUCH! OH!”
Between contractions, Tino aimed his cell phone camera. He said he had to document for New York, New York. “I need some good hair-lipped oyster shots, O. Hold it open more wide than that!”
The nurse puckered up her mouth hole.
“Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Sonuvafucking-kumbaya-bitch motherfucker!”
And then, it was there. There it was.
Tino dropped his phone. He ran out the door.
My shell slammed shut.
The nurse said, “It’s a girl.”
“Ah, yes. Well. How are you, Claire?”
“How did you know I was here?”
“The hospital called me. Also, the insurance company called me. And some guy named Tino called me. Did you know you’ve been unconscious for a day and a half?”
Nelson stood there holding his hospital gift shop flowers as if he didn’t know what to do with them or his hands.
“I stopped by the nursery,” he said. “She’s beautiful.”
Were those tears in his eyes?
“I’ve missed you, Claire.”
“Listen. I’ve missed you too, but I can’t be -”
“I do. I’ve done a lot of thinking since you’ve been gone. Five months is a long time to think.”
“Your dinner, Mrs. Seibert.” The orderly put a tray down on the bed table.
“Excuse me,” Nelson said. “My wife can’t eat this. She’s on a special diet.”
The orderly checked his clipboard. “It’s not on here. I’ll tell the nurse, but it will take some time.”
“She can have the milk for now, at least. That red gelatin, too.” He plucked the containers off the tray. “And can you fill up her water pitcher, please?”
“I’ll be back, Claire, but it might take me a while if they don’t have any whole fish in the cafeteria.”
He came back with my fish. “I think,” he said, “that we should name our little girl Pearl.”
I looked him over good for a tightened jaw, a grimace, a sign that he didn’t mean it deep down, but right then he looked like a guy I knew from way back, from before we’d made such a mess of everything.