Hicks promises Ripley in Aliens. A heavy commitment for a modern relationship, and a delicious double entendre playing off the word do. I’ll do us both. An internecine pledge of petite mort, death and sex dangling like tumescent fruit—like, if they make it back to the Sulako, Hicks is hoping they’re gonna do it, meaning fuck like there’s no tomorrow. You see it when he makes moon eyes at Ripley after handing her the locator bracelet-thing.
“So I can find you anywhere in the complex,” he says.
It’s kinda cool when a cute guy you just met cares that you’re okay when you’re not together—meaning, when he’s not there to protect you—not that women need protection, but Hicks is offering what he can give.
“This doesn’t mean we’re engaged or anything,” he says, trying to be all whatevs in case she’s not into it.
But she is.
Tough old Ripley dashes a girlish gaze, smiles, and laughs. She’s all, Fuck yeah we’re engaged! In the face of annihilation, she pauses to flirt because if not now—when? The prospect of settling down even for a zipless fuck might have scared herfifty-seven years ago when she was a career pilot with eyes only for outer space.
Time does its work on us all.
In saying, “If it comes to that, I’ll do us both,” Hicks also means I do. Us both. He’s smitten enough to commit murder-suicide to save Ripley from savage xenomorphs who will turn their bodies into nests for chest-bursting baby aliens. He follows that with a hedge—“Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.” The aliens embody what we fear most about love: being reduced to living incubators of pain and grief, our ribcages exploded open, our hearts ruptured by the casual viciousness of a lover’s escape. We fear becoming vessels for someone else’s growth, means to their end, our end—empty shells cast on the midden of exes when we’re no longer useful.
Once implanted, love can’t be removed without killing a part of us.
Some romances ripen and decay. Others coexist in long-term mutual parasitism. Either way, the result is the same: whether through desertion or death, our lovers depart eventually. A hole remains where they once made a home inside us.
Despite knowing this, we insist, as Ripley does, “I won’t end up like the others.” We forge forth into the derelict spacecraft anyway. Earthlings are curious to a fault. The thrill of obliteration heightens our joy of discovery, and love depends on this biological wiring. It needs us to evolve and propagate like we need it to quicken us, for it is in risking everything to the brink of our extinction that we feel most alive.
From the tingling anticipation of death—and the thrill of cheating it—comes the savory shudders of desire, the gasps and bursts of creation, of denouement. Spent. Sticky. Glittering. The skittering infatuation may have dried and fallen off, but it’s left a lump in our throat. From the first kiss, it’s too late: a creature comes alive inside us, guts to loins, an unnamable stirring. Itgrows silently, yearning to be born, aching to break free—to breathe.
Gabriela Denise Frank is a Pacific Northwest writer, editor, and creative writing instructor. Her work has appeared in True Story, HAD, Superstition Review, Bayou, Baltimore Review, Citron Review, The Normal School, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. She serves as the creative nonfiction editor for Crab Creek Review. www.gabrieladenisefrank.com