The fly sat on my bedside table. Staring. Greeting me with judgment, that I dare disturb its schedule. It was not a regular fly. It was overly iridescent. At the end of its abdomen was a stinger. And based on my training and experience I know a housefly shouldn’t have a stinger. I know it had a stinger because it didn’t move, not even one antennae as I approached. I sank to its level. I stared back, my two pupils no contest for its compound eyes. I found it immediately irritating. How dare it take ownership in my space, perched overly close to where I rest my body. And since it had the stubbornness to just sit there, I put my cup on top of it. Suffocating its flyness. I immediately felt remorse. But not remorse enough to move my cup remorse.
I went about my business. I put away clothes that were in a laundry purgatory in the corner of the room. I brushed my teeth. Picked out clothes for the next day. Still thinking about that fly. Wondering what its fate should be. Thinking that maybe it should have done what every other normal fly would have done given my presence, and flown away. I looked for a tissue. Specifically for the box of tissues I had put in my children’s bathroom just the day before, the box that boasted: A: ALLIGATOR, in an overly inviting blue and green, a box that entices a two year old to want to pull out every single tissue in one sitting, I was looking for that box, but it was missing. So I grabbed exactly two squares of toilet paper. Two squares, because one and I would have to feel too much of the fly, and three would be excessive and wasteful for this task.
If I were the conspiracy theorist type, I would think this is what a drone fly looks like. Equipped with a tiny camera and tiny boom mike. Sent in this space to gather my creepy secrets as if it were conducting a very important research study concerning, among other interests, human flossing habits, to determine if I floss only the two weeks leading up to my dental appointments or actually every day of the whole year as I unfalteringly tell my dentist I do. If I were the conspiracy theorist type that’s the sort of thing I would think.
As I flushed the fly, I didn’t feel redemption. I felt disgusted in my need to keep my space clear of such beings, small and innocuous as they might be. I was disgusted by my interactions with it, that I couldn’t ignore it or wait it out for it to just fly away. I was disgusted that I let it become a part of my day and that I had given it a backstory. If the fly had done what it was named to do, my conscious could be free and clear of these affairs.
Three days later my son complained of a shiny bug with wings and awful eyes staring at him in his sleep.
My immediate thought: now it’s an infestation. And then: wondering if entomophobia can be inherited.
Two days after my son complained of the awful bug on his wall I saw a spider. I crouched to study it, expecting of course an ordinary spider. Hope within hope was lost almost immediately. It was not an ordinary spider. What I would give for a regular, friendly, slightly humorous and anecdotal black spider of the Charlotte variety. This was not a Charlotte. The abdomen of this spider was a deep penetrating red, seeming to draw its color from its vein like legs, a lesser red that promoted the circulation of its eerie color throughout the rest of its body. At its mouth were pinchers much like a scorpion, possibly not out of place, but unexpected on this creature. The thing reminded me of poison and immediate death. It crept along the edge of my bathtub, and once aware of my presence, it held still for its inspection. I explained to it that I had already met its accomplice several days back and that it had been no match for my two pieces of toilet paper and had met a swirling watery end by flush.
I afforded the spider no courtesy of time under a cup. This thing was immediately categorized as harmful and hazardous, and thereby removed.
Aside from wondering why my home seemed haven for all sorts of villainous pests, I gave the thing no further thought.
Except that this (hopefully) lone red spider reminded me of a true infestation of a colony of incredibly small spiders I once saw swarming on a wall. At first I thought they were tiny ants. But as I pressed my face next to the wall at an adjacent angle, I saw that they were the fastest, reddest, tiniest spiders I had ever seen.
Several weeks later, possibly not by coincidence, I moved.
There is this garden, and when I say garden, I remember it being more forest than garden, but a forest of orange trees, trees growing lady fingers, morning glories, and rows and rows of strawberries. These beautiful plants and fruits grew together in what seemed to me, at age six, an incredulous forest of horticulture, each plant growing into the next, extending itself just to the point where it met, but did not overwhelm its neighbor. It seemed a haphazard symphony of growth and sunshine that additionally emitted an amazing aroma that could unmistakenly only be earth.
The air here was filled with this sound of the world actually growing, and underneath, it was a cacophony of tiny inhabitants, unaware of the glorious show above. At age six, I was happy just to be with my Grandpa as he walked his land, listening as he described each plant by its scientific name and why it was planted and where, not by accident at all. I usually stayed quickly near his side, because he walked with knife in hand, eager to share the fruits of his labor, my stomach a welcome recipient. He would slice and share our way through his trees, walking slowly, keeping pace with my questions and small legs. He would chuckle as my face soured when I heartily devoured what I thought was sweet navel, but was in fact pure grapefruit.
One afternoon, I heard my brothers run out into this garden. I was always left behind, but I was quick to catch up. I found one brother jumping up and down on what looked to be a rectangle of carpet. Obviously it was out of place here in this space, but my six-year old mind did not continue on with the question of why it might be there.
I did my sisterly duty of pushing my brother off the carpet, and proceeded to jump and jump and jump and jump and jump.
My squeals of delight turned quickly to cries of terror. I suddenly felt piercing stings all over, all at once. My legs were covered in fire ants. Not a few, not twenty, my legs were completely covered in ants, as though they were intent on eating me alive as quickly as possible. I screamed and started running to the house. My Grandma appeared at the porch and kept me from entering, but told me to strip while she got the hose. My brain somehow caught on, but instead of waiting for her to find a source of water, I stripped, ran 300 feet past the house, and promptly jumped in their lake.
That night I lay carefully on the couch, my body having been soaked in a full bottle of calamine lotion. My legs, stomach, and hands a cakey mess of pinkish white relief. My brothers grinning behind their books, trying ineffectively to not burst out laughing every five minutes. They were only too happy that I served the brunt of that harsh lesson of why one would leave pieces of carpet out in a garden. It was my Grandpa’s first line of defense in the extinguishing of fire ant mounds.
Of course, and obviously.
I’m sure there is also a Charlotte-esque type moral here, something along the lines of being mindful in other people’s habitats, or not jumping blindly on carpet that might be holding something else back, down, or away. Or possibly even, not pushing ones brother, or against horseplay in general.
If those were the lessons I was to learn that day, I didn’t. All I can trace to that day in the garden is that it was the beginning of my life versus insects, all.