Wasps (A Quartet Excerpt)

It was Saturday morning. The cat could be heard peeing in the litter box. The fan could be heard whirring. Sunshine was standing at the Front Door with a bouquet of freshly picked daisies. But everyone was too sleepy to let her in. This time seventeen years ago, Anna’s mother was in the kitchen humming Joni Mitchell and making Belgian waffles. For reference, Anna’s hair was a short crop of curls then, an afro that had yet to find its true mirth. Sink water was enough to fix it up then. Nowadays she’d reverted to her favorite childhood aesthetic: ball caps. She would say, there’s too much hair and not enough hours in the day. She would also say, I’m lazy. Fast forward to the nowadays, to this day in particular, this Saturday morning, when a wasp was hovering in the window, and her itinerary was collecting dust on the dresser top—next to the bottle.

Once when she was four, or was it five, she and her mother attended some outdoor luncheon on square lot of grass adjacent to a busy street. There were balloons. And fried green tomatoes. And fresh lemonade. And there was a wasp also in attendance, a wasp with a stinger that looked pregnant, with legs that hung like black strands of frayed spaghetti, with wings that flapped purposefully. And the wasp was hovering a little too close to young Anna. She thought her mother would save her, would come running to swoop her up before the wasp did what she thought it was going to do. But her cries were muffled in the wind. In the jibber jabber chitter chatter of the moms. And the thrum of passing cars. The wasp stung her on the arm when no one was looking.

The closet in her second house had a window that faced out on the street, an upright rectangle of a window with a nondenominational cross intersecting it. At night moonlight snuck through the blinds and died on the carpet floor. Sometimes she’d find dead wasps ensnared in the bushels of cut pile yarn. Using her tools, she’d perform autopsies on the corpses, not to figure out the cause of death, but rather to get as close as she could to that which frightened her the most. It gave her power knowing the wasps had succumbed to the forces of nature while she went right on living, sleeping snugly in her bed while they mysteriously died in her closet. She never touched the stingers though. Legend had it, they still stung. She wouldn’t take her chances finding out.

Two wasps and a third wheel honey bee landed on her bare thigh one autumn afternoon in Colorado when the sky was falling at an imperceptible rate and strange cosmic things were happening in her love life, strange forces that seemed to flow through and envelop her completely.

Karma- you don’t get it when you want, but there’s a bank. 

The wasps didn’t budge when her eyes opened. She’d been deep in meditation. Deep in the pursuit of silence, when she felt the tickle of their landing and a wave of fear rippled through her whole body. The heart began beating like the hands of the Shaman upon the snake skin djembe. The blood pumped like a river on Adderall. The muscles tensed like a chameleon gone cricket watching. The words fight or flight did not register in her brain. In fact, words had no place in this moment. Her brain was a pot of butterfly soup. Her lips formed an obsequious smile that seemed to express praise for the wing’ed creatures atop her thigh. Rather than jump off running, or call for mommy, she remained perfectly still, at which point the fear had a change of heart and exploded into an energy for which the word ecstatic was a meager descriptor.

Remain still in the presence of your fear, and you will find joy.


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