Wasp

A wasp has made my back porch door its final resting place.  As the days and nights get colder and colder, it stays on the glass panel, moving minimally.  Far from its nest and, as far as I can tell, waiting to die.

It’s funny.  I viciously hate wasps.  I think nothing of spraying neurotoxin into the air and risking poisoning myself in order to effectively kill them off.  For this one, I wouldn’t even need poison to kill him off: I’d simply need something broad to hit the door with, and it would be gone.

And yet, I let it stay.

In this state, the wasp loses all menace.  From inside the house, I can watch its feelers slowly move and bend.  I can watch it attempt to get closer to where the sun hits.  It inches across the glass pane slowly, each leg a deliberate move.  It’s so innocent in this state.  I give him his spot, even opening the porch door slowly when I step outside.

On day three of the visit from the dying wasp, I get word from my sister.  My brother-in-law has passed away.

I am stunned into speechlessness.  Stunned into disbelief.  He had been on the losing end of a cancer battle, but he had been charging forward, regardless and relentless.

And we thought we had time.  Just a little more time.  One more family event.  One more outing.  One more barbecue.  One more baby shower.  One more cancer treatment trial, and maybe — just maybe — this one would be it.

Stunned.  Silent.  Numb.  It’s the calm before the storm.  The tsunami tide receding back before the big wave hits.

I get the news barely half a week after the one-year anniversary of my father’s passing — and barely a month after my older siblings’ mother had passed away as well.  It comes on the heels of health scares, an organ transplant rejection, a premature birth.  It comes on the heels of my little brother finally having the wires removed from his jaw, as he returns to life as usual before the motorcycle accident.  In the hurricane of unfortunate events, nothing is left dry.  When the tsunami hits, everything gets washed away.

“What are you going to do to take care of yourself?” asks my best friend.

“Do you need me to come home?” asks my husband.

“Keep telling me things you’re thankful for,” says a dear friend.

In this storm, I vacillate wildly between incoherent tears and a cascade of thoughts & words.  I vacillate between my stomach clenched & knotted and my stomach gurgling — a gentle reminder that I haven’t eaten since my morning run.  That my plans for the day had been upended the second I stepped out of the shower and checked my phone.  That I react to trauma by accidental starvation.

By the porch door, on the inside staring out, my black cat whines.  He wants to be hooked up to the harness and leash set-up we have in our backyard.  Well, truth be told, he wants to be allowed outside to roam the forest freely and terrorize the chipmunks & garter snakes, but this is our compromise.

I leash him up and let him outside to prowl.  I open the chicken coop cage and allow the chickens out to range as well.  The weather is warm and the skies are a vibrant blue. It’s a perfect fall day and I stand in my backyard, bare feet in the grass, hands in my sweater pockets, eyes drifting between the trees & deeper into the forest.

I am thankful for good weather and good friends and snuggly cats and only having one class on the roster tonight.  I’m going to take care of myself by making homemade potato chips fried in bacon grease & then eating the whole batch.  I’ll be fine — no one needs to come home yet.

The cat gets his leash tangled up in the stone walkway and whines at me to unravel him.  The chickens continue to putter along, bobbing their heads at the ground, pecking at whatever might pass for food.

I am thankful for finishing assignments early and appointments being mercifully cancelled and warm sunlight and living by the mountains.  I’m going to take care of myself by drinking another cup of tea and taking another shower and then going on a drive.  No one needs to come home yet — I don’t even plan on being home for much longer today, anyway.

I turn to go back inside — to prepare everything to make homemade potato chips, to brew me another cup of tea.  The animals will be fine without my supervision for a little while.

I am thankful he lived long enough to walk his stepdaughter down the aisle.  I am thankful the world got to bear witness to such a kind and generous soul.

I step up onto the porch again, realizing that the wasp wasn’t in his usual spot.  I know he was there this morning.  But in getting the cat outside and my breathing to normalize, I didn’t even register him when coming out.  And he’s not there as I come back.

I check both panes of glass.  I check in between them.  I check the runners on both sides.  I check the corners.  I check the ground, the crevasses in the porch, the edges of the welcome mat.  Whether he had finally passed on and one of the chickens plucked him up or he got second wind and was able to fly away, fly back to a nest I would be destroying under any other circumstances, I don’t know.  All I know is that he’s gone.

The little wasp has left me, and I’m completely heartbroken about it.

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