Bug (5/1/98)

by Julie Bihn

How did we meet?
You were drawn to the lamp at the foot of my bed.
I gave you free rein over the foot of my bed.
And you explored.
Hiding yourself in the spotted pattern of my sheets.
I examined you.
Six legs, two antennae, wings.
Everything in perfect shape.
'Do you realize how lucky you are,' I wondered.
How you have all your limbs?

What does an insect think when it loses a limb?
Does it hurt?
Does it just continue on with its life as though nothing had happened?
Struggling for survival?

You lucky bug, to be in such good health.
For some reason, I thought of killing the poor thing, trapping it under my bed lamp, frying it.
I never would've thought that about the other bug.
The bug in the bathtub, missing a leg or two, valiantly trying to climb out of its ceramic prison.
And failing.
I finally picked him up myself and let him outside.

But this healthy, self-sufficient winged bug, I'd kill?
The thought quickly left me, but the fact that I had had such an idea was frightening.

I need to get back to studying.

The bug started to wash itself.
The silent symphony of limb caressing limb and limb and antennae touching each other fascinated me.
The bug washed for a couple minutes.
I cursed the bug for making me waste my time.
How much of his own time time did the bug waste washing?
A couple minutes for me might be relative hours or days of his short life.

I imagined killing the bug again.
Sinful thought.
If I didn't get the bug away from me, I'd never get my work done.
I tried to get the bug to climb onto my hand. Only when I surrounded it with my hand, leaving it no choice, did it oblige.
It ran up and down my hand and arm, switching to my other hand when I forced it to.
It tickled, but I didn't mind, as long as I knew where the bug was, and what was tickling.

I left the bug on my bedpost.
The bug was confused, running up and down and around its new playground.
But it was safe from any harm I might accidentally initiate.

And it had wings. It could fly away.

Less than a minute later, it was back where it started.
Flying crazily around the lamp at the foot of my bed.
Then it suddenly fell from the lamp to my bed.
It must have hit the light bulb.
It was dead.

I tried to wake it somehow.
Nothing happened.
I touched one of its limbs, moving it in its socket.

It must have died pretty painlessly, anyway.
Or at least very quickly--in less than a second, by my count.
(Though, in bug time, that might have been days!)
I'm sorry I thought of killing you.

I saw another bug fall down dead, killed by the lamp.
He looked just like my dead friend.
I was sad, but not as sad at the death of a stranger as I had been at the death of someone I knew.
I saw a third bug--a brown one.
I just don't like brown bugs.
But I couldn't kill him.
That's okay.
My lamp did it for me.
Is it worth all these sacrifices of life, just so I can do some reading?

Another bug flew by, from past the bedpost.
A bug that looked just like the one I had made friends with.
It flew towards the lamp, landed on the bed, and headed towards the light.


I covered the lamp's light.
I wouldn't let another bug--maybe my friend--kill himself on the light bulb.
This had to be the bug I knew...
The bug still tried to approach the light.
Finally I switched the light off and waited, hoping the bug would leave.
(Bugs aren't attracted to heat, are they? The lamp gets very hot...)
When the light came on again, the bug was farther from the lamp.
But not far enough.
He continued to walk towards the deadly light.
I whipped the cap off my highlighter and trapped the bug inside it.
I took him to the window, opened it, and set the bug on the sill, quickly shutting the window again.
The bug was safe from my murderous light.
Be free, adventurous bug. My friend.
Be happy and safe.
Or, at least, please don't let me be the one that kills you.

© Julie Bihn, 1998

Please do not modify or duplicate without my permission.

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