I am hiding in a yellow room where everything is jaundiced. The people who owned our house before us had a thing for bold floral patterns and wallpaper stuck on with permanent cement. It seems impossible to me that a person would make these decisions, these choices that cling no matter how we scrape.
There is a small fish pond in my memory, full of blue gills that were used to being fed by people. I walked along its edge in a long, patchwork skirt. I was pregnant and prone to daydreaming. My husband was only a boy then. He was my boyfriend and he wanted to make me happy. We ate ice cream and spent the night in a motel under a curtain of pine boughs. Horses whinnied outside of the window.
The fish were small and happy and interested in the world above them. They were mesmerized by the swish of my hems. I walked the whole way around the water and they swam alongside me, watching me as I hummed a song under my breath. I contemplated twirling around like a child, but Kurt was so solid and pragmatic. He has never tolerated silly things like twirling.
Once, at the zoo, I was convinced I could make the sea lions do an underwater flip by holding up my finger and spinning it around in the air. I felt something like we were all from a circus under the sea. A bee flew at my face and I blew on it. I'd heard a mother instructing her child in this way a few moments before. "If you see a bee, just blow on it." I stored this information away, as I've always been someone who is thrown into a panic by bees. I couldn't be interrupted, waiting for the next sea lion to appear in the blue glass.
A bee attacked our picnic once and in trying to drown it by throwing my glass of water and pelting its horrible bee body, I drenched poor Kurt and his sandwich. I couldn't see past the bee, and my poor, sweet accountant husband paid the price.
Soon after Scouty was born, a bee flew up my skirt and hitched a ride into town. I dropped the baby off at my mom's and went to class in the English department, which took hours of stealthiness on the part of the bee. I sat in the back corner of a room of Leonard Hall, in a rickety wooden desk covered in graffiti carvings and put my feet up on the desk in front of me. Going to school was such a marvelous reprieve from the rigors of being a new parent, I felt as though I deserved both desks for different parts of my body. I also didn't want anybody sitting near me, as I had no energy for being nice and making conversation. I was there simply to forget about the sink full of bottles at home, and to show off how much I knew about everything.
We were discussing Faulkner's As I Lay Dying. I totally got this book and felt like something of a genius about it. That, and there was something crawling up my inner thigh.
You can imagine my conundrum. Should I jump from my seat and start wildly lifting my skirts, brushing at the skin of my legs, exclaiming that I was infested by a bug? I got up quietly and walked into the empty hallway and did just that. A rogue bee from the nest in our gutter, he stung me on the thigh.
I had an allergic reaction to that sting, which was strange because I'd never been allergic to things before. (My tongue also swelled up upon eating arugula, right after birthing Scouty, and I broke out in red spots all over my arms and legs when I sat in the grass.) My leg swelled and the skin was so hot to the touch. I went to the emergency room on homecoming night, which means that I waited in an orange plastic chair, surrounded by cases of alcohol poisoning and injuries brought on by being young and having a good time. A nurse with a pretty smile gave me an injection of steroids in the butt.
I've been drowning slugs from my garden, plucking them from the leaves of lettuce and quietly muttering, "Go eff yourself, slug, or "See you in hell, bitch," and plunking their slimy bodies into a cup of yeast and sugar water. They were supposed to be drawn to the water in the first place. I check the half-buried cup every morning, finding it empty, except for the frothy, sweet smelling liquid.
I have a thing against bugs, most of the time. And deer because they eat my tomato plants. I call them terrible names and plot demented acts of vengeance against them, which is strange because all my life, they have been my favorite animal. I don't know what to do about how I find them remarkably beautiful.
When I go for walks on rainy days, the path in the woods behind the municipal building is empty, and I always run into a family of them. A massive buck and three lady deer, sometimes with their babies. The buck isn't scared of me at all, and he snorts and pounds his front hoof on the grass at me. "Go on, now," I say, like one of those gruff, sensitive rancher characters who drink in the evenings. "Get on out of my way, you rascal," I say.
I've been scared back the other way more times than I care to recount.