April 9, 2015
A fuchsia-tinted vehicle operated by a woman presumably in her early thirties honks frighteningly at me. I turn and meet the gaze of the driver, her eyes widened at what might have happened had she not been paying attention. She swerves, but continues on her path. I reunite with the sidewalk, wary of any other insects that might send me diving into oncoming traffic. This happened over a decade ago, but the memory still haunts me.
I observe my surroundings. First, I admire the sky. It is a soft blue, not a fluff of white to distort the picture. A flock of birds sail across it, temporarily blocking the sun’s rays as they pass through. In an almost reflex reaction, I lift the side of my shirt. The birds have somehow made their way to my body, traveling down my ribcage in the form of ink, trailing beneath the words “the strongest nation is the imagi-nation.” I smile at them. As I sit atop the grass, I take note of its texture. I brush my fingers lightly over each blade.
I shut my eyes, inhaling the autumn breeze as summer bids its farewell. The smell of pumpkin spice floods my mind, accompanied by a longing to see my loved ones gathered around the dining room table, the air perfumed with the aroma of Caribbean cuisine. Mm, Thanksgiving, I think to myself, a smirk upon my face.
If I were able to stay outdoors forever, reflecting on life and the beauty of my natural surroundings—while also thinking about tons, and tons of food—I would do so in a heartbeat. No, it is not the lack of time nor lack of desire that keeps me from doing so. It’s that memory. The memory that could have resulted in me losing my life over a dragonfly that was minding its own business.
Now, I am aware that these creatures are essentially harmless. Still, they induce a heightened feeling of anxiety within me. All of them do: bugs, insects, whatever you may call them. I place a housefly and a bumble bee in the same category. While one is more likely to end my life over the other (I’m allergic to insect bites, you see. What would normally turn out to be a miniscule, reddish bump on one’s arm would transform into bottlecap-sized bubbles on mine), both are still a “hazard to my safety” and send me sprinting beyond belief. In my mind, it automatically turns into a death or death situation, and my only instinct is to run.
So, I offer myself a test (a remedy, rather). I recall touching on the topic of “fear” in my Psychology class and how to rid oneself of it. Well for one, “flooding” would not help. It treats fears and phobias by repeatedly exposing the individual to the anxiety-causing stimuli. There is no way in hell I’m letting anyone dump a bucket of insects on my head or put bugs in my face. A more reasonable approach, a more Shana approach, would be to expose myself in a more intimate way to that which scares me. And at my own pace.
My eyes remain shut, my breathing rhythmic, and my heart rate calmed. If there was a time to get over my fears, that time was now. I did it with dogs and now I absolutely adore them. I can surely do it again.
I reopen my eyes and face the ground, palms still buried in its greenery. I remind myself that this grass is teeming with hundreds of insects, many of which I cannot see. As I imagine the critters crawling up my body, going unnoticed until their stick-like legs rub against the hairs on my skin, I jerk my arm and look at my fingers.
I seal my eyes once more as I tell myself to relax. To think of the absent fluffs of marshmallow that usually float in the watery blue ocean of the sky. Of those birdies that mirror the ink on my body, that piece of art that describes exactly who I am and my life’s purpose in only six words. To remember exactly how striking I always found nature to be, and to understand that those beautiful creatures I couldn’t help but fear were a vital part of it. To acknowledge the power such beauty has in arousing memories of family and the wonderful times you plan to share with them.
Nature has always given me a chance to become one with myself, so why not give it a chance to become one with me?
Opening my eyes, I peep below. Beside me sits an insect of some sort. What looks like yellow armor shields its back. It has wings, a common trigger to the fight or flight reaction I usually have to these animals. I lean in for a closer view. Not too bad, kind of cute. I can get used to this, I think to myself before a bee hoovers over and sends me on my way. (2012)
© Scappiamo, 2015