By Sharon Nesbit-Davis, written as a part of Debby Gaines' Community-Based Writing class.
Wasps live in our attic and find their way into my room. They hit against bare light bulbs with a ping. When I hear that sound I escape and stay away all day hoping it will be gone by bedtime. If it's still there I sleep in my closet.
One morning I wake to a wasp on my chest staring at me. It marches over pajama buttons and creeps toward my face. I shut my eyes, hold my breath and wait for tiny spikes to stab my neck. I hear the pings and look up. The wasp bounces off the light bulb and I dive under the covers.
I want this wasp dead but if I hit and miss he’ll attack. I can’t use insecticide because my mother will smell it, I’ll get in trouble and my brothers will know I am afraid of wasps. They will use them for torture.
I hide behind the doll crib and watch. The wasp bumps the bulb a dozen times, hits my desk, bounces to the lamp, and then book case. It crawls over books and toys, up the wallpaper and onto the window sill. It lands on the screen and pauses. I run to the window and slam it down. The wasp is caught between the glass and screen. It flies against the window pane and falls back on impact. It does it again, and again, and again.
I press my face against the window and taunt. “You can’t get me.” Another wasp enters the room looking for his friend. I run to my hide-out. It searches the room and makes the same fatal error in another window.
It is summer in a house with no air conditioning. My mother comes into my room to vacuum and yells, “What’s going on? Why are the windows closed?”
“I want it hot because I am pretending to live in the jungle.”
“Then you vacuum it.” She waits in the hall and gives instructions. “Get under the bed…and under the dresser…and in the closet. Take out your shoes and then put them back.”
Sweat is dripping off my face when I give her back the vacuum cleaner. She sighs and takes it into my brothers’ room and turns the fan on high.
There are more wasps than windows. When the captured wasp is at the top of the window I open it a crack to let in the new victim.
It takes two weeks for a wasp to die, but it is hard to tell when that happens. They look dead then a leg jerks. I wait another day before opening the window to touch the body. I leave it for the newly captured wasps to find. I hope it makes them sad and afraid.
When I see a wasp outside, I think it knows I murdered its family. I stand still to flaunt my power, but ready to run if it comes after me.
The summer after my freshman year in college, I go on a retreat with a woman who talks about the spirits that surround us and how animals and insects can be called on for help. We speak to them through our thoughts. I know what she means because I talk to my dog this way.
There is a wasp on top of the shelter we are sitting beneath. It edges close to the story-sharing woman and closer to me. I want to run, but instead send a message. “This woman is saying things I need to hear. Please go. You don’t understand how scared I am of you.”
The wasp stops, looks at me, and then flies away.
Years later I wade in Lake Superior searching for Spirit Rocks. They are formed from the waves and most look like odd shaped animals. Round ones are rare but I want to find two to take home to my children.
The water is freezing and I'm cold and tired. My body is ready to give up but I won't let it. A large hornet appears and follows me. I stand still and it circles. A thought flashes through me. It is here to protect the rocks. This is Native land and I am not a member of the tribe. I have permission from friends who are, but the hornet doesn't know that. When you take something from the land you leave tobacco as a sign of respect.
I whisper to the hornet, “I have tobacco”.
The hornet circles in closer forcing me to take a couple steps back. I reach into the water and lift out two perfectly round stones. I sprinkle tobacco and the hornet leaves.
I visit my parents before they move. The room still has my bed, desk, lamp, and bookshelves. Early in the morning I hear the ping. A wasp lights on the desk, the lamp, my books. There is a desperation in it’s movement I do not remember.
The wasp discovers the window and rests on the screen. Air lifts its wings and I see a lightly etched design.
I kneel down, push the screen up half an inch and watch it discover the opening and escape on a breeze.