One morning we wake up to termite wings.
It is our honeymoon. Odd and fumbling, we laugh
in disbelief; we drink more rum than water,
calculating gallons as a way to pass the days.
From styrofoam containers: greasy donuts, scrambled eggs,
fried fish, fried plantains, fried potatoes.
The wings fill up the corners of the room, congregating and crowding
on the tile floor. It is early, and already humid, and the soles
of our feet sweat and collect dismembered wings as we walk
into the kitchen. I do not know how many wings
one termite has, but there at least a thousand wings
swirling across the floor in the air we stir up with our feet.
Like long teardrops, exaggerated sadness, they shudder,
lift on little eddies of air — the opening of a cupboard door,
the sudden shock of letting it slam shut. I try not to imagine
termites swarming while we fucked last night. But as I banish
the thought there it is: little bodies pouring and pushing
past each other in the dark, streams through the cracks
where the window does not meet the frame, where the door
does not quite touch the ground. Where did they go, in this house
made of stone? What did they come looking for and leave without finding?
I keep touching my hair, nervously, wondering.
We spend the morning drinking rum punch and sweeping the wings.
They form ridiculous piles— the broom’s wind scatters hundreds,
corrals only a few. The first night my mother was a wife, moved from
the island to the prairie, she threw open all the windows in the house
to let the night air in, and woke up with the house covered in flies.
I’m sure she cried, there, on the second morning of her marriage
watching the furniture move under fat black bodies. We laugh,
and get drunk, and forget the wings. This not our house,
and we will leave soon. We carry the wings to bed
on our feet, on the sweaty backs of our legs,
on our bellies, damp from the pool.
There are wasps on the back porch. Papery honeycomb stares back at me,
an insects’ refracted eye. My husband breaks them down
over and over, but the wasps persist. I stop using the back porch,
I won’t even go near it. I imagine the dumb and cruel wasps bumping
into each other in the heat, against our door. How can they remember,
to build over and over in the same place? He comes back inside
from the August night heat, dusty and miraculously un-stung.
I start to dream about wasps, and the noise fills up the hot room.
He gives me daily tallies; five nests today, four, or seven or three.
Months later, when he tells me, I stare into the corners of the room.
We are in bed and I have taken off my rings to sleep, and I wonder
where they have disappeared to before I remember. I am sick,
I touch my hair nervously. Little bodies moving together in the dark,
dropping their wings, gone in the morning. I start to tremble, fluttering,
when he moves to hold me in his arms, I go flying.
First just one, in the early morning. I ignore it.
When I go to the kitchen for more coffee
in the late morning, there are tens of them.
Dozens. Maybe thirty or forty, just swarming. I shriek,
I slam the door, I go back to my desk without coffee.
I return to the kitchen armed with spray bottles
full of cleaners, and gloves and a magazine rolled up.
I spray and smack and spread them across
the window sill. I am panting as I clean them up.
My appetite is gone. I clean and clean until
the evidence is gone. I make sure the window is shut,
and get coffee, and go back to my computer but I can’t
resist the urge to get up and check, fifteen minutes
and I haven’t written anything, so I go back to the kitchen.
Not as many this time, but more than five, ten maybe.
I vacuum them this time, to avoid the mess. I can see
through the opaque plastic, not dead, crawling
on the inside trying to get out. Always trying to get out.
I flee to the hardware store and buy long spools of sticky fly tape,
String them up along the window. I get some work done
stop shaking before my husband gets home. In the evening
I manage to eat, but every time I go into the kitchen there are more.
Beating little buzzing heads against the window, frantically cleaning
their back legs. The noise, subtle, you have to pay attention
to hear it, fills my head. Pay attention, they are thrashing.
I put little dishes of lavender and soap on the sill. Pay
attention. It is almost our one year wedding anniversary.
I think of my mother, leaving all the windows open, how much
worse it was for her. I think of the termite wings.
I think of wasps beating against the back door.
The flies get in even when the window is closed.
Where are they coming from? Pay attention. One more
hits the window, falls down to the sill—painted,
chipping—then scrambles back up to pause on the glass.