Bees, by Amy Baker

I woke up this morning to the infernal buzzing of bees. In the shower, over breakfast. They began their attack even before I turned on my bedside light. It’s a racquet. A trial. An unholy comedy of accusations, explanations, judgments, denials. A neural drama of embarrassments, mistaken judgments, missed opportunities. ‘You should have.’ ‘You could have,’ ‘I would have except…’ What happened in the night?

Turning a deaf ear, I dress for work. When I’m ready, I get into the car, buckle my seat belt, and set my jaw. I have a plan. I’ll shoo these bees while I’m driving. And so, knees against the wheel, I enter into battle–flapping my arms, brandishing my swatter. But they don’t give up. The more I swat, the louder they buzz.

At the restaurant, I greet you with my failure. I’m under siege. It’s impossible to think. I want to back out of this parking lot, back down the hill, back all the way home. I want to start the day over. I want to go back to the place where your life is at least as important as mine.

But I don’t leave. I hunker down instead. I focus on your face, your words, and concentrate on waiting for you to ask the questions before I produce the answers. I remind myself not to interrupt. You’re steady, welcoming, but I can’t take delight. I’m battle-weary. Battle-worn.

You leave the table for a moment. I sigh, put my feet up and slide down deeper into my collar and my chair. I write a few words, sigh again and write a few more. It’s quieter now, but I don’t notice—not until you’ve returned. I notice then, when I look up and discover you there—dense with life. The bees have gone! The air is thick with your presence and mine; the room is quiet except for the sound of waitress talk and dishes.

And now, sitting in this busy parking lot, the air is thick too. It’s the sound of hammers and the whine of a saw–or perhaps it’s two. Another time, I’d crank up the windows or run for cover, but today it’s like music. Crisp clean sound traveling the airwaves with me here to receive it. I tilt the seat and settle back, content to listen to the world going about its business. There’s no place else I’d rather be.

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