It’s important not to take things too literarily. Life is life and movies are movies, etc. I was walking down the sidewalk and I spotted a beetle-like insect, turned over on its back, frantically clawing at the air with those black, shiny legs they have. It was iconic, for one, but also reminiscent of two months ago when I saw the exact same thing. That first time I righted the insect with a stick, which revealed the larger problem: a broken leg. It moved in circles like a rowboat with one oar. It was humiliating. I thought about philosophy, and eventually decided the best course of action was to leave it on the sidewalk. A wounded insect wants to be stepped on, I reasoned.
This time I righted the thing again, and the beetle seemed physically fit… it ran down the sidewalk for a few seconds, and then plop! The idiotic bug flipped over once more. What is this, a flaw in nature’s design? What was the fucking deal? I moved it to the grass to see if it liked that better, and the thing seemed to flounder. The truth is I fell in love with the insect, or the romantic idea of it, anyway. I wanted the event to mean something disgusting or wonderful for my life. I resolved then to scoop it up and take it home with me. I would put it in a jar and it would become my pet. Perhaps I’d place it next to my bed and it would whisper stories to me in sleep. I decided this was a good idea.
I have a little tomboy in me but not so much that I’m going to carry a beetle in my bare hands. After a few failures (a leaf, etc.) I designed on a simple paper funnel as carrier. It tried furiously to jump out of the funnel and then fell down again, dejected. My second thoughts began at this time.
When I got home I put the beetle inside a sprouting jar. It’s breathable, it has holes! I thought this would be the point in the LARP where other hilarities ensued: What will I name the beetle? What do beetles eat? Water source? But it turned into something else.
The story becomes very dark. I learned something about beetles. When you find them turned on their back, groping at the air like mad men, this is not to be mistaken as a cry for help. It is, in fact, a suicide.
Allow me a little heaviness: It’s the same action with humans; I’ve seen it. On my grandmother’s death bed, I watched her grope out at nothing in front of her, her old withered hands having turned into claws. She looked like a kitten playing with yarn. She looked like she was trying to catch fireflies and failing. She looked like she was dying. A few hours later, she was dead.
The beetle is in a sprouting container on my kitchen counter and it is phenomenally depressed. It crawled to a corner and hasn’t moved since. It wanted to die on its back in nature with dignity, and instead it’s dying face down in plastic, all because I went searching for literary meaning somewhere I didn’t belong.
Next time you find yourself gazing at a single flower in a vase on the windowsill, in a urine scented stairwell, or standing with a bloody knife in your hands over your ex lover’s mother: take caution. You’re probably just in somebody’s story. Flip a light switch.