It was the day the city beekeeper’s bees got loose. I superglued my windows shut and duct taped the space between the floor and the door because if I get stung by bees, I go into epileptic shock and my heart stops. There are medicines for this, but I don’t have health insurance. When I was ten and told to carry around the syringe that would save my life, just in case I got stung while I played with friends, the irony of one stinger saving me from another was lost.
I had my radio tuned to the news station and watched worriedly as swarms of confused and probably angry bees made their way around the city. The bees were screwing with the reception of the local news. Swaths of Michael Jackson interspersed with Lady Gaga would break through, as though I should dance while death knocked on my door.
To be honest, I was happy to have an excuse to stay inside. Time weighed so much on my shoulders when I was out in the sun, and I always feel like I should buy something when I walk around. Something to commemorate the walk, like a Milky Way or a pair of nice wool socks. It was good to stay inside, away from all that consumerism and time.
Originally, I tried to sketch the bees – cartoon versions of scary things have a way of making the real-life things more bearable (Scooby-Doo cartoons are built on this premise), but after my 7th or 8th, I still felt like bees were scarier than any bogey man. I started practicing my juggling in time to the static, dance beat, and nearly indescernable rhythm of the newscaster’s voice, enjoying the feeling of the weight of the juggling balls in my hands, trying not to focus on the colors that spun, instead focusing my gaze out the window.
That’s when it happened.
After I had gotten a nice cascade going with the juggling balls I focused in on her, across the street, with her own cascade of red hair, blue and white striped shirt and fair skin. Even from such a distance of across the street and four floors up, we caught each others’ eye. We stared. I knew it wasn’t just because she was in awe of the trick (although I had kept the balls in motion). She saw straight into me. And the funny thing about that was I saw straight into her nearly simultaneously, like we had created eyeball sized tunnels that reached perfectly to each other’s souls.
While she saw my fear of bees and my hatred of novelty rap, I saw her ongoing search for strange flavors of ice cream and her distrust of men who wear their watches on their right arms.
Our gaze only broke – our eye tunnels collapsed – because of a bee, those poisonous little creatures that now not only threatened my life but my very happiness with this woman of my dreams. Perhaps she had opened her mouth because we all go a little slack-jawed in the presence of our one true love, or maybe she was going to whistle at me – but whatever the reason, my one true love’s face contorted. Her mouth had opened slightly to reveal a pert little pink tongue and a distressed bee saw it as a perfect situation in which to commit suicide.
The radio recepetion was switching channels at a fever pitch now as I watched helpless while my red-haired woman flailed and tried to gain attention from someone who might help. My phone, unfortunately, was useless in the situation – the bills and final notices provided nice kindling for fire in the winter months we so recently left behind. All I could do was finally stop juggling and press my fingertips to the glass, watching as her errant limbs hit some lazily droning bees, angered them, caused more stings, and my heart broke while my love continued to panic. The vicious circle roiled onward. Eventually, she fell to the ground looking much less attractive than when I first spied her. She looked like someone floating on a lazy river instead of a cement walkway, only not as peaceful because of the rising red welts. She closed her eyes and gave up.
So it was that a conundrum fell to me. What to do? Commit suicide and go and comfort her? Watch helplessly as my fiery, unnamed love perished? The newscaster spoke of great honey losses, but was interruped when Lady Gaga advised me to “Just Dance.” I considered it, but Michael Jackson intervened, insiting I “beat it.” I always listen to the classics.
I pulled a fishnet stocking left over from a previous relationship onto my head and donned my heavy painter’s overalls and ripped the duct tape off my door. I bolted down the stairs, out the apartment building’s lobby and across the street
“Miss!” I yelled, muffled by the fishnet
She turned her head to see me, and opened her recently stung eyelids to reveal soft green eyes. They widened and her body convulsed, sending some resting bees off of her and on their way. She managed her way to her feet and took off down the street.
“No! I’m here to help!”
My true love was fast. Faster than me. She had not fallen prey to the psychological torture of being attacked by bees, either, because she seemed more scared of slight-framed me than running into more recently released bees. I stopped in the street, huffing, tired of zigzagging from the swarms in my pursuit of this beautiful woman.
I caught my reflection in a stop window and saw the stranger staring back. With the fishnet on my head muting my features and red paint splattered on my overalls, I did look terribly frightening, and I finally understood why she was running.
I made my way back home unstung, and decided to never love again.