Bees Breathe

Without Lungs

fiction

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       I’m woken by the warmth of a ray of light.
       It splashes across my pillow and presses against my right eyelid. While I try and fail to swim myself back into sleep, it does the sunbeam equivalent of bouncing on my bed, hollering for attention.

       Since reaching home three weeks ago, I haven’t ventured outside.

       I shouldn’t think the neighbors have noticed I’m here.
       On the shelves above my bed sit the books I spent half my life inside before you and I met. When I packed up, you convinced me to leave them behind.
       “You’ll have no time for reading!” you told me, beaming as though that was a good thing.
       I swallowed my unease, took only the essentials, and followed you out of my home. When I locked the door, my hand gripped the key tight, unwilling to let go.

       I should have trusted my instincts.
       It’s been a relief, returning to my books. They hum to me of mythology, folk tales and field guides to solitary and social insects. Retreating into their pages has given me time to heal.

       Ancient Egyptians believed bees sprang from the tears of the sun god Ra.

       I shuffle my bare feet into loosely knotted sneakers, totter downstairs and drag back the bolt of the damp-swollen backdoor.

       Heaving the door ajar takes effort, as if I need to prove I’m ready.

       I’m not certain that I am. But the air is cool and sweet with the fragrance of green leaves, of earth and lavender. I tread through long fringed grasses that tickle my shins.

       Threats to bees include the climate crisis, habitat loss and pesticides.

       The last time I was touched, I ended up with a split eyebrow and defensive bruises on my forearms.

       The woman you saw me with is a friend, a faculty colleague, no