dragonfly

Jun. 24th, 2015 12:19 pm
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When I got out of the car at the cat shelter where my friend and I volunteer, there was a dragonfly on the ground. My favorite insect. One of her wings was… it was beyond bent, folded in half near the middle of the wing. She was on her back, moving slightly. I put my hand down and she held onto my finger, so I lifted her to look, and to see how bad it was. It was bad. The wing was creased like a folded paper you run your fingernail along to keep it flat. When I tried to see if it could unbend, or why it wouldn't, I could feel that the two halves were actually stuck together where they touched. You can't fix that, can you; it's not something that can heal, is it? She was dying. She was already dead. I knew it was kinder to crush her quickly, and I selfishly refused to give her peace.

It's hard to handle one wing of a dragonfly, to get that wing alone, without the others, refraining from holding the slender, soft abdomen between your huge thumb and finger. I was in terror that in her terror and struggle she would rip herself away from the wing I held her by; I knew it didn't matter, she was dead anyway, but it would be worse somehow to have a part of you ripped away, it must hurt more than just a broken wing. I finally had the grip I needed, with one thumb and finger on the outer part of the creased wing, one thumb and finger on the part near the body. I peeled the two sides apart, like tape from a piece of paper, and you know chances are the paper will rip, a thin film will come away with the tape and it'll be ruined, but there's no choice, and I expected the outer half of the wing to just fall off, to turn out to not even be attached at the crease. But it didn't. It stuck out at an angle for a few seconds, and then she pulled all four wings flat against each other, like sheets of paper tapped against a table, absolutely perfect, and I could no longer see the damage. But it had to still be there. It wasn't something you can fix, not something that can heal, it's prideful to even imagine, that you can fix something like that, prideful and childishly naïve. I had given her my finger again for her feet to hold, and she looked so perfect, it was painful to look at, knowing. Maybe, though, maybe it hurt less, the wing. Maybe she had peace. I took her to the pine tree against the fence and coaxed her feet onto a low twig. It seemed like the least-bad place to end life. And just in case, if this was something you recover from, at least she was out of harm's way while she gathered strength; no ants to attack on the ground, no birds likely to find her among the needles. I did not hope, but I wished, I wished I hoped, and I pretended like I hoped and put her there.

When I came back out ten minutes later, she was gone. Not on the branch, not on the bare ground below. I don't know if she recovered and flew away. I don't know how to even hope, because I don't know how to imagine that's possible. Creased, stuck together; I'm not an entomologist to know what's possible, and I don't want to call a professor at a university and ask because then I would know, and I can't imagine I would like what I know.

When my shrink read this, he replied, "I know that some stories don't have hopeful endings, and I'm not sure how you would feel about this, but I found myself thinking that the dragonfly was able to fly freely at least once more than it otherwise would." Maybe. Maybe she at least believed she could, in whatever way an insect believes. Maybe on the ground on her back she had known with certainty she would die, and then after the terror of being held by a monster, she had a moment among the pine needles when she knew with certainty — truth and logic don't matter — that she would fly away, when she believed she was not dying. They have such short lives that for her, a moment is a year, or perhaps a decade. Maybe I gifted her with the hope I couldn't feel myself. Maybe that's my life: telling stories that give others hope I will never feel. I don't know, but it's all I can manage now.

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Violet Wilson

October 2016

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