Bug Vision



I used to wish I had bug-vision. No. Not bug-eyes, like those dragonfly lenses you could get at the Museum of Science and Industry. I mean bug-vison. When I was eight, I told my mother that I wanted to be able to see only bugs. I wanted everything in the world to disappear except for bugs. You wouldn’t be able to see the bench you were seated on at the park, but you could see the termites that were inside and eating the wood. The beauty of the flowers in the garden would be replaced by the awe of knowing just how many honey-bees were gathering pollen there. With bug-vision, I would be able to tell you what that frog had for lunch, but you’d have to tell me there was a frog there to begin with. I’d be able to avoid the dirty, bug-corpse-riddled cars, but the clean ones I’d have to listen out for like a blind person. In my eight-year-old logic, I’d decided to include earthworms and centipedes because how else would I be able to see the ground? I had decided it would be a fair trade, being functionally blind, if I had this superior bug awareness. With great power comes great sacrifice. You can’t make an omelette, etc.

The interesting thing to me about this is how detailed I got with this fantasy. It wasn’t like I was particularly fascinated by bugs as a kid. This wasn’t a “I love bugs and want to see them all,” kind of thing. I think it was mostly a desire for security. I wanted to know where they were. Didn’t want to get surprised by them. Two big things shaped this. When I was four, I was picking blackberries in my grandmother’s back yard. We had been happily putting berries in a bowl, when she suddenly waved her arms about her and screamed. She’d been bitten by white-faced hornets. They must have built a nest in the bushes, and our harvesting disturbed them. She quickly ran upstairs and I’m not sure if she called 911 or if she told me to do it. I was too young to remember much except the fear. She was severely allergic to any kind of bee or wasp sting. I followed her up the stairs and waited outside the bathroom while she got into a cold bath to wait for the ambulance. I think she called my father as well, because I remember him packing me in the car and we followed the ambulance to the hospital. Throughout my childhood any buzzing would send me running. I would picture my grandmother with hoses coming out of her nose, and her arms swollen, and I would run. I didn’t want to know if I was allergic. I didn’t want to find out.

The other big reason I can see for my dreams of bug-vision was an apartment we lived in when I was in first grade. We moved to the Chicago suburbs from Baltimore, and when we first lived there, we lived in a studio above a music store. The place was decent enough, but we had neighbors who were so filthy that I remember wanting to wash my hands the one time I knocked on their door to use their phone because I’d lost my house-key. They had a mattress on the floor and food and clothes everywhere. So it was no surprise that we couldn’t keep the roaches out of our apartment. They probably set up shop in the neighbor’s place and sent out scouting missions to see if they could find even more bounty elsewhere. We tried bug-bombs and traps, but it got so bad that my mom once burst a blood-vessel in her palm from slapping roaches so hard on the walls. She got to the point where she didn’t even bother with a shoe or a tissue. She’d just slap them with her hand.

The bug-vision daydreams came when we moved out of that place I think. When we bought the home I mostly grew up in, I remember mostly spiders, which I always felt were friendly protectors against the nastiness of roaches. Once there was no real fear of bugs anymore, because I wasn’t worried about them crawling in my ear as I slept, I was able to build mythologies and stories where I was lord over a world that needed bugs, and needed to always know where they were.

It’s okay, you can say it. I was a weird kid.

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