When I was in my freshman year of college, I spent a great deal of time alone. I cycled through circles of friends in a constant pirouette of bitterness. Be it fault of my own or by being a thorough victim of circumstance, I shed good friends faster than bats from a belfry at high noon. Although there were a few people who stood by me, I consistently found myself stationed lone-wolf at Fort Mitch, an isolated, strategic base found just outside Fort Hamburger.
There wasn’t much I could do about this – at least, as I had perceived it. Even if I woke up into the body of Jeff Goldblum overnight, my attitude of self-defeat would have made short work of any towers I could dig up with my bloody fingers out of the rough, hard-packed soil that makes up my mental territory. I often retreated far into myself, repeating that the only person that would care enough to find out what’s inside my head was myself.
After a long and winding year, one of my roommates – a dancer – had left school to further pursue his dreams in Chicago. This left me alone with my other roommate, a dropout with no future in mind and nowhere to return to. He smoked cigarette after cigarette, spending his idle time tanning under the amber-colored glow of his fixation. I recall only being angry about his habit because it reminded me of how often I was in my room.
One particular evening sticks with me, and may always stay lodged in my side like an errant railroad tie after a railroad tie factory explosion. I had been spending an evening reading the Web and releasing my frustrations with my situation in crudely-timed sighs. Our window, which was one of the only windows in our high-rise dorm building that could open the entire way, was constantly open wide. Our heater was, just a few months before, stuck on the ‘full blast’ setting. Even after several maintenance calls, it was never fixed.
From the darkness, a moth flew in to get to know the pithy desk lamp I had sitting precariously on the corner of my desk. Eventually, after plinking and clinking against the hull of the fluorescent bulb futilely, it landed to rest on the printer next to my shoulder. I looked over at it, sitting innocently and cleaning its antennae in the paper loading tray. Then, an idea popped in my head – I’m gonna scare it by starting a print. It was a mischievous idea in nature, albiet half-baked from its inception.
Expecting the sudden rumble to startle the little powder-covered moth, the actual outcome turned worse: as the machine shuddered and began rolling its arms, the moth did not fly – it was sucked under a roller and squished to death. Its entrails, processed into a paint-like mush, streaked across the pages that fired out of the tail-end of the printer. Frantic and with tears welling in my eyes, I fired out more sheets of paper, hoping to clear the poor bug’s body from the rollers. It took 5 pages to stop seeing it.
With an unsteady hand, I reached forward and took the sheets from the return tray. Something deep inside me had stirred – perhaps it was the fact that I had, in cold blood, killed that bug; perhaps it was that the sheets in the top left corner read only what I had written as a quick slight to print the pages in the first place: “lol.” Whatever combination of things arrested me, I was arrested.
I took the sheets of paper that now contained the concentrated moth, approached the window, and tossed them into the rain. Something told me that it was right, but I’ll be damned if I could remember now what it possibly was.
Wiping my face with my hands, I uttered a solemn apology to the bug who never had a chance to be eaten by a sparrow.