August 19th 2013 – Insect studies

Observations made during the first week of my visit to Atlanta. Starts slow, but please be patient. The subject of insects is definitely addressed and relevant to the title of this post.

Every year I pack my things, purchase a $14 ESTA visa and fly across the pond to Atlanta. I tend to go for four to five weeks depending on my summer commitments. Though I’d prefer it if my Dad didn’t live on the other side of the world, I consider myself very fortunate to be able to travel so frequently and have a second home in a completely different culture.
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For the last few trips, Atlanta has welcomed me with the same sensations, smells and tastes. I remember each very vividly, right from the moment I exit the cool, dry conditions of the aeroplane. First there’s a sudden rise in humidity, soon complimented by the glorious heat of Southern state sunshine beyond the terminal doors. That sense of relief as your skin finally expands to absorb the rays. Then within the acrid fumes of the car pack you locate your vehicle. You step inside, and to your disbelief the aroma of new synthetic produce and car conception still remains after all this time. You can’t help but gag a little and keep the doors open for half a minute to let them escape.

At home, it’s a medley of cocoa oil on my skin, the tingling remains of toothpaste on my tongue and the smell of unsuccessful sleep. From downstairs there’s the fragrance of stir-fry snaking through the cracks of my bedroom door as my Dad prepares dinner.

Along with this permanent tableau there are also a few subtle differences I’ve noticed during this particular visit so far. As a person I feel quite changed in spirit. My mind is relatively calm despite the great challenges I’ll face when I return to the UK. I am actually being productive, or at least I know that what I’m doing every day is beneficial to my brain and general education as a human being, let alone a young person.

Months after I submitted my university application I have rediscovered the library, the useful hub which aided me in my degree course research, and have borrowed three books from the local Roswell branch in order to fuel my newfound drive to read. Finally I can spend time every day to read what I liked, without the pressure of secondary school. Then, I always felt I was neglecting homework and practice. Now I can sit back and read all about the chaos the UN has perpetuated in the last century without a care in the world.

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It was during one of these moments, deep in thought, when I noticed that even when Dad was at work and stepmother had gone for her morning stroll, I was not actually alone in the building. Sitting on my bed I suddenly heard the sound of tiny wings sizzling against my window – a big, ugly, stubborn fly.

How dare such a creature disturb my concentration! Those who know me are aware of my insistence upon complete silence when I work. The fly, which I will name Borgus for now as it illustrates the disgust and hostility I have for him, would not shut up. And when he paused, it would only be for an interval of a few seconds before he continued his tantrum.

My hatred of insects – animal cruelty campaigners and insect lovers criticise as you wish – coupled with the utmost annoyance at being distracted had a very stark effect on me. I become almost murderous:

“Gah, will you please go away or I will hit you with rolled up magazine or suck you up with the handheld hoover, you little black piece of poo-eating, buzzing vermin!”

I’d have done anything to get rid of it. However the buzzing creeped me out so I left Borgus be, and made the most of the occasional silences. He probably formed stupid plans to try and break through the window instead of finding a more reasonable escape route. ‘Yes, I’ll charge at it in a forty-five degree angle this time, that should do the trick.’ What a moron.

I returned after a quick lunch to send emails and practise the violin. The buzzing was still present. But curiously I detected that the timbre of Borgus’ flapping wings had changed – having ears sensitive to nuances in sound and music was never without its advantages. The standard buzzing, a constant middle register drone, had transformed into an acute whine. I put my instrument on the bed and walked over to my window to see what was going on.

Aha, Borgus! I see why you whine! You have finally paid the price of entering my abode. Behold, in all your brainlessness you have got yourself trapped in a spider’s web!

As I watched gleefully as nature took its call to eradicate the weak and foolish, I was reminded of a time during primary school when insects and wildlife were the sole interests of many in the classroom. When we learned of spiders and their ways of survival, I remember feeling amazed and also horrified by the idea of trapping vulnerable insects on a silk-spun web, stabbing them with poison to paralyse them – turning their insides into pulp – and wrapping them up to eat later. Although I had always known this to be a fact, I don’t think I ever saw this part of the food cycle in real life…

…until that very day in my bedroom. Predatory behaviour never encountered before was right there; peering closer it was inches away from my face. Borgus was still making feeble attempts to evade the ingenious silk-spun web whilst its fabricator tiptoed elegantly and effortlessly towards its latest victim. The spider, which I shall name Gloria for her admirable work, was a quarter of Borgus’ body mass at least. To put it in a human perspective, Gloria would be the same size as a person if Borgus were a baby elephant; he could have squashed her if he were smart enough. But alas, it was Gloria who was victorious.

As Borgus continued to shriek, Gloria circled him, occasionally prodding him with one of her lithe legs.
“F*** you!” he seemed to say.

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I guess I didn’t have to commit insectile murder. I was patient, and as a result nature took its course to solve my problem.

Gloria was now walking over Borgus, who had finally taken his final breath. She pushed the beast about as if to validate its status as dead. I assumed from the little knowledge acquired from nature books that Gloria had turned Borgus’ insides into pulp so as to prepare him for mummification.

However there was no silk spun round the body. Instead Gloria nudged her catch towards the innermost corner of the windowpane, adding to her vast food repository of one tan coloured beetle thrice her size, also deceased. Seeing two corpses and a reigning predator together in an area of about two centimetres squared creeped me out, still. I had the urge to fetch the vacuum; I needed to clean my room anyway.

But I resisted when I considered Gloria’s joy and the favour she did for me. I couldn’t destroy something so special to her. I ought to be grateful to her for dealing with Borgus and subsequently giving back my ideal reading ambience. So I left her in peace and finished my book. Perhaps I can live in harmony with insects?

Later in the evening there was a cockroach on my desk. I screamed. Dad got rid of it.

We shall see… I wish the thunderstorms cease so that our homes wouldn’t be infested with bugs seeking shelter from the rain.

______________________________

My trip to Atlanta has been surprisingly educational this year. I wonder what else is going to happen in the coming weeks?

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