Photo by Thomas Shahan of Hotspotmedia
Memories, Narrative, Reflection

Dragonfly Hypothermia, Purgatory

Last August was hot.

My apartment on North Capitol Street was like a take-out box tucked in a refrigerator: a windowless, squashed box fermenting slowly in the artificial cold. Some days my patience with the sputtering wireless would expire and I would sling my messenger bag over my shoulder and toast lightly for six blocks as I walked to the local Starbucks. By then the bag had toasted in Bethlehem, Amman, Hong Kong, Davao and all the way back through Tel Aviv where its contents were the focus of meticulous, pensive searches. Yet no one cared what hung upon my shoulder in the coffee shop, anyway. My anonymity had returned.

Photo by Thomas Shahan of Hotspotmedia
Photo by Thomas Shahan of Hotspotmedia

I leeched coffee and wireless, browsing programs in Conflict Resolution. My feet were cold, in the sense of the worn, wedding cliché: fatigued from work in the mid-East, there was no way I would commit to a Masters’ Degree. I wanted to stay away from the heat, learn to imagine and write again. The word processor booted and I surveyed a blank page, an Antarctic continent unmarred by civilization where even God’s marks lay beneath a tranquil blanket of white-space. Some treasure waited for me, I gambled, in the glaciated spaces of MS Word if I could… just… focus… no:

Antarctica is Hell put in reverse. Hell in reverse is the freon balloon that bursts in one person’s heart when another boards a train, leaving a simple goodbye and a brief hug. It’s the feeling of January blooming from inside one’s veins while February precipitates around them. I wish I had the imagination to paint these images but I used snapshots: memories like 45mm frames digested into English. No premonitions of that feeling percolated into the fragrant purgatory of Starbucks in August, though. My gaze sailed to the picture window, un-mooring from the desolation of the blank page.

A dragon-fly rested in resplendent, fragile gravitas upon the sill as if in a museum display case. Her long waist boasted a glinting armor of iridescent azure and violet. Her eyes were like dark and finely, infinitely faceted jewels bending my reflection into a perfect rings as I approached. Her four wings suggested as much of sci-fi space-craft as they did of biplanes, simultaneously primeval and sophisticated. The Order Odonata: 300 million years of aerial majesty. But I fixated on her eyes: she hunted with loch-blue eyes. They were figuratively blue, too, pressed against the pane of her prison.

She was lethargic from the cold of the air-conditioned room and probably fatigued from flying against the glass. She shuffled to the side when I drummed my fingers next to her — still alive. No one else had known or cared to do the obvious: carry her outside. Days later, I shuddered to think of what else I might have done: toppled her into a to-go coffee cup and kept her corpse like a jewel, maybe pinned it. It would be no great crime, since her kind is not endangered; neither is mine. Golden rule edict, I swear to Jesus. It’s the same reason I chased spiders and cockroaches around my next apartment, loosening the bathroom screen so they could crawl to new life.

~before I return to this beautiful story, please picture me shooing plus-sized cockroaches into a salsa jar with an old greeting card~

I brushed her slender abdomen with my right middle-finger, coaxing her to amble into my left palm. Something tiny can still be ponderous, plodding along the creases of a sweaty hand. She needed some help; she was ‘not herself’. The star(bucks)-crossed little huntress turned and crawled away from her hypothermia, her dignified yet certain demise. I ‘bite’, at times: I wondered if she could bite, if she would bite the hand that warmed her. I squeezed past patrons filling from the row of pump-action carafes and pushed the front door open with my butt. We emerged, backwards but alive, into the August sunshine.

The next handful of minutes was a special time. A few minutes can be an entire era if their significance reaches full potency. My time with her felt like that. I wanted her to stay with me as long as possible. I knew that she was a dragon-fly and I was not; we were mismatched by type but not by season: we could overlap for a moment. A summer breeze seethed between the hastily rising buildings of “NoMa” in the District of Columbia but I saw no movement from the dragonfly. There was no knowing how much time she spent indoors. Beyond being cold, she could be mostly starved. “At least she can pass away warm and loved—” I murmured, “even if the latter is beyond her understanding.” She was relaxing. At the end of our epoch, she wiped those gorgeous eyes. Wings began to rustle at an accelerating pace until…

Buzz. Zoom! My writing has been unsteady but I can still ‘dragon-fly’. Someday, I will dragon-fly much better than I did tonight… I hunt by touch, so it is my hands that are figuratively blue.

It takes a minute to get warm. A minute is an epoch like a page is a continent. In an epoch a continent can change. Now I have come to the difficult part of the entry, where I might to tie the Starbucks-purgatory to an episode from the winter that followed. I wanted to do that when I revived this draft in February. Through words, I might make partings beautiful. I still could. Today, August links to August. The hand that warms me could be a church or a theater — perhaps a library at American University. After that hot August I reaped many friendships and this August yielded a new living situation with a beloved colleague and a different graduate program, filled with people to meet. The meetings make purgatory not all too unpleasant — and reunions are Heaven.

Dark DC-Metro
“Less-than-nothing” is not the end. It’s temporary.

 

 

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