Friday, October 8, 2010

One day you're the bathtub, another you're the bug

This morning, just as I do every other morning, I prepared to enter the shower.  Rather tedious subjects concerning my day job ruled my mind.  Will the server actually be running this morning or will we all have to reboot our computers again? (Surprise, surprise.  It was a reboot.)  How long until I'm done with the focus group scheduled today?  Weary, I yanked back the shower curtain.
There was a bug on fiberglass surface of the tub.  It was slightly smaller in size than an ant; similar in appearance and reddish hue, but with a body structure that didn't seem to match an ant's.  I am not exactly well-versed in entomology, so I really couldn't make an identification.  Did I do what anyone else would do in that situation?  Namely, grab a piece of toilet paper, squash it, and then make soup?  No. 
I watched it.  I knelt on the tile and watched it crawl and ever so slowly skitter on the bottom of the tub.  I stretched in closer to it, close enough to see its shelled body and to smell the bleach fumes from yesterday's bathroom cleaning.  It was so little.  So seemingly helpless.  I couldn't help but think that my house must seem like the size of a planet to its perspective.  Did it have a perspective?  Did it have a sense of purpose?  I'm certain it had awareness as most living things do, but did it have memories?
I kept watching it.  The floor of the tub is textured in a faint mosaic pattern. Ostensibly, that is meant to keep one from losing their balance in the shower and falling over, causing a contusion or concussion.  The bug was a single red dot against this pattern, this entoptic backdrop that began to take on the shape and form of those eye floaters I get from time to time.  I needed to get to work but, oddly enough, I began to feel such compassion for this bug.
It reminded me so much of myself as it scurried on the white fiberglass, not seeming to obtain any real direction or perhaps footing against the surface of the tub.  The curvature of where the tub walls met the base seemed prohibitive for its little legs to scale.  Everywhere it turned there was an obstacle in a seemingly featureless landscape. I took a square of toilet paper and attempted to coax the bug onto it.  The two-ply format of the bathroom tissue seemed to cause it a bit of puzzlement.  I prodded at the bug, hoping to get it to take this magic carpet ride. 
It started spasming.  Its legs kicked in a frenzy?  Had I wounded it?  Like an oafish giant just trying to help, had I sent it to a hell of pain and slow death?  I looked closer, fearing what I was going to find the same way as when I see the red message light blinking on my phone at work.  But there was no such trauma or tragedy.
The bug was on its back.  Blade Runner seeped into my mind.  You know, the empathy test at the beginning where Leon is asked why he's not helping the tortoise as it bakes on its back in the desert?  "Is this to be an empathy test?"  As gently as I could muster, I poked the little bug back upright and the frantic leg kicking stopped.  After that, it appeared to be a bit more receptive to the idea of climbing onto the sheet.  Once on board with my plan, I hoisted it up and out of the tub, then released it.
You see, I know a little something about kicking your legs like crazy but ending up going nowhere.  I am intimately familiar with the sensation of being trapped.  Whether or not the bug could ever be aware or understanding of this does not matter to me.  Today, I was just one living thing helping another out.


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1 comment:

  1. I LOVE this post! I think this is one for the greatest posts roundup someday!!! :) (did I mention that you should do that?) Oh yeah... do it!

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