I am not as forgiving as I once was, not as merciful, I think. When I shower, if I see an insect on the wall, I do not immediately turn the shower off and escort the insect to safety before continuing. Sure, I don’t deliberately splash water on it, as I have seen my wife do in her little moments of private cruelty, but I no longer rush to its assistance. I still watch it though, the lolling fruit fly which has somehow made its way from the kitchen to the bathroom and now hovers about the temperature dial. I stand there, water cascading over me, and watch as its slow ascent leads it ever closer to the line of fire.
When I was a kid, I was on holidays in France with my cousins, I rescued a grasshopper from drowning in the pool three or four times, and every time I caught it, it leapt from my hands right back into the water and my cousin said, ‘just leave it, it deserves to die at this stage.’ But I didn’t think so. It was only hopping straight back into the pool because the pool was where I was not, and I was a terrifying giant who kept touching it. It did not deserve to die for being scared of giants. I myself was theoretically scared of giants, and I was pretty sure I did not, theoretically or otherwise, deserve to die. On my final rescue mission, I managed to run with it to the other side of the patio before it escaped from the cracks in my hands. I watched it hop off into the sunlight. My cousins clapped reluctantly.
A splash ricochets off my shoulder and takes out the fly. I watch its body swirl in the water around my toes, under my breath I say I’m sorry, because I am a giant who did nothing to help, and it should have been afraid of me, though it wasn’t, because I was passive in its time of need, and I should have turned off the shower. I find myself on my knees, fumbling for the plug to stop the fly going down the drain, and trying and trying to pick it up against the rib of the water which encircles my fingertip every time it touches the enamel floor. But eventually I get it, and the little black body lies on the tip of my finger with its legs and wings splayed like a dancer and I think I must be more forgiving, more merciful. I think let this be a lesson, even if there is no one here to clap.
(From The Waxed Lemon Issue 1)