Sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen…
We counted the writhing bodies.
I know it’s necessary but…
I feel sick.
This is so sad.
This is horrific.
How are they still alive?
I will never get this image out of my head.
I will be haunted.
The holiday home hadn’t been rented since February, before total confinement began. So one, two… six months had gone by without a single human being passing through it to enjoy the expansive view of the Alpujarra mountains, or the fireplace, or the vertigo-inducing hammock.
They came out of there like cartoons…
Paper wasps are social creatures, says the internet. Each spring, a few queens (“foundresses”) awake from their winter slumber, chow down on some paper, and begin to build and lay. Saliva and paper become cribs for their daughters, who will expand, maintain the home, and provide caterpillar gruel for baby boy wasps. Those boys become men whose main function is to mate and, in very rare cases (when all of the ladies are out hunting), defend the nest. New queens are raised later in the season.
As a species, they are peaceful enough. One can co-exist with the paper wasp. They do not attack unless they feel their home is threatened and they do not feel that their home is threatened unless it is located in an area, like a balcony, with regular human traffic.
On Tuesday morning, JC took a seat below the wall lamp and we clinked coffee cups. Inside the lamp, life rustled into action–a nest. From the nest, a paper lady eyed JC’s big black curls and identified them immediately: a threat to safety, a major road-block to bacon. I speared an avocado and the peace broke with a shout– hijo de puta (son of a bitch! mother fucker!) A red welt appeared on JC’s arm as the aggressor, her bright yellow legs dangling, hovered around the chair. He peered up into the lamp: me cago en… (I shit on..!) So we began our little escape-the-pests dance. Plates and forks flew indoors. We were two city idiots dodging stingers. Soon, the fat can of Raid emerged. I knew this because from the kitchen I heard more swearing, and a door slamming shut.
It was a massacre.
We finished our breakfast inside, watching the mountains through the anti-mosquito chain curtain, periodically checking in on the casualties. Me, half-mourning the bugs who’d made a home in our absence.