The tarantula hawk is really just a wasp. Like all insects, it knows nothing but what it has to do, this being to sting a large, meaty tarantula, which will paralyze it, and then drag it into a specially prepared burrow. Quick as thought it lays an egg on the motionless, but still very much alive spider. Then, when the larva hatches, all it has to do is dine on the still living, still fresh meat. It squirms inside the spider, chewing and scrabbling, avoiding the vital organs to keep the meat fresh as long as possible.
Well we all want the best for our children, but unlike the tarantula, we know what’s coming; it, on the other hand, probably takes stock of its situation, thinks “OK, can’t move ... burrow’s dry … at least it can’t get any worse.”
We just wait and watch the digital clock—tick tick tick.
Words are the opposite, they don’t burrow in, they scuttle out leaving our throats torn open.
That’s why silence is golden and no one likes a gabby old bitch, but what can you do but decorate the gash left behind by your words? We who can afford to, lie still, play possum. I saw a possum once, on my doorstep, that wasn’t playing, it was really dead. Something else must have wanted something … to reproduce, to continue existing, to make it to the next traffic light, so it had to die. Likewise the 56-year-old transit worker George Walter Diaz, who had finally found a job he didn’t hate and a woman to marry. Who was finally doing so well and his family so happy for him. A virus wanted to live, so George Walter Diaz and 600 other people died this Tuesday. Not that they didn’t want to live, too, but the virus had things to do.
First of all, it wanted a haircut, then it wanted ice cream before playing golf on an afternoon garlanded by cool breezes and average humidity. The hatchling has no choice in what it eats, after all, it just eats whatever’s in front of it. Like the virus, like us, chewing through the years, minutes, seconds.
There’s nothing to do about it but lie still and watch the clock, watch the stars, watch the bright and distracting content on the little Windexed screens in front of your face. But don’t touch it, you might not be able to feel your face.
(In 1989 the tarantula hawk was declared the state insect of New Mexico.)
Emily Carter is the author of Glory Goes and Gets Some.