Between Your Wife and Me
I am in love with a married man. That is my tragedy. I love him with a deep and desperate passion that rules me. I want to own his heart and mind and soul. I want to rip the heart out of his body and caress it with my my small hands, feeling the wet richness of it, ingesting it bit by bit, until it is part of me, and we are one.
I do not love his wife.
Ta-Nehisi Coates. The greatest man in the world, strong and virile, with a sharp, prehensile mind, now moves about his kitchen with leonine grace. Of course, he doesn’t notice me, in my small corner of his world. Humans rarely do, except when they take it in their heads to stomp us out beneath their heels, or poison us with their weapons of mass destruction.
Of course, Ta-Nehisi Coates would never do such a thing to me. Of course he wouldn’t. The man who writes so eloquently and poetically would have nothing for sympathy for me and mine, if his attention were brought to it. He would take me tenderly into his palm and look upon me with love and compassion. Together our pain would combine in a symphony of poetic suffering, the stuff of operas and certain dark comic books.
I know this, because I know his heart. He has shown it to me in his acts of loving kindness. One day, he stood at the counter in the kitchen, preparing himself snack. (Why he had to make his own snacks, I’m sure I don’t know. If I were his wife, he would never have to lift a finger for his food.) And as he spread the jam on his bread, a lovely, fat glob fell onto the floor.
An ordinary enough occurrence, you might say. But here is what was extraordinary about it — instead of cleaning it up, he left it there. For me. It was a gift, especially for me, and I lapped it up, each and every drop of it, until I was dizzy and drunk on sweetness, and on his generosity.
Ta Nehisi Coates is the greatest and best man who has ever lived.
The wife enters. I look away. I will not be in the same room as her, if I can help it.
It’s early morning, and I have a breakfast meeting with Bud the Beetle. Bud is the wisest of all the insects, and in fact, the wisest of all creatures on earth, as far as I can tell. He often counsels me with regard to my place in the structure of my hive, and the practical problems that arise from possessing an independent consciousness in an environment of stifling conformity.
Were humans able to understand Beetlespeak, I imagine Bud the Beetle would have singlehandedly solved racism, violence, misogyny and road rage. He’s that good. He has certainly done much for me and my community.
It doesn’t take me long to get around to my problem, as I am a fast eater and not inclined to small talk. After taking in my dilemma, he looks at me a while, clicking his legs together, as he is wont to do. My own antennae buzz in anticipation of his wisdom.
“You know how I hate to put more negativity into the world,” he began, “but sometimes it is my duty to do so. My friend, there can be no future between yourself and Ta-Nehisi Coates. Why, he is one of the greatest poetic writers and commentators of this generation. He is internationally famous. In addition, he is warm-blooded, and lacks a sensible exoskeleton. I’m afraid I cannot see how the two of you would make a sensible pairing.”
It takes me a moment to hear what he is saying. His words rush over me like especially fat raindrops, toppling me over, chilling me inside and out. Surely, he cannot be saying what I think he is saying. Such pessimism from one so wise is inconceivable.
He must see my distress and confusion, because he reaches out and pats me with one of his legs. “I know this must be unpleasant for you to hear. Believe me when I say that I have no wish to hurt you. But I am sad to say that I just really can’t see any way around these problems. They are insurmountable.”
“Insurmountable. I see. But what if I could surmount them? I mean, an exoskeleton. Is that really such an important attribute? Humans have been managing all this time without them, it must not be as necessary as you say. And his writing skills are formidable to be sure, but surely you aren’t suggesting that writers can only mate with other writers.” I chuckle nervously. I can’t stop my legs from wiggling now. I am all worked up.
Bud the Beetle sighs. “I can see you are determined to argue with my very logical conclusion. Very well. But I am afraid you will find that I am right in my assessment of this relationship’s prospects. I only hope that you find out the easy way, and not the hard.”
Bud the Beetle is a smug asshole. I don’t know why I ever thought he was a wise creature. He is patronizing and awful, and he smells like old mold.
Bud the Beetle is larger than me, but I am stronger. Before he knows what is happening, I ram my head into his underbelly and tip him over onto his back.
“NO! What have you done? Turn me back over this instant!”
I watch his tiny legs scrape furiously at the air as he writhes to and fro. I do not turn him back over. I smile at the sparrow who draws near, hop hop hopping on the ground, so huge he blocks out the sun above us. He might see me, but I’m not anywhere near as delicious and juicy as a giant beetle, trapped on his back. I am perfectly safe.
I amble away at my leisure, ignoring Bud’s screams.
Despite Bud the Beetle’s idiocy, I must admit that he did have a point. Despite my love for Ta-Nehisi Coates, which is pure and true, the establishment of a romantic relationship does present me with some challenges.
Namely, the wife. What is to be done about the wife?
The idea comes to me while I am at work. An anthive is a busy place, full of busy ants doing busywork. It is alive with activity and buzzing and clicking, so much energy, so much power contained in such a small place.
If I could but harness that power, make it do my bidding, perhaps I might be able to solve the wife problem. I am but one small creature, but together, we are a formidable force.
You might not be aware of it, but ants have a rather sophisticated method of communication, via certain pheromones which we secrete. These pheromones enable us to pass on messages, to coordinate our activities, and to get things done.
The thing is, most of my fellow hive-mates are…how to put this?…not as high functioning as myself. Of course, their intellects are, in general, sufficient for the lives they lead, and the tasks they complete. But any higher executive functioning can safely be assumed to be out of their reach.
This is to my advantage. Immediately I hatch a plan and distribute it throughout the hive, and before the hour is done, we are an ant army, and I am the General.
I give the signal and the ants go marching, ten by ten, hurrah! They march though the door into Ta-Nehisi Coates’ home, they march through the kitchen, and into the living room, and then up the stairs to where he sleeps with the horrid wife. We lose a few brave souls to the thick carpeting, but we soldier on, leaving behind our fallen comrades.
We climb the bed; that last, most challenging hurdle. The blanket is smooth beneath our sticky feet, and the climb is almost perfectly vertical. My brothers and sisters are strong though, and we make it to the top, tired and sore…and extremely hungry.
I send out a blast, and my kin knows what to do. They crawl in, they crawl out, they wiggle into nostrils and lips and ears. They do not stop. They pinch and pull and gobble wherever they can. They do not leave her, even when she awakes and makes terrible noises, even when Ta-Nehisi Coates tries to free her from their creeping and crawling and chomping. He and his wife smash many of us with their large angry hands, but they cannot kill all of us. They are outnumbered. We are legion.
I myself find a spot on her upper cheek, and look into her terrified face. I expect to feel sympathy, or disgust, but in truth, I feel nothing so much as hunger. I take a big, juicy bit out of her eyeball, savoring the wet saltiness of the fluid inside. I smile.
Nothing will save her now.
Days later, I return. Ta-Nehisi Coates is alone in his bed. I assume his period of mourning is now at an end, and I may begin my courtship. I crawl up his bed, and it is a long trek indeed, and when I reach the top I see him, up close. I admire his pores, the scent of him fresh on the sheets. His eyes are closed, his forehead creased with unnamable worries and troubles.
After the wife’s death, there had been a difficult period. An evil human in an ugly suit had come into the house, spraying poisons here and there and everywhere, preventing me from coming inside. I know Ta Nehisi Coates was not to blame for this atrocity, because he was not there at the time.
But now, the deadly fumes have cleared, my love is back, and at last, we can begin our life together.
I creep closer, into his outstretched palm. I let him hold me, as I always knew he would. This is the most elegant bliss that can be imagined, perfect and sure. I am basking in the fragrant breeze that is the air from his nostrils. I am at one with all that is he. I am home.