by Joseph Heiland
I’m wearing my good jeans. The window is open. All different kinds of people walk on the paths below. They’re heading to class, or maybe work, but I hope that they’re on their way to get coffee with a friend. There’s tension in the air.
No one knows how to feel yet. It’s too early in the semester. I have a slight headache, but I’m not sure that it’s real. It could just be my mind warning my body that things are about to happen. Get ready, it’s saying.
I rub my temples and move on. I’m about to look away, but something catches my eye. Thirteen dead ladybugs, entombed between the screen and the glass. Some with their winged shells upright. Others not. I don’t know how long they’ve been there. I look for signs. Their backs aren’t as red as I feel they should be. They’re more brown than red. Auburn, perhaps. I look closer. Their tiny legs are shriveled. Some, or so it would seem, have become hollow. That can’t be right, I tell myself. Well, it is right, I’m reminded.
Thirteen dead ladybugs strewn along the base of the screen. If only they’d crawled a few inches toward the center, they’d have found two ladybug-sized holes to squeeze through. (Freedom.) Then again, that’s probably how they got there in the first place. They scuttled through and couldn’t find their way back. (Consequence.)
I think of something my father loves to say: Once the toothpaste’s out of the tube, have fun getting it back in. He’s a mechanical engineer. Has been since Reagan was president.
I think of another saying—this time by Napoleon(?): You can tell a lot about a man by what was happening in the world when he turned twenty-one. It’s certainly true for my father. And then I realize that I’ve been twenty-one for almost nine months. What’s happening now? I ask myself. I look at the hollowed, auburn shells.