There are wasps outside the window again, my first fall in the new house, like there was the first fall in my last house. They are no less lovely now, but I see them differently. No longer a dreamy haze of muted gold and black patterning the window I looked out of each morning as I sat down to the computer to start the day, now they are instead something I must protect my son from as he fills the sidewalk with his chalk art, those bright stripes of blue and orange and green.
Yet I feel almost sad wanting to call the pest company to get rid of the wasps. It isn’t really their fault that the humans have taken all of their wild spaces, that they are forced to find habitation on the sides of houses, roof eaves, the undersides of gutters. In a way, it is in this that I am like my brother, at times more concerned with animals than with people.
A few weeks before he died, Hurricane Katrina hit. Watching the coverage on the news, he was so upset with all those people that left their animals behind. Like my wasps, they had no choice in their circumstances, could not watch the television and preemptively leave when newscasters recommended. They could not get in their cars and drive on the roads leaving out of own. In some cases, they were simply abandoned.
My brother didn’t live long enough to see all of the aftermath of the hurricane, the complete devastation it caused, all those pictures of broken cars with punctured windows, the debris and flotsam swirled and floating amidst the wreckage of houses, the dog bodies found laying, the other bodies too. I would think of this years later, while wandering through an art exhibit in St. Louis inspired by Katrina, how for me it was his body that hurt the most, the one he abandoned on a dry Midwestern road on September 30th, 2005. Like a rock dropped in the middle of a lake whose ripples reached out for years, he was his own kind of hurricane.
In the pictures of my small son, no one sees echoes of my face. They see instead my son’s father, and elements of my brother too, dark eyes and dark hair that are echoes of two dead men. I don’t see the dead when I look at him, not the weight of them at least. I see instead only their capacity for joy in his wide, white smile, like the one he bestowed on me last night, drawing the moon as a brilliant strip of green, the few last wasps softly circling overhead, dissipating into the cool evening air.