I spent the last few weeks at a house with a screened-in porch in the back. It’s a sleepy, southern kind of porch. The ceiling fan turns slowly and the terra cotta tile feels cold under bare feet. My friend who owns the house is able to keep plants alive, a skill I do not possess but took happy advantage of during my stay.
The console under the window holds an array of fresh herbs and succulents of various size decorate the table by the door. Greenery that I can’t name crawls out of pots hung by twine, reaching for something beneath them or just limp with resignation, I’m not sure.
It’s an older house and some of the screens are torn so there were tiny crawly things everywhere. It bothered me until I remembered that they’d been there first. I held myself with a bit more reverence after that. A giant guest in a tiny, crawly world.
The most obvious of residents were the flies. Their hurry was audible and irregular, a chorus of zippers in a rush, I think to escape. But the screens held firm at the front lines. Each buzz of assault cut short with an unforgiving “thump.”
I watched this play out each day with revolving emotions. Amusement, empathy, fear. I saw so much of my humanity in their struggle and resolve – frantic wings of motion, an unreachable expanse.
I. I am a fly held captive. I don’t know how I got in, I just know I can’t go back out. Not yet, at least. Or not for what feels like an eternity. I used to be out there in the world. I was on the other side, free and unencumbered. I would’ve never thought it could be taken away. That suddenly “out there” would be so unreachable. I miss my friends and my freedom. I miss a world without masks and drive-in testing facilities. I have space in here and I am breathing well but I feel trapped and scared about everything that’s happened and everything that still will. I see it all through this screen, exactly the way it was and entirely different. I wish I could rest. I wish you could, too.
II. I am a fly looking out. At a picture of my past and of the future I thought I would have. I am screened-in by my lack of control and it suffocates me. This isn’t what I wanted, certainly not what I would’ve chosen, and I am left in this vacuum of a place, surrounded by a life I once knew, unable to return. The winds of grief ushered me here and I wait for the day the corners lift, when I’ll escape back to the expanse and somehow start anew.
III. I am a fly afraid. On the other side the world is burning. Souls are diluted to a color and no one knows how to fix it. I am devastated and afraid. I am helpless and guilty and enraged. So I scream and ram myself against the screen of my privilege but what does it do? I was born in this place – sheltered, safer – and with it comes a responsibility. How do I use these screens to shelter others? How do I fly into the fire in support? To buzz about injustice just isn’t enough. How long, O Lord, how long?
IV. I am a fly with longing. There is darkness in this place but a garden on the other side, Eden in her second self. I know the Gardner and his kindness. He has told me of what he’s building, the colors and splendor and peace. From here I can only taste it – the occasional breeze of comfort, the warmth of a stray ray of sun. But the certainty of his promise settles into my soul and hope springs from an eager expectation: for a world with no brokenness, a place with no tears or grief, the renewal of all things and reconciliation of all people, the lifting of the screen.