Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The War - Chapter One

I didn’t mean to start the war.

In no way was that my intention. Mostly, I just wanted to be left alone, which is why I had them turn their attention elsewhere in the first place. The ants and the bees, that is. The Puerto Ricans didn't really buy into it, but my track record with them really wasn't ever that great to begin with. It started the summer before my twenty-second birthday. I was working three jobs then, and I really didn’t have time to clean up after myself. That was the same summer I switched to drinking hot tea, too, because all of the coffee I was drinking was starting to make me anxious. But I really can't go blaming it all on the hot tea. Mostly, it was the honey. Really, that’s the only way to drink the stuff is by sweetening it with honey (the tea that is) otherwise, it tastes just awful. I really have been going off on a tangent here. Let me get back to how the beginning. The day the war started began like any other day before it. I had woken up before sunrise to complete a brief shift at a broadcasting station, where the only other employee I worked with was still drunk from the night before. Once finished, I would change into restaurant attire and drive across the bridge to wait tables by the ocean. Depending on what day it was, once my shift had ended, I would either go home and drink until I fell asleep on the floor, or, I would sit by a tall door and check the dates on people’s driver’s licenses.

"Five dollars please," I would say.

"Forget it," they would say, and they would then proceed past me through the door I sat in front of.

Ultimately, the job lacked certain pleasantries.

But again, I am getting ahead of myself. It was not that day. The day in question – the day everything started – was my evening off. I had come home late in the afternoon, reeking of fried fish and potatoes, showered, and then pulled out a bottle of clear, sweet rum to drink. Tiptoeing through the clutter in my apartment (remember, I’ve been working three jobs and haven’t had time to clean yet) and making my way towards the cupboards, I sagged with disappointment after opening them to discover I had no clean glasses to drink from. I was actually going have to wash something. Setting my rum on the counter, I made my way to the sink and turned on the hot water, grabbing a jar of green scented soap and pouring generous amounts of it into the sink's deep, steel basin. Only when I reached over to pull from my dishes did I finally notice the ants.

There were two rows of them marching over the counter, each with their own different agendas. The first row, a neatly filed uniformed row, marched purposefully back and forth over the grout between the tile, busily making their way into my empty tea cups, scouring at their bottoms for dry crackled flakes of crusted and neglected honey. The other line marched forwards only, making no attempt whatsoever to march back with all the others. Instead, they danced drunkenly in circles around glasses half filled with my clear, sweet rum.

“What in the hell is this?” I said angrily to the small moving lines on my counter. The ants pretended to ignore me. I cleared my throat. "Excuse me," I said. "But what in the hell is this?" One of the ants rummaging through the honey stopped what they were doing and twiddled their antenna in my direction. As if inconvenienced by my question, the ant begrudgingly pulled out of formation and scuttled to the edge of the counter to peer up at me.

“What in the hell is what?” He said, in a small yet unmistakably self-important voice.

“What in the hell is all of this,” I asked him, pointing to the other ants and stretching my arms out lengthwise to emphasize to him that “this” was, in fact, the intrusive manner in which he had entered my home. “You can’t just invite yourself into someone’s house like this.” I said. “It’s rude. Don’t you ants have any manners?” The ant clicked his mandibles and shrugged his shoulders. His rudeness, and blatant disregard where my feelings were concerned, was incorrigible. But this wasn't really what upset me. What irritated me most about the situation was the way the other ants managed to collectively ignore me as a whole. Even as I stood there in front of them adamantly protesting their being in my home, they continued to march coolly between my tiles in rows of two, and dance ludicrously around my cups in the kitchen.

“It’s never been a problem before,” the ant replied, clicking. “Why all of a sudden is it such a big deal?”

“Before?” I asked, squinting. “How long have you been coming here?”

“Oh, for weeks now,” the ant exasperated, further twiddling his antennas and shaking his head from side to side. “You’ve just been so busy, so busy you haven’t noticed. But you can’t blame us. We’ve got all the sweet golden flakes and magic dancing water we could ask for. The hill has never been happier.”

“Yes,” I said, “that may be so, but, what about me? What will people think of me if they discovered that I allow ants to come and go as they please in my house? I’m sorry, but such behavior is intrinsically frowned upon in my society and deemed unsanitary. I'm afraid you have to leave."

The ant stood defiantly before tromping rows of apathetic brethren, clicking his mandibles, antenna wiggling. He shook his head from side to side and said: “No. I don’t think so. We like it here too much. We like to eat here, we like to dance here, and we intend to keep it that way.” Unfazed, the ant spun around and fell back into formation among the vibrating score, charging dedicated and steadfast to his hill. I responded to this rudeness promptly, by wiping all the ants into my sink with a sponge, drowning them in apple scented suds and hot water.