Hidden Among the Lavender

Photo by LucasVPhotos
Photo by LucasVPhotos

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“Look, over there!” My coworker pointed, her black acrylic nails flying past my nose, missing me by millimeters. Each used, empty dorm room was different. Sometimes, dirty linens would be tucked neatly on naked mattresses or piled by the edge of the door. Other times, we’d discover a nest of wrappers, dotted with crumbs, and tissues stuffed into bedspring crevices.

I braced, leaning back from her ringed fingers, a glittering bat on her knuckle nearly swiping me. I stiffened, steeling myself for the smell of stale Cheez-It dust powdering the carpet in orange snowfall.

I heard it first before I saw it: a haphazard tapping, urgent as a whisper, against the window. The blinds shuttered and, for a second, I thought it was open, ready to invite the pressing monsoon.

I shook my head and my coworker grabbed my shoulder softly, stopping me in my tracks.

“There, in the corner. The moth?”

We leaned closer together, our eyes widening.

“Look!” I said, finally seeing. “It’s nearly as big as my hand!”

I knew nothing about moths, only that it was clearly imprisoned, vibrating its dust-wings against a glass sky.

“What should we do?” Iris asked, peering around the room. My first thought went to spiders; of killing, trapping, suffocating. This moth, with its lacey, earthen wings, beat feebly against its invisible wall.

“That’s way too big for me to try to catch,” I said, feeling dumb. In reality, I was suddenly afraid of the moth’s size, of grazing a fingertip past a velveted wing. Iris nodded, pursing her lips. Without a word, she ran to the bathroom and reappeared with shrink-wrapped hotel cups.

“This might be a little small,” She said, eyeing its wingspan, “but it’s all we have.” Slowly, she nudged the moth into the cup, coaxing it along with comforting whispers.

“I’m sorry little guy,” she crooned gently. “We’re just trying to get you back home safe.”

With the pressing plastic dome covering the moth, we sprinted past open dorm doors and vacuums coiled in corners until we reached the campus garden. Monsoon winds whipped around us, sending little whirling towers of lavender at our feet, when we saw them. The moths hovered there seemingly by the hundreds, dancing among tiny lavender clouds.

“Aww,” Iris said, her smile breaking open. “Its family was waiting for him. Do you think they noticed he was gone?” she asked, hopeful. I nodded, watching as our moth flickered faintly around the purple wands. We watched as it bumbled into one, then two, then a dozen of its own, joining the vibrating thrum of moths in a monsoon.

Did they notice when one of their own had gone missing, or when they returned? Did they know we were there to help and not to harm? I wonder if the moths knew that even I nurtured a hidden, damaged dust-wing. That I, too, hovered among them, waiting for family to welcome me home, there, hidden among the lavender. If they ever noticed me at all.

Brianna G. Reed is a student at the Institute of American Indian Arts.

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