Insects I have known


Every region has its insect population. Back in Washington state, we had all kinds of crazy critters: lime-green katydids, stinkbugs by the millions, spittlebugs in the weeds (there’s nothing like taking a walk in summer though the tall grass and getting slimed all over with gobs of spit).



Rhode Island has nice dragonflies in summer, as well as meat-eating yellowjackets and teeny-tiny ants that boil by the millions out of cracks in the sidewalk.



Something bit me in Morocco.  I barely felt it, but within a few days my thigh turned blue, then purple, then red and orange in waves. “That’s a spider bite, all right,” the Peace Corps nurse said.  It was eerily beautiful, like a sunset at sea. It took months for the colors to go away.



In Tunisia: bedbugs! You wake up and find three, four, five little tiny bits on your skin, all in a neat row. Live and let live, right? What’s a little delicious blood among friends, am I right?



Once in Tunisia, I was in the living room with a bunch of friends. They were all seated; I was standing in the doorway. All at once something crawled out from under the sofa.  I was the only person who was looking down, so no one else saw it. It was maybe five inches long, and it was bright red, with a million little feet, and it was undulating across the floor in the most prehistorically evil way you can imagine. I yelped wordlessly (I think everyone thought I was having a stroke), picked up a nearby Arabic dictionary (the heaviest thing I could find) and threw it at the thing. I hit it, and it leapt (I do not kid you) into the air writhing and thrashing. I forget how we disposed of the corpse. Next day at work I described it to my friend Halim. “It was red?” he said. “Good thing you killed it. Those are pretty bad.”



I never found out if he was kidding or not. I didn’t want to know.



On the lighter side: one lovely autumn day in northern Morocco, I was coming down a staircase on the outside of my apartment building (it was a converted villa, very nice). Everything was littered with falling leaves. As I ran my hand down the railing, I felt a leaf cling to my hand. I looked down at the leaf –



And the leaf looked back at me.



(You know those Disney nature films with bugs that camouflage themselves as sticks and fallen leaves? They’re not making that stuff up.)



I shrieked. I jumped into the air, waving my hand and screaming. I was terrified. My friends, waiting for me at the base of the stairs, were in hysterics.



I probably frightened the poor bug into a heart attack.



And it serves him right for scaring me.







About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to

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