The bee, a faux stained-glass sticker, hangs on the corner of my home office window courtesy of Gigi, my college roommate and forever soul mate and all-around crafty gem. Poor old thing (the bee, not Gigi) has lost its buzz over the past decade as I’ve peeled it off for—count ‘em—three cross-state moves. Its wings and body are worn thin with holes, the yellow and gold colors faded from years in sunlight, one antenna lopped in half. On the surface, nothing remarkable. Just a kitschy gift from a funny, dear friend.
Except for the story that goes with it.
One night, about fifteen years ago, Gigi and I went to a gathering at the downtown Phoenix apartment of a fellow I was dating. Gigi, lovely, thoughtful person that she is, brought alcohol and a festive little gift: a homemade window-cling bee, which she stuck in that fella’s kitchen window over the sink. At some point, we partygoers left our things and walked to a nearby bar. Long story short, at some point that fellow started ignoring me and flirting mightily with another woman. Ugh. So we beat it the heck out there—only to realize that Gigi’s purse, with the car keys inside, was back at his apartment. No way was I going back in to ask him for a g-d thing. What could we do?
“Break in,” Gigi said.
“No, wait,” I said, half-running to keep up as she launched herself back toward the apartment. The girl cheetah-walks, even though she’s only 5’2 on a good day. Despite this height fact, she also always believes she’s as tall as the tallest person in the room.
At the apartment, Gigi rattled the door and then tested the window. Jackpot.
She slid the window open. “Gimme a leg up,” she said.
“No way,” I said. “We’ll get in trouble—“
She tilted her head and raised her eyebrows. “Bryn. Give me a leg up.”
You don’t argue with those eyebrows. I leaned down and cupped my hands. She stepped into my palms, and I hoisted her up. She scrambled inside the window in full view of a busy street, tumbling over the stereo on the way down. She grabbed her purse and started back toward the window but then stopped. She turned back to the kitchen. She ripped that bee off and then climbed back out the window with what I recall as one badass, long-legged, superhero hop to the ground.
She slammed the window shut and pressed the bee into my palm. She nodded. “Let’s go.”
Yep. She was taller than everyone who ever lived.
That little bee has traveled with me from Phoenix, AZ, to Nashville, TN, to Montevallo, Alabama, and now to Charlotte, NC. It’s always in my writing window, right in my line of sight when I look up from typing.
Of course the literal story never fails to make me laugh when I remember it, but as Flannery O’Connor said, “The longer you look at one object, the more of the world you see in it.”
On the eve of my first book’s official publication, I find myself heart-swollen with what that bee reminds me, sometimes exhorts me:
- Writing is solitary, but you are not alone. You have a hive, and all your people are (ahem) the bee’s freakin’ knees.
- The families and friends you love are far away, but they are not gone.
- The families and friends you love who are gone are still present. In memory, in imagination, on the page.
- Call your friends. Call your mother and siblings. Send them an email or card just for the heck of it. Tell them, now, what they mean to you. (I love you to the tops of the tulip poplars and beyond, past the broken eggshell of a moon, past Pluto with her giant waiting heart, you splendid, lovely sons-of-guns.)
- Stare out the window. A lot.
- Don’t take shit.
- Fight hard for what’s important, for what you love.
- You are as tall as those others in the room, so keep on writing, love.
- Sometimes the world will sting hard and mean in the tenderest of places, and there’s not a thing you can do but weep.
- “There is a crack in everything/that’s how the light gets in.” –Leonard Cohen
- You will be afraid. Do it anyway.
- Give someone a leg up when they need it. Reach back and offer a hand.
- Say thank you and mean it.
- You live in a house.
- You live in a house where you have your own window.
- You live in a house with another human being who makes art across the hall and who also makes you mixtapes and greets you over dinner with stories about starrrrr stuff and news and jokes and other miraculous things from his bright bonfire of an imagination.
- “Stare. It is the way to educate your eye and more. Stare, pry, listen, eavesdrop. Die knowing something. You are not here long.” –Walker Evans
- You are g-d fortunate to be here, bumbling around this bewildering honeycomb of a life.