Not one but two bees live between the outer and inner window of my bedroom, subsisting on their built-up, built-in pollen supply. My father insisted upon extra insulation when building our house, saying, "This New England weather, you just never know." My father's father insisted upon living in New England after his wife of twelve years ran away with a Florida orange farmer. In New England, there are no orange groves, or orange grovers to adulterate with. There are glassblowers, though, and while my father's mother never ran away, there are reasons why my grandfather, after too much wine, is prone to smashing any glass baubles he can find. "Because I'm God to them! I made them!" he shouts when we ask why he's thrown another transparent kitten at the wall.
I think of this when I watch the bees in my windows, cavorting as if they were cute rabbits, or playful goats. I loom in front of my window and tell them I am their God, but they pay me no mind. The mind of the bee is twofold: pollen and honey. My first girlfriend lived on a farm, where her parents grew vegetables and lodged rabbits, and harvested honey. When I say her parents harvested honey, I mean the apiaries they tended housed bees within them and those bees actually harvested the honey. My first girlfriend, she never called me honey.
Every morning the bees bumble against the glass. It's almost as if I had a cat or a dog that would nuzzle me awake, except what I have is bees, which fail daily to follow in the footsteps of every other pet I've owned and get hit by a car. Bess, Golden Retriever, aged 9, hit by motorcycle. Tomas, goldfish, aged 32 days, hit by our station wagon after my father insisted we bring him to the vet and forgot his bowl on the hood of our car and backed out of the driveway.
My father often left things on the hood of our car: coffee mugs, books, backpacks, and once, my sister in her car-seat. My mother has never forgiven him. "Forgiveness is an abstraction anyways," my father said over some Chinese take-out that he'd left on the car hood in the cold for ten minutes before remembering to bring it in. "Besides, what are you giving? You can't give a for." Other reasons my mother walked out on him included his policy on apologizing ("It's just more words, like the words you got mad about."), thoughts on fidelity ("What am I, a marine?"), and the windows in the house. As she walked out, dragging her bags and my sister by the hand, she yelled, "And it's always too damn hot! Those windows, those goddamn windows!"
These windows resemble another kind of fish bowl and when I wake up, the sun-haze temporarily obstructing my vision, the dance-like loops the bees make in the air suggest they are swimming in this bubble. I find the dance beautiful until I realize I'm watching bees swim underwater and that scares me because only super bees could do something like that and since I'm scared of bees, I'm terrified of super bees, and then I start hyperventilating until I realize that they just look like they're swimming. But relax, they're actually flying. Then I think about how, if they can fly, they can also swoop down on me from above, the way falcons do. I try to imagine this in slow-motion, as if it were on a nature show, with the bees angling in for a dive, and me, looking innocent in a field, and then sensing, suddenly, belatedly, that something is near, and then I sprint, but they grab me anyway (deft hunters, these bees), and I'm done for.
"Uh-huh, flights of fancy," my father says through the phone after I confess my bee visions. Punning means my father's listening enough to piece together a word or words he can riff off of. But my father won't give me any advice. He just says, "Quite a pickle," which is the phrase he liked to use when I was messing up my homework, or when the lava from my science fair volcano had eaten through the table (glass) my grandfather had built from melted sand. I didn't win the science fair that year. A smallish Filipino boy named Quinine won for a study he conducted on the first grade, whereupon he proved a knitted cobra can be just as frightening as the real thing.
I try to call up Agnes and tell her about these bee dreams, but Agnes won't answer her phone anymore, at least not when I call. I leave her long messages about it, anyway, where I explain my theory that the bees can leave the window when I'm asleep, and that they just like to be in there to drive me crazy. These one-sided conversations with her answering machine tend to drift towards a projection of existentialist thought on my part onto the bees. Their constant droning leads me to this philosophical conclusion. I just find them to be very unfulfilled, and though I know we're enemies in the sense that Russians and Americans were once enemies in the Cold War, I cannot help but sympathize from my side of the window.
"The windows here are squat and fat. They remind me of your father," my mother once wrote on the back of a postcard. On the front, a m√©lange of East Germans engaged in some sort of celebration, possibly pagan. When my mother walked out on my father, she dragged her suitcases and her daughter to the airport and ended up on a plane to East Germany. I would get letters from her sometimes, talking about the town she had settled in (Fredelsloh), the school she was teaching at (some gymnasium), the people she met on the street (old woman with scarves and swastikas, men who tried to engage her in conversation about Gertrude Stein, shouts from houses about the sexiest girls, the cheapest prices, the fattest nugs).
The people I work with smile dully and shrug when I tell them about the predicament the bees and I share. I found a job in an art collective working in the media we loathed to prove how much we loved art. My boss, the filmmaker who hates, above all things, film; my peers, the photographer who hates, above all things, photography, the lithographer who hates equally and, above all things, the word lithography and all things associated with that word, and me, the computer person who hates computing, above all things, we all work on our art together. Sometimes, especially after one of my coworkers has been especially unresponsive to my bee visions, I imagine the bees form a part of the collective and I wonder if they've been put between my windows to motivate me, to scare me as the church used to scare churchgoers into religious fervor. They called it fear of the Lord. Not that I'm scared of the bees, but I am in awe of how they manage to continue their display.
I tell the photographer that I haven't been this in awe of a display since I first saw fireworks. The photographer tells me that in ancient China, gunpowder quickly replaced religion. The church had to sensationalize its services to draw people back in, and eventually it bought the formula for gunpowder and forebade its manufacture except under their strictly regulated laws. The photographer says, "It's kind of like Disney." I point out that absolutely none of that is true, and the photographer shrugs. "But it is good allegory, right?"
Of course, that night I dreamt of Disney, specifically of my father running over Mickey and Minnie, Donald and Goofy, too. Then my father drove over my sister and my mother, who were each holding goldfish bowls in their hands with bees in them. My first girlfriend and her parents were at the scene of this crime, harvesting the honey the bees in the bowls had created from pollen. This entire dreamscape existed within a glass snow globe that my father's father repeatedly threw against the wall, shouting at the shards and contents of the globe that stitched themselves back together each time.
That morning I wake up and one of the bees is hovering over my head indecisively, the other in hiding, possibly. I shout, "You!" at it, and for some reason I expect the bee will reply, "Me!" But all the escaped bee does is sway side-to-side, swaggering, like a drunk that can't figure out which doorknob is which. I think about the falcons, and every part of me wants to sprint, but there's no way to sprint without sitting up, which would put my head right next to the bee, and then it would be so easy for it to grab me and whisk me away. My concern for the other bee recedes as I reach up and swat the infiltrator into the hallway. When the threat has subsided, I return to the double windows and I see the other bee flying in circles silently, as if in protest or mourning. I mutter to myself, to him, "The things you hate will live forever."