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that gossamer flutter

18 February 2017 - 01:00

In Mexican lore, moths are a bad thing. Harbringers of death, omens of sickness, they bring ill tidings. You get the idea. There are a certain type of moth, though, that really gets folks from my cultural corner of the world worked up. I don't know their scientific classification or family or genus, but they are frickin' huge: about the width of a grown man's hand, when at rest. They are mostly black with striations and patterns in dark grey and sepia. Oh, and they're fuzzy, like moths tend to be. Really, they're gorgeous. We kill them on sight.

Because these moths, these special, gigantic midnight-velvet moths, we consider direct messengers of the Angel of Death. If you ever see one resting on your house, kill it, my people say. They are announcing the termination of someone's life. The closer they are to the main door used by the family (usually the front one), the closer the person who will soon die be to the family. If it's ever on your actual doorway, watch out! Someone living in the house will die, and soon. The only way to buy some time for the unfortunate soul is to kill the moth before it gets a chance to fly away and show La Calaca where you live.

Those moths have always facinated me since I was a child. I hated it when my mother killed those we came across, even though they terrified me. I thought they were beautiful (still do), and didn't think it was their fault they were born being portents of demise. However, so drilled was the notion that my loved ones would die if ever one were to get away, that I put up with their senseless slaughter. To the day, my favorite bugs in the world gotta be spiders, ants and moths. Well, bees are okay, too, bees are awesome, in fact.

Anyhow, why bring up all this talk about moths? Well, Thursday night, while I was at work, I was at my computer workstation, when I felt something slap my left leg, rather strongly, I might add. I ignored it, because that leg is right up next to a metal wall, so I figured I bumped my leg against it by accident. Truth be told, I was too busy being annoyed by the antics of two of my coworkers who are apparently dating or something. They're ten years younger than me, and their lovey-dovey shit really grates on my bitterness. Keep it professional, kids. You can go fuck once you're off the clock. So, not long after, as I did my best to remain focused on my computer monitor, I saw something cardboardish flit past my view to my left, where the damn metal wall is. It was the color of cardboard, anyway, and had landed against the wall a bit higher than my eye level. I heard the guy of the coworker-couple go "Whoa!", and he whispered something to his girlfriend while looking over in my direction. I glanced to my left, and there it was, caught in a cellar-spider's web: giant mahonker moth.

I didn't panic. I wasn't afraid. See, this moth wasn't black. It was that light caramel-brown of cardboard, with darker brown markings and black striations. Its antennae were black and fuzzy. And it wasn't as enormous as those black ones tend to get. I knew the moth wasn't in any immediate danger. That web is old, covered in dust; the spider who wove it long gone, either moved on or dead. I admired it for a few moments, entranced by its velvet beauty, at the quiet way with which it raised one furry black foot, then the other, testing the effectiveness of the web that held it in place. Then my boss called me over to help another section of the warehouse and killed the goddamn moment. I left the two lovebirds and the moth behind. To myself, I made a mental note of the incident to relate to my mom later.

First thing she asks me, when I do, "Did you kill it?"
"No, it wasn't the black kind, it was just big."

My mom don't take no chances. It's a moth, it's big, kill it. I didn't want to elaborate on how the darn thing slapped my leg before resting practically right next to my face. I think when it slapped my leg it was trying to land on me. Which again, I kept as a mental note to myself, despite myself. Moths know their shit, maybe something was going to happen to me, but it wasn't black, maybe I was going to get sick, or just hurt. I drove home extra-carefully that night.

Then this morning comes, and my sister calls me, saying she wasn't able to sleep well, because she had a bad feeling about my Tia Luisa over in Mexico. My Tia Luisa is my mother's eldest sister, five, maybe six years older than my mom. About two weeks ago, two and a half, maybe, her husband, my Tio Artemio, passed away. My mom and sister went to Mexico to be with the family. I stayed on this side of the border, taking care of my sister's kids. A few days back, my cousin Letty, one of Tia Luisa's daughters who lives in Dallas, called my sister to let her know that my Tia isn't doing so well. She was throwing up, and had to go to the doctor. The Dud had been restless since. I decided not to tell her about the moth.

Welll, not long after, while I'm still on the line with my sister, my Tia Julia, my mom's younger sister (by three years), called my mother to give her a status update on my Tia Luisa. And so it turns out the damn moth knew all along what it was doing, and its message was directly for me.

My aunt is dying. She has liver crirhosis, high blood pressure, and her kidneys are failing. Because of all this, fluid is building up in her abdomen. They drained her, and told her that this would keep her comfortable for a few weeks, but that there was really nothing anyone could do for her anymore. Even medication would only delay the inevitable, which was approaching soon.

I hate seeing my mother cry. I hate that I was never able to muster up the time and energy to cry for my Tio Artemio, and will likely also not cry for my Tia Luisa. I have very fond memories of them both, and now both are fading from my life.

I am so tired right now... work was hell today, and I'm spent, but I had to vent about all this. I want to help, but I don't know how. For now, I think I'll just take my pills and go to sleep for a while.

Goodnight, midnight.

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