Well, so much for the column I was going to write. That one has been rescheduled for after I work through some trauma.
There I was, minding my own business at my makeshift pandemic home office, when out of the corner of my eye, I saw it.
A spotted lanternfly, just hanging out on my desk, like we were in the same writing group or something.
I’ve been warring with its insidious ilk for a while now, as I’ve chronicled on social media.
In what I admit was not my finest Insta moment, and in a fit of all-consuming rage, I duct-taped the tree full of lantern flies in my back yard.
This year has already taken so much. No way was I just going to stand by while the equivalent of a corona cockroach — with no natural predators (or boundaries), which by some estimates can jump from three to nine feet, and whose poop actually kills trees — takes over.
I may have come to terms with the fact that I cannot control the ugliness infesting our world, but you cannot come for my pandemic safe space.
Mock me all you want — as my husband did before I warned him I had enough duct tape to also attach him to the tree — but my method sorta worked.
I’ve since bought the bands of sticky tape that seem to work much better, but are also dangerous to other benign insects and birds. So that’s gotta go.
But for a minute, I was feeling victorious. Behold, the great pest pulverizer!
And then this louse of a lanternfly decides to come through with some straight-up disrespectful “S’up, stupid human?” vibe.
Now, this is the moment for a confession and apology. I may have sneered a little when I first read Ann L. Rappoport’s essay in The Inquirer about how killing spotted lanternflies was the relief she needed in 2020.
Seriously? I thought. We’re up against dual national emergencies of a pandemic and a presidential election, and killing some bugs is supposed to help?
Except (and this is where I apologize), damned if she wasn’t right about how, in a world where our collective efforts to fight and fix the coronavirus, climate change, racism, and any number of abuses of power haven’t really amounted to measurable change, here was something we could actually measure.
We may still be working on smashing the patriarchy. But in the meantime, we can smash some bugs.
I don’t know what fresh hell brought me to the backyard in the middle of a workday — probably a Trump tweet, or another endless Zoom call, or the ongoing pandemic that is holding us hostage. Or all of the above and whatever is coming next.
But one day I found myself out there grunting like Serena Williams at the top of her game as I crushed fly after fly after fly.
Every stressful day since, even if just for a few minutes, I take aim with anything and everything: a shoe, a magazine, my dog’s hair brush, my bare hands.
War is not for the squeamish, comrades.
Well, mostly. When I posted that picture of my duct taped tree, allies offered helpful tips. Some of which I took, some of which, I’m sorry, I just couldn’t. If I had to capture them in a plastic bottle, I knew I’d be cleaning up my own throw-up right after.
But this is where I went wrong, where we often go wrong when dealing with an enemy: I got cocky.
I saw the tape covered in their carcasses and thought I was winning.
Until one of them had the audacity to penetrate my bubble, to violate that tacit agreement of civility that’s already been infected in the non-bug world.
I may have upended everything in and around my desk as it tried to flee. But I eventually killed it and two others that were clinging to my window screen like they had something to say about their boy ending up on the wrong side of my shoe.
And yeah, I know what I sound like. Consumed. Obsessed. A little loca.