Today’s post has two subjects, the first of which is ants.
I can’t say the word ‘ants’ without a sort of sneer. It’s completely involuntary. My lip curls at the thought of ants, and if I try to discuss the topic at any length, the word becomes a little snarl of useless rage.
I hate ants more than I hate spiders, more than I hate movies where hot girls are wear glasses to make them ‘ugly’, more than people who make their dogs wear shoes for some reason. It’s a deep and enveloping hatred, developed, I think, back when I was a child and set my swim-suited behind on a swarming nest of fire ants. Within minutes, those red-mandibled motherfuckers had turned my ass into a speckled battlefield of igneous pain. On that day I was reborn as Jessica, Ant-Hater, Crusher of Thoraxes, Slayer of Insects.
So Taylor and I were sitting on the couch about a month ago when he looked down and saw a tiny sugar ant, scaling his arm with epileptic little thrusts of its tiny legs. He casually tried to brush it away without my noticing.
Me: “What was that?”
Me: “No, what was it?”
Taylor: “Nothing. Just, y’know.”
Taylor: “An ant.”
Imagine here that in my immediate fury my head turned purple, swelled up to the size of a bloated beach ball, and exploded, releasing the word “AAAAAAANTS” into the air like a pervasive smell.
That is what I was feeling, but because I’m not a mutant, I just clapped my hand to my forehead and said, “Oh, god. We have ants.”
Taylor: “No, no, just one ant. There was only one.”
Me: “There is never just one ant.”
And it’s true.
We went a few days without seeing them, and then they started turning up in pairs and trios, scooting around our kitchen counter searching for crumbs that we had carefully washed away, or for some muck that our sponge might have missed. It was never more than a few at a time, and if they spotted our hands descending on their soft, squishable bodies, they would scurry away into the cracks behind our cupboards.
Then one day Taylor made lemon bars and left the mess out over night, and the ants had a goddamn Christmas party.
The next day our counter was littered with the little monsters, their carcasses swimming in pools of lemon sugar, the survivors swerving drunkenly around with crumbs of the feast clutched in their jaws, friends still turning up and wondering hey, is this where the party is at?
I used up three paper towels, squishing them all, and spent a frenzied half hour prying every conceivable bit of ant food off every surface possible.
This is where I shift the focus of the story to something else. Don’t worry, we’ll go back to the ants, and you can hear me cuss some more.
Coming out of winter, Taylor has begun to develop an enormous stable of interests and hobbies. For months he’s been researching fancy cameras and reading books with titles like Nature Photography and Understanding Exposure. Our conversations have started to feature jargon that I don’t understand until I realize that at some point we stopped talking about broccoli and started talking about shutter speed.
That’s not all. For his birthday, Taylor asked for an herb garden, and an herb garden he got. He has been tending to it carefully, using a measuring cup to water it, bringing the little pots outside at the moments when they’ll get the most beneficial sun. Last night I demanded some of the lemon thyme so that I could put it on chicken, and as Taylor ripped off the tender stems, I saw almost a trace of regret, as though he were severing the arm of his first-born child.
The herb garden has triggered Taylor’s green thumb syndrome. Lately he has been gazing lasciviously at the plants in Home Depot, lusting after cacti and lemon trees and geraniums. I’ve been eager to support all of Taylor’s burgeoning interests, so yesterday we decided to hit up some garden stores and get some potted plants.
I have to admit that walking through the aisles of gently flowering marigolds and bonzai trees got a bit of gardening into my system as well. I was suddenly having fantasies of a beautiful backyard with bright flowers dripping their blooms onto the edge of a flawless green lawn, trees with jewel-like fruit tugging on their branches, petunias turning their purple heads to follow the sun as it passes by. While Taylor was scrupulously reading the instructions for each plant, I was getting caught up in the daydream of suddenly being Mother Earth and spending my afternoons walking barefoot among seas of honeysuckle and clematis.
Let me just stop and say that I only used the word ‘clematis’ because it sounds like an STD and that makes me giggle, because I am ten.
Taylor picked out a few plants that he liked and I meekly suggested a few of my own. We remembered after we bought them that we had been intending to go to a second store, where we relived the whole experience again, and had to buy some flowers for our windowsill. And then we had to go to Home Depot to get some fancy dirt and we saw all the happy snapdragons and springy beds of elysium and decided we could get a special kind of bowl-pot-thing to keep a bunch of annuals on our back patio, and then it was another full round of deciding whether we liked posies or pansies and which color oh me oh my.
Keep in mind I was only able to get caught up in this because Taylor had decided to take care of the plants, which meant there was little to no danger of me murdering them. I could enjoy them from a distance, without having panic attacks about whether I was overwatering or underwatering them. Did you know overwatering was a thing? I thought the more water, the better. This is why I have the deaths of nine spider plants on my conscience.
So this is where we get back to the ants.
At Home Depot it occurred to me that we needed ant traps. A friendly associate pointed me in the right direction and answered my questions as Taylor stood back and thought about shrubbery.
Me: “So, this will kill the ants.”
Me: “It will murder them all? Their children? Their ant wives?”
Guy: “Yes. Very effectively.”
Me: “Excellent. Perfect.”
And so, while Taylor spent the evening on the back patio, sowing life with his elbows deep in rich soil, I spent my evening attempting murder, glaring at the ants on the counter and willing them to go into the traps. Sometimes I would nudge the traps towards them, following the unimpressed ants around like a creeper in a candy van.
“Hey, ants,” I whispered at my prey. “Get in here. Come on, ants! Come on. Ants. Ants. Get in the thing. AAAAANTS.”
I can’t wait to get home tonight, to see if I have effectively destroyed a society of insects.
This is what I do with my time.