Beefore and After
A biology teacher by profession, it was certainly interesting to emerge an adult bee from a cell in a hive a couple of days ago. As I stretched my muscles –I wonder if I can call them that- I felt each of my barbed hairs stand on end when my four wings fluttered against my thorax. The last thing I remember from life as a teacher is the thud of my head colliding against the windscreen of a bus as I crossed Santa Fe Avenue without looking both ways –apparently it is now a two-way avenue. As a human being, I was brought up a Catholic. In post-adolescence, however, I started questioning the Church’s precepts to my parents’ annoyance and I became interested in Hinduism. I wonder if my reincarnation has to do with the Truth and what always happens when people die, or if it has to do with my particular beliefs.
Anyway, I’ve been asked to come to this garden by the lake today to begin my training in the “bee-dance.” I know all about it, of course, having been a teacher and all, but I’ll play dumb and see how it goes.
OK, so here comes Tom –that’s what I call him, “bees don’t have names,” or so I was told on my very first day here. We are flying towards some foxgloves and Tom asks me never to lose sight of the Sun. We get there and he spins around in mid-air and asks me to measure the angle formed by the Sun, the bee-hive and the flower; it’s as if I were back at school with my protractor, only this time I don’t need any tools, I just feel it: 60°. And so we dance; zig-zag-wise first, and in circles later, and zig-zag-wise yet again, all the way back to the hive, till the other forager bees spot us. To indicate distance we do the waggle dance at a certain tempo and the straight-run portion of the dance varies in length. Now we’ll know how well I did. If I’ve done it right, the foragers will get straight to the foxgloves following my directions; if I’ve failed, they’ll come back empty-clawed and in a bad temper.
Again and again we fly to and from the flower beds trying to perfect my measuring skills and my abdomen swings. I am not sure how long we have been at it. All I know is that the air has just become thicker with the smell of food. No, it’s not nectar. I am not sure what it is, it’s so intense. It is weird to adapt to these new senses. No hearing, that’s definitely strange. I feel as if I were moving under water all the time, my ears all flogged up; only I have no ears to get clogged. And then there is the sense of touch, intensified a hundredfold: I feel vibrations in the air all the time. It’s particularly annoying when people mow the lawn; the whole bee-hive goes berserk, and for a good reason; I guess it is what an earthquake feels like to a human being.
Can that be strawberry I smell? Watermelon? Getting further from the fly path with every waggle, I allow my antenna to guide my way towards the source of this mouthwatering sweet scent. It is a human picnic! Delicious! A whole fruit basket lies on a white and blue checked tablecloth on the spring-green grass. I feel my proboscis –that’s a very long tongue we’ve got- lengthening and unfolding already. It must be my soul reacting to some long-lost memory of fruit taste, because bees certainly do not eat fruit; just nectar. I flap my wings frantically in an attempt to do away with old Tom. Swerving through the twigs of an ancient willow, I get closer to The Source by the second. I hear, or rather imagine I do, the swooshing sound of the fresh leaves caressing the tender grass at the pace of a spring breeze. I turn sharply and duck as a five-year-old races his sister down to the lake on a yellow bike. My ocelli are focused ahead, on the giant fruit that lies unguarded. The sight has got me dumbfounded: brilliant colours and fruit with all textures. How I long to touch the bumpy skin of the orange, the rough flesh of that half a pear barely visible under the bunch of shiny bananas; to stick my tongue into every nook of the juicy watermelon. I’m really close now, just a dive away, my wings fluttering so hard I feel they are about to come off. All of a sudden, everything goes black: complete and utter darkness. Time stops. As soon as I arrive at the bottom of the brownish lake, I think life has played a nasty joke on me.
A wax-cell worker bee by profession, it was certainly interesting to emerge a tadpole from the floating clump of frog spawn a couple of days ago. The last thing I remember from life as a bee is the thud of my head colliding against the plastic film that was covering the fruits under the willow.