We stand in our black catering aprons waiting for the wedding ceremony to end. For the guests to hike up the hill with their demands. There is a lull before the storm.
I watch as a bee lands just inside a half-empty glass perched on the counter behind the bar. It is late in the season, and the bee moves slowly, sluggish in the cool afternoon, as it hurtles toward its fate. It approaches the ledge and hovers over the surface of the lemonade. I wonder how long the drink has been sitting out.
The bee lingers, enticed by the sticky sweet, but hesitant. It gathers a lick—a sip—and suddenly tumbles all the way in, flailing and muttering, unable to buzz under the weight of the mild yellow liquid. It is like watching a young man fall in love with the wrong woman.
There is a gravity that cannot be argued with. The bee submerges and reappears, struggling in fits and starts, foaming up the liquid. It goes still—then, thrashes again, harder than before.
I am a rapt audience. Small-talk swirls. I’m not paying attention, except to the bee. I stand waiting on this ceremony to end. Waiting on this bee to die. Waiting on whatever can grow out of this arid pause.
And, it dawns on me—a dull ache that deepens with every damp wingbeat against the glass—how I am complicit to this suffering. I witness death encroach and pull back and resurrect again and again and again. The natural way of things.
Eventually, it’s me who breaks. I can’t take it any more.
“Will someone kill that fucking bee?” I say unkindly, a hint of upset braided into my voice. I am brimming with fury, an emotion that surprises even me, its bearer. Appalled by my own curiosity at how long it will take for the bee to die, I berate myself, wishing I could muster kindness, a shining compassion for it all. For the bee and those watching it and all the eyes and minds adjusting to the very thought of something so merciful—the intrepid act of living, right up to the edge, to the very, very end.
The soft-spoken-Millennial bartender with a Jesus-beard turns and in one unbroken gesture dumps the contents of the glass down the floor drain. He has the grace not to smile at his own quiet act of saving the world.
Anna Oberg is a professional photographer living and working in Colorado. When she’s not hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park with her camera, she writes from home. She holds a Master’s degree in American Literature from Eastern Kentucky University. This is her first publication.