Sunday, August 16, 2009

Suffocating Dragons

Earlier today, we were swimming in the pool. The day was hot enough for it; a hazy, Sunburn Sunday, the kind where the question on lips isn't "are we going?", it's "is it too early? Should we wait just a little longer and not seem desperate and slothful?"

As I was paddling across the pool, I noticed a dragonfly bobbing in the water. It was floating there- wings outstretched, waterlogged, and entirely still. It was sad to me, seeing this. Dragonflies have always seemed amazing to me, like whip-fast helicopters buzzing through the heat, a sure sign of summer.

I knew I shouldn't leave it there, if not out of some sense of dutiful respect of nature, then at least so someone wouldn't swallow the thing while enjoying their swim. I plucked it by the wing, still surprisingly stiff, and brought it to the edge of the pool. I looked at it a while, admiring its tiger stripes, its hologram-green eyes that shifted shades in the light as I swayed left, right. It may have been dead, the neck appearing broken, but it still had a kind of authority to it. A regal design.

I left for a while, swimming around in the sun, doing what it is you do in a pool. But after a bit I came back to look at the dragonfly, and that's when I noticed something. Only because I was looking so close, I saw that it was breathing. Just barely, but sure enough the abdomen was rising, falling. Rising, falling. This was something it hadn't been doing before, I knew that for sure. Just by laying there, somehow, it had come back from The Pull.

For a while I bobbed in the water, watching this thing. As I stared it went from barely breathing to fully breathing. Then the end of the tail began to manipulate. Up, down. After a minute of that, the wings began to twitch faintly, then rhythmically, until they were trying to fly, trying to gain momentum and get away. The head, still sitting on what might be a broken neck, was moving. Trying.

I grabbed my camera and took a few photos of it. This was a comeback, and it felt important. This was a living, a struggle, a drowning turned into a waking. It was sadness and incredibility, on a tiny scale.

When I'd gotten the shot I got out of the pool and put the camera on a table, out of the way, then got back into the water. I went back to him, back to see the progress, to see what was moving now. Would it be the eyes? Would his legs be feeling around, trying to get a grip, trying to lift him off the ground and ready him for take-off? But when I looked at him, I knew. Nothing was moving. Not anymore. There were no twitches and no try-spirals. There was no partitioned abdomen expanding and contracting to let in air. There was nothing. Just a dead dragonfly. In the minute I'd been away he had given in to the water and the broken neck and the curing sun. I thought of the saying "A watched pot never boils," and I wondered if it applied to resurrections.

A little while later, I checked on him one more time. His body was dry from the heat, his massive eyes gone from hologram-green to cloudy gray-black. He was an ant treasure, a photograph, and nothing else.

The day could take him now. It was time for lunch.


Rahul said...


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