“Come on, get in the pool,” Zora, my best friend, coaxes me as she strides through chlorine-diluted water. Her mother reads in a chair beside a palo verde, its slender, pale-green branches providing shade from the little bit of sun filtering through the clouds. Meanwhile, Zora’s younger brother rummages through a box of pool toys. Foam footballs, hoops, and noodles tumble from its surface. Lounging on the side of her backyard pool, I’m fourteen and stubborn as can be.
“No thanks,” I say, glancing above us. Dark clouds in shades of black, gray, and silver, masses of dreamy substance, command attention as they roll across the sky. A gentle and ancient scent of rain clings to the air, and mesquite trees perk up with excitement and fear. Everything braces itself for the coming monsoon.
“We’ll get out when it starts raining,” she promises in yet another attempt to get me in the water. She doesn’t understand. I could care less about the impending danger of the storm (though I really should). It’s just that, my mother did warn me about going into pools when she’s not there. She’s always been nervous of allowing me near water ever since I had my first seizure at age four. Not to mention, I really just hate the smell of chlorine. So, I think I’ll just stay in the safety of—.
Nick, Zora’s little brother, soaks me with the chemically flavored water. As I spew it from my mouth, Zora cracks up, laughing at my dripping hair. “Now, you have to get in.”
“Fine,” I concede. “Let me just take my pills first.” I go to the glass table a safe distance from the pool and wiping my hands on a towel, I grab the plastic orange bottle. Carefully, I pour two powder-white pills into my still-damp palm, and closing my eyes, I throw them in the back of my throat.
I have epilepsy, and while the pills have controlled the seizures for years, the doctors say there is still the possibility that the seizures can be triggered by even the minutest of things: heat, caffeine, lack of sleep. My entire life has been spent cautiously controlled. I’ve had to avoid any triggers and any situations where it could be potentially dangerous to have a seizure. Though I’ve always tried to bend the rules. Like playing in desert washes in summer, daringly drinking cups of coffee, and staying up reading by the late, midnight moon. Yet, even the slightest rebellion is reprimanded by my parents’ fear of seeing me shake violently on the ground in another seizure, and quickly, the victory is gone as soon as it began.
Once I finish swallowing the pills, I hear Zora’s impatient groan and head back to the pool, slowly slipping into its turbulent surface. Zora cheers and throws one of the foam footballs towards me. I try to enjoy myself, but I get distracted when I see a tiny moth drowning in the waves of the pool, its fragile gray wings floating to the surface like miniature flowing garments.
“Wait!” I say, “I have to save it.” Ever since I was little, I’ve saved little critters, such as bugs and lizards, from drowning in pools. They tend to do that a lot in Tucson. Maybe they try to get away from the overbearing heat, just like humans do. Whatever the case, I am determined to rescue this poor, drowning moth. Dunking my hands into the water, I attempt to pull it out by scooping my cupped hands below. But each time I try to save it, the water ripples, and waves push the moth further from my reach.
“Come on, Bethy. What are you doing?”
“Hold on,” I manage, though the more I try, the more frustrated I become.
“Here.” Zora hands me a net, and finally, I’m able to pull the moth from the water. It can barely move, but its blinking rust-red eyes tell me it’s alive, though barely.
Climbing out of the pool, I set the little bug on a flat rock, though it still doesn’t move.
With a sigh, I hear in the background, “Now will you come into the pool?”
“Hold on!” I tell her sternly, and to my horror, fire-red ants start circling the moth I’d just attempted to save, their predatory antennas twitching to and fro. “Ants are going to eat it!”
Zora groans, and her mother, who has quietly observed all of this, tells me, “You can’t control nature, Bethy. The moth is probably meant to die.”
I don’t want to believe her. I can’t believe her, because if I believe her, then it means I have no control over saving this moth from certain death, and if I have no control over saving this moth from certain death, then do I have any control in my life, over my own death, over anything?
No, I refuse to believe I can’t save it. Yet again, I attempt to pick the moth up, but its wet wings are now glued to the rock, and no matter how gently I pull, they rip and tear like the most delicate of paper. I know if I pull any further, I’ll rip its abdomen in two.
I let it go, throwing my hands up in surrender, as a boisterous roar of thunder bellows through the mountains. I can feel the sky mocking me, at my attempt to overrule nature, at my attempt to control the uncontrollable.
All four of us—Zora, Nick, their mother, and I—look towards the sky and see that it’s become even darker, a flood of soot-colored clouds. “Out of the pool and inside,” Zora’s mom commands us with a wave of her hands.
I look one last time at the dying moth. I leave it and yield to nature, following Zora inside.
Bethy Wernert lives and works in Tucson, Arizona after graduating with a B.A. in English. Her nonfiction has previously appeared in Communion and Tiny Donkey. When not working or writing, she likes to sit in nature, read, and save insects from untimely deaths.