[Image Credit: “Passersby” by Jaeyeol Han]
A Japanese beetle pregnant with fungus landed three and a half centimeters above my belly button. It weighed .0827 grams, which meant that the tree stationed 13 meters to my left was a weeping willow. I could tell it wasn’t elm or birch because of the quiet gale of its branches.
I began walking towards the tree before the mulch below my feet gradually turned into a different kind of soil-the line of demarcation was unclear which made the journey more fraught. When the trail ended my arachnophobia kicked in. One of the only things I didn’t like about being blind was the propensity of spider webs to barricade the terrain. Careful not to reach into any webs, my movements became slower and each step belabored.
The Japanese beetle, an affable creature, clung to my flesh as I made my way through uncharted terrain. I recollected the chromatic schema of the shell and the way the green thorax and head glistened in the sun. My perception of this creature was no longer anchored by its visage, which really isn’t much of a tragedy as most people would have you believe.
When creatures used my flesh as a rest stop during my hikes, the easiest way I’d identify an insect and its species was by taking careful consideration of its abdomen and legs. The texture and framing of the legs gave shape to the creature, which wasn’t a marginal concern for me because insects helped me identify and animate my landscape.
Before I sat down against the trunk of the willow tree, its branches jostled with my afro and gave me a warm welcome. I reached both arms into the foliage and the tips of my fingers brushed against dozens of defoliated leaves. The leaves, skeletonized by the beetle, transmuted into a kind of centrifuge. I was overtaken by its brazen longing to dance.
“What are you doing, nigger?”
“You hear me talking to you, nigger?”
The weighty epithet came from a grove about 65 degrees to my right, 30 meters away. I could feel each syllable travel in oceanic waves. The sound, its cadence, and movement, struck my flesh over and over. This was the first time I used echolocation to plan an escape route.
Iman Williams is a scholar and writer from Baltimore, Maryland. She is a Callaloo Fellow currently pursuing her B.A. in Comparative Literature at Emory University. Her writing has been published by, or is forthcoming in, The Baltimore Sun, The Feminist Wire, Entropy, Enclave, Moonsick Magazine, Acro Collective, Emory’s Black Star Magazine, Emory’s Philosophy Review, and Emory’s Undergraduate Research Journal. She is also the Founding Editor of the literary journal Subjugated Knowledge. When she is not reading or writing, Iman spends much of her time studying performance art and neuroscience.