The Bees

When the bees came, he knew that winter was ending and sunlight was coming. They’d flit about the playground, buzzing between the swings’ arcs, following him down the slide as he curved away from the melting snow and dripping icicles. They brought baby’s breath to his mother’s flowerbed and his cousin’s gurgling coo. Harbingers of warm summer nights, they were the stars sparkling on a stick he’d drag through the sand, creating the glass castle in which he’d come to reside.

Back before his parents moved him halfway around the world he knew to the dangerous elephant graveyard just beyond where the sunlight touches, there hadn’t been any bees. Or, if there were, they weren’t so brave. Back then, he told time based on the color of the leaves dancing in the wind. When spring came, he’d see scattered pink drops on the gray skyline. But here, he could hear the low hum of bees, mechanical like his new washing machine, and familiar like his old flashlight. In the old house, he’d read in the dark, stare at the pages of a new chapter book beyond twilight’s firefly smile.

Back home in the spring, he didn’t have to rely on his flashlight quite so much – there had been more light. The sun danced with him in the slush as he left a trail of tracks leading to his favorite playground. There was no gym class there, just traces of skinned knees and dripping ice cream cones. That didn’t stop someone from firing that gun, though. The jungle gym blossomed bright red, like the color of his favorite nighttime book. The grounds smelled of metal until their move, and he’d like to hope it smelled like something else now.

In this new place, there were no pretty pink trees, just hills of dandelions, muddy in the groundhog’s shadow, desperate for spring to come. So marched the bees.

And with the bees came the honeysuckle.

This wonderful flower had magic in its veins. It sparked the life everyone grows up to crave, that everyone wants to drink in with their surroundings. It tasted like the roses they told him to stop and smell, like the once-in-a-blue-moon chance that presented itself in the beginning swells of a wave a hundred miles from shore. He could ride the wave into something beautiful, something unmistakably his.

If he thought about it a little too hard, he might have easily said that the coming of the bees brought nothing but heartache for him. Spring’s light meant that the world melted away, freeing the boy from his icy prison, but forcing him under the watchful eye of the sun. Because come winter’s end, the gym coach would send the kids outdoors to run around the baseball diamond at the bottom of the hill, where the bees came from. They lived in between the cracked blue paint and the rotting boards of the abandoned dugout, overwrought with dust.

He hated running laps around the diamond. Everyone else ran with someone – not that what anyone was doing could be described as running, more like hobbling along the beaten path with a friend. He supposed, in retrospect, that what he had been missing was a friend, but it got hard to think clearly when he had to run laps, and the only thing keeping him company was the constant buzz-buzz-buzzing of the bees.

The boy ate his first honeysuckle sitting in the creaky dugout next to a nameless girl, while the world melted around him.

He couldn’t remember the exact circumstances of their meeting that day, there in the fading dugout, but he thought that the bees would, because these bees came every spring. They flitted about the same bushes every year after that first, nuzzling him a greeting in the hot corners of the jumbled world beyond his conscious. And even though the girl moved away, the bees would remember.

The honeysuckle next to the dugout were special, you see. They smelled more beautiful than anything this boy ever did and ever would smell. It was home: a creature comfort heretofore unknown to him. The nectar on his tongue fanned the flames of creation that ran wild in his mind, in his youth before youth, before they’d sent him off from the port into the unknown.

The taste wafted through his nostrils and comforted him; he had felt abandoned by the snow and persecuted by the bees. Honeysuckle was a love letter from the bees to the melting snow.

He’d heard tell of the kids finding this magical flower, but he hadn’t known what honeysuckle looked like. Not until this girl, this girl whose name he’ll remember before he remembers her face, and he’ll never remember her name. This girl, young and beautiful in the purity of her intentions – nothing mattered beyond showing this boy where the honeysuckle were and sharing in their magic – this girl brought him to the dugout during gym one day and made him sit there while she taught him how to eat a honeysuckle.

She taught him how to befriend the bees, to talk to them and to remember that without the bees, this delicate, delicious thing couldn’t exist.

It’s because of the bees that came every winter’s end that he could do what he did and see what he saw, which, unfortunately, also meant that gym class would be reduced to running around the baseball diamond at the bottom of the hill behind the school. That part wasn’t quite as enjoyable as the melting snow or how he didn’t have to wear marshmallow-puffy coats anymore, but now he was freer. With the light taste of something decidedly non-metallic, determinedly not frozen, of something from someone else, he would survive the trek around the diamond.

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