Academic journal article Transnational Literature

The Woman Who Loved Insects

Academic journal article Transnational Literature

The Woman Who Loved Insects

Article excerpt

Izumi had spent an hour waxing poetic about dragonflies. She'd told her students how they could migrate on gossamer wings across oceans, and how the males had a row of spines on their front legs just for cleaning their eyes. She told them how dragonflies formed a heart as they mated in mid-air, and how they symbolized pure water to the Navajo. In Japan, of course, they represented happiness. Now, she stepped into her office and went to the window. She peered out, trying to find some dragonflies flitting through the warm afternoon air.

Students milled about in the courtyard, sipping cold canned tea and punching out text messages on their cell phones. She could easily pick out the ones engaged in mating dances - the girls who giggled from behind their hands and glanced up from under fringes, the boys who affected indifference but flexed their muscles all the same. And this was odd - a lone foreign man sitting on a bench with a book. He was too old to be a student. Perhaps he was a visiting professor whom she hadn't yet met. He'd probably turn up at a faculty meeting.

Izumi leaned out the window and took a deep breath. It was getting to be her favorite time of the year. Soon the air would be buzzing with the sound of insects. Crickets would chirp. Bees would hum. Mosquitoes and cicadas would add to the orchestral mix.

Ahh, summer! Izumi glanced over to the calendar on the wall. She had blocked out a week for a trip to the mountains where she hoped to find a rhinocerous beetle for her studies. These days you could just walk into a department store and buy a stag beetle or a kuwagata - you could order them on the Internet! - but how could you learn about the creatures' habits from that?

No, there was nothing like tramping through the woods, net propped against her shoulder, the scent of pine and grass filling her nostrils. Sometimes she invited students along. It was a joy to watch the faces of those who shared her passion when they finally found a black-lacquered beetle clinging to the bark of a sawtooth oak. On occasion, she'd made the mistake of inviting the less enthusiastic, the posers, who slapped away at flies and gnats as they hiked, grumbling all the while.

Someday, Izumi would bring her own daughter into the mountains to search for insects. Maybe they'd go on a bug safari to Brazil to hunt down the magnificent Hercules, the largest beetle of all, or to the Congo Gorilla Forest in pursuit of the Goliath beetle.

'Chirrup! Chirrup!' Izumi reached into her totebag and fished out her cell phone. She could tell with a glance that it was her mother.

Moshi moshi.'

'Izumi-chan, we have found the perfect man for you!'

Izumi rolled her eyes. 'Is that so?' How many times had her mother called, claiming the exact same thing?

She remembered the last time this had happened. The matchmaker had arranged a meeting in the lobby of a fashionable hotel. Beforehand, she coached Izumi in how to dress and what to say. Following the older woman's instructions, Izumi had worn her best silk dress, a simple light blue sleeveless sheath with a matching jacket. She had put on make-up and styled her hair, and then gone with her mother and the matchmaker to the hotel.

Her date, a serious-looking young man with cropped hair and black-rimmed glasses, was already waiting with his mother. His conservative navy suit was probably in accordance with the matchmaker's instructions as well. Looking at this nondescript specimen, Izumi couldn't help thinking of the insect world where males attracted mates with flash and color.

They'd bowed to each other and mumbled introductions, but they hadn't exchanged name cards. 'No meishi,' the matchmaker had warned. 'And no talking about bugs!' Here, she had shuddered. 'Wait until he has been taken in by your charms. Maybe on the third date, you could mention your ... special interest.'

Izumi had nodded. This was her fifth date, and not one had gone beyond the first meeting. …

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