|You must remember that terrible thing we did. I was in grade one I think. We’d walk to school from the townhouse complex on the edge of town, cutting across a wetland ravine (now a box store parking lot).|
|A special legion of your kind would greet us, each member no bigger than my thumbnail, as we approached the footbridge that crossed our daily adventures. I remember the first time I let one of you leap onto the palm of my hand. I’d been resistant for weeks, blocked by stories of warts, poison, bites, scratches and bile.|
|My little guest scampered to the tip of my index finger. It was as if an old feather was falling upwards, gently past my hand. Now we’d face each other directly.|
|This wasn’t an alien body before me. No inner repulsions were triggered, no sense of threat detected. I remember thinking I was looking into the eyes of my ancestors (a strangely profound thought for a sugar-addled six or seven year old obsessed with TV access).|
|We knew we were going to have a substitute teacher that day and we didn’t like her much. Someone (it really wasn’t me) started stuffing your brethren into his pencil case. We all followed suit. It was the first time I can remember stepping outside of myself, observing my actions and what was happening around me while overcome by fear, guilt, revulsion — a sense of complete incapacitation. There were far more traumatic moments earlier in my life, but this was the first time I’d been a knowing and conflicted perpetrator of wrongs.|
|Our cargo was dumped into a pencil holder mug on the teacher’s desk. The top of the mug had a removable plastic covering with holes in it for inserting writing utensils. We fixed this cap back on the mug and took our seats. The teacher came in, and as if acting out a scripted scene, immediately slid a pen into the holder. A couple of girls up front screamed. They weren’t real screams but creepily premeditated simulations of screams — an uncanny experience for all of us that I still find unnerving to recall.|
|The holder cap popped off and what seemed like hundreds of our tiny prisoners hopped about in multiple directions across the top of the desk. The teacher screamed an authentic scream. She was staring, wide-eyed, at the wriggling, bloody bodies speared by her pen. I remember thinking she was holding them up far too close to her face.|
|I’ve looked and listened for you everywhere since then but a lack of contact over time has dulled my senses. My memory has receded (reforming in ways I will never understand or control) along with an awareness of your continued presence in the world.|
|One evening while camping on a Southern Gulf Island, I was startled into a renewed consideration of your circumstances. As I analyzed the richly layered night sounds beyond the edge of the firelight, I realized the dominant chorus was yours. It echoed in my head as I got up in the morning.|
|I recalled your status amongst my kind as an indicator species. I was overcome with remorse. Your absence is a mirror — not a window. We must be a suicidal lot, or else we’re incredibly stupid, or deceived by consciousness about our separateness and independence from you and everything else, or perhaps all of this and more.|
|On the hike back to the ferry (the first step home) I was stopped in my tracks by one of your representatives. This address in the middle of the road felt like an acknowledgement. I was being returned to the world around me. I was being given permission to pass.
I felt forgiven.