A Bug Named Sisyphus

An earwig got into our bathtub somehow. It’s a guest room tub, hardly ever used, and I think they crawl up a drain pipe or something. There are often little spiders or other small insects that get into it. They seldom can get out though, for the sides of the tub are smooth plastic.

So I was watching this earwig trying to climb up the end of the tub. The sides and front part, where the faucet and drain are, are pretty much vertical, but the end of the tub has at least a theoretically assailable degree of slope. So here’s this earwig trying to get up that slope, all its little bug legs scrambling, its length twisting side to side as it tries to snake its way up. But, nope. Slides right back down every time.

A tuft of dust-bunny stuff is in there, a very small tuft, barely a penny’s width and sparse in the fuzz department. As far as dust bunnies go, this one is in bad need of some Rogaine or something. That sparse. But it is there, and it’s giving this earwig fits. Every time the earwig makes another run up the slope, it slides down and gets tangled in that bit of fluff. For you or me, it would be like falling back into a big patch of ivy or something, tangling vines winding up our feet as we try to stand and get on with climbing again. Except this bug has six feet, more to tangle apparently.

So it kept on trying, up an inch or two, then sliding back. Every once in a while, it would get a little farther, slipping but still holding enough traction to get an extra inch of altitude. Gravity and smoothness would alter its straight up path, though, making it run a little sideways, and then when it inevitably lost its footing, it would tumble over onto its back and slide to the bottom again.

I don’t know why I was so fixated by it. I’ve seen that stuff before in there, but this time I watched for a while. I kinda felt sorry for the damn thing. I mean, I hate bugs, and this one made the mistake of coming into my home, a domain for humans only (well, and stupid ass cats), but all that general aversion aside, it was a living creature caught in a futile stretch of life.

What made it want to come up that drain pipe anyway? I doubt it had some brilliant inspiration or something, you know, walking along the side of the house, it looked up, saw a hole somewhere, and was like, “Aha! I’ll bet that will take me inside to a place of warmth and crumbs aplenty.”

It just slopped into that opening is what happened. By the accident of its birth, the accident of wherever its dumb mother dropped her eggs, the accident of which direction it wandered off after hatching, the accident of it not being eaten by a bird or another bug or having been sucked up by a lawn mower or blown away by a leaf blower, it managed to find its way into an opening that led it to my bathtub.

Where now it appears to be doomed to live out the rest of its life as Sisyphus.

At least Sisyphus was put there by the gods. It was punishment. You know, on purpose.

So why this dumb bug? Was it a bad soul in another life? Or is life just this dumb accident and some living things are screwed while others aren’t?

The touchy-feely pussy part of me figures I ought to go back in there and get the stupid thing out and throw it in the garden. The merciful-but-not-stupid part of me figures I could at least go step on the damn thing and send old Sisyphus back into rotation for his next reincarnation. Maybe next time he comes back as Donald Trump or something. There could be worse lives than being a billionaire President of the United States and married to a super model—even if half the world thinks of you the way I think of insects.

My initial inclination was to leave it there. I didn’t want to kill it, because, well, because even a fucked life trying hopelessly to escape your fate is better than no life. Isn’t it? Isn’t that what we all do as it is?

We’re all scrambling up the slope of some cosmic bathtub in the end. I mean, what are we trying to accomplish anyway? It’s not like we know what’s up at the top of that tub, over the edge, beyond … whatever. Technically that bug is only alive right now because it didn’t get out of the tub.

Had I seen that little bastard running around, especially if it was coming toward my feet, I’d have stepped on it without a thought. A reflex. A bug, in my house, about to crawl on me. Bam, instant death.

So not just “technically,” but as an absolute certain truth, the reason that bug is still alive is because it did not achieve the very thing it is still busting its ass right now to achieve.

The grass is greener on the other side of the fence for that dumb bastard, but in reality, there ain’t no grass at all.

What if we all do that? What if that really is all of us right now, scrambling and scrabbling up the sides of our political bathtubs and our career bathtubs. Our fitness-goals bathtub. Romance bathtubs. All of it.

What if we can’t even help ourselves?

Why doesn’t that stupid bug turn around and go back out the damn drain hole? I mean, the answer is right there. He already freaking knows it.

But he won’t. He’ll be lying in there dead tomorrow. Or the next day. Whenever. They always do. I don’t usually see them alive, frankly. Usually there’s just dead bodies in there. All dried up from thirst I guess. Kinda a shitty way to die. Ironic even.

And yes, I’ll probably go save that stupid one just because I noticed the damn thing. Which is dumb, because I actually pay for pest control. I pay money to have all the insects poisoned outside so they don’t get in. But this one survived somehow, crossed the poison barrier, and broke into my house against my active safeguards. And as a reward for surviving my defenses, I’ll send him back to the very thing he was originally trying to escape.

Does that make me kind or cruel?

Maybe I should stay out of it. Let him figure it out himself. Give him agency in his own life. Even if it means odds are he’s dead if I do.

I know it doesn’t matter what I do. It’s a fucking bug. But what if God is up there doing that right now to us?

I don’t really have any idea. But it does sort of make me think. I think we ought to be nicer to each other these days. In the end, we only have our own tiny perspective on things. We don’t really see anything but that which is right in front of us. We think we know what goes on in the world around the bathtub, but we don’t. We’re all tangled up in dust-bunny traps. Or maybe we’re still out in the yard, looking for a way into the house.

I think if we spent less time crapping on one another on social media, and more time going out and making it pleasant for everyone to enjoy the yard, none of us would end up flipped over onto our backs, trapped in a bathtub by a dust bunny.

Or something.

 

….

Anyway, as always, buy my books and give them all five star reviews, etc.

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