A Moment of Reflection, with David Foster Wallace

Brittni Bertolet, BFR Staff

Bertolet 1Four of us sit on the back stoop of our cabin, at the precipice between forest and not, with the dim glow of the porch light illuminating only half faces. David Foster Wallace’s first novel, The Broom of the System, lays open in front of us. The cover has been stripped from its spine—exchanged between sweat-covered hands one too many times—and the yellowing pages are left loose-leafed and frail.

It is the end of the summer. A winged insect lands on exposed skin, breaks membrane, and fills itself with red and warmth.

I do not notice the mosquito until it is far too late.

Bloated with blood, it withdraws once it is satiated and retreats back to the forest behind us, beating wings to continue ceaselessly onward, leaving only a concurrent point of irritated flesh. I slap the enflamed skin and curse the pest as it flies away, vexed with these creatures for their hindrances, while the others continue to swat the space around their heads. For a moment, we do not move otherwise—the stoop a point of claimed place in which we refuse to feel intruded.

Let’s go inside. I’m getting eaten, someone finally suggests, standing up and brushing wild from the bottom of their pants. I turn to the forest one last time as a firefly fluoresces amongst the trees, lighting darkened paths and inviting us to explore. It is gone before I am entirely sure it was ever there. But now my skin is tender, scratched raw in the night, and I think of these tiny creatures—of their persistence in the wilderness, of their realness, of their distinct Otherness. I wonder if they know what I am. I wonder if they know what they are—their swift departures taking pieces of myself I can afford to lose: the sweat from my arm that now clings to hind legs, and the red warmth, which nourishes and gives it flight.

Bertolet 2

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