I’ve been in the bathroom with a flying daddy-long-legs thing locked in a battle for its life.
I saw it on a shower floor tile when I was showering.
A leggy bug fossil, squashed flat by water.
I told myself it was dead but couldn’t resist checking and it grabbed the toothbrush handle I held over its body.
So, I flicked it out of the shower and told myself It’ll sort itself out.
I checked when I got out.
It was lying in a wing and leg jumble, glued together with an iridescent water drop.
Still alive though, because it grabbed at the toothbrush again.
So I lifted it up to the windowsill, and it staggered upright-ish.
I saw it only had one back leg on the right, jabbing down to steady itself.
Three legs in total. It should have six.
But its struggles made it seem saveable, so I ripped off a single toilet paper square and touched the wings lightly and quickly.
That sucked the wetness up, but they were stuck together along its back, like wet cellophane but infinitely more fragile.
It wiggled its abdomen and wing joints like it was trying to fly.
That made me sad, that it wanted to fly, and couldn’t, and didn’t know why.
So, I separated the wings by running closed tweezers between the veiny transparent panels, then gently letting them open.
Oil glistened in my fingerprint troughs, which were larger than the wing veins.
If you try this yourself – don’t grab and pull the wings with tweezers.
I never closed the tweezers on a wing – it was all very indirect and slow.
After a few passes, its wings sprung apart.
It buzzed them and flew haphazardly back into the shower.
Which was clearly not a safe space.
So I walked it onto some toilet paper and put it on top of the mirror cabinet to calm down.
Later, in the middle of the night, I checked, and it was gone.
I bet it’s flown into a spider web I thought and looked in a corner of the room.
Sure enough, there it was, hanging in a web.
I counted the legs to be sure. Two fronts, one back.
There was no spider in the web so I pulled it out and laid it on the window beside the toilet in a cobwebby pile.
My cat thought about eating it but didn’t.
Its legs were stuck together, so I got the tweezers again and separated each leg, pinching cob web strands and slowly pulling, aware the web may be stronger than the legs.
Each time I pulled, I thought This leg might snap.
It’s not like there were legs to spare.
We got lucky.
After several minutes of tweezing the legs got free and it could even lift them and they didn’t stick to the window ledge.
I set it on a piece of toilet paper outside the window – thinking – Hey man, the bathroom isn’t safe. Go die outside.
It was pretty cold outside.
After I did my business, I noticed the toilet paper had blown away.
So, I mouthed Goodbye and Goodluck.
But when I went to shut the window the dude was quivering there, on the window frame, standing the right way up on his front two legs, the back one propped under like a lopsided tripod.
I shut the window and left him there.
Maybe he wants to die and I’m getting in the way.
Maybe none of the ways he’s been dying has been fast enough.
There’s too much waiting to die in an awkward tangle, so he battles to live, to find a better, quicker way.
Or maybe this is just how life is for a flying-daddy-long-legs in the bathroom.
How could I know?
I know I felt great success each time he made it through.
He’s a tough little bugger, although unspeakably vulnerable, directionless, and with no clue how to stay safe.
Simone Kaho is a Tongan / Pākehā poet who writes discontinuous narratives in poetry. She has a Masters from Victoria University of Wellington’s International Institute of Modern Letters. Her first book, Lucky Punch, was published by Anahera Press in 2016, The second will hopefully arrive in 2021.
Oh, wow, you had me in hysterics! Thank you. That was told beautifully.