I killed my grandfather.
It was a confession I made to my mom, who believes that a moth swinging by at the house is a reincarnation of a dead relative.
Specifically, the insect in question has to be what I later learned as Antheraea pernyi; a four-winged humongous kind that is teak in color. We would see the moth either meditating on the sofa or clinging to the silverware or taking a breather within the folds of my sister’s bedroom curtain.
An Antheraea pernyi evoked among us a more intense feeling of dread than would flying cockroaches and massive spiders darting from one hideout to the next, not as much owing to its sinister appearance as to how our mother would admonish us to observe in its presence a profound sense of quiet, the way she might when we are in a room and we get a sudden whiff of candles and spent flowers, which she takes to mean as a visit from the dead.
We had not seen an Antheraea pernyi for quite a long time when we recently stumbled upon one stuck for days on the linoleum. After doing math on her head, my mother identified the moth as our late grandfather, saying that it’s November, “his birth month,” and that particular visit was supposed to remind us of that. “He’s watching us,” she warned.
To pay respect we steered clear of his whereabouts, even excusing ourselves if we wanted to pass. I wasn’t that careful, however, as once, in a half sleep, I stepped on what felt like egg shell in a different area of the house, and it didn’t take time at all before I realized I stepped on my grandfather; his insides sticking to the sole of my feet like caramel. “What the f**k!”
“What the f**k!” my mother agreed. “You killed my dad!”
I explained to my mom that it was an accident, that at least I did not kill his dad the way we swat flies off the table and hit lizards with slippers. I really felt sorry for myself and tried to console her, until it occurred to us that, bored, our grandfather might be tired of being a moth, and was suicidal the way you might hurl yourself onto the path of a speeding train. The message was clear: they need help. And they visit the house in hope of being, say, stepped on, so that they could, perchance, come back as a baby.
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