Photo by Andrea Schettino on

A cockroach chows down on a shard of Mar’s bar stuck to a wrapper. My toes a few feet from the object of my phobia.

My brain struggles to access the file on exposure therapy, to transform a feared object into a subject worth studying. This dreaded one is animated. And like me it’s striving to stay that way.

Between sips of bone broth I watch it gorge, my mind soothing the child inside: See? The animal is merely meeting its needs.

Gregory’s ringtone announces his call. I think of Kafka. My brother the stoic scientist reports his doctor’s news: the cells are back, this time eating his liver. So how about flying here to Anchorage before all the glaciers melt?

I lose track of my subject, fish for an old napkin in my satchel where I give up the search, sniff, then zip my phone into a pocket. I look again at the wrapper, now wriggling with an exposed leg and wing.

I feel something warm toward this thing grinding to survive on spikes of sucrose, then swallow the last juice of bird bones from my cup.

I want to share this revelation with my brother but my resurrected grief is too close, my feet too cold.

On the way home a greater theme is exposed. I could have been the bug, a bit of trash, the lipid inside this splash of sadness on my sweater. Instead, I can choose to face the last frontier: My sick brother, his dying planet.

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