Did you know there are many different kinds of waterbug? (Or water bug, if you’re spellchecker-whipped.)
You’ve got your giant waterbug, a.k.a. Hemiptera, a.k.a. toe-biter, electric light bug, or alligator tick. We’re talking five inches long, fierce predator, and—if Wikipedia is to be believed—a Thai delicacy.
Creeping waterbugs are a lot less interesting, probably because they strongly resemble cockroaches and tend to hang out with them.
Notonectidae is your basic backswimmer, also gimongous, also a predator, but a very talented one. Any bug that can swim upside down and eat tadpoles and small fish deserves at least a faint round of applause, don’t you think?
But my personal favorite and former role model is the pond skater. She of the long body and longer legs, the lady who skims watery surfaces with the greatest of ease, a self-generated molecular veil separating her dainty feet from what lies beneath.
And since what lies beneath tends toward murky and bottom-slimey, even a molecule of distance goes a long way. One molecule of distance equals one molecule of self-preservation. At least, that’s how it added up in my book. I’m speaking both literally and literarily now. Talking about my pond-skater years, when I built a thin veneer between life and my writing, between life and me.
We lived lightly, skimming the surface, the writing and I. We were likeable, witty, lighthearted, technically competent, and moderately successful.
It was working for me, I swear it was. Right up until the moment life grabbed my ankles, dragged this self-styled Jesus bug under, and showed me the wonders of the deep.
Greater writers than I’ll ever be have described our art as opening a vein, letting your broken heart flow onto the page, surrendering to your deepest fears, and/or revealing your festering wounds and bare insecurities to the wide, watching world.
In other words, swim under water and pass the word.
I’m not gonna lie. Swimming under water (to borrow a simile from F. Scott) is one scary proposition for a waterbug like me. But at long, long last, I think I’m ready to take the plunge.
So here’s to holding your breath and keeping it real.