Roaches & Cocoons
I can recognize a tattered and torn cocoon when I see it; do you dare to call me naïve when I am also able to recognize the butterfly inside…
James M Davis
Thank the Lord, Algebra 101 is finally over. 101 my ass, I hurried out the door quickly. With my backpack securely fastened across my chest, I took my usually short cut between Perry Hall and the Commons. Directly above my head, the sun was beginning to peak out from a scatter of clouds. Today would be another hot, humid one, no surprise there. I reached for my cell phone.
“What’s up, where you at?” I asked, with a slight shortness of breath. I continued down the side walk with a hurried pace toward Vernon, my junior college home away from home. Ok, enough with the theatrics, I was headed toward my dorm room.
“In the parking lot, waiting on you. Where are you at?” My friend’s voice answered and asked.
“Just go out of class, I’m about to be there.”
“Ok, bet come on.”
Click…I hung up my phone with precision. This is not the first time we have had a conversation like this and certainly would not be the last one. I rubbed my hands together, enjoying the anticipation of what was to come. I hurried my pace again.
I reached the parking lot in short order. I scanned the area and with ease, I spotted my friends white Chevy S10. It was in its usual place, on the outskirts of the parking area, a short distance to college drive. Parked in the shade, I walked up to the passenger door. My friend had already spied me coming; he reached over and unlocked the door.
I hoped in, threw my bag in the back and before I could even mutter a word, my friend was dangling a cigar in front of my face. It went back and forth between his fingers with graceful precision. He spoke up, “You break it down, fill it up, and I will roll it.”
I knew the procedure; he knew I knew the procedure. “What’s up, you going to English class today?” I asked, my hands worked in near perfect unison with my two thumbnails; I had almost completed the task at hand.
He looked at me with a sly grin on his face, “Yeah, we got a test today. I have got to do it well on it too. Ms. Hill told me if I can manage a B that I might be able to finish the course with a passing grade.”
I opened my door, took a couple quick glances around and dumped the tobacco on the pavement underneath my friend’s truck. “Well, you know what they say, third time is a charm.” I replied laughingly, as I motioned with my left hand that I was ready for the weed.
He lifted up the middle arm pad resting in between us and handed over a small plastic bag. It emitted a bright green sparkling glow. “Yeah, no shit. It is multiple choice, so hopefully I will be able to work a miracle. Got a few classmates on board with doing a little uhh…I guess you could say answer sharing, so I should be straight.” He looked over at me, as I began to fill the cigar paper up and spoke again, “Only use half, I want to save one for later.”
“Answer sharing…good luck with that.” I replied, passing the cigar over to him. As he was finishing up the job, I looked through my cell phone to check a few messages. There wasn’t much to check, “So, where are we going to go, airport, park..?”
He was rolling the first side of the cigar over, and answered, “Nah man, we can’t go out that far today, I have to be back for that test.”
“Oh, yeah no doubt. The bridge then?” I asked, sitting up in my seat, looking out for campus police.
“Yeah, the bridge sounds good. We haven’t been there in a while anyway.” He answered, as he put the finishing touches on our little escape from reality.
“You sure you want to take this test high?”
He looked at me and laughed, “You sure you want to see me take this test and not be high?”
I nodded in approval, as he wheeled the manual transmission out of the lot and we headed toward College Drive.
On the way to the bridge, we lit, smoked, and finished the blunt. We shot the shit about various things, and listened to some rap music in between that. The drive took about ten minutes, which was perfect for today. When we arrived at the bridge, we pulled underneath it toward the left side, nestled nicely in the shade. At this point, both of our eyes were quite red and barely open.
I had my arm hanging out the window, enjoying the coolness of a breeze that seemed to never come around often enough. I was looking out into a small thicket of trees, when my eye caught a glimpse of something that would prove to be rather peculiar. There was a lone cocoon hanging from a branch. It couldn’t have been more than five or so yards away from my side of the truck. Its color was greatly distorted; it looked as if it had been through days of war. Scars lined the outside of its protective shell. On the limb itself where the cocoon hung, there were insects a scurry everywhere. Ants, small black beetle like bugs, and other insects traveled up and down the branch. It appeared that the ants had caught scent of the struggling cocoon and were preparing to ready a meal for their queen.
I looked over at my friend and said, “Hey man, you see that cocoon?”
He nodded, “Yeah, so what.”
“Oh, nothing. Just kind of crazy if you think about it. That cocoon has no chance of making it to a butterfly. I mean hell, look at it. It is in bad enough shape as it is, not to mention the army of ants that look like they are about to finish it off.”
My friend looked over and replied, “Yeah, that thing is definitely fucked man. That caterpillar should have picked a better spot.”
“You think if we grabbed it and put it in a jar or something that it would be able to change into a butterfly?” I asked, as my eyes continued to study the situation at hand.
He leaned over closer, to get a better look. “Shit man, I am not sure. It is probably already dead, but hell it wouldn’t hurt to try I guess.
I opened my door, and took a few steps toward the cocoon. “Yeah, you are probably right, but what the hell I am going to grab it anyway, what do I have to lose.”
“Well, hurry up and get it, we need to head back. I got twenty minutes before class starts.” My friend spoke. I reached the branch, and delicately grabbed the cocoon. I could sense the disappointment radiating from the army of ants lined up to do their duty. “Not today my friends.”
I hoped in the truck and we headed back to school. I had the cocoon in my right hand. I studied it with great anticipation. We continued down the road, when…
“Fuck man, we are being pulled over! Toss the sack, toss the sack, toss the sack dude!” Without hesitation, my right hand dumped the cocoon out the window. It fell with great speed for a thing of its size and landed amongst some grass and weeds in ditch. “Shit man, shit, I threw the cocoon out! Hand me the sack!” My friend quickly put the sack into my now empty hand and I threw it out the window…
“Your license and insurance.” The officer ordered, as I stared straight ahead. My friend handed his license and insurance over to the cop. He scanned over it and spoke again, “Do you know why I pulled you over?”
“No sir, I don’t. I didn’t think I was speeding.” My friend answered rather confidently.
“No, you definitely were not speeding. In fact, you were doing 15mph. Any reason why you are driving so slow?” the police officer asked, as he stole a quick peek over at me. “You, let me see your license too.”
I handed my license over to him. My friend spoke up with a bit of shock in his voice. He definitely was not prepared to defend against a case of driving too slow. “Sir, I am not sure why I was only going that fast umm..I did not realize it.”
“When is the last time yall smoked?” The cop continued with his questioning.
My friend was more than prepared to answer this question. We both have had to answer that question to many times to be honest. He looked at the officer and answered, “Like four, six hours ago.”
“Is that right. Cut the truck off and put your hands on the steering wheel. You in the passenger seat, put your hands on the dash. I will be right back.” He ordered, and then retreated to his patrol car. I could see another cop pulling up in the side mirror, Great.
“Holy fuck man, you were going 15mph.” I said in a low voice, trying not to laugh out of amusement and nervousness.
“You threw the sack out right” My friend spoke, confirming what he already knew. “I don’t think he saw it.” He finished up saying, as he looked at me with eyes wide open.
“Yeah we are straight; I think he is going to let us go.” The officer approached the truck again.
“Ok fellows, here are your licenses. Both of you checked out, no warrants, no unpaid tickets. I am assuming you are both college students.” We nodded our heads. “Get back to campus and I don’t want to see you two again. Be careful.” The officer finished speaking, tapped the top of the truck, and headed back to his car.
We pulled into the parking lot at Vernon. We both let out a sigh. “Shit, that was intense man.” I exclaimed, looking out the front windshield.
“Yeah it was. That cop was cool though, he didn’t mess with us that bad.” My friend spoke with a tone of relief.
“15mph??” I started to laugh. “I guess there is a first for everything.” I punched my friend in the arm.
He looked over at me with his eyebrows held high on his forehead, “You are one to talk. You threw that fucking cocoon out the window instead of the weed!” He was now laughing at me.
“Yeah, I kind of shit the bed on that one, but I recovered. I wonder where it landed though. I mean that ditch was right there, who knows right?”
“I don’t know and I don’t care. But I do know this, I am five minutes late for class!” My friend opened his door, throwing his backpack on his shoulders. He headed started to jog away from the truck and yelled back to me, “Lock the door!”
I opened my door with backpack in hand and stepped half way out. I finished pushing the lock down, when something colorful caught my eye. I closed the door, looked toward the center of the hood, and I saw it. I studied it for a few seconds. I turned my head, let out a simple laugh, and walked off shaking my head with a smile.
…At times chance happens and someone takes a risk. Grabs a dying cocoon; fights for it, when it cannot defend itself against the world. Offering the butterfly a chance to spread its wings when no one else well. These flawed, unsung heroes are not always around to see its beautiful colors nor are they always successful. Those details matter not; for hope was given when no hope was in sight.