It isn’t often that I get to be my wife’s hero

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I was sitting at our dining room table hunched over a large beetle. My wife, Mel, was standing. In her right hand was a brown cardboard box full of vials. Each vial held a different bug. Some were spiders (although we had recently come to understand that spiders were not, in fact, bugs, but arachnids), some were bees, or flies, or unknown. Mel was in jeans and a T-shirt, her hair pulled back, and her nose scrunched up.

 

She didn’t care much for the smell.

 

“It’s so slippery,” I said. I can’t get ahold of it.

 

“Be careful,” She said. “If you break off it’s legs, you will have to glue them back on with nail polish. The professor said she would notice any missing parts.”

 

“This is so morbid,” I said.

 

Mel didn’t say anything, but I could feel her looking at me. She was a mix of insistence, she needed me to do this, but at the same time, compassion. She knew I didn’t care much for bugs. Mel was in her final year of her horticulture degree. The dead bugs, vials, pins, nail polish, all of it, were part of a bug collection for her entomology class.

 

She needed to collect about 30 bugs, which meant that every Saturday for the past three Saturdays, I’d been pinning bugs.

 

Mel and I had been married for almost 11 years, and in that time, I have learned that Mel hates bugs. She squeals at the sight of them. I also hate bugs, particularly spiders. They make me queasy. But me, being the man in the relationship, have been thrust into the role of bug squisher (even spider squisher). It’s common to see me nervously hunched over a spider in the bathroom, a wad of toilet paper in my right hand, Mel behind me, fearfully pointing at the bug as if she’s pointing at a sniper. And once I get it, and squish it, and flush it down the toilet Mel, always says, “You’re my hero.” There’s something very satisfying about that.

 

The funny thing is, in this day and age, where I spend most of my days typing on a computer or buying food at a store, it isn’t too often that I get to feel like Mel’s hero. I don’t get to go out in the woods and kill an animal and bring it home like some sort of hero. Most of my contributions take the form of sitting in an office and collecting a check. This is not to say that this isn’t necessary, but it isn’t particularly masculine. When I kill a bug for my wife, though, she looks at me like I came between her and a bear, and despite how much I dislike bugs, the look of gratitude makes it worth it.

 

But catching a bug and quickly flushing it is far different when compared to the intimacy of holding a bug, shoving a pin through it, and then gluing any missing limbs back onto it.

 

I wondered if we’d moved into some new stage in our marriage.

 

“Why does it smell so bad?” I asked.

 

“I found it drowned in a bucket of rain water. I don’t know how long it had been there. But it’s a really great beetle!” she said. She went on, telling me what kind of beetle it was. She seemed to be really into this class. She would point out bugs, tell me the make and model. Tell me all sorts of intimate details about the bug, how it ate, how it made love, how it had babies… Her bug knowledge had gone up exponentially.

 

“If you find this sucker so interesting, why am I the one pinning it?”

 

Mel scrunched up her nose. “That would be icky,” she said.

 

“How did you get it out of the bucket?” I asked.

 

“I used a stick and some tweezers,” she said. “I didn’t touch it at all.” She said it like I was supposed to be impressed, and had I not just broken the antenna off the sucker, I might have been.

 

And as I shoved a pin through the beetles right shoulder, like the instructor wanted, and felt the crunch of it’s exoskeleton, gagged a little, and then used nail polish to glue it’s antenna back on, I thought about how much I loved my wife.

 

I suppose this is what true love looks like. It isn’t always as heroic as you see in the movies. Sometimes true love takes the form of cleaning the toilet, or vacuuming out the car, or changing a particularly poopy baby. Sometimes it means getting up in the night and driving to Taco Bell for a late night pregnancy craving, or making your partner’s favorite meal even though you hate it. Sometimes it means saying, “I’m sorry” when you don’t feel like you did anything wrong, but you know that your partner is hurt. And in this case, it meant hunching over a dead bug, and pinning it, so my wife can earn her degree.

 

“Does the antenna look right?” I asked.

 

Mel leaned in a little closer, but not too close. “I think so,” she said. “Now pin it in the Styrofoam with the others.”

 

I did, and she kissed the top of my head. Then she handed me a wasp in a plastic vial.

 

“Be carful with the wings. And don’t let it sting you.”

“It’s dead,” I said. “Can it still sting?”

 

Mel shrugged.

 

I let out a breath.

 

Then Mel said in a singsong voice, “I love you.”

 

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