I was sitting down with L, listening to an interview recording together. We were looking for glimmers of honesty from the respondent’s tone of voice, inconsistent statements, subtle and fleeting moments of tentativeness. The night before, we had both listened to the recording separately, and today we were in analysis, searching for something that might or might not be there. There isn’t an exact science to this, L admitted once in exasperation, before diving back in to speculate. I smiled, quietly agreeing, though I was thinking of ‘this’ in terms of life more broadly, beyond the mere act of interpreting other people’s answers to a set of questions.
Just then, a bee flew in through the window. L quickly stood up, accompanied by a sharp intake of breath. It buzzed dangerously near us, coming close and pulling away a few times, not quite making up its mind. After spooking us both—forcing us to resort to awkward dances to evade its path—the bee floated upwards towards the fluorescent lights, attracted by their strange, liquid glow. We stood there wordless, arms crossed, watching it tango with the light above.
L suddenly remembered learning in biology many years ago that bees rely on natural electromagnetic waves in the environment for navigation. Maybe it’s confused by the waves from the lights? She threaded gingerly to the metal cabinet by the door and turned on the electric kettle, before turning off the lights. Do you want some tea? She asked, keeping her eyes on the bee. For a moment I wondered if she had offered this to me or to the bee, given her placating, almost pleading tone. I pretended not to hear her and focused on the bee instead, fluttering about like a golden snitch. Is science enough to comprehend the buzzing thoughts of such a minute, lonesome creature, removed from its natural environment?
After some time, right there in the purple darkness—as if guided by an invisible hand—the bee almost immediately found its way out through a tiny crack in the window, the same one it flew in through earlier. I sat down and looked out towards the descending day, impressed by the simple elegance of what had transpired. This was a point in my life where I was slowly losing faith in science and all the concomitant certainties, all the questions unanswered. How can we transpose neat human logic onto a messy, contradictory, fluidised world?
L tapped me on the shoulder and brought me back, placing a steaming mug of tea in front of me to ground my wandering thoughts. In the dark, she proceeded to regale me with the wondrous science of bees.
Cover image by Prawny from Pixabay
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