Yesterday my worst fears were realized when I came home from work. I pulled into the driveway, got the mail out of the mailbox, and fumbled with my keys as I went to the front door. Everything was going well until I happened to look up as I unlocked the front door. There, near the edge of the gutter and almost directly above the doorway hung a hornets nest.
My fear of bees stems from childhood. For some reason I was terrified of being stung, even though everyone I knew always insisted that it didn’t hurt that much. I managed to make it through my whole childhood without a bee encounter, and it wasn’t until I was in college that I got stung for the first time - I was out on a run and a yellowjacket got caught in my shirt and stung me in the lower back.
“Are you allergic?” My cross country coach asked with concern.
“Uh...we’ll find out,” I said. “I’ve never actually been stung before.”
It was an unpleasant experience but it wasn’t too painful and it turns out I’m not allergic. Despite this my fear of bees still persists. At this point it’s become ingrained in my psyche. I can try and rationalize it away all I want, but when a bee flies in my direction I will still panic and run away, arms flailing like one of those inflatable tube men you see outside car dealerships. I’m a big fraidypants when it comes to bees and I don’t care who knows it.
The nest on my house wasn’t big, maybe the size of a baseball, but I was dumbfounded that it had escaped my attention for so long. I’d noticed a surplus of bees around compared to last summer but I assumed that was because the neighborhood is more suburban than my old neighborhood in Troy. It didn’t occur to me that they were actually building something, freeloading by attaching their house to mine.
Now that I’d discovered the nest, I decided I had two options:
1. Burn the house down. Sure, I’d lose all my possessions, but that seemed like a small price to pay to teach those bees a lesson.
2. Leave and never come back. Of course I’d leave a note for Court:
“I saw a hornets nest on the house today so I had to run away forever. I’m sorry but you knew when you married me that this was always a possibility. You can finish the rest of the ice cream in the freezer.”
There was a third option that I didn’t even want to consider: getting rid of the nest. Myself. I called Court to tell her I was running away and/or burning the house down but she calmed me down and said she’d pick up some hornet spray on her way home. As night fell I went back outside with the spray and stood at the base of the steps, my arm shaking as I lifted the can and pointed it at the baseball-sized sphere of terror. I’d like to pretend I was resolute in my destruction of the nest, standing with a wide stance and a hand on my hip as I sprayed the nest and said something like, “Bee-ware, hive got a surprise for you,” or, “Get the fuck off my house.” And that’s what happened as I drenched it in hornet spray...right up until one emerged from the hive and I ran away, whimpering.
I felt strangely empowered after eradicating the hornets. I had faced off against one of my biggest fears and won. I didn’t get stung, the house didn’t burn down, and I only cried, like, a little bit. Progress sometimes comes in baby steps - I know my phobia of bees certainly isn’t gone but I feel like I’m working in that direction. On my way out of the house this morning I stopped to look at the now abandoned hive above the door. I took a moment of self-satisfaction at having killed all the hornets...and then a bumblebee appeared and I ran to my car. Like I said, baby steps.