By Dave Barrett
His wife had left him and gone to live at her sister’s house. First, it was with the understanding that it would only be a six-month separation; then, at the end of the six months, she had finally told him she wanted to leave him for good. The magic was gone, and besides, she was seeing somebody else.
They had been married for almost twenty-five years, had raised three children and were empty nesters at the time of the breakup. She had been warning him for years to change, that the only way they would last is if they could renegotiate their marriage. He had tried to change, had gone to a therapist as she had asked him. But it was true: he had been unable to change. He had been satisfied with the course of their marriage and she, not.
It had hurt him bad in the beginning. At the most unlikely and untimely of moments—perhaps driving past a park or bridge where they had walked hand-in-hand, her head on his shoulder, or maybe when hearing a song on the radio they had both loved in their youth—he would become overwhelmed with grief. He was not a crier by nature, but the enormity of it all made him sob so hard he’d have to pull over to the side of the road and wait till the horror of the trauma had passed.
He was sitting in a favorite coffee shop—their old favorite coffee shop—when the memory of the Queen Bee and her drones came back to him.
It was the six-month anniversary of their divorce and he was feigning to check messages on his iPhone while surreptitiously eyeing a table of beautiful thirty-something women across the way. They were stylishly dressed, with open blouses and tight-fitting slacks and sweaters that revealed the beauty of their individual shapes and sizes. They, like his wife, were modern, independent, professional women. One of them he found particularly attractive. She was a tall, thin brunette and wore her hair in a bob (as his wife had when they first met many years ago). She wore a black, negligee-like blouse and an equally stylish thin, brown sweater worn open at the throat so it did nothing to hide her lovely neckline, her milky white chest, and the contours of her collarbone and shoulders. She was a bit flat chested, but alluring all the same—o, more so! She stirred a lust in him akin to what he had felt the first time he had seen his ex-wife without clothes.
The women were talking louder and laughing more boldly now, and they seemed like ferocious beasts to him: leopards and lionesses with long fangs and strong claws ready to tear their next prey apart. They seemed infinitely more powerful, more dangerous, and freer than the men in the room. Older men, like him, were also surreptitiously eyeing these beauties in the hope they could win a furtive glance, when his memory of the Queen Bee and her drones returned. He was nine or ten years old. It was summertime, and he and a gang of other boys on the city block he had lived had captured a Queen Bee in a large mason jar. They had punched holes in the top of the jar with a nail and raced around the neighborhood capturing dozens and dozens of other bees as well. When they captured drones, they would feed them to the Queen Bee, stand in a tight circle in rapt amazement and watch as the much larger Queen Bee literally fucked these drones to death.
He saw this as an obvious metaphor of what had happened to him, a 56-year-old man who had failed to change when his wife had asked him to—when she had actually pleaded with him to do so. But it was too late for that now. He knew in his heart that he would most likely die old and alone. There would be brief, occasional visits with his grown children, but it would all be somewhat stilted and awkward as they attempted to not mention Mom and her new life without Dad. And it was then that he realized that it was not his body that had died when she left him—but a part of his soul. She had left him curled-up and dying like those poor drones he and his buddies had hastily shaken from the jar—“Don’t let out the Queen!”—abandoned on the pavement while they fed the next drone to the Queen, he and other boys squealing with delight at the spectacle of the Queen’s next victim.
Oh, what cruel karma that years later he would experience a similar fate.
Oh, pity the drone! Pity thyself!