Not Every Encounter

Lauren Wallach

Fox one day at dusk. Currently a grasshopper is in my room, and I am throwing him out the window. He must have gotten in earlier, the little screens cracked open. I hadn't known anything got in, but something always does. The other day there was a fly, and I killed it. I felt badly for having killed it. But it was only a fly. I would not kill a grasshopper.

The first time I saw a fly in the room, days, days before, I did not kill. I grabbed it between my fingers, and didn't know where to put it. I walked to the bathroom and threw it down onto the ground. I don't think it died then, but probably soon. I threw the grasshopper out the window.


I only find insects around here, inside. Flies and grasshoppers, and once on the side of the sink, as I was brushing my teeth before bed, there were two bugs, I don't know what kind, small and black, and they were having sex. It looked wild. It looked so human.  

There they were, on the side of the sink.

Not me, I thought. But at least, you.


Outside I saw a fox, ducks, crows. But the most important was the fox at dusk. Meaning shape-shifting, otherworldly realms, the invisible, magic. At the bottom of the page, when I looked up the meaning, a note read, remember: not every encounter with a fox means something.

I closed the page. I don't need to hear this.


Now I wonder about the grasshopper. I wonder about the two on the side of the sink. How should I take the grasshopper out the window? How should I take throwing the fly against the tiled floor? How should I take killing the fly, smashing it against the window with my book? I wonder what I looked like in that moment, what the expression could have been.

I didn't want to hurt anything. That thing getting on me while I'm asleep. But I knew I wouldn't sleep if it were there.

It was not sleeping.

It was being there with me.


On other floors of this building there were other animals. A chipmunk and a bat. When I met Hugo we sat outside, drank our coffee, and talked. Hours went by. We were both living in this building, so the animals came up in conversation, though I kept the insects to myself.

He tells me the bat will be in my room tonight, and for some reason I believe him. Oh no, I say, cringing, thinking about a bat flapping around my body at night, the way it did to that woman I knew. She had to get a rabies shot after that, she had been considered exposed.

But aren't you from Romania? I ask, and bats are like vampires…

So I'm the bat? He says, half horrified and half amused. 

Well, it would make for a good story.

(I can see it in his face, or is it in his eyes, or the way he is very isolated, or the way he emerges, unexpectedly, into the day, into my life.)

I tell him: then the chipmunk will be in your room, if the bat will be in mine.


When I first met Hugo we drank coffee. Twice. Then it was food. Lunch. Then it was alcohol. Gin for him, and wine for me.

At the hotel bar he implies that I, of course, am the chipmunk, and I suppose I can see the resemblance.

I let it make for a good story.


I once saw the chipmunk run down the hall, away. Hugo told me he thinks they caught it because the sign on the door next to his said: the chipmunk is in my room. There were towels shoved under the crack of the door so it couldn't escape. Someone said: they're not plasma! But they are. Oh, they are. But no chipmunk in Hugo's room, and no bat in mine. How can I take the absence? How can I take the sex on the sink? The throwing on the bathroom floor? The eventual death? The killing? How can I take the grasshopper out the window? The fox at dusk?

A time to observe, take in silently, a time to shape-shift and go invisible.

As if, only in this way will I know anything at all.


But not every encounter means something, they're always trying to remind me. Though, Hugo didn't try to remind me. But not every encounter means something.