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A Constant Buzz

Updated: May 22, 2023

I loved to write when I was a kid. I wrote my first short story with a friend when I was seven. It was about two brothers named Thunder and Lightning, and although it was far from a masterpiece, I’ll never forget how fun it was to live in that world. Back then, it was all about the wonder of exploration and creativity, but it’s muddier now.

Graphic of a woman sleeping with a cat

I recently had a bad day of writing. Rather than dedicating the day to writing as I had intended, I spent hours finding innovative new ways to procrastinate. I was too anxious to sleep at the end of the day, and somehow, a noisy little fly found its way into my apartment. Upon entering the scene, the fly directed its seemingly endless energy toward me — keeping me up until 4am.


My new friend triggered two realizations for me. One being how counterproductive my feelings during the day had been. As I laid in bed, I was simultaneously overly focused on the faint buzzing of a fly and unable to sleep and too focused on the pressure I created for myself that really kept me from writing. But in moment, all I wanted was to stop feeling stressed and fall asleep. I resolved to abandon my writing project, and honestly, I slept great afterwards.


The second realization came the next day after a solid 8-hours and a bit of needed clarity, and I realized how silly my resolution was. I remembered how much joy writing always brought me and how twisted it was to allow a fear of not doing something well to keep me from doing something I enjoy. I successfully identified it was the inner critic and the expectation of the things I write becoming more valuable than the value writing brings me that was inhibiting the creativity I have. To both illustrate and rebel against that critical voice, I’ve written a brief piece of fiction inspired by that fateful fly who stopped by to remind me to do things I love because I love them.


I sit down to get back to work, but as soon as I’m ready to focus, the buzzing comes again -

louder this time. It’s further away too, but still ringing in my psyche. I sit still for a minute. Are

you kidding me? I press my forehead to my desk, clench my fists, and take deep breaths. Why does this need to happen today? Everything else was finally just right. My desk was clean, my day was free, and my apartment was quiet. Now my day is wasting away because my apartment’s crummy windows can’t keep bugs out. I’ve had enough.

Woman trying to get rid of a fly

I storm across the apartment to the new window and jerk the blinds open. The bright sunlight blinds me for an instant, but then I see. Sitting on the windowsill is the gnarliest housefly I’ve

ever seen. He’s big, hairy, iridescent, and foul. I swing without hesitation. He escapes and

crashes into my cheek for just an instant. In a panic, I drop my shoe and swat at him with my

empty hand. He buzzes past my ear as I slap my face. Teary-eyed, red-cheeked, and fuming, I pursue him into the living room.


He lands arrogantly on my desk that I spent all day getting just right. He meanders across my

notebook and hops around on my keyboard. It’s more than I can take. I heave my shoe at him

and it crashes into the glass of water sitting on my desk. The fly buzzes off.


It’s quiet now. The only sound is the water falling rhythmically onto the floor, dripping out

a slow beat. I sigh and survey the damage I’ve caused. My notepad, keyboard, and mouse

are all drenched. The fly doesn’t make a sound as I grab a towel from the kitchen and dry off

my desk.


I’m standing in the bathroom, blow-drying my keyboard, and I can’t help but feel a little

ridiculous. Flies can be annoying, but not annoying enough to justify throwing a shoe at my desk. All I have to show for my efforts today are an empty word document and a soggy notebook. I’ve wasted too much time getting everything right when I know it can never be perfect. But at least for now, finally, I can start writing.


I settle into my chair to get started. And right on time, I hear the fly buzzing behind me. I open

the window and turn on some music. I’m sure it’ll find its way out.


It’s important, as a writer, to have everything just right. Whenever I write, I get dressed in

“real clothes,” and I always clear the clutter off my desk before getting started. It’s important

to be disciplined, treat it like a job, and work at it every day. I took a week off from work to

write. It wasn’t easy, but I finally had everything exactly how it should be. Now I can start writing.


But as soon as I’m ready to focus, there’s that buzzing. A fly. It starts and stops intermittently

with wicked timing. When it begins, it screams into focus and demands my attention. Then it

stops, and I sit for a moment, listening. Finally, I turn back to my computer and center my attention on the task at hand, but just then, the buzzing starts again. I have to do something.


It’s a small housefly, no bigger than a raisin, caught between the window and the blinds. The

blinds are dusty and white, and the window has an old screen that doesn’t sit right. It leaves a

3-inch gap of open air between the screen’s top and the window’s top. If I can guide this noisy visitor up and out the window, there’s hope for a nonviolent resolution.


I stick a no.2 pencil between the slats of the blinds and slowly inch it up towards the fly. It sits

still - seemingly disinterested in the approaching pencil. But the moment I get within an inch, the fly takes off straight toward me. I duck and hear it whiz over my head and into the kitchen. In a flash, I follow after, hopping on one leg as I arm myself with a shoe.


The fly whirls above my head, carving figure eights around the light fixtures before finally settling into the corner where the ceiling and wall meet - the one place my shoe can’t fit. I wave my shoe at it, and it starts again with its figure eights before landing on a wall.


WHAM!


It’s over. Now I can start writing.

Woman typing on a computer

I sit down to get back to work, but as soon as I’m ready to focus, the buzzing comes again -louder this time. It’s further away too, but still ringing in my psyche. I sit still for a minute. Are

you kidding me? I press my forehead to my desk, clench my fists, and take deep breaths. Why does this need to happen today? Everything else was finally just right. My desk was clean, my day was free, and my apartment was quiet. Now my day is wasting away because my apartment’s crummy windows can’t keep bugs out. I’ve had enough.


I storm across the apartment to the new window and jerk the blinds open. The bright sunlight blinds me for an instant, but then I see. Sitting on the windowsill is the gnarliest housefly I’ve ever seen. He’s big, hairy, iridescent, and foul. I swing without hesitation. He escapes and crashes into my cheek for just an instant. In a panic, I drop my shoe and swat at him with my empty hand. He buzzes past my ear as I slap my face. Teary-eyed, red-cheeked, and fuming, I pursue him into the living room.


He lands arrogantly on my desk that I spent all day getting just right. He meanders across my notebook and hops around on my keyboard. It’s more than I can take. I heave my shoe at him and it crashes into the glass of water sitting on my desk. The fly buzzes off.


It’s quiet now. The only sound is the water falling rhythmically onto the floor, dripping out a slow beat. I sigh and survey the damage I’ve caused. My notepad, keyboard, and mouse are all drenched. The fly doesn’t make a sound as I grab a towel from the kitchen and dry off my desk.


I’m standing in the bathroom, blow-drying my keyboard, and I can’t help but feel a little ridiculous. Fly's can be annoying, but not annoying enough to justify throwing a shoe at my desk. All I have to show for my efforts today are an empty word document and a soggy notebook. I’ve wasted too much time getting everything right when I know it can never be perfect. But at least for now, finally, I can start writing.


I settle into my chair to get started. And right on time, I hear the fly buzzing behind me. I open the window and turn on some music. I’m sure it’ll find its way out.


 

Written by Charles Stringer. Illustration by Aisha Khatun.

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