The Zoologist

My name is Dr. Isaac Lahm, and I’m the associate director of the Munich Zoological Institute, next in line for the directorship once Pfizer steps down. When people ask me why I study bees, I joke that it’s for the honey. But I know better. I know that if we are to have an appreciation for the fundamental laws of life, an understanding of how the human body functions, we must study the sensory capacities of the world’s most marvelous creatures, such that we can compare our quirks to theirs, the human eye to the bee’s visual system. Inevitably, said comparison welcomes debate, and it’s why I’ll be arguing against a young man named Reus from Berlin at a conference in a few days’ time. Young Reus refutes my theory that bees are color blind. In the March 1916 edition of Zoologischer Anzeiger, he outlines an experiment that claims the following: Bees associate a reward with color and thereby see hue. Though I fear the threat of an eager up-and-comer, the awards and publications on my wall stand for something. I believe young Reus wants my job. Clever boy.

 

***

 

Now that Germany is at war—the Great War they call it—my colleagues use it as an excuse to visit the alehouse early. How they developed the idea that science slows down for conflicts of the state, I cannot fathom. Still, I prefer when the halls of the Institute are quiet. Fauna and fish ripple the water of the aquarium in the annex. Insects chirp in the monastery for field research. Invertebrate workers buzz with a self-sufficient hum in the bee house, where I tend to spend all my time. Outside, the bells of nearby St. Thomas ring, and though I’m not a musical man, I can’t help but associate the chime with the hum of my bees.

Today, when Pfizer comes into the bee house from the annex, I usher my most well-trained specimens into a glass case. Pfizer’s work on tactile sensations in fish led to discoveries on the sense of touch in underwater organisms. He used to work as late as me, but he’s stepping down soon. An old Austrian, he wants to live out his last days in Vienna before “war and time cripple us all,” as he likes to say. I only think about the war when it affects my next experiment.

Pfizer looks out the window at the courtyard. Past the gates, the Ludwigstrasse waits for the gallop of oncoming carriages.

“We used to fill that courtyard with graduate students and new faces,” Pfizer says. “Now it is vacant.” 

It’s true that the educational component of the Institute has faltered ever since all our youth went off to fight. This hasn’t bothered me as much as it has the other professors. The rush of new students has always seemed like something of a distraction.

“The French are advancing on the western front and the Russians are pushing from the east. I suppose the whole nation must be on high alert, even us, in the south.”

I gesture as if this means something to me. My thoughts are on bees and the polarization of light through a pane, angles correlating to colors.

“Is this your design, Isaac?”

Pfizer places his hand on the glass case in which I train my bees. Inside the case, there’s a piece of cardboard. Outside, there’s a prism. When I shine white light onto the prism, the light refracts through said case. The colors of the electromagnetic spectrum then appear on the cardboard: violet, blue, yellow, green, red. Every time—every single time—I do the experiment the bees gather around the yellow-green light, the strongest region of the color blind human eye. It’s the intensity that attracts them, not the color—not the wavelength or energy on which color depends.

“The director of this institute must be a scientist whose work is respected in the zoological community,” he says. 

Detractors might say my experiment pertains to a set of conditions not always met in nature. But I’m firm in my belief that science should be streamlined. We reduce magnificent workings of our universe to their simplest terms in search of the essentials. My experiment shows that a bee is drawn to the light intensity most favorable to the color blind human. Maybe there is an experiment out there that goes against my theory and verifies its hypothesis more elegantly—maybe Reus has a trick up his sleeve—but until I see it in front of me, until Pfizer sees it in front of him, I am steadfast in my view. I have to be. (Young Reus, I’ve read your point on flower petals. They’re different colors so that bees can differentiate between them? I object. It may be shape or scent, not color, that guides pollination. Evidence is inconclusive.)

“The theory holds,” I say to Pfizer. “I’m certain.”

“Very well. The conference will go on. Last I heard, Reus wants to travel despite the threat of war.”  

After Pfizer leaves, I repeat the experiment five more times—shine on the prism through the case onto the cardboard. The same result: The bees congregate around the yellow-green light.

“Beautiful,” I say. And it is. 

 

***

 

When I arrive home from the Institute, there’s a letter waiting for me. It’s from my fifteen year old daughter, Margot. She attends Rochstrasse, a boarding school for girls in East Prussia. It’s been months since we’ve exchanged correspondence.

 

Dear Father,

I’m afraid I must be brief. Rochstrasse will soon close. The Russians are moving ever nearer and my teachers say it is no longer safe. Our food supply dwindles daily and I can’t foresee how we will manage on only turnips (even these are sparse)…I know you must be very busy, but I’m afraid I don’t have a choice. I will come home to Bavaria. A train departs from Berlin at the end of the week, a day after this letter’s arrival, and I will take it.

Affectionately,

Margot 

 

As I prepare dinner, I can’t seem to remember the last time Margot returned home. Margot’s fortunate in that, unlike most girls her age, she’s the recipient of a formal education. As an academic, I wanted my child to have the same opportunity for higher learning as I had. I used my contacts at the Institute to gain her entry into the prestigious Rochstrasse.

Her mother, Eva—my wife—died six months prior to Margot’s enrollment. Probably I would have acknowledged schools for Margot closer to home had Eva lived. But my daughter happens to possess the same green eyes as her mother. I couldn’t look at her. It’s small of me, I know.

One of the things that draws me to bees is their centrality. The external world may be so much bigger to them than it is to us, but perception is perception. Their sensations inform our coordinates. (Young Reus, if you’re implying that I’m letting my personal history get in the way of my science, then I advise you to take two steps backwards and re-evaluate said position.)

I live past the Siegestor on the outskirts of Schwabing. It’s the woods out here. And as I settle into my chair on the porch for supper and an evening beer, I’m taken by the glow of beetles in the yard. Light ignites these creatures and against the backdrop of night, their glow is blinding—one of the many ways in which nature introduces and regulates chaos.

 

***

 

Margot waits outside Hauptbahnhof, and as my stagecoach pulls in, I find it remarkable how fast children age during adolescence. Of course, Margot still has her mother’s eyes, but the rest of her facial structure is like mine: sharp, angular features. I open the door to the stagecoach, and just like that I’m two feet away from my daughter again.

She nestles into her corner of the wagon, and it seems the moment to slide over and be affectionate has passed.

“It’s strange to be back,” she says.

“Yes, quite strange, I can imagine.”

The carriage takes us through Marienplatz, where some people gather in the market. On the hour, the Rathaus-Glockenspiel will sound and its elaborate configuration of bells and life-sized figures will dance the Schäfflertanz. This giant dollhouse used to endear large audiences, but fewer citizens fill the city square these days. 

“Would you like to stay and watch the dance?” I ask.

“No, but father, is that the opera house?”

A small crowd stands outside the National Theatre, presumably to purchase tickets. I’ve heard from my colleagues that performances rarely happen anymore. Theatre isn’t exactly a wartime priority. Not that I mind or have ever attended a show.

“Father, I would love to go.”

“Since when has opera intrigued you?”

“Ever since Mr. Heinz’s course on music history.”

“I’m not sure I have the time. There’s an important conference tomorrow.”

Margot turns away. “I see,” she says.

(Young Reus, why must you insist that it’s color, not intensity, that entices bees? Why must you quarrel with me?)

Margot keeps her back turned. I touch her for the first time since seeing her, a light hand on the shoulder.

“Would you mind coming with me to the Institute? I have some work to do.”

Margot nods. “Yes, fine,” she says.

She moves her shoulder free of my hand and we do not speak for the rest of the ride.

 

***

 

One Sunday at the Isar River in Munich, a stray dog raced past Eva and me into the water. Margot was playing at the river’s edge, still very much in shallow territory, and though she had only received a limited number of swimming lessons up to that point, not nearly enough to justify any decision to follow the dog—she couldn’t have been older than five or six—she sprinted forward and fell into the deep water. Eva, whose head had been laying on my lap and whose weight I can still imagine pressed to my body, bounced upright and ran. Spurred on by my daughter’s splashing, I beat Eva to the edge. Only it’s rather comical because even though every instinct shouted, Lift Margot to safety, by the time I reached her, the splashing had settled, and she executed a perfect doggy paddle motion. Letting her swim, letting her develop life-saving strokes, I said to myself: This is how you let go.

 

***

 

As we enter the Institute’s bee house, the observational honeycomb engages Margot. Like the case in which I train my bees, the honeycomb is enclosed in glass. I use it to store my bees, my drones, overnight.

Margot watches the drones as they devour honey. Perhaps the stout abdomen or large eyes, twice the size of a worker bee’s, fascinate her. Or maybe she notices how drones can’t sting. Their stinger is instead used for laying eggs, another of nature’s marvels.

I say to Margot, “I find that bees possess limitless mysteries, and never a day goes by that their visual system doesn’t intrigue me.”

She says, “It seems so boring.” And walks away.

I go to my lab drawer and obtain a blue card and a petri dish containing sugar water. “Margot, have I told you about the conference? Yes, well, a young biologist named Reus questions my credibility, can you believe that? Tomorrow we are doing live demonstrations to settle the matter.”

I slide the petri dish and the blue card underneath the glass case. In a matter of seconds, the bees flock to the card on which I positioned the dish. (Young Reus, this is where you’d allege they begin to associate the color blue with a reward—that reward being sugar, your hypothesis being, I believe, fraught.)

“Notice how they flock to the card to drink the sugar water.”

I allow the bees time to drink and solidify the connection of card to sugar. Then I remove the card and the dish from the case. I wait approximately two minutes—Margot looks at me in a way that is either indifferent or sad, I can’t determine—and slide the card back under the case. Once again, in a matter of seconds, the bees converge on the card, only this time there is no sugar to drink.

“Doesn’t it appear as if they recognize the color and fly to it, Margot? They expect sugar on the card.”

Margot nods.

“Yes, that is exactly what Reus would say. In point of fact, that is precisely what he says in the March 1916 edition of Zoologischer Anzeiger.”

I remove the card from the case once again. Holding it by the edge, I flick its corners and sides.

“But there is no telling what aspects of the card the bees recognize,” I say. “It may associate sugar with the card’s specific contours, the right angles of its corners, or the horizontality and verticality of its edges.”

I grab the prism and shine white light onto it. The light refracts through the case and onto the cardboard and (what have you, young Reus?) the bees huddle around the yellow-green light.

“This, however, is a reproducible behavior.”

Margot says, “I take it that’s your counterargument.”

“A scientist must also be a showman.”

Margot doesn’t respond. Instead, she regards the observational honeycomb again. She watches the drones as they hover over the hexagonal cells of the comb. Maybe she still finds it boring. Or maybe she thinks there’s something amiss with my argument—how silly, me concerned with young Margot’s view of my theory. Soon, Pfizer comes into the bee house from the annex.

“There’s something you must see,” he says to Margot and me. 

He leads us into the courtyard. Past the gates, German infantry marches down the Ludwigstrasse. They form lines of ten by what must be forty or fifty, and extend almost as far as the Siegestor.

“Should we be worried?” Margot says.

“Either it’s a procession, or a threat is imminent,” Pfizer says. “In either situation, yes, I think we should be worried.”

I look at Margot. One hopes this won’t affect young Reus’ travels.

 

***

 

A few hours later I’m in the Institute’s courtyard with Margot awaiting the arrival of our carriage. (Young Reus, you should know that I’ve prepared my demonstration for tomorrow exhaustively, and I’m feeling quite confident.)

I say, “Tell me about Heinz’s music history class.”

Her posture straightens in a way that can only connote enthusiasm.

“We discussed Richard Wagner before I left,” she says. “Did you know Tristan und Isolde premiered at the National Theatre in 1856?”

“May I ask who Richard Wagner is?”

“Father, he’s the most important German composer of the 19th century.”

She hums a melody in a low voice, operatically I suppose.

“Have you ever studied dissonance, father? In the show’s Prelude, it involves unconnected cadences that don’t resolve until the end when my beloved Tristan dies. Wagner’s masterful, just masterful.”

She hums the same low melody, which I assume pertains to the Prelude though I’m not a musical man.

The hour approaches five o’clock and the bells of St. Thomas chime. The sound mixes with and dilutes Margot’s hum. I direct my attention to the segment of the Institute devoted to the bee house and my thoughts jump to contours, colors, and intensities. (Young Reus, how would you, how could you counter?) I’m tempted to return to my laboratory and devise further schematics, but the many sounds, the many dilutions lock me in place and I can’t seem to get up. Soon, the carriage arrives at the gates.

My daughter stands and I face her.

“Margot, would you like to go to the theatre now?”

 

***

 

I must admit we are fortunate to acquire two of the last available tickets. Including the ground level, we are on the sixth level, the highest in the house, and there is not an empty seat around us—who am I to say theatre is not a wartime priority?

A massive chandelier hangs before us, not above us, and I have to crane my neck downward to see the stage. Bright red curtains drape the walls of the theatre and ornamental lights line the balconies of each level. As they flash to signal the start of the show, I’m reminded of the Schwabing beetles in my yard.

Even before the opening number ends, Margot quietly asserts that it doesn’t compare to Wagner. Given how she leans forward in her seat, I conclude she’s still excited. I also conclude that the leading woman, the soprano, has fallen in love with the leading man, the baritone. Her voice rises in concordance with the orchestra, but now it is soft, and it seems as if she is building up to the moment in which she will profess her love.

Though I am all the way up here, six levels above the bottom floor, and the soprano is a dot on the stage, I sense the veins on her neck constricting. They pulsate with the cues of the instruments. The strings tinker faster, the percussion hits harder, the brass booms louder. It occurs to me that there are so many ways in which this number could end, but there will only be one correct answer. (What have you, young Reus?)

The soprano’s voice nears its highest note, and the sound carries to the sixth level. (If you clarify contours, young Reus, how else do I counter?) She takes a long breath in preparation for the number’s final moment. (Could the bees emit a chemical, a pheromone that leads them to the card? Could they be  guided by scent or sound?) She sustains her breath and sends the note throughout the National Theatre. (It can’t be color, young Reus, certainly it can’t be color.) She holds it, holds it, and then falls into a heap on the stage.

The baritone seizes the soprano in his arms. To my left, Margot applauds, and so do I. I realize this is only the opening number, there are three acts left, and please excuse me, but I can’t keep from laughing.  

 

***

Not long after Eva died—Margot was ten or eleven—we returned to the Isar. As I set up camp along the river, I lost sight of Margot. She didn’t possess the disposition of a child seeking to run away. However, hers was not the spirit of a child seeking to climb a tree either, so when I found her in the upper boughs of an oak I was surprised.

She had never climbed a tree before, despite many visits to the Isar, not a single one. How she scaled the oak to such an elevated bough I could not say. When I instructed her to climb down, she didn’t move. Instantly I recalled how much easier it is to go up than it is to come down.

I dug my shoes into the bark of the trunk and propelled myself up to the first branch. Margot was now two boughs above me, and I figured there would be no issues. Unfortunately, I misjudged the branch’s center of mass and when I stepped farther out from the trunk, the branch cracked and I tumbled to the ground.

I’m not an athlete. In my youth, I played football, but I lacked strength and speed. Even the school team refused my services. Though I attempted many times to reach the bough on which Margot rested, my efforts proved useless. I reasoned that Margot would have to jump, and I would have to catch her.

At first, she refused. There was genuine fear in her eyes, but I promised her it would be fine, and eventually, she believed me. She bravely stood up on the branch and leaped off the bough. As she flew through the air and fell onto my chest, I let the inertia of her body push me to ground, such that I fell on my back and gave cushion to her weight. I wrapped my arms around Margot, asked her if she was alright, and thought: This is how you hold on.

A few weeks later I accompanied her to Hauptbahnhof, and she enrolled in Rochstrasse.

 

***

 

That night, in the woods of Schwabing, after we ride by the infantry lining the Ludwigstrasse, Margot and I eat a rather silent supper. She fiddles with her potatoes and I fiddle with my thoughts, and I think nothing will be said until Margot stands to leave the table and asks, “Father, do you think mom would have enjoyed tonight?”

Now, I fiddle with my potatoes. I hardly look my daughter in the eyes. “Yes, I think she would have. Indeed, I think she would.”

After supper, Margot goes to her old room to sleep. And I, in my own sleep, dream of drones, thousands of them, congregating in the yellow-green light. They start to converse with one another and agree that the only way to stay together is to merge into one giant bee. Though the wings, thoraxes, and abdomens mesh as one, each drone maintains its own set of eyes, such that there are now thousands of lenses covering its body. It can see the entire visual scene—multiple perspectives and arenas. In principle, this ought to excite and please the bee, but the eyes cannot agree what perspective to act on, and eventually they argue, such an argument that the wings, thoraxes, and abdomens hastily elect to disconnect, and in the process one bee stings another, which triggers a frenzy, one sting after another, millimeter incisions all over their bodies, all over said body, only the bees soon find that they’re poisonous, so each sting equals death, senseless, pointless death, and I remember it all, every last sting, until all the bees litter the ground and only one eye’s left, a solitary eye, and then I wake up, exasperated, coated in yellow-green light.

***

 

I first meet young Reus in the lecture hall of the Institute. He’s on stage laying a tablecloth over a glass case, which I presume houses his own experiment. I expect he has a formation of colored cards and sugar water underneath the cloth, which is fine by me, as I also have a colored card. It’s blue and in my chest pocket, and I plan to use it for my counterargument later. When the moment presents itself, I’ll flick its edges and sides, as I did with Margot, and rally against this reward-driven learning. (What else, young Reus? What else should I be ready for?)

Already some of my colleagues are present. They fill the first few pews that extend to the back of the hall. Most notably, there’s Dr. Mueller the sea urchin specialist, Dr. Neuer the insect specialist, and Dr. Braun the worm specialist. They’re joined by some of their close assistants whose names escape me. They wave, and I wave back. They also whisper amongst each other. A group of peers, colleagues for instance, can be the first to find fault. 

Young Reus is not as tall as I’d thought he’d be, nor as direct. Rather, he seems to retreat behind his thick-rimmed glasses when we shake hands. I don’t know whether to find this annoying or charming. Margot is at my side, so I introduce them. They smile bashfully in the way young people do when meeting for the first time. Margot and I haven’t spoken all morning, and I fear our silence may continue after the conference ends.

“I see you made it to Bavaria safely.”

“It can be difficult leaving Berlin. There’s a large military presence there—although you could say the same of Munich now. I was not expecting to see so many troops along the Ludwigstrasse.”

Pfizer walks into the lecture hall. “Yes, well,” he says, “it seems as if the whole nation is now on guard.”

He pats young Reus on the back and points to his setup on stage. “I see you have everything in order. Very good,” he says. “Do we have a preference on who shall give the first demonstration?”

My counterpart says, “That decision is Dr. Lahm’s.”

Again, I don’t know whether to find this annoying or charming.

“I’ll go first,” I say.

Quickly, I go to the bee house to gather my materials. By the time I return, young Reus and Pfizer have sat down in the first pew with my colleagues. Margot, however, still stands near the steps leading up to the stage.

“Father,” she says. “Good luck.” 

Stained-glass windows rise high above the wall behind the stage. They filter natural light kaleidoscopically. Pfizer once said that the architect who built the lecture hall was also a minister, hence the religious feel. Maybe it’s ambitious to claim any theological knowledge, as my expertise on existence does not extend any further than the sensory perceptions of invertebrates, but in this moment, as I prepare to illuminate the prism, which will lead to refraction and animal behavior, the universe seems contained in a glass case, enclosed in a tiny chamber, and so you’ll have to forgive me if, after transmitting the white light, a certain thrill sweeps over me, an elevation of the stomach that excites and nauseates, and I turn to my audience, regard the Muellers and Neuers and Brauns, but more importantly, young Reus, Pfizer, and my daughter, and say finally, “Behold.”

 

***

 

“Isaac,” Eva said, “Would you please go watch Margot? She’s only a beginner.”

Margot whizzed up to the water’s edge and leapt into the Isar—no dog around, entirely on her own accord.

I followed her into the river. Surprisingly, she kept swimming and the water reaching my knees, my waist, my chest, forced me to swim as well. For some reason, I didn’t tell her to stop and soon we were immersed in deep water.

“Margot,” I said. “Where do you intend to go?”

The sunlight trickled through the foliage of overhanging branches and formed shadows on the river. Finally, Margot turned to face me. Our bodies were beneath the surface from the neck down such that for the first time in my life, our heads rested at eye level. There was nowhere to look but into her eyes. I swam into their depths of greenness, and there encountered not only elements of the past, but futures—Sundays at the Isar, namely. Rochstrasse was nowhere near my consciousness. 

“Monsters, daddy. I’m trying to find the monsters.”

I smiled and guided Margot’s arms around my neck. I asked her to hang on; the monsters were coming. Then we swam back to the riverbank and joined Eva for lunch as if they were.

 

***

 

On stage, young Reus stands in front of his glass case, which is still covered with a tablecloth. My experiment went according to plan. The bees flocked to the yellow-green light, the strongest part of the color blind human eye. Now, I sit between my daughter and Pfizer in the front row, and the blue card rests ready in my pocket. (Young Reus, I’ll speak of taste or scent if you account for contours. Yes, that’s precisely what I’ll do.)

Young Reus says, “My theory suggests that bees associate sugar water with color, in this case blue. The esteemed Dr. Lahm disagrees. He claims bees are attracted to intensity, an intensity corresponding to yellow-green light.”

I shift in my seat.

“In principle, it is difficult to disprove your theory, Dr. Lahm. It calls for a paradigm in which color can be the only cause of the behavior, that shows indisputably bees see blue.”

Mueller, Neuer, and Braun whisper. Pfizer seems to inch forward in the pew.

“As you might say, Dr. Lahm, behold…”

Theatrically, young Reus sheds the tablecloth. In the glass case, a panel separates two chambers. In one chamber, there are bees. In the other, there are squares—nine gray cards, one blue.

“The cards are identical,” young Reus says. “The bees cannot differentiate their geometries or spatial orientations. Their edges are the same.”

I blink twice and start to breathe heavily. I remove the blue card from my coat pocket.

“If bees really are color blind, all of the cards, gray and blue, would look the same. They would be unable to identify the blue card as the source of sugar water.”

I feel along the edges of my card, the smooth slits that compose its sides.

“But as I hypothesize, if they aren’t color blind, they should identify the blue card indiscriminately. They should swarm right to it.”

I notice how the corners of a card can cut skin. How it’s possible to draw blood on said skin if you are so inclined. I put the card back in my pocket.

Young Reus says, “And now to dislodge the panel.”

As the bees leave their chamber—I believe you know scientific exquisiteness when you see it. When elegance appears right before your eyes, all you can do is applaud. The bees hover shortly above the gray cards, and I urge them to hesitate longer, to provide sufficient ground for error. Then they all buzz directly to the blue card and cover it in search of sugar, as they previously have been trained. One can hardly see the hue below their abdomens.

My colleagues lower their whispers. It seems like a very long moment before Pfizer places his hand on my shoulder. An old Austrian, he heaves his body up from the pew.

“The director of this institute must be a scientist whose work is respected in the zoological community,” he says. 

He slowly walks onto the stage and shakes young Reus’s hand. One by one, Mueller, Neuer, and Braun, accompanied by their assistants, also congratulate him. (Young Reus, I see the way you smile. If you accept their praise, then one day you must also listen to their criticism.)

I know what I should do. I know what the honest man, the honorable zoologist would do. Soon, the scientists stop engaging one another and Pifzer looks at me. I stand, but my feet do not move. I can’t seem to step forward and be respectful, to join these men on stage. It’s on the verge of discomfort. Pfizer seems ready to say something, when I hear, we hear, a deafening noise from outside.

Pfizer leads us, Margot included, out of the lecture hall and into the courtyard. Directly overhead, a plane, no German flag on its shield, flies past. In the distance, smoke rises in the air above what must be Marienplatz. A line of armored cars, wretched-looking specimens, races down the Ludwigstrasse towards the smoke. The infantry trails them. When another plane surfaces in the clouds, I am so mesmerized I hardly hear Pfizer’s words.

“The basement!” he shouts.

He guides young Reus and his peers toward the annex. I recognize that it’s in my best interests to do the same, but beyond the gates, more armored cars race toward the smoke and the hum of their engines mixes with the drone of the planes. The infantry marches with greater thrust. Not a single soldier regards the Institute. Perhaps it’s time to go to the annex now, but bees possess centrality. I move toward the lecture hall.

Despite the growing noise from the Ludwigstrasse, everything is quite still. Young Reus’ bees are on stage. They seem lonely, in need of a scientist’s company.

I stand over the glass case. The bees cling to the blue card amidst the gray squares. Pesky invertebrates, they have not given up the hope of finding sugar.

“Father.”

Margot comes into the lecture hall. Or maybe she’s been here the whole time. She’s remarkably poised.

“Father, are you all right?”

Light through the stained glass forms crystals on her body. (Wouldn’t it be something, young Reus, yes, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we emitted the same intensity, if here we were, competitors, absorbing yellow-green light?)

“Maybe some day,” I say to Margot. “Maybe one day if we can get through this war, we’ll go again to the National Theatre.”

The noise from outside heightens, more shouts, more marches, more engines. The bees cling to the same spot, but they need to acknowledge my presence. I extract the blue card from my coat pocket and inspect the glass. Though I’m uncertain if they’re drones, the risk doesn’t repel me. I place the card onto my chest, tuck it into the corner of my lapel, and displace the top of the case. Even amidst the commotion, the clamor of the Ludwigstrasse and combustion of Marienplatz, bees are attuned to the fundamental laws of life, the sensory elements that inform their coordinates, so it doesn’t surprise me that when exposed to the open air of the lecture hall, they search for a new source of sugar. Within seconds they find their target and bombard the blue on my chest, deliberating whether they’ll settle or sting. I hope for the latter, because I feel myself buzzing inward, further and further, to the green of the color blind eye.