Transverse Orientation

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“All roads lead to here,” he said as he pressed his hands to his heart.

“All roads lead to hear,” she said as she pressed her hands to her ears.

He smiled, not unlike a day lily slowly unfolding to the sun’s gentle morning caresses of warmth, and she thought of spring.

It wasn’t spring, of course. It was the beginning of autumn, when fog hung over the valley floor like an opaque cloak that rolled into the closet with the soft breeze of the day and evening stole in earlier and earlier like a thief burglaring long, hot summer nights. Yes, the weather is turning, she thought.

“It feels impossible to be this happy,” she said as her eyes were on the horizon.

“But here it is, a tangible,” he said. He looked constantly pleased. She wondered if he always looked like that, or if it was a look his face had acquired since meeting her. She could only speculate these little details—what did she know of the summation of his life, thus far?

“You know, I looked up moths the other day.”

“Yeah?” he asked, face perched on his hand like a hawk, a pleased smile poised on his lips that carried up into his eyes like little fireflies floating above a meadow of thought.

“No one really knows why they are drawn to man-made and artificial light.” She took a sip of her coffee, waited for her words like they were sugar cubes dissolving into liquescence. “It was thought that they navigate by transverse orientation—flying at a constant angle relative to a distant light source. A theory is that man-made light and artificial light confuse them.”

“Hmm,” he pressed his index fingers to his lips like he was deep in thought.

“Of course, fires have been around for hundreds of thousands of years. Seems like natural selection would have helped this suicidal tendency to dive into the flame evolve.”

“Maybe. Or maybe not.” He sipped his coffee.

“And then there are other theories. Newer theories. Apparently the pheromones released by moths are slightly luminescent. Some entomologists theorize that the male moths are drawn to the light because they emit some of the same frequencies of light given off by the female moth’s pheromones.” She took another sip of coffee, lost in thought. “Again, this doesn’t explain why moths are more drawn to ultraviolet light than infrared light, since UV light does not contain the same wavelengths as the female moth’s luminescent pheromones.”

“Maybe,” he began as he lit up a cigarette, “maybe this was a mystery, placed here just for you to puzzle over. Maybe this is the best mystery novel life ever wrote and you are a gumshoe hired to figure it all out. Maybe it will just take your eyes and your heart and your ears to pick up the right frequencies and see it in a different light.” He smiled at her, a look of pleasure hovering on the corners of his mouth like dusted wings and she wanted to kiss him—not transverse orientation, but direct orientation.

His light drew her in. Nope, no transverse orientation here; her heart was confused and moving directly toward him. And once again, evolution couldn’t save her from falling in love.

*painting by John Norris Wood


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