from "The Collection" 

The Collection.jpg

At another ancient church in Istanbul, the Chora Church, my husband and I tried to decipher the mosaics on the walls, which date from the fourteenth century. The angels float but appear to be legless torsos, their robes ending where their waists would lie. A man covered in spots and wearing a loincloth appeals to a group of figures whose faces have fallen away with time. Another man stabs the throat of a bull, blood spurting. A seraph—a ball of wings surrounding a face—hovers over dead Mary. Christ descends into Hell and pulls Adam and Eve from their tombs, his hands clamping their wrists, the gates of hell beneath his feet along with Satan, bound, lying among his instruments of torture. Every visage seems sad—disappointed, even. In one mosaic, guards rip a child from its mother’s arms, stabbing it with a dagger, while another guard pins a child to the ground and slays it with a sword. A little higher up—I had to squint to see it—a guard hoists a naked child on a pike which enters through its anus and exits through its head.

I needed one more bug for the A+, but how would I get it? I was running out of bugs. Then a neighbor who’d heard about my collecting brought over a perfect find—a walking stick. I’d only seen one once before. It was the coolest bug I’d ever held, its stick disguise perfect until it moved, crawling along my arm. It didn’t seem to want to flee, unlike most of the other bugs I’d caught. Order Phasmida—ghost. I let it crawl around, watching how its legs balanced the stick body. I hesitated. But I wanted the A+, so it went in the killing jar.