Tiny, cobweb width limbs reach quickly forward to rub her mandibles. They move on to stroke the delicate line of her left antennae. She starts quickly near the base where it connects with her ovally head, then slows as she reaches the antennae’s end. A tiny curl at the end of her leg (a foot?) reaches it last, bending it oh so slightly at the end.
She is so precise! Every time it is the same, the same motion, the same meticulous timing.
What is she made of, those tiny parts, able to move and bend so quickly without breaking or turning to dust, then springing back to where they came from? As if there were an invisible frame around her tiny body that is made just for her.
She moves on to cleaning her stomach and braces her lower abdomen with her four other legs. The base of the abdomen comes to a menacing point.
That makes me cringe a bit, that point, but if I just look at the top of her I can watch as she fluffs her antennae without concern. Sometimes she reaches up and rubs it with the crook of her little limb (an elbow?).
She moves on to rub her back as if there is an itch or some tiny particle I can’t see.
It’s been 10 minutes now of meticulous preening in the window of this coffee shop. Maybe, because she can’t get out, she is taking the time to stop and care for her own little body while she watches other insects fly by.
Her wings lift, her abdomen now at a ninety degree angle to the sill, stinger pointing up, so much more menacing than before. She turns one wing with her arm, cleans underneath it, rotates it on an invisible axle.
I am paralyzed as I watch this miniature solo spa. That stinger and those bold black and yellow lines keep me on a cautious watch. What should I do with her? Get a cup and let her out? Leave her here?
Maybe she doesn’t want to return to the outside, those millions of children, the buzzing nest. She saw the wooden doors open and slipped in, following the window’s light to this lacquered sill. It’s quiet here, no birds hovering, no other wasps buzzing, nothing to build, no one to listen to, no expectations. Just this. Time to polish her antennae, shine her sub-wings, rub clean invisible particles.