Tabada: Muse

Mayette Q. Tabada
·2 min read

THE moth I mistook at first for a dead leaf or a brown stain on the wall. The kitten who trails me like a shadow pounced and flipped it. The brown wings fluttered on the kitchen floor before I scooped and placed the moth on the water dispenser.

Peering to check if its wings had not been ripped, I was diverted by the moth’s antennae. In Cebu, the white wall in the garden is a magnet for moths of varied sizes and shapes. Yet, I had never seen until that day antennae as lush and feathery as the ones on the moth that narrowly escaped being toyed to bits.

Sweeping the air with majesty, these projectiles could be coveted by a drag queen or a teen fixated on eyelash extensions. I thought these antennae suited the more elaborate Lepidoptera cousins, the butterflies, but online sources pointed out that a moth flying at night needs these antennae more to make minute but crucial adjustments mid-air to evade obstructions or predators.

The flamboyance of the antennae creates more surfaces for sensors that make the moth more sensitive to smell than a butterfly. Relying on the wind-borne information processed by the mechanosensors, a moth can smell and locate food or mate even more than seven miles away.

I wondered about our journeys, the confluence that brought a moth, a kitten and a human in a kitchen being hosed down and cleaned of dog litter. The kitten has all the impetuosity of the five-months-young, pulled invisibly by curiosity and appetite. Already forgetting the moth, she was stalking more accessible prey, the dripping hose head.

The moth had not moved from the water container. It was probably recovering its breath as I was, caught in the eddies of house cleaning, clearing, cooking, washing up, sorting ad nauseam.

Chores have the undemanding predictability of the quotidian. If I break routine, I brace against and resist the erosion of a formless, immovable monolith I attempt without any trace of irony to shove aside daily to do the work that matters.

Autocratic but familiar, domesticity beguiles and smothers, delaying the chaos that begins when I sit in front of a screen or open a notebook. A spanking spotless kitchen, matching pairs of socks: the harbor recedes the farther I strike away to put together a sentence or, by some miracle, paragraphs.

At the turn of the century, the few women who wrote did so for family and friends. Women authors were not published until newspapers, seeing a new market, opened a news hole for short essays.

Immobile, the moth only puts forth its antennae to argue against historical elision: if you fly blind, trust in yourself, disorder and all. Tell your stories; let the stories tell you. And fly.