Beautiful Insect, Where Are You
lanternfly x sally rooney
I don’t like insects much, she said, but it seems a little cruel. She looked up at him. Don’t you agree?
I’m not sure, he said. I think they’re an ecological threat to the local flora. And isn’t it nice to have permission to squash a bug? It’s such a nice feeling, such a satisfying crunch.
Do you like killing things, she said playfully. Do you do it regularly?
He frowned and looked away. A moment passed before he spoke. I actually used to quite a lot—I mean, growing up. I used to hunt with my da, and we used to kill things, he said apologetically. Does that bother you?
What, like deer, she teased. Deer and rabbits? I suppose I think they’re cute but no, it doesn’t bother me that you used to kill them.
He grew quiet for a minute. She pulled out her phone and opened a social media app. After a minute, she laughed. Look at this, she said, it’s a cat that’s got stuck in some kind of box.
That’s funny, he said, distractedly. She looked at him.
Does it bother you, what I said? About killing stuff, I mean, she said. You can tell me if it bothers you, it’s all right, I’m quite grown about things like that.
I don’t think it’s bad to kill the bug. The lanternfly, I mean. I don’t think it’s bad to squash it, and I wouldn’t feel guilty if I did, he said, a little louder than before. I think it’s alright because it’s preventing future harm.
Her expression grew stony. Harm to whom, she said, harm to trees? You don’t think it’s funny how this is the insect, this is the one we’re supposed to kill? That perhaps there aren’t other insects that do the same harm but don’t represent the same economic threat—
Economic threat? These are farmers whose livelihoods depend on their crop—
Farmers whose profits all go directly to large companies. You don’t think the discourse around the insect is shaped by the interests of capital? She was being quite loud now.
Are we fighting, he said so quietly and meekly that she could do nothing but collapse into him, his collarbone hard against her cheek.
No, she breathed. She began to cry softly.
It wasn’t deer and rabbits, he said. That’s not what I hunted with my da.
She sniffed. What, then? she asked.
It was Osama Bin Laden, he said. My father and I spent ten years on the ground in Pakistan and Afghanistan interrogating locals, infiltrating Al Qaeda strongholds, and following every possible lead to his location. We slept on the dirt and ate nothing but MREs. I still remember the position President Obama took when we finally found and killed him, all hunched over and staring at the screen. And we buried him at sea and watched as a huge blue whale swallowed him up, like Jonah. And they made a movie about it, but they changed some of the details, but not the names—my dad’s name is Christ Pratt, and my name is Jessica Chastain.
Her voice was cold. That’s quite jingoistic of you, she said. I should go.
That’s fine, he said, are you close? Do you want me to stop?
No, she said, let’s finish having sex, which we’ve been having this entire time, and then I can go.
Alright, he said, pumping madly.
Zero Dark Thirty, purely as a movie, kicks ass. The politics are questionable, sure, depending on how you read the movie—but James Gandolfini plays Leon Panetta. That’s tight.
Also, there’s a scene where Jessica Chastain has to confirm the identity of the corpse. Imagine someone showing you bin Laden’s body and them asking you if you can confirm that this is, indeed, Osama bin Laden. I mean…yes? He’s, like, one of the top ten most recognizable faces in the world? That’s obviously bin Laden.
Also, she screams out this line at Kyle Chandler midway through, which I’ll mutter to myself every once in a while: “THE TRUTH IS, YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND PAKISTAN—AND YOU DON’T KNOW AL-QAEDA!” That’s a fun one to yell at your mom.