Concrete Mites

Tristan Ouweleen
BFA SC 2024

The concrete is speckled with crawling and spinning red mites. Tiny little things barely big enough to contain the eight legs they have. Google calls them clover mites, or concrete mites, and deems them pests, because their squashed bodies have the annoying habit of leaving small red stains on the seat of your pants. They’re kind of imperceptible despite their distinct red coloration.

Right now, I can make out about seven blotches of red in the spot I just sat that no longer move. I stand, frozen in a weird fear, a monster paused mid frenzy to consider the neighborhood it just squashed underfoot. There’s freedom from criticism in blind action. Without motive, without morals, blaming a force of nature for the havoc it wreaks feels dumb.

Concrete mites are the definition of insignificance. They wander at random searching for pollen, their main source of sustenance. How pitiful. These horrible, terrible, nothing bugs survive off the stuff that makes me sneeze and my eyes puffy in the morning. So what if I killed the seven that stain my seat now? A gram of pollen goes uneaten? Maybe a yard goes unwalked? I watch them from my frozen stance, as they stupidly wander. Maybe if these mites played games or had conversations, maybe if they wrote books and performed musicals, maybe then I’d feel guilt. All these tiny things do is walk, like static over cement, making the ground buzz invisibly. Perhaps, they truly are pests, because I’ve just stained my favorite shorts. Actually, I think they deserved it, and I should stomp out some more, because why not? No one would notice their absence, and no bug would mourn. Nothing was going to come of their lives anyway. I bet they wanted this and occupied my seat on purpose. I bet they delight in my shadow towering over them, pleading to be crushed.

But this is all a lie, because I am frozen. My feet are planted and my hands float outside my pockets. I stand lightly, as if a rope pulls my body off the ground ever so gently. The spots on my butt feel warm, or maybe unbelievably cold, as their squashed bodies breathe their last breath. These tiny nothings have turned into somethings, stains, the possibility of more accumulating under my feet stops me in my tracks. I’d like to avoid having to clean my sole, but it might be more than just that.

Who’s to say that they don’t hold life like I do?

I can see more red spots gathering around the toe of my shoe. One of them looks up into my monstrous, towering eyes and with the smallest voice, begins to sing. She shares with me her name, it’s June, and June’s song isn’t at all pitiful. She’s a proud pollen eater, as her parents were before her. June sings about Spring and Summer, about the sun and the sewer grate down the street. She doesn’t push guilt, or blame, she has an entirely different understanding of life, and it’s not about gratitude or living in the moment. June sings. She doesn’t plead, she doesn’t ask my name, she just sings. Soon, the other mites join in. Some are clapping, many of them already know the words, which is honestly surprising because it felt pretty spur of the moment. I don’t know what to do with myself and I wonder if it’s appropriate to hum along. Maybe I should dance? But that feels dangerous as the mites are now gathering around me, a crowd all joining June in song. They stand where I just sat, where some of their community lies flattened. They’re stomping and cheering and dancing.

At the end of their song I tell June I get irritated when people are named after a month they weren’t born in. She tells me to get over it.

Tristan Ouweleen grapples with the casualties of an everyday sort of murder.