The West |


by Marléne Zadig

edited by Lisa Locascio

The first time I attended one of Salomé’s surgery salons, I recall I had a sunburn from lounging too long earlier that day in a bikini out on my hammock, reading—or trying, but failing spectacularly, to read—Balzac, in that false-spring sunlight so deceptively common to Northern California Februaries. The thing is I knew I would get sunburned. I could feel it as it was happening, the moisture wicking away from the newly exposed hair follicles on my forearms, the crispening of the skin on the backs of my hands, but some instinct bade me to stay, like a housecat siphoning warmth from that single sliver streaking the shoulders of a couch through a row of blinds. Or really, if I am honest, it was the pleasure of it that had kept me there, a baking heat so fleeting that it didn’t linger in the air at all. It vanished as soon as I entered the shade, only existing in direct contact with the sun beneath any of its shining, unbroken threads of light.

Salomé (not her real name, of course—I doubt if I’ll ever know it) had invited me to her gathering after sizing me up at a cocktail party at the home of a venture capitalist in the Sunset where I’d bartended the night before. She’d visited my little apothecary bar at the back of the cozy rear patio several times and had offered me plenty of clandestine tips in cash, more than what they were paying me to be there, which I’d tucked appreciatively in my shirt under my bra strap for added effect. Guests weren’t supposed to tip at this sort of party, but she’d wanted for me to reveal the little vials of tinctures I kept in my black apron pockets which gave my concoctions their famous potency: essential oils of marijuana leaves, coca, and qat; extract of poppy and valerian, all of which I distilled myself. It was why I was in such demand at the swankiest of gatherings, for it was these cocktails themselves which stimulated the most memorable, storied parties in the Bay Area, not the hosts and hostesses, certainly not the guests. One doesn’t set out in life to become a bartender, but the money was what some of us in the business liked to call “stupid-good,” and it does free the mind up for so many other things.

She’d slipped me her card—all-white with no ink, only embossed with her number and address—and said, “You are the right kind of people, Cami Sedgewick.”

Her house, or rather her compound, was high up in the Berkeley Hills with a view of, well—everything, which had to have cost gobs of money, all the money, and I’m only slightly exaggerating given the bidding wars these days; one could very likely have paid for a decommissioned aircraft carrier with that view. (I knew of someone who had, though their parties were not as compelling as you’d think.) You could see from Salinas to Sonoma from her property on the right kind of day and beyond the Golden Gate to the Pacific, and you could get the sense that just by taking it all in from one single place day after day, a place that belonged to you, you could start to think of the rest of it as yours too, in a way.

She’d instructed me not to eat for six hours before the salon, which was fine, I was used to fasting—juice cleanses and such. She’d said to me, “Do you love the circus?” and I’d said, “Baby, I am the circus,” not because I’d meant anything specific by it but because I was an incorrigible student of the art of courting favor and I prided myself on being able to seduce both men and women alike whenever given the opportunity. I flashed her my tattoos of the Rod of Asclepius and the Bowl of Hygieia on my biceps and showed her the assortment of alchemic symbols adorning my chest under my tuxedo blouse. The tattoos had once been sort of a joke, a riff on the nickname I’d earned tending bar while earning my PhD: “Doctor Sedge”—they called me. Then the parody morphed somewhat into reality when I got into the whole apothecary thing, and eventually some of my clients assumed I was an actual MD, or at the very least a med student, which I generally neither confirmed nor denied.

Salomé admired all of my markings and said, “Well, you’re too pretty to carve, but you can come and watch anyway.”

I hadn’t yet heard of surgery salons being a thing, which was what had impressed me in particular about Salomé initially. Usually the fads out West were either tired—already on their way to obsolescence in Brooklyn—or were too whimsical and twee to be anything but pure kid stuff. By the time you are forty, you should know that there is nothing profound to be gleaned from a pit of playpen balls, there is no epiphany in everyone painting their own Starry Nights over bottles of Chablis. But Salomé must have sensed that I had done it all—the drag burlesques, the sex parties, the vision quests, every kind of drug, Burning Man before it was on the cover of National Geographic—and once you have done everything, you need to create something new altogether to have a reason to live, to keep yourself from wanting to die.

The subject was already unconscious when we arrived. He was on some sort of platform like a massage table set up in the living room beside an ottoman draped in a white sheet with an array of tools and instruments on top. We were told to avoid talking, which would’ve been difficult anyway given that we were all wearing surgical face masks, which we’d been instructed at the door to put on before we came in. When everyone was there (no one would be admitted late or even early), we were told to take a seat in one of the bar-height chairs set up in a loose kidney pattern in front of the unconscious man.

Salomé rose to introduce the surgeon, a girl, really—no older than a college student—who wore plain, toothpaste green scrubs. Our hostess herself dazzled in a satiny white jumpsuit whose halter top plunged nearly to her navel. Her waist-length chestnut hair covered more of her upper body than her clothing did. I’d exchanged a nod with her when I came in, though I wasn’t sure she recognized me with the mask on.

“Everyone, this is Juliana, and she has no formal medical training whatsoever; she is entirely self-taught from the internet and medical textbooks. Tonight we are going to watch as she performs a type of surgery to remove a cyst from this man’s abdomen. I will be her assistant, though you all should know by now that I have no medical training either. If you begin to feel queasy or faint, simply raise a finger and Arturo here will escort you to another room to recover so as not to interrupt the delicate atmosphere of the operating theater.”

She gave no other explanation of what we were doing there, and there was no mingling either. Was that part of the appeal?—I’d wondered. Part of a desire to increase the perceived degree of risk? And who was this man on the table? Had he been paid? Had he been informed of the risks? Had he consented? Or was this all an illusion? Was Juliana in fact a real doctor being paid by Salomé for her performance, as the executives up and down the peninsula paid me for my renowned bartending services? Was I the only one who was in the dark about this, or was everyone, like me, completely at a loss as to what was going on?

The elastic from the face mask chafed at my sun-scorched ears, but I didn’t adjust them, hesitant to make even a subtle move as the surgery began. I wanted to look around at the others’ reactions, but I couldn’t; the bright lamps aimed at the man on the table flashed against the shank of the scalpel, stinging my eyes. I didn’t move to wipe away the tears.

I don’t remember breathing during the procedure, or more accurately, I seem to distinctly remember not breathing, though I know that couldn’t technically have been true. When I had to take in air, I didn’t raise my shoulders or even my chest; I let it in quickly but silently into my belly using my diaphragm to hold in as much as I could so I wouldn’t have to breathe again for at least another minute or two, an old girls’ choir trick from schooldays. The blade slipped into the man with no resistance whatsoever as if he wasn’t even there, and Salomé moved deftly to manage the bleeding. The slit looked as though it should’ve made a sound, but the cutting was so quiet, as if we were in the vacuum of space—airless.

I couldn’t help but marvel at Salomé’s outfit, but I can see now that the seductive white clothing added an even greater, if subconscious, degree of risk to the whole affair. Not only did we each in the audience worry with every incision whether Juliana (probably not her real name either) might sever something vital and kill the patient, we fretted keenly over that white jumpsuit. So pure and unblemished when we’d arrived, it looked like silk, and no amount of dry cleaning would ever be able to get out the kind of stains we were dealing with.

Though the room was entirely still, my mind whirred with questions. Why were we here, what were we supposed to get from this, what was our reaction supposed to be? What sort of people were we to want to be here? She wasn’t charging admission, she didn’t need the money—this probably wasn’t even her regular house, it was likely just one of many. Perhaps she kept it just for parties, wouldn’t that be something. And who were these other people? Were they rich people too, or were they strangers like me, hand-plucked from the streets for looking, acting, and talking like the kind of misfits we wanted to be?

I tried to hold my body more erect to achieve the sort of angle that would let me determine whether the surgery was real or fake, whether they were cutting into flesh or just some kind of putty rigged with stage blood. I suppose I’d seen enough frauds in my young life—I’d been them—to trust only that which I could perceive through direct experience. But then something happened that I did not expect. Arturo, who seemed to be Salomé’s personal assistant or modern butler, swept noiselessly about the room, touching guests on the shoulder, and then the guest would stand and walk up to the table and stare into the vault of the man’s open belly, then sit back down again. In this way, we all performed what I guess you’d call a kind of perverse communion. When it came to be my turn, I played at being the cool kid I was expected to be, and went on up like everybody else. Once I was there, however, I was so focused on how I appeared to the others, on seeming solemn and detached, that I failed to look as carefully as I’d wanted to. It seemed real enough, anyway, in retrospect.

When it was over, I sort of wanted to just dash home and take a shower, but there were drinks and tapas to be had as the patient recovered post-op in another room. So it was a party after all. I suppose even when you are attempting to subvert the dominant paradigm you must present your manifesto in a familiar way. I’d brought my little vials in case that was expected of me as well, and it was.

Without our masks, we were just any old group of lost souls, although everyone there was certainly attractive. I’d opted for a dramatic sleeveless ensemble to show off my swimmer’s arms and tattoos, though with my half-buzz cut and asymmetrical “do” it was clear that I couldn’t compete with Salomé; I was a curiosity, as was everyone else. She’d gathered us like precious shells from a foreign beach so we could marvel at one another and admire her taste and ability to curate a crowd.

“Sedgewick, I’m so thrilled you could come on such short notice!” Salomé glided out from the hallway dabbing at her skin with a white wet towel, the kind we used in bartending. She’d wiped the blood from her body, though streaks were already coagulating into a burnt brown on her silk jumpsuit. It was real blood, then, though anyone with any kind of brains would have procured animal blood if one was aiming at authenticity.

“Who’s your new find?” asked a man whose hair had the color and sheen of caviar; it flared in sparse wisps from the top of his head but fell long and thick in the back. He looked like some sort of a guru type, someone who held meditation or self-help seminars.

“Sedgewick here makes the best cocktails this side of the Mississippi. This is Michel. He’s in charge of my chakras.”

“That’s not at all accurate,” he winked and took my hand as if to kiss it, old-fashionedly, but he licked it instead, forking the tip of his tongue into the webbed space between my middle and fourth digits. I am not usually caught off guard but I admit that it shook my nerve. I usually make a point to research whatever I’m getting myself into in advance, but this gathering made me feel like I was being used as bait, or maybe I was even the catch, to be filleted and served up later on for the amusement of others. I surreptitiously wiped my hand when he looked away and prepared myself as best I could then for every eventuality I could think of. For dwarves bursting out of ottomans to perform fellatio on the guests, for actors in zombie makeup to break down the doors and attack everyone at random, for the doors to be—alternatively—bolted shut and for us to be required to solve a series of puzzles before we’d be allowed to go home. The longer I was there in fact, the more fake it seemed, and I could not shake the feeling that I was inextricably bound up in its plot.

And of course, I was. I was to be her lover, as it turned out, at least for the night, once everyone had departed.

I ended up being the last one there because it was clear that I was supposed to make drinks for the guests, and I no longer considered myself one of those exactly; I was waiting for permission to go, to be excused, like a little schoolgirl needing a hall pass. Salomé said goodbye to one final person at the door and then came over to me, took my hand, leaned in close, and stood very still.

“I can’t thank you enough.”

“Sure you could.” I found it helpful to speak in this spare, clipped style. It tended to build me up in people’s imaginations in ways I couldn’t achieve myself, until eventually, what they filled in with their expectations made me into a more interesting person than I actually was.

She was near enough that I could feel her breath against my chest, and she inhaled sharply to smell my neck. She nuzzled it, then licked me behind my ears, and hairs I didn’t even know I had pricked up on end.

“Aren’t you gonna change first?” I asked, a little unsettled by her bloody get-up, by the whole thing really. She undid the tie behind her neck, and I watched as the jumpsuit fluttered and fell like a parachute in a pillowing heap to the living room floor. Once it came to rest, though, the fabric lay flat like a liquid or a mirage, containing all the substance of moth wings. When I looked back up, I saw that she wasn’t even wearing underwear, and to this day I still wonder how she pulled that off in the white silk.

Later in her bedroom when we’d finished and I moved to get up and get dressed, I told her, “I’d better be getting home. I’ve got to feed the cat.” I didn’t have a cat but it was a thing I said to get out of awkward situations. I wasn’t the type to spend the night. I didn’t even regularly sleep with women, but the half-shaved head often gave people the wrong idea and sometimes I didn’t bother to correct them.

“Don’t go; come back to bed,” Salomé purred. “Arturo can send someone for your cat.”

“That’s nice of you and all, but she’s a mean cat. She bites strangers. And I prefer to sleep in my own bed if it’s all the same to you.”

“Oh sweetie,” she said, “it’s so cute that you think you have a choice in the matter.”

“Don’t I? You see, I don’t do bondage. Not gonna be your sex slave or whatever it is you’re after here.” She was starting to freak me out, to be honest. She knew it too. The gooseflesh on my bare arms bulged thick and ugly, and my skin took on the appearance of raw chicken.

“No, it’s not that. You’re free to go and all, but the thing is I quite literally own this town, and despite your reputation, I could just snap my fingers and no one would hire you for a party ever again, or any of the bars for that matter. Or if you particularly disappointed me, I own the cops as well, and I could let them in on the secret of your little potions. As a matter of fact, I own the judges too. So if it’s just the same to you, I’d like you to stay.”

“Huh,” I said. “I always thought extremely wealthy people went to great pains to be liked in spite of all their money and power, not because of it.”

“There aren’t many people as wealthy as me. When you get up here in the stratosphere, it’s better just to be brutally honest; my relationships are never in the least bit equal, so why pretend?”

“You don’t have many friends, then, I take it.”

“I do. I just happen to own all my friends. Then I don’t have to wonder who’s just in it for the perks. Everyone is; there are no secrets.”

It was then that I began to seriously wonder who she was and why I’d never heard of her before. We didn’t have Rockefellers in the Bay Area, but we had our fair share of Ellisons and Brins, and they had daughters and wives and ex-wives, and she wasn’t any of those. She wasn’t a CEO herself either, she was just money from nowhere as far as I could tell; the internet only referred to her demurely, and when it did, she was vaguely described as “an heiress.” When I asked around to folks who might know, I only got a version of the same bemused, tautological response, “Salomé is Salomé.” My running theory came to be that she was some oil princess from Dubai—how else could she have no back-story? She had tan enough skin but no accent, so she had to have been here for a long time, and she didn’t have any handlers, no Daddy or uncles peering in to make sure she wasn’t being corrupted by Western values. She’d been pretty thoroughly corrupted, that much was clear.


So I started to live at Salomé’s compound, in a carriage house (one of several) out back with my very own cat. Somehow without ever leaving the bedroom that first night, she’d made good on her word and had dispatched a servant to my place, without me having told her where I lived, to feed my nonexistent cat, and when the servant reported back that no cat was to be found, I’d said that it was sort of touchy and feral and must’ve run off at the first sight of a stranger. To make it up to me—or to make me feel bad for lying, I wasn’t sure which—she got me a kitten, a calico. So there was that.

I kind of had a feeling it’d be temporary, so I didn’t protest much. It’s not like I had anything better to do, and to tell the truth, I was a little flattered, though I didn’t let on. I was her shiny new bauble who would surely fade as soon as the next bright young thing came along at some other party. Though Salomé took off in one of her many jets to who knows where at all hours of the day for days on end, she always came home to the compound, always summoned me for drinks and a rub-down soon after she landed. She’d tell me about the fashion line she’d purchased in Paris or the mosquito nets she delivered in Sudan, and I’d make her a cocktail. Her favorite was a grapefruit and gin mixture of mine with a balsamic and rose peppercorn reduction and a blend of mild relaxant extracts, the exact recipe of which she forbade me ever to reveal because she liked to think there were some questions left for her in life, that there were some things she might not ever be able to know.

I had begun to receive a weekly stipend in cash from Arturo after the first night, though we hadn’t negotiated anything for my services. I’d hoped to learn at least something relevant about Salomé from him, but he was somewhat of a mountain when it came to conversation.

“Hey man, so how did you get this gig, huh?” I’d asked when he came to the carriage house with an envelope of cash one morning. “It’s a trip, isn’t it?” I picked self-consciously at the peeling skin on my ears from the sunburn and it startled me by sloughing off in one continuous sheet the texture of rice paper.

“If there’s anything that you require, you may let me know.” He bowed, and then turned to leave.

“Sure thing. Thanks.” I rolled the strip of translucent skin between my thumb and forefinger and later fed it to the kitten. Cami’s Cali, she called it, so smugly proud of the nickname, as if she’d invented alliteration. I named it Daggers.

The money was comfortably more than anything I could ever make doing what I did but less than enough to save up and live off of for very long, which was what kept me there I guess. I still had to pay rent on my place so I would have somewhere to go back to when this ended, and that alone was no small sum given that I’d chosen to live alone during a veritable housing crisis.

She continued to hold her surgery salons once a month, and I was expected to attend as arm candy and her personal mixologist, though I was never quite sure what was going to happen. She wouldn’t discuss it with me at all, even in bed, before or after, and the more curious I seemed about the details, the quicker she’d shut down my line of questioning.

Once, in exasperation, I’d offered up my own body for slicing, half-seriously, to provoke some sort of response, and also because I really wanted to know whether this thing she was doing was for real or not.

“You know, I’ve got a few moles that could use removing. Or I bet we could fake an aneurysm or something; I could stuff some ground beef up my nose and Juliana could pull it out with her forceps. I’m getting kind of restless out there in the audience, is all, and I could really use some of that morphine you guys dish out.”

“You just don’t get it, do you Sedge,” she’d squinted at me from under her hand-embroidered duvet cover, her eye makeup still perfectly applied despite sweat running down her face from the exertion of our liaison (my guess was that the makeup was permanent). We only did it in her bed in the main compound, not mine, and I was getting up to go back to the carriage house.

“No, I really don’t ‘get it.’ Please enlighten me, your royal highness. You can do all the crazy shit you want, you know, but you can’t be fucking Bill Gates and Brangelina and also Elvira all rolled into one. It doesn’t work that way.”

That was the wrong thing to say, apparently. She took what looked to be a Ming vase from her end table and threw it in my direction. I ducked, and it smashed against the wall.

“Welp, there went someone’s annual salary. Feel better?”

“Fuck you.”

“You just did.” And I left on that high note, feeling a bit of a rush as I exited. At least something was finally happening. If I pissed her off and she ran me out of town, so what? I didn’t have any roots there. She didn’t own all the towns. I could just as easily go to Vegas, or LA, or freaking Portland if I had to.

But I didn’t. She was paying me. She was feeding me gourmet food made by her gourmet chef whom she’d poached from Alice Waters. It was pretty great food, too. Despite the many hours a week I spent in her basement gym, I was even getting a bit chubby.

I began to both dread and look forward to her monthly salons. I hated that I never seemed to come any closer to understanding what the point of them was, but at least I got to meet some interesting people. The guest list was altogether random, a revolving door of strange, unique faces—never any big names like I was used to—that I never had much chance to get to know deeply through just the idle post-operative chatter. There were professional skydivers, Antarctic adventurers, yogis, artists. No one trying to peddle new technologies or paradigms, only people who were “living authentic lives,” as Salomé put it. They were refreshing, I guess, except for how creepy it all was. Juliana was always “the surgeon,” Arturo the dutiful manservant, and Michel the mysterious guru from that first night was the only other regular guest besides me.

I stood by as Juliana supposedly took out an appendix (though whether it was one that had malfunctioned or not, I’ll never know), performed a tubal ligation, and repaired a deviated septum, all surgeries I suppose you might be able to teach yourself how to do from extensive online research. They weren’t purporting to do open-heart surgeries or brain tumor removals, is what I’m saying; it was all somewhat tame, surgery-wise.

Still, it was macabre. It was supposed to be, I know, but by the fourth one the excitement had worn off completely, at least for me, and it felt a little like we were experimenting on lab mice, except they were people, and if these really were real surgeries, well…the prospect made me want to high-tail it the hell out of there, but I hate to say I think the luxury was what was making me stay. She made it so goddamned comfortable to stay.

Of course, we always saw the patient awake and alive afterwards, if still under a druggy haze, rolled out in a wheelchair by Arturo at the very end of the party, to demonstrate that they hadn’t accidentally murdered anybody (though what sorts of complications they might have had after going home will forever remain conjecture). And they always seemed grateful enough, but this only reinforced my feelings that they were getting paid large sums of money to be there.

And then came the last one, at least the last one I ever witnessed anyway, though I doubt she ever did any more. No, they didn’t kill anyone, if that’s what you’re thinking, at least not directly.

They were supposed to be removing some older guy’s gallbladder and Juliana seemed to be having a tough time of it. She was alternately flushed, sweating, and then ghastly pale throughout the whole process. Even I, who was pretty much over the salon in general, bit down hard on my bottom lip as I watched and chewed until it bled. You could smell the fear rising in the room in the tart muskiness of our secretions, in our worried breath.

It happened as soon as the organ was removed. Juliana was handing the gallbladder over to Salomé and she dropped it, one of them did anyway, I’ll never know which. And it was technically fine, it was a removal, not a transplant. The organ was as good as garbage, but we all caught our breaths in our throat, edged to the rim of our seats as it splattered to the floor and burst, bile oozing out like the yoke of an egg cracked poorly into a pan.

Salomé was bending over to pick it up when someone in the audience just keeled over and collapsed. I’d been expecting this to happen eventually, given the announcement at the beginning of each session. Not everyone is cut out for such—what would you even call it?—things. Arturo and I—the two resident “employees” present—moved to carry the man out of the room and get him some air, assuming that he’d passed out. But when I went to take off his face mask and unbutton his collar, he didn’t have a pulse. Had he hit his head? A heart attack?—I wondered, my own pulse quickening.

“He’s not breathing,” I said to Arturo. Arturo just looked at me blankly and shrugged, as if I’d just asked him to solve an obscure clue on a crossword puzzle.

I darted back out to the living room, to the so-called operating theater.

“I’m sorry to interrupt, but is there a doctor in the house? An actual doctor? The man’s not breathing. We need to call an ambulance.”

Juliana glanced up with a pained expression, then looked back down at her patient. “I’m sorry, I can’t step away from this right now or he’ll die.” It wasn’t an admission that she was a doctor, and it wasn’t an admission that she wasn’t.

People in the audience looked at me like I was crazy. Maybe I was. Maybe they thought it was part of the show. I grabbed the arm of the woman sitting nearest to me and said, “Do you have a phone?” She nodded. “Call 911.”

Salomé looked up at me. “You need to take him outside to the gate. They can’t come in here. Not like this.” At her tacit consent to the emergency call, the audience members seemed to get that this was not part of the act. Though she and Juliana kept working on the surgery, the guests started to get up out of their seats and wander about like poultry in a yard pecking at bugs.

“Somebody help me carry him outside so I can do CPR. You, and you.” I pointed to the guys with the thickest arms in the room, and they complied.

My certification had lapsed years ago, but I was a lifeguard back in the day and had had to perform several ocean rescues. I doubted mouth-to-mouth had changed much in the last decade, and when the two men and Arturo laid the guy down out by the electronic privacy gate, I ripped open his shirt and went to town on his sternum. His ribs cracked beneath my pumping fist almost immediately. I don’t mess around.

Though there was a fire station close by, the ambulance had to weave through narrow, one-way roads which zigzagged back and forth up the precipitous slope from town into the tops of the hills to reach us. In my periphery, I could see the lights from two emergency vehicles chasing one another in the dark in the distance, hovering slowly, almost aimlessly, then lurching abruptly at the corners like fireflies with nowhere to land. By the time they arrived, it’d been, I don’t know—ten? fifteen? twenty minutes? I knew he was dead, but they put in a good effort anyway, for appearances’ sake. For pride.

It occurred to me to tell them I was his date so they would take me with them, and sure enough they whisked us straightaway, working on the go with the paddles because he was in such critical condition. James Finley, it said in his wallet. I looked him up later and found out he was well-known as an urban beekeeper, of all things. His website promoted artisanal honey, supposedly uniquely tinged with eucalyptus pollen from all the groves flanking the hills of San Francisco. I ordered some eventually, and it was really quite something, for honey.

Anyway, it wasn’t because I particularly cared or felt responsible for the outcome that I wanted to leave in that way. To be honest, I think it was purely for the drama of it. I felt at the time that my abrupt exit with her dying guest was a statement, a punishment, a moral judgment or slap in the face of some kind. And now I know that I was kidding myself. Strays come and go; she’d never expected me to stay. She would’ve wanted it this way. The silence, the mystery. And even if we didn’t ask for her in our lives, to be in her show, we were all complicit in her little theater. (Though I do feel bad about the cat.)

Still, when I hear sirens, I think of Salomé. When I go to a doctor’s office—Salomé. When I work at parties, which is rare these days, I keep expecting to see her emerging from the restroom, brandishing her embossed cards to bestow on unsuspecting freaks and loners.

I’ve since planted a garden where my hammock used to be, trying to get myself back to the fundamentals—of what, I’m not sure exactly. The fundamentals of something. The cabbage whites have pretty much destroyed my entire crop of broccoli and lacinato kale, but the truth is, I’ve let them. I saw the signs of the infestation, could have put a stop to it, but they are so beautiful with their white wings, soft and thin as blossoms from a pear tree. Who wouldn’t want a whole swarm of them cavorting around the yard? Two of them landed on my bare arm at once the other day as I was out there reading in the garden, and though they’ve decimated the vegetable patch, I couldn’t breathe from the gratitude I felt. Thank you, thank you, I kept thinking to them. I never felt so alive.