The Many Butterflies You Were, and the One You Became

by | Feb 13, 2024 | Fiction, Issue Thirty-Seven

You were born a Schmetterling, my little one. How you hated it from the start. How you would nuzzle into me, hoping to burrow back inside the cocoon. How you resented that it was der Schmetterling. How you scuttled around, willing to become even a Kakerlake, just so you could be die Kakerlake. That was there from the start, how you hated it.

You tried being la mariposa for some time, gossamer fairy wings in red-orange-purple. They matched the bruises the kids gave you, my little nymph. Boys will be boys, the shoulders shrugging us out. We were okay, we had the garden, a riot of flowers, enough nectar for two butterflies’ lifetimes.

You tried le papillon, a compromise. It made you droop, your wings wet with tears. You didn’t flutter anymore. You never looked in the mirror, feeling too le and der. I fed you sweet things through a straw, I flitted about, bringing brightly coloured things to cheer you up. If you’d had the energy, you’d have knocked them out of my hand. How I wish you had.

But your beauty could never stay contained for long. You shook the dew off. You sailed the seas, found a green island, grew your glossy black hair long, became an féileacán for a time. The mist and rain suited you, as it never would me. I rang you daily, anxious, and you’d smile, your eyes glinting like whiskey. You were pupating. I knew I shouldn’t interfere.

When you emerged, you wore gauzy chiffons, bells on your feet and hands, you kohl-rimmed your eyes, called yourself alfarasha. You held your head high, covered yourself in spicy, oily fragrances and flicked your hips at every insult. I was so proud of you. I wanted you to conquer the world.

You gathered the hundred names people gave you, my sweet one, born der Schmetterling. And you came home to me. You tossed the names to the wind, watched how they swirled and fell to the ground, lifeless. You said, I know myself now. I don’t need anyone else to name me. And I said, flutter on, my winged one. I will be here when you need a soft place to land.

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