by Brittany de Carona

     Once, when I was younger, I touched a butterfly. I watched it float for almost an
hour, around and around my head like a lovely little halo. Its wings, thin and delicate,
beat to the rhythm of my steady thump-thump heart. I thought I was alone in the world,
just my butterfly and me, sitting beneath a tree in the backyard of my grandmother’s
house. I was trying to read a book, but kept splattering the pages with my tears instead.
For that hour, with my butterfly, I couldn’t stop thinking about how lonely I was.

     I was nothing like my family. They didn’t understand my constant need to escape
the world we lived in through books. They laughed at me, made jokes at my expense (I
was referred to as Mother Thesaurus, for my love of peace and words), or they simply
ignored me, failing to notice when I disappeared from the house for hours. I was not there
and they were none the wiser and I grew to accept my displacement of our collective
genetic dilemmas.

     I was nothing like my friends. I was wondering if they were even my friends,
because “friends” typically knew what was going on in each other’s lives. They had no
idea that I was technically homeless, again sleeping on my grandmother’s floor because
I had nowhere else to go, or that I hadn’t slept in a bed for years. No friends, no family,
nothing but nothingness. That was how I felt and so I sat there, crying into the yellowing
pages of Lord of the Flies with the butterfly floating around my quivering shoulders.


     Eventually, I lifted my head and my gaze was met with that of the butterfly. It
hovered in front of me for a few seconds before rising above, only slightly out of reach.
I’d never been that close to a butterfly before. Insects of any kind usually sent me into a
frenzy, running for a broom with which to get rid of the intruder. But in my anguished
daze, I welcomed the creature into my personal space.

     There I was, sitting alone under a tree; feeling like no one knew me, when a
butterfly dared to invite itself into my bubble. I laughed, tickled by the idea, no, the
fact that my personal issues were irrelevant to this butterfly. I had no friends and my
family didn’t welcome me and this butterfly didn’t care enough to let me cry without

     I had never felt so nonexistent in my life. After watching the butterfly force itself
into the tiny space the world had given me, I was angry. I was all alone, with no one
to care for me, and the butterfly was beautiful, lovely, light, and graceful. It could stop
anyone in their tracks with a flutter of its wonderfully patterned blue-green-black wings.
It didn’t need to escape anything. It owned the world, and it was free.

     In a sudden fit of jealousy, I reached out and plucked the butterfly from the air.
There, in my hands, was the truth. The butterfly was beautiful, beautiful beyond all
means, but it was also fragile. It was small and easy to crush. It was just another pawn in
the hands of something bigger, smarter, and more destructible than it could ever be. It
was just like me, against the world I read to escape from.

     I felt the dusty wings of the butterfly against my fingertips and felt guilty and
disgusted with myself. Its wings had stopped moving. I dropped it and watched as it
drifted lifelessly to the ground. I was alone, again.

     I touched a butterfly once when I was younger. I touched a butterfly once and it
died. When I held it, it felt my sadness and anger seep into it and was poisoned by me.
I decided then that I would never kill again. And that I would refuse to let the world kill me.

     I decided that, when I’m older, if I get older, I want my hair to be white.
Completely white; ghostly white, like horror movie hair after the main character catches a
glimpse of his demons in the mirror and goes black-gray-white headed in seconds. I want
people to know, by looking at my white hair, that I’ve lived a difficult, long, wonderfully
strange life. And even though it’ll be long enough to brush that tender spot between my
sharp shoulder blades, I’ll always keep it in some magnificent updo. I’ll walk around
with a halo of clouds; with soft, pristine hair wrapped around my temples to contain the
horrors inside of my head.

     I decided that when I’m older, if I get older, I want my lips to be blood red. I want
my lips to be stained from all the times I’ve bitten my tongue to keep my secrets from
spilling over and cascading from my mouth. I want to look like I’ve been eating fresh
berries for hours, when really it’s the permanent afterglow of crushing my lips against the
lips of the hundreds of lovers I’ve kissed. I want to be able to drink from the cleanest of
glasses, but not leave that tell-tell smudge of lipstick behind, because my blood red lips
are mine, and no glass can ever take the stain away.

     I decided that when I’m older, if I get older, I want my skin to be smooth and soft.
I won’t have a single wrinkle or line, no road map on my body displaying all of my
wrong turns or accidental ventures down one-way streets. You won’t be able to tell, by
looking at my smooth, soft skin, that I’d been fucked on a mountaintop when I was 37 or
that I’d almost died after too much cocaine on a terrible Saturday night when I was 24
and a little heartbroken.

     When I am older, if I get older, I will be free like the butterfly that I killed when I
was a child. I will be free, I will be beautiful, and I will be alive. When I am older, if I get
older, I will be everything that I promised to be. My insolence will be my most altruistic
quality, because insolence is nothing but truth. Insolence is killing a butterfly, because in
losing my poison, I became me. I touched killed a butterfly when I was younger. Maybe
I’ll tell you more about it someday. Someday, when I am older, if I get older...


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