The Broken Butterflies


Butterflies are recognised the world over, for their beauty. Their fragility. They are believed to be a sign of hope. Each of their wings is marked in the most striking of patterns. Spots, stripes and all things drawn freehand. Their wings are a canvas. Their markings a story. Some are the brightest of colours, causing our eyes to wince. Others prefer to blend into their surroundings. Shades of bark and hollows. The butterflies swish in every hue, every silhouette.

And then there is us. The broken butterflies. But anyone can see that. They only have to take a peek through their pretty lashes to see. Our wings peel like that of aging paint. Tears dribble down our shades, melting together the colours of fight. They spy our balded antennas, and their lips silence. It takes a broken to butterfly to discover how loud silence is. Their eyes fill at our fragility. Poor little darling they pray.

They pray for the broken butterflies. And all the while we are dancing.

They think we are disadvantaged, the ones who drew the short straw. And maybe we did. But when the world burns with tubes and droplets, once your tears have dried you spy the petals growing inbetween the bones. Sometimes we need to be broken in our beds to realise how pretty the sky is.

Today it hurts. And it will tomorrow. And the day after, the calendar curling its spine to reach into forever. So let us close our eyes. And remind our wings of why we are here. Hear the dance of the broken butterflies I love. Hear how alive they are.

She studies the colours,her six year old face oh so serious. She must choose the perfect shades of the rainbow. Can you paint a butterfly? She asks. Yes darling, I say. I am careful around the white moon of her scalp, the yellow flicker of plastic hanging from her nose, a sickly ornament. She smiles shyly and flicks the deep ocean hue of her eyes towards mine. I pretend I don’t notice that there are no lashes. I pretend I don’t notice that the numbers aren’t in her favour. I gently trace each line, each colour, until a little face of wings look up at me. I am so pretty now! She squeals.

Yes you are darling. You already were

 His curls race for different directions, peering from underneath his gentle smile. I have never seen so many tubes. Or so many smiles. He is racing, faster, faster. Too fast. He flies above his wheels. He trips, and lands in the dirt. The sun kisses the skin of his broken wings. We see him laying in the dirt. He sees himself laying in the sunshine. Was it a good trick? He grins.

 It was the best trick in the world. The whole, wide world. 

 The droplets steadily race one another down the glass. Thick, heavy. Rain! She squeals. I call her Goggs. She calls me snorkels. It makes sense to our red cordial minds. She races outside, bucket of chalk in tow, and plonks her broken wings down on the path. She removes the chalk, every shade of giggles and chimes. And her tiny wrist begin to trace rainbows, petals, silhouettes of life. And she sits back, the smooth of her head forgotten, to watch the droplets melt together her colours of life. I love the rain Jess, she grins to me.

I think its the prettiest thing I have ever heard.

His bed is across from mine, roommates in a microshield motel. He is black, gorgeous and a rap fanatic. He messes his hair, and songs of gunshots and bleeding new york streets echo from his speakers. His lungs are slowly suffocating him. I am in my wheelchair one day, and I catch a tune. I wheel myself around the corner to find him singing songs of soul. He spies me, and yet continues to sing.

I keep my secret of the tough boy with the beautiful voice.

I walk out into the garden, in between drips and drops of treatment. She is sitting on the bench in the sunshine, drawing a picture. Nice beanie, I smile. Thanks! She grins. We chatter, laugh and gossip about Dr Phil. She is painting pretty little flowers, in pretty little colours. For an hour, she forgets there is no hair under her psychedelic pom poms, and I forget there is no life under my leggings. We wave goodbye, and return to our respective battlefields.

 I never see the girl with the beautiful smile and psychedelic pom poms again

We are first admitted together, separated by a lifetime of curtain. During brief moments of consciousness and lucidity we talk. Music, parents, freedom. Anything but the life which has become our reality. And yet we never see eachothers faces. Each day, I listen to him play the most beautiful piano. ‘Mad world’ is our shared favourite. One day, he comes across to see me. He is missing his face. It is disjointed, broken. He smiles at me, a lopsided grin.

I think he is gorgeous.

Dad gently places layer after painful layer on me. Coats, socks, slippers and scarves. Finally, he plops a pom pom beanie onto my head. Its the same white as my skin. Lets go! He demands, and he helps carry me outside. I am getting too weak for him. We are fencing, just the two of us. I listen to the crunch of the shovel into the dry earth. I demand the post a little more to the left, I hail from my deckchair, resting in the sunshine, playing peek a boo with the clouds.

 I feel my fingers tingle, and there it is. Life dancing on my fingertips. It lets me trace the shadows of its wings. It runs over my skin, the beat of my heart, it rests on my lips. I do not understand. But for an hour that butterfly and I sit together in the sun. For an hour, everything is ok. I whisper thankyou, its wings and my lips kiss. I watch it flutter away to die. Dad asks me why I am smiling.

Its a secret, I smile.

 We are the broken butterflies. Our dance may not be as long, our flight not as strong. But our wings flutter the loudest. So tonight, as you rest your weary eyes, do not think about the pain of a broken butterfly. Pad your bare feet into the cold of the stars, kiss the flowers, feel the dribble of the sky. Come show how the world how pretty your wings are.

 Come dance with us.

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