Her: butterflies glimpses
The butterflies came after the fortieth day. One after another, chasing in the wafts of air like hummingbirds, encircling me with play of dainty wings. At first, it seemed normal: end of summer- winds flavoring up from sweltering to chilly to near frozen. Are they migratory? That I am not sure. I touched one before airborne, happiness reawakening, feeling like a curious, Google-eyed child after the long years of living peeking through monitor, muddled windows with sun-dried rain, behind closed doors and enjoying cracks of the Orb bursting in the wall. The morphed cocoon flitted away while I tried to touch it in my palm, feeling the littlest feet soared up.
These events recently were a respite before the curtains of Melancholy dragged me down with a thud. Forty days had passed but it seemed like a lifetime, days literally inching on laboriously. I’m still wearing the shade of that day when we witnessed his descent. Pathos clouded my vision. Longing and few stinging tears. I felt myself wearing out of my fibers like being pulled against the solid, unforgiving ground.
The sky that day had been this: gray and motionless. Had it not been to the fireworks that were the butterflies, this vista might be a reflection of that distant Saturday, in the year when the Lord turned shut-eye on my last chance of love. No forming shapes in the clouds like, I recalled, the first time I told him that the rock of Gibraltar could be seen through the firmament, like mirage made in heaven.
* * *
I had been surrounded with my immediate family, offering solace, drowning me even with Hallmarks sentiments, each one remembered the man who brought these emotional extremes. As piles of soil dumped near the edge, revealing chasm, his final resting place, prayers were chanted, useless devotion thrown in the wind. Scriptures were read, something about the valley of death, something that I didn’t care about. Saints of no significance filled the names like a Read-a-thon of yellow pages. If Faith could have moved mountains, it sadly could not bring him back.
As the body lowered to the pit, the mournful candles burned. White flowers were tossed in, supposed to give me that boulder of strength and sanity. I offered the last blossom, winds messing my hair which I haven’t tended to after his death and a bleeding silence accompanied.
I blinked back the tears as I headed home. Grasses on my soles were ticklish. I left my flip flops to walk barefoot, wheedling pebbles. The early morning mist cooled and sketched droplets on the weeds. Traces of butterflies I had witnessed before were out of sight. The sun, after a long night rest, will soon begin to hint.
It was only then in the confines of my room that I allowed myself to cry. Wracking sobs, hugging his shirts, smelling vestiges of his musky scent by breathing through sleeves, buttonholes. Familiarity seemed to taunt his absence and now getting potent and seemingly everywhere like cobwebs. Whoever said that the life of someone you love is never gone must have the arid humor. I couldn’t think straight although facts that I’ll be hugging the pillow while envisioning the gap-toothed smile that drove me crazy, those cool reserves and the burning passion are much way straighter. And painful.
Now, came the memories, haunting memories evoking an era of shattered happiness. If I could bottle those up, I’ll throw it in the open sea. To whose hand snagged them, don’t care. Anything that will make this pain less felt.
Crying is for the weak, he once told me after a series of nasty fall. I remembered laughing then, while I lied on my back, after being slapped by two cosmic hands. From then on, tears have become a total, if not unwelcome, stranger. Until today, and probably forever.
I lit the candle and in it came wisps of thin smoke; it sketched characters in an unseen parchment. Could have been paragraphs of love, or regret. Inhaling through my nose, the scent is redolent of our last summer together. Dying, inexorably, makes you remember minutiae details; tiny, moving details that to some cynics are pure worthless and pathetic. This has to be done, scanning the room until a vision chanced upon a recent picture of us, riding this banca in Burnham Park, while he took care of the camera. Photography, one of his frustrations and his third love. I was his favorite muse.
A FedEx box peeked in and suddenly the idea for what I will do crashed a wave on my solitary shore. I began searching for his bric â bracs: his limited-edition Nirvana guitar pick, his collection of Guns and Roses CDs, Anna Leibowitz book on photography, and to his chagrin, a series of Anna Geddes picture books about babies and delicacy of a mother’s love that I gave as our anniversary gift, his photo essays he wrote himself as a peace offering, all of his all. I slid those inside the box, closing it, feeling like forgetting his subterranean call, erasing his face, eyes, mouth, all of his all. Halfway through the deed, I stopped. I just can’t. Can’t. I removed the contents again and in it carried the pall of loneliness I so blindingly felt. A butterfly tapped on the window, like being blown, and it brought me to my senses. Luminescence. Transcendence. Harbinger of earthly guilt. I dashed to open the glass window, letting the air expunged the conscience, his pleading cries, and my own provocation.
Him: away from home
Everything around me is blanketed in miles and miles of grains of white wheat, almost a baker’s dream. Is this heaven? I asked myself while echoes of those I loved were beyond me now. I had been watching them. In my past life, people will say that death is permanent and your feelings- love, passion, anger- are eroded away, dissolving to some netherworld. Yet, when I saw the only woman I ever loved, battling through tear-soaked days, not enjoying her reaffirmed independence, I know something must be done. I looked around me and eternal whiteness shrouded His lofty seats. Below, in a vantage kaleidoscope, snapshots of my life played endlessly. It went on for what seemed like months and years until it stopped to the death within me now.
I don’t want to deal with self-pity so I switched the snaps to her playing like a child in the lea while pampas grass bent and shadowed lights glided with the butterflies, all gossamer wings, surrounded her. Perchance, it might even surprise her.
I really thought hard, in my ethereal seclusion, of what can I bring her. I can’t go back, that I’m sure. I’m not even sure this paradisaical utopia is the heaven of the Catholic doctrine. I expected to bump with angels with harpsichords but it never happened. This concept of heaven started to wear me out in my 3- month stay. Maybe, I needed a year to fully be accepting.
The strangest thing though is that time here and below or wherever they are in the grand scheme of things have uncanny resemblance. Except here, there were no nights and days, just perpetual shades of white and glimpses of blue.
* * *
I, for one time, did not lose sight of her. Even during my the heart-wrenching funeral, where I closed my eyes the whole service. I must be always at the beck and call but between you and me, that’s more like drinking the water from the moon. I’ve never been a believer of spirit, this pagan nonsense and all those shits of life everlasting, but when I felt myself lowering to the hollow, the whole of my being seemed to be gradually dissipating, turning into some fog, all transparent, devoid of physical weight. A spiritual smoke in an incense stick. When she offered the flower, while everybody seemed to be holding their breath, I was, in fact, seeing them from above. Their cries have little or no effect to me. But her affectionate cries stayed with me, even now. Peace, salvation came afterwards.
I watched her running, mass of her hair trailed behind. Barefooted, she skipped hedgerows, pebbles polished in worn-out mud, dew-laced grasses with crystalline droplets of last night’s rain. She’s always like that, mature and fiercely lovable but never losing her sense of wonder.
Oh how I miss her.
The next scene revealed another facet of us. When she entered the familiar door of our room, I braced myself for some offshoots of pain. Maybe, she already changed the wall littered with my favorite underground bands posters in their heydays. The last week I saw the room, everything remained untouched as if telling me that I’ll hold on to you and the nearness of you . The room was in pristine condition. The windows, where I once figured out how to make her happy, were closed and still draped with the same Victorian curtain bought at a impulsive trip to Baguio wagwagan. I saw her crossed the room and only to get our photo which I took under the glare of the Baguio sun. A tributary reminder of my laugh and hers and though I can’t feel anything, I thought pain. It could have been a storybook ending and I have no one to blame but myself. But let’s not settled on it now, Fate is a fickle friend. My heart went straight to her when I heard her sob, infinitesimal pleading. My shirts have been embraced awhile ago and I died again.
But the next thing I’ve seen bewildered me, anger and dismay escaped from my lips. She carried all the memories I collected most of my fractured lifetime into a huge, monstrous processed paper of a box. It doesn’t take a rocket science to figure out what the box is for. Is she acting goodbye, maybe those have become nuisance that she so wished to be parted of . I shouted “no” so loud enough to wake me up from this reality that’s slowly eating this freak show. I breathed a sigh of relief when she closed the box.
That was close. Home again.
Butterflies thudded on the closed window. Letting a little sunshine in.
Her: fallen rainbow
The following day I cleaned our room. A chore I dismissed with child-like certainty before because ghosts will be clinging on every conceivable space. His ghost. I opened the door seeing from afar our living room. The last time I spring cleaned was when we were preparing to go for a long, carefree cavorting down Palawan. Dusting the thick carpet outside, a light drizzle formed a puddle for the imaginary gnome and it refracted the Mabolo tree now thick with leaves. On the background blared the song of a Gothic band, a grunge ear candy. Angst and 60’s rebellion and voyeurism floated. This was the music of our lives. Guitar riffs and deafening drums mixed with whirring engine of wind-up vacuum belonged to a soundtrack too hurt to replay. Dust motes settled, danced and settled again. The door let in spine tingling breeze. Suddenly felt cold, I closed the door with a creak. A guttural sound screamed from the radio, he will dig this; this is his type of music. Rearranging the odds and ends at the rattan table, I looked down on the floor and nearly fainted seeing a butterfly struggling its feeble feet. Flimsy, iridescent wings flapped gently providing no air on itself. How, Why, where did it come from? Questions rushed to my head, mentally ramming my brain with sorts of mysticism. Maybe, I whisked it with the carpet. It must be hurt good time. I gingerly removed the fallen rainbow and placed it in on the table, littered with CD. His favorite CD.
Him: squinting heaven
Seeing the woman you loved and lost cleaning your room. A place for secrets, silent thrills behind sheets. One thing about heaven is you don’t fall asleep. It’s as if your eyes had this biological clock programmed to feel restive without closing them. Yours will be squinting through darkness that is her world, midnight and the first time she opens her eyes it was glazed of innocence and with surpassing gravity that I would give everything just to run my fingers on her face. But I don’t always observe her. Only when it’s galvanizing. Only when she cried herself to sleep.
My favorite band screamed at the backdrop and I felt serenity, like there is peace in confusion, contentment in noise. I felt love in its most powerful.
The butterfly I sent fell after a nasty hit. I watched her as she lovingly placed the butterfly next to my CDs.
Her: butterflies kisses
How did he ever drive when I texted him not to? I pondered this question when I visited his graveyard a week after his forty days. I bought flowers because I couldn’t bring myself to arrange mums without breaking into whimpers, placed it above his epitaph that reads:
When music dies,
Melody lives on.
Overgrown weeds shot on the edges, burst of green on a somewhat graying edifice. Remnants of candles of past visits clung to the tombstone. Staring at his name made me remember the day of his accident. I received a text message of his bad fall and ultimately his death in the cold, merciless, dispirited morgue. If I could erase an image on my mind, that would be the sight of his cracked head. I was numbed after it and refused to eat for a week until stomach cramps assaulted. He was wearing his helmet but some impacts are harder than others. Explain that to me.
Nearby, few people giggled while a pig-tailed, red-faced-from-the-sun- girl about twelve made funny faces in front of her father’s camcorder. They were huddled together on a wide beach umbrella with the widest smile emoji I’ve seen. I admired them because they could still laugh. When laughing becomes tormented, your chance of feeling happy is uncertain. **ck, I don’t even know if I could be happy again!
I stayed for another hour, unwrapped and ate the club sandwich we both craved after a strenuous work all day. Then out of the corner of my eye, just few inches from where I was sitting came two butterflies, chasing each other in a delightful Cirque Du Soleil-like glide. Somersaulting flight of fancy. I found myself in awe. Like these are so special, being in his grave and the happy families are laughing around me. The montage is telling me something. The gray one departed from the circle and kissed me gently. I closed my eyes, feeling his lips touched mine. Tears started falling.
Him:brief encounters of grace
It’s my first time to see where I was buried. It was strange, a bolt out of blue strange. Like seeing yourself in the mirror only to see somebody else’s face. My place of rest is well tended but it doesn’t fill the void. The landmark is nothing but a reminder of the way things were. Wilted flowers of some distant visits were replaced with new ones, a crack formed on the square block where my epitaph that I wrote myself before laid. Whatever happened to me was the music dying, but my melody and the flame of me inside her continued to rage a gentle rage. Her melody lived on me. It is evident in the way two butterflies came from out of nowhere; dancing to a song of my own imagining.
The time has come full circle. I waited for this to happen, for her to say goodbye to a lifetime not coming ‘round. I wanted her to live life because she deserved it. Suddenly, silhouettes of butterflies, representations of us, pirouetted like life itself and the gray one kissed her. I closed my eyes, feeling her lips brushed mine. My invisible tears flowed. Joining hers.
The butterflies came after the fortieth day. It seemed normal now. When I’m so down, they would dazzle. I believed it was him. Sent from heaven to help me cope up the loss and recover what once was vibrant.
As I was about to settle in for the night, a pair of wings in spray of hues which I believed to be him whirled as if tiptoeing to some upbeat metal music.
I stood up and opened the glass windows.From where we lived, Christmas lights twinkled like Milky Way, content on its own constellation. The air smelled heavily of gingerbread and of anticipation. I watched the butterfly flew out, possibly weary, possibly resigned but contented. Departures, goodbyes. Crying is for the weak he said.
It, no, He melds with the color of the night while an owl hooted somewhere, faded until what I’m staring into is more potent darkness and the promise of beautiful tomorrows.
Then, after a few minutes, came sounds of knocking, and flapping of million invisible wings.
Ryan L. Faura, 31, is a SHS teacher at San Isidro National High School. His works appeared in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Inquirer.net, Manila Bulletin, ALPAS Journal, formercactus, Paragraph Planet and Philippines Graphic. His essay ‘From Hair to Eternity’ was anthologized in a bestselling book Young Blood Six.He’s currently completing his first collection of short stories/essays.