My Hidden Lives // Prose

143. about caterpillars & butterflies

a feast of time

What do I say to the day that doesn’t want to begin?

„Thank you for keeping me in limbo for twenty-four hours more, I’ve been trying to wrap myself up in memory for so long now, it’s high time I got some help.“

I can still recall, I’m not that old. We rolled around the bed in the stale air.

Maybe we should open the window? – You do it! – No, I don’t want to get up. – Let’s just leave it closed then. – Alright!

Time is of the essence, yes, but the essence is never in time. Coming home after I’d first met you, I hopped along to a beat familiar to us both and laughed unabashedly, loudly, genuinely – for the first time in a long time, because I’d finally figured out that time didn’t matter.

Passers-by and street vendors thought I’d gone insane. I smiled at them just the same, because people who don’t understand unpretentious joy deserve mercy, not derision.

A friend called me up that day to say you wouldn’t be good for me, that you’d come then go then come back only to leave again and not return in the end. She also said you would find another girl to be your Erato in no time and how all the rhymes I inspired you to write would fall short of her long hair and slender frame.

I replied I didn’t particularly care.

There were old lovers in my drawers, too, so I knew what it meant to treat people as if they were butterflies waiting to be pinned onto the cork board, in my poems and in my photographs, I’d hidden them away behind shadows and poorly edited sentences I used to lure (and keep) them in.

You belonged in no form of art, you were a masterpiece in your own right: transcendent, especially in the morning that tried its best to mask your soul and failed miserably with each attempt, because I had my hangover glasses on and they blurred out the unimportant perfections; because I didn’t care about pretenses or appearances in those short hours before we’d taken the first showers of the day to wash off our true selves.

That was the real you, the caterpillar that didn’t fit into my perfect world, the ugly striving to be  beautiful. The you I loved with an urgent passion: crude and uncompromising you, who used to wake me up with dirty shanties and playful jabs between the ribs. That was the you who was also uncommonly shy, especially if I laughed at the pillow marks on your full cheeks, or said I loved you and meant it. That was the you I wanted to capture in an awkward Polaroid of a snore I once took, the boy I wanted to save in yellows and browns for posterity, for when we’re older and forget how plain happiness is.

Afternoons warmed your caramel skin, they made your apple and cinnamon smell overpowering. But mornings were our real kingdom. You were Christmas in my bed then, the childish, subtle, guilty pleasure of home. Like Christmas, you came far too rarely.

More, more, I want more! – More of what? – Of mornings. Months. – More of me? – Maybe. – Maybe not.

How is your wife, I’ll ask in ten years when you’re finally as beautiful as you wanted to be. Old friends, we’ll have stories to tell each other. Questions to ask, too.

Does she treat you as well as I used to? – Does he know the real you, the one you’re probably not anymore? – Does she keep score of your insults, or realize you are insecure, not cruel, when you call her out on the width of her thighs? Do you hold her when she cries? – Have you learned how to say goodbye in the morning without making it sound like farewell? – Can she tell she isn’t the first muse to fuse the strings of your song together? – Maybe not.

I hope at least you will remember the December I kissed your hand and how that was the moment you finally came alive. We strove for perfection, our real selves thought they’d never be assigned to shelves labeled „2014“: I hope that you’ll still think of me come a summer morning, come Christmas, come a day that refuses to go away.

Caterpillar, I hope you’ve kept a piece of me in your heart. Because art is impersonal, and the skins we shed so happily now to become butterflies will be lost along the way.

We were kids when we met. Still, there was more to us than mornings, than pending metamorphoses.  I hope we’ve loved each other in equal measure as we’ve made each other, and that, in the end, memory will be kind to both our youths.

Your wife will love you, butterfly. She’ll be more beautiful than me.

The real me who loved you, caterpillar, even when you were ugly.

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