Letter 004: Butterflies

I saw your post.
It was public, and you were hoping I’d see it.

“This can’t be goodbye, love. It can’t be.”

My heart welled up while I watched you singing acapella in your car. 

You told me that if I was brave, then you could be too. So you’re writing your own music now, like you always wanted to do. I was the light to guide you, and that strikes a chord of joy in me.

That’s why I gave you the book.

I wanted to deliver a message, but I needed you to find the message for yourself.

During our final dance lesson (the last one I could afford), I mentioned I had read my favorite book that morning.

You asked me to give you a synopsis, but I couldn’t seem to capture its magic.

It’s called “Hope for the Flowers,” I said. “It’s about a pair of caterpillars. Yellow and Stripe.”

“That’s all you’re going to give me?”

“That’s it.” I smiled up at you. “I used to read it when I was feeling sad as a kid, and it always made me feel better.”

“Don’t look at me,” you said as we foxtrotted. “Look left.”

“It’s hard not to look at you,” I said. Could I have been more obvious? I tried to imprint your face in my mind’s eye like a photograph, before our time was up.

My former instructor, David, in flamboyant joviality, had called you “racially ambiguous.” To me, you were simply tall, dark and hilarious. Tanner than us boring white folk, but lighter than you would be if we vacationed on a beach together somewhere in my dreamworld.

I used to be golden in California. Young, free, wild, and in perfect shape. I wish you could have seen me then.

Now I just feel ordinary. Like a mom. A mom naively chasing dreams she gave up on a long time ago.

We’re not friends on social media — it’s a stalemate. Who wants to be the first Face-stalker to add the other?

You reluctantly handed over your phone at the end of our lesson and showed me a video you had made public. You sang karaoke in your car, and I told you I was proud of you.

I earned it. You’ve mercilessly pulled up my songs in my presence before, forcing me to dance to them while I cringed.

“It’s awkward though, right? Having someone watch it in front of you?” I asked.

“Yes, that’s why I was talking the whole time while you were watching it,” you said, giving me a bashful smile. It was a vulnerable side of you I hadn’t seen before. The grid began to shift. We were no longer just an instructor who knew everything and a student who tripped over her own two feet. It was my turn to teach you.

You ignited a spark inside me. When I looked into your eyes, I saw a starry explosion of glittering possibilities. I saw us up on stage together. I saw us producing a music video where we danced the Rumba, and as a finale you twirled me and dipped me like you did the day I confessed to being a “dip virgin.” I saw strobe lights flashing and I heard the invigorating rumble of a crowd in the distance, ready for us to entertain them. 

I saw the mirage of an ultimate dream blossoming into fruition. After years of living life as a mindless caterpillar, I saw what I could become — what we could become together.

I started my butterfly course a little before you, just like Yellow. I even wore a yellow flowery blouse on the last day I saw you. I had unearthed the shirt in the back of my closet that morning, hidden away amidst my old summer clothes like a perfect rose, waiting to be plucked. I tugged at one of the sheer yellow tails, smiling at the thought of you.

After you hugged me goodbye, pulling me so close I could feel the strength of your body and the thundering of your heart, you said, “If this is our last encounter, I hope you achieve all your dreams.”

I wanted to tell you, “I hope so too, but they won’t be the same without you by my side,” and instead I mumbled something far less eloquent. I suck at goodbyes.

When I got into my car, I stared down at the yellow book on my passenger seat. I found a pen I accidentally stole from the studio. My past self must have planted it there for a moment of courage. I scribbled a message to you in the back. I drummed my fingers on the steering wheel.

Should I? Should I go back?

I stared at the side door, willing you to come back out. You didn’t.

I started to leave the parking lot, and veered right instead, pulling up to the front door. I marched back inside with the book pressed to my chest, not knowing what the hell I was doing.

I burst into your boss’ office, interrupting your conversation with her.

“I just wanted to tell you, you have some really good people here,” I gushed. “He’s really good. He’s brilliant.” I nodded at you, and that’s when you gave me the look that’s haunted me for over a week.

Those dark eyes and their adoration for me.

Those dark eyes tinged with love and sadness. Like you think you’ll never have me.

You have me, you dense idiot.

“Thank you for everything. This is a present. This book is the secret to life.” I handed it over.

“Thank you.” You looked down. Your cheeks flushed slightly. You had started blushing around me the closer we got. I don’t know why you won’t admit how you feel.

And I left.

You sent me a text after, “Thank you so much, Eli!”

I drove to the park, listened to Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper sing “Shallow,” and I sobbed, “When will I know love like this?”

We haven’t been in contact since, except for my dumb, any-excuse-to-talk-to-you-text last Sunday, asking you to let me know when I can cash in my ticket to the studio’s party downtown, the one that was in the works before the Quarantine struck.

You said you’d let me know. You were pro about it. Succinct. No need to keep the conversation going past a few pleasantries. No rushing through the door I left wide open for you. It’s the only time I’ll reach out. I won’t chase you, don’t worry. Chasing men isn’t something I do. Especially when I’m in the throes of a dissolving marriage. I told you it was complicated.

Fate led my husband and I to separate just as you were entering my life. Four days after I met you, my quiet life was upended. 

Why?

I barely knew you at the time. My first impression of you was that you were charming, but a shallow player, best to avoid. F**kboy, I decided.

In the months leading up to the night we met, I started to love dancing again. I started writing music again. Writing stories again. Supernatural things started to happen that shattered my world and woke up my soul.

Why?

It all seems so divine.

This can’t be goodbye, love. It can’t be.

Will I see you at the party?

And what would it even be like to see you again?

And oh God, how would I act around you under the influence?

So yes, I saw your post, and it made me happy. I might even let you sing me to sleep.

And this butterfly keeps hoping you’ll get the message, but I’m crystallizing on my own for now.

Wish me luck.

(Follow me on Medium.com | @elidhawk)

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