The Man Who Befriended Butterflies

images One afternoon, many months ago, I was sitting in a chair on the lawn in my backyard. The sun was gradually turning the pigments in my bare chest a reddish-brown-color. I sat with my head rested against the back of the chair and my eyes closed. On that particular afternoon I remember feeling relatively peaceful. The chronic stream of negative thoughts that normally afflicted me were not present. I was not worried about money or all the things that I needed to take care of but was procrastinating on. Instead I allowed myself to surrender to resting under the afternoon sun.

As I sat there thinking about nothing in particular, I remember feeling a slightly odd sensation in the palm of my hand. I lifted one eye half-open and noticed a brown and tan butterfly perched in my palm. I opened both eyes to get a better look. For a moment I was afraid that my surprise would startle the butterfly and cause her to fly away. I wanted her to stay. I remember saying to myself: “be calm, breathe slowly, let the butterfly feel that you are a friend.”

I said a few words out loud to the butterfly: “Hey little lady. You sure are beautiful. Thank you for gracing me with your tiny presence.” As I spoke I moved my unclenched hand closer and closer towards my face. I wanted to see if I could look directly into the butterfly’s eyes. I admired the beautiful textures that decorated her fragile wings. I noticed two nodules that looked like lollipops sticking out from the butterfly’s forehead. Just below the nodules I noticed her miniscule eyes that seemed to be looking straight up at me. The butterfly was as curious of me as I was of it. Its eyes looked at me in the same way one looks at a friend. I smiled at her and she immediately blinked back at me. I believe it was from that moment on that I was forever changed.

I have always been known to mess things up. In high school my father called me the “messer upper.” I seem to mess up almost everything I touch. I have destroyed almost every opportunity that has come my way. Some people who know me well tell me I have a fear of success. I just think I am not very good at being an adult. At least I thought this way until the butterfly came and perched in the palm of my hand.

Every afternoon after that first encounter with the butterfly I would go outside, sit in the exact same spot and see if the butterfly would come visit with me. Sure enough, within a minute of sitting down in the chair the butterfly would come and sit with me. She would land on my shoulders or head or hand. Once she even landed on top of my heart. We would spend an unknown period of time together and then when she had her fill of me she would fly away.

Over the course of our first week together the butterfly would gradually bring a few other butterflies a long with her. It was as if she told some of her friends that she had met this nice guy whom she wanted them to meet. First there would only be two or three butterflies that would come a long with her. Then there would be four, five, six. And then well into the second week there would be dozens of her friends. They would leap around on the various parts of my body as if I was some kind of playground equipment. I had never seen such beautiful coloring. Every color imaginable was represented on the wings of the butterflies. I had once been a painter and was very aware of how difficult it was to achieve these bright and brilliant hues. Nature’s genius seems to render most artwork mediocre at best.

I would carry on conversations with the butterflies. When they had enough of me they would fly away in unison as if they were all given the same command by a central headquarters. As the butterflies flew away I would thank them for their time and then walk back inside. I felt overcome with appreciation and joy. It was as if I had been chosen by the butterflies and I could not figure out why. But being chosen provides a person with a feeling that they are indeed someone special and this feeling of being special seemed to diminish my negative feelings about myself. For the first time in my life I did not feel like a mess.

As the weeks passed more and more butterflies would come and play around on me. I am unaware as to what kind of butterflies these were but they all looked so different. Their wings moved like skilled ballerinas and when they landed on my bare arms, chest, legs and face they were careful not to cause even the slightest pinch. Their fragility and care with me brought tears to me eyes. I could not remember the last time I was treated with such care by any human being.

If my neighbor was to look over the fence that divided our yard what he would of seen would of looked like a scene right out of a magical realist film or novel. I was completely covered in a plethora of colorful butterflies. Even though my face was obscured by the butterflies if my neighbor looked closely enough he would have noticed a large smile on my face. I had never been happier.

One afternoon while the butterflies covered me I decided that I wanted to see if they would come home with me. I wanted to fill my bedroom with butterflies. So I did what I had never done before when covered in butterflies- I began to move. I slowly stood up. As I did this I noticed that a few timid butterflies flew away but the majority of them stayed with me. I moved slowly so as not to scare any others off. As I walked towards my house I noticed that all the butterflies were staying with me. It was as if the butterflies did not want to let me go. As I arrived at my back door I made a ti-chi like movement with my arm so I could carefully open the door. I then walked through my kitchen, down the narrow hallway and into my bedroom. Carefully I shut the door behind me and then sat down onto my bed.

There were butterflies on my head, eyelids, nose, lips, shoulders, arms, chest, neck, legs and feet. I was a human butterfly blanket. While sitting on the side of my bed I remembered a dream that I often had when I was a kid. In my dream I would be sitting up in my bed watching hundreds of different colored butterflies fly around in my room. This memory caused a tingling sensation to shoot up my spine. Almost all of the dreams and ambitions that I had as a child have not become a reality in my adult life. I had had to accept that more often than not dreams remain dreams. But as I sat on the side of my bed I was realizing that for the first time in my adult life one of my dreams was turning into a reality. I was actually filling my bedroom with butterflies.

For the next few days I would go into my backyard, sit in the same spot and collect more butterflies. Dozens would immediately fly over to me in the same way a toddler would take a leap into their parent’s arms. It was as if the butterflies felt that I offered them the same kind of salvation that they were offering to me. I would thank all of the butterflies for congregating all over my body and then very slowly I would walk into my house and bring them into my bedroom. After a few days of this my bedroom was like a butterfly forest. Even better than that- the butterflies had transformed my ordinary bedroom into alternate universe.

I remained in my bedroom for days with the butterflies. I would lie on my bed, with my hands folded behind my head and watch the butterflies dance around my room. The butterflies covered every inch of ceiling, wall, floor and the entire space in-between. Purples, reds, blues, oranges, greens, yellows and brown colors palpitated in the air. This is what I imagined an LSD trip must be like. At night when I slept I would not need to warm myself under the blankets. Instead the moment I turned out the lights the butterflies would cover my entire body like a blanket. Feeling the butterfly’s pulsations would lull me into a deep sleep.

Those few days in my bedroom with the butterflies are worth more to me than anything I could ever own. The butterflies helped me to believe that I was no longer a mess waiting to happen. Instead I felt like a sense of magic that gets blurred out by negative thinking had returned to me. The butterflies showed me that there was so much more to life than what I had come to believe was true.

I believe it was on the morning of the third day that I realized I would have to let the butterflies go. I knew they would not be able to survive in my room for much longer. I wanted to keep them in my room but I knew that if I did it would be a very selfish act. I had to let them go. I opened my bedroom window and like air from a balloon they all swarmed out. I watched them fly through the trees, across the street and towards the distant horizon. After all the butterflies had left I shed a few tears, closed my window and turned around to go sit on bed.

As I turned around I noticed that there was one butterfly that had remained behind. She was perched on the nightstand besides my bed. I felt what I can only describe as joy begin to flood into my chest. It was who I hoped it was- the brown and tan butterfly who I had met on that peaceful afternoon many, many weeks ago. I reached out the palm of my hand and immediately she came and rested in it. I then lay back on my bed with her in the palm of my hand. I looked at her in the eyes and told her I was so happy she stayed.

I decided to keep the butterfly in my room. I have done some research on Google and learned about what she needs to survive. She seems happy in my room. Every night before bed she will fly skillfully around my room. Watching her delicate movements will lull me into a deep sleep. During the day she hangs out on my head or shoulder as I read a book. I am now more satisfied than I have ever been in my life. Who would have ever thought that all it would take was befriending a butterfly.

Coming In Through The Back Door Of The Castle.

Four_Seasons_Hotel_Los_Angeles_at_Beverly_Hills_usn_1 I am innately predispositioned towards luxury. I was raised in the lap of luxuries warm potpourri smelling embrace. My bed was always perfectly made when I returned home from school and three meals a day where prepared by a live in chef. Maids, cooks, pool cleaners, gardeners, tennis teachers, golf instructors, tutors, and concierges all made up my inner and outer life while growing up in an exclusive country club. Five or six times a year my parents would take my sister and I on deluxe vacations where we would stay in hotels that were clean enough to eat off of their floors. I remember lemon tart cookies and slippers were often left by the sides of the comfortable resort hotel beds that I joyfully slept in. I was living a five star lifestyle and I did not have to spend a penny of my own money. Of course I had no money of my own. I was just a kid who had the good fortune of popping out of my mothers womb and landing in the lap of luxury.

Fast forward thirty years. Fast forward over my rebellious and angry teenage years and my eventual decision to reject the world of capital and embrace the lifestyle of the suffering poet, writer and artist. Fast forward over my years spent living in the ghetto and not wanting to have anything to do with money. Fast forward over my rage towards my mother and father. Fast forward over all the miserable blue collar jobs I worked. Fast forward over my addiction to alcohol and marijuana. Fast forward over my years spent suffering from deep depression, anxiety and panic. Fast forward over my years spent working as an underpaid inner city high school teacher. Then you will arrive at a place where I am 40 years of age sitting by the side of a beautiful pool in Palm Springs, dressed in only swim trunks and sun glasses, sun tan oil all over my aging body, an expensive glass of sauvignon blanc in my hand and a book on the table besides me.

You may wonder how I got to where I am. How did I go from riches to rags and then back to riches again? Well one has to be clever in this world if they want to keep up with the Joneses without working full time. I am not sitting by the side of this beautiful resort pool sipping a glass of white wine, surrounded by people who make more money than 99% of the earths population because I too have a lot of money. No this is not the case. I am still just as broke as I was ten years ago. Instead as I have grown older I have become more ambitious in pursuing the luxurious that are still innate in my predisposition. Even though I no longer live a lifestyle that could be considered glamorous by any stretch of the imagination- I often long for the luxuries of my youth. So what I do is I pack a bag filled with a change of clothes and swim trunks and I head off towards a luxury resort or hotel of my choice. I then sneak in through the back door.

I am lucky to live in California where there is not only a good amount of warm weather but there are also an abundance of five star resorts and hotels all around. These resorts and hotels have rooms that usually start at around $800.00 a night and spas and pools that look like they were ripped right out of the pages of a designer magazine. There are enough luxury hotels and resorts around where I live that on warm days I have gotten into the habit of going to a different one each week. I have the good fortune of being a rather handsome and well adjusted man, which often allows me to avoid any kind of suspicion from others that I am indeed a freeloader. As a result of being raised in a country club and surrounded by the aroma of people who possessed a lot of money, I can blend in rather well with this crowd. I can walk the talk and talk the walk so to speak.

You might be wondering if I pay for the several glasses of wine that I drink and the gourmet food that I order. The answer no. What I do is before going to the pool I will find a particular room number. I will then tell the poolside server that I am staying in say room 54. I will then give my last name without any hint of hesitation. Often times the server will come back over to me and say something like: “excuse me sir but we have listed a different last name staying in that room.” I will then tell them that yes indeed that is my wife or father-in-laws last name. From then on I am able to drink and eat what I want for free because I was clever and confident enough to believe my own lie. I am grateful to whomever is staying in room 54 because I imagine that they are picking up the tab.

There have been a few times when my fraudulence has been discovered. Upon ordering food and drink and signing it to “my room” the staff will discover that I am giving them the wrong name and demand proof that I am the one whose last name is assigned to the room. When I can not produce proof I tell them that I will go get my wife or father-in-law and then come back. I gather my things and never return to that particular hotel or resort. But this does not happen often. I am rather good at what I do.

I will spend an entire day sitting by the side of the luxury pool. I will read my book, drink wine, watch women in bikinis, sun tan, swim and sleep. But none of this is what I enjoy most about sneaking in through the back door of these luxury hotel and resorts. What I love most is that when the day is done I get my bag of clean clothes from my car and go into the spa area of the hotel. In these areas there is always a mens and womens area. I sign a fraudulent last name on the sign in sheet at the front desk of the spa and then I head into the mens area. Inside the mens area there is a sauna and a steam room. There are very clean shower stalls, which have containers mounted to the walls filled with shampoo, conditioner and body wash. Besides the clean sinks there are razors, deodorant, hair spray, body lotion, hair brushes, hair dryers and fresh folded white towels. It is in this area that I feel like I am back again in the luxury of my youth. It is in these mens areas where I can feel pampered again.

I will find a locker that is open and put my bag of clothes inside. I will then undress until I am nude. I will then wrap a freshly laundered white towel around my waist and head into the steam room. I will stay there for twenty minutes or so until I am drenched in my own sweat. I will then take a sauna where I will allow the dry heat to rip the toxins right out from my skin. I will then shower away the stink and sweat and shampoo and condition my hair. I will then come out of the shower and walk up to the sink with a large beautifully lit mirror behind it. With a clean towel wrapped around my waste I will then shave, put deodorant on, comb and blow dry my hair and cover my body in lotion. I will look around at the other men who are doing the same. I try and talk to no one but often I can not help but wonder what these men do for a living. It is obvious to me that they are most likely not sneaking in to these mens spa areas like I am. The one thing that is fundamentally different between these men and myself is that they are actually paying a lot of money to be there.

Once I am showered, shaved and fully dressed I will put my wet swim trunks into a plastic bag, pack up all of my stuff and leave whatever luxury resort or hotel I have spent the day at. I will then drive back to my studio apartment in the barrio where I will make myself dinner and spend the rest of the night reading a book in bed. Such is the lifestyle of a man who sneaks in the back door of places that were created for the rich and famous. Tomorrow I am looking forward to going to the Ritz Carleton in Beverly Hills. I read on-line about their pool and spa facilities. Sounds luxurious enough for me.