I hadn’t intended this escape to be quite so... So...
I’d never guessed my mother meant things quite so literally.
The butterflies were a bit much, upon reflection. I’d just liked painting them, and felt that the first one or two hadn’t been my best work, so I’d done one more, and then another, and then one more after that. The sky in my painting had been full of them.
The sky that was now above my head.
I lay back on the grass – it was very soft, which I put down to the watercolours. I was glad I hadn’t gone with acrylics today. Watching the butterflies swoop above me, I could spot the first ones I’d painted – their wings only had two colours, rather than the six I’d managed to pull out of simple swipes of my finest paintbrush in the later versions that filled the sky.
Even with a deep breath there were no smells. The little yellow flowers scattered through the grass didn’t have any scent, which I suppose meant...
One of the butterflies landed on the back of my hand. Raising my arm, I watched the colours flash along the wings, smiling. A rainbow, from red to purple, banded from the body of the insect to the tips of its long, curled antennae. It was pretty, though it bordered on a riot of colours.
My smile faded. I’d overheard my mother on the phone, talking to my grandmother. It wasn’t long after dad left, and I hadn’t meant to overhear. I’d been creeping home after a dumpster drop.
“He’s got the touch of the fey about him,” my mother said. I hadn’t needed anyone to tell me who they were talking about. I’d frozen against the doorway, not wanting to breathe.
“I don’t think that’ll help,” my mother said. My grandmother wanted to help me? Help me how? Be less... fey?
“Fine, fine,” my mother sounded exasperated – not uncommon when talking to my grandmother. Dad always said grandma was full of silly superstitions. I listened to her repeat something back to my grandmother, a rhyme, and then – carefully – I opened the front door to our apartment again.
“Mom,” I called out. “I’m home!”
“I have to go,” she’d said.
I supposed it showed. I couldn’t help it. I just wasn’t really like the other boys, and when it came down to it, I didn’t want to be. I liked my pencils and paintbrushes, charcoal and pastels, and if maybe sometimes the other kids were awful and my only real friends were Amy and Zoe, well, that wasn’t a bad thing. And they loved my drawings.
“Draw me without braces,” Zoe had asked. “Draw me pretty.”
“You are pretty,” I said, but I drew her. When I’d finished, Zoe had looked at the picture of her – older, taller, with long hair instead of the short hair she always wore, a beautiful smile showing no gaps, no crooked teeth – and had been surprised at the glasses I’d given her.
“I look wonderful,” she’d said, and her eyes had filled with tears. She’d kissed me on the forehead. Neither of us had brought it up again, not even that summer when she’d been told she needed glasses.
“It’s a good escape,” Amy told me, looking at my drawings one evening when she’d found me a little bruised and a little dirty from a trip to the dumpster at the hands of Joel and the other grade eleven boys. “Just don’t forget to come up for air.” I’d been drawing a hillside, a butterfly – one of my first butterflies – and it had made me feel better.
I rolled my head to the left, and the butterfly flew from my hand. There was nothing for as long as I could see other than the rolling green hills and the misty mountains in the distance. The geography wasn’t exactly possible, but I’d not been going for realism with the painting. It was warm, though, and the sun was yellow and bright.
I’d painted it that way.
It hadn’t just been paintings, though, if I was being honest with himself. And it seemed to me that lying in an impossible field while a cloud of rainbow butterflies swirled above my head was the perfect time to be honest with myself.
Mom hadn’t meant I was gay. I was gay, yeah, but she hadn’t meant that.
If I wrote someone’s name down and put a star around it, they got luckier. If I drew a portrait of someone the way I thought they could be, that was how they ended up – though I wasn’t entirely sure which way the causality worked there. I’d done that stupid cartoon of Joel getting hit in the face by a soccer ball, and the next day there was a big black eye on Joel’s face.
I looked at my hands.
Touch of the fey.
So maybe painting a doorway standing in the middle of the field of rainbow butterflies hadn’t been such a great idea. I’d been painting since I’d crawled out of the dumpster – again. When I’d gone through my bedroom door for some milk, I’d ended up here instead.
Which was pretty freaking awesome. Except...
Except I was still thirsty.
I sat up, sending a flurry of rainbow coloured wings into the air. The thing was, there wasn’t a door on this side of the painting. I thought for a moment, remembering mom on the phone. How that night she’d come into my room, and we’d talked like I was a kid again, rather than a teenager. She’d told me a story, some sing-song rhyme...
I chanted the words mother taught me.
“What hands have done, hands can undo; nothing’s hopeless where hands can make true.”
I was in the kitchen. I took a deep breath, and got some milk. My fingers were already itching for a pencil.
I had an idea for a new drawing. Tomorrow. I’d draw tomorrow.
A better one.
This entry courtesy of Timothy Forry
I chanted the words mother taught me.