Of Monday’s butterflies under a Sunday’s sun

Yesterday was a Monday – and yet, as though he were a confused English businessman trying differentiate numbers from letters on an outdated Russian time table hidden behind a thick layer of 50-year old glass and an even thicker layer of dust (admittedly younger than the glass itself, for how could these plushy balls of sand and feathers – perhaps even tiny bits of paper or crystallized baby breaths – have been trapped for longer than 50 years, without the protection of their transparent cage, built to keep these clouds from being blown off to exotic-sounding places mentioned on the actual time table?), the sun was unmistakeably a Sunday’s sun, today, rather than Monday’s poor interpretation of the same heavenly body.

Apparently, our unexpected yet welcome guest had simply missed his connecting train at Vladivostok the other day, leaving us in the dark as to his whereabouts and prone to vicious rain showers of uncertainty during the entirety of its weekly name day. Used to traveling at the speed of light, it must have been an unpleasant experience for our Sun having to walk barefooted from one dilapidated train station to the next – only to find out there were no more tickets available (“Njet, zavtra outrom!”) or having to make due with third-class passenger wagons, most seats inside its pathetic, rusting excuse for a hull occupied by sour-reeking goats nibbling at improvised chicken coops; humanity nowhere to be seen, not even in the brightest light of day. No golden water taps, no silver cutlery – just vague outlines of railroads leading into a vast horizon.

And as this slow spectacle pushed itself forward – with our friend the Sun being smothered by ghostly mountain-like structures of coal fumes colored a pale shade of dark gray, interrupted by bleak silhouettes of actual yet dull mountain tops every few miles – all members of a simple yet patient family were trying to warm themselves over large cups of boiling-hot tea and through mediocre films bereft from their simplistic morals by means of commercial interruptions (“We couldn’t improve the product anymore, so we’ve improved the packaging instead!”). Every now and then, one of us would point towards a big, sterile wall-mounted clock as others licked tiny drips of brownish water from off of their tea cups.

Presumably-once-green tea leaves were performing a slow-motion waltz, all the way from their own version of a netherworld – offering a distorted view of the Andalusian tea coaster through the cup’s thick glass bottom, with exhausted tea leaves sporadically (and without zeal) trying to claw at their younger counterparts – all the way from down there indeed, up onto the rooftop of their existence: the cup’s blunt rim. A few daring youngster-tea leaves would attempt to jump ship initially, only to end up as malformed, two-dimensional figures on an Andalusian tea coaster, drowning in their tepid private body of water for everyone else to look at. But most chose to look outside instead, preferring to gaze through the right-hand side of their cup-shaped altar at the diagonals of colder-than-tepid water being broken into halves and one-thirds by the thick framework of our sliding patio doors. “Still no word?” someone asked, rhetorically. “Still no word,” some other fool actually bothered to answer.

The sun, meanwhile, was in dire need of fresh air. With his head sticking out of the window (a pair of cheaply-woven curtains enveloping the back of his head for only a few seconds) he illuminated a landscape belonging to no-one in particular, blinding a few cows while washing off their black spots and setting fire to large collections of tall, needle-leaved trees. The resulting smell resembled that of freshly-washed plastic toys landing on clumps of raw meat at the yearly neighborhood barbecue, with the pitter-patter of children’s feet representing the smoldering sound of a forest ablaze.

Near the Ukrainian-Polish border, having first been diverted as far south as Odessa over the course of an afternoon, our jolly friend finally ran into a bit of luck: an express ticket to Budapest. The telegram he sent from there to bring us the good news, only managed to reach us just this very evening, naturally. Mail services have never been too reliable around these areas – but its under-equipped personnel are easily forgiven on Sundays like these (or any given Sunday, for that matter). Being my odd precious self, I’ve decided to keep the thick envelope and its impressively-unpersonalized contents for later reference, as I’m near-sighted and might be facing overall blindness in my later years; the thin, harsh telegram letters embossed into the vulnerable background like rubber stamps seem like as good an exercise in braille as anything else.


Little did we (I’d like to pretend I’m speaking on behalf of my family) realize that our Sunday sun was doing everything within his powers to provide us with at least one simple beam of his shining personality (not just for our pleasure, but also because of egotistical motivations – as if the world would stop turning without the sun’s daily presence) – all of us went outside to enjoy the feeling of microscopically-small beads of moist colliding against the skin of our hands, as we stared at the horizon with those same hands placed over our eyes; either protecting our cheeks from getting wet with emotion, or simply as an automatism imprinted into our collective minds by an upbeat Sunday’s sun that had visited us occasionally.

But “day” passed into “evening“, with no sight of mother Moon to tell us where her son was staying for the night. An odd perfume of now-drowning dried-out grasses on top of an artificial layer of redwood snippets drew a few mosquitoes towards the treacherously-cold surface of an equally-artificial water hole, paralyzing the insects for long enough to make them voluntarily capsize in the center of an old rusty water bucket. Small yet thick blankets of disgusting moss and air bubbles were climbing out of the same bucket, with no light other than that of man’s imagination to guide them.

It was more than a dozen hours later, well into the afternoon of the-day-after in fact, that a sharp whistle could be heard – as if thousands of soldiers were about to crawl out of their trenches, their silvery, never-ending bayonets already mounted so as to penetrate even the thickest earthen wall erected by Sunday’s dark, sunless defenses. As soon as the train’s whistle had sounded, birds started to make their natives sounds as drips of rain vaporized into thin-air, encircled from one direction and then stabbed at by the sun’s playful eyes. Our guest had arrived, finally.

And I sat down, with the rest of my family already preparing for six days of sunday-less Sundays elsewhere, welcoming my pal with open arms and a glass of well-deserved ice tea. Sitting on my teak-wood garden furniture, I witnessed a battle scene that had come too late for many while saving thousands of smiles today.

A very common butterfly then landed on my chest – that is to say, on the shirt concealing my chest – right above the right nipple. This living, heavily-winged yet weightless rod with eyes like the inside of a beehive, stayed in position for at least ten seconds – breathing, waltzing too, all the while observing me as much as I was returning the favor – only to be scared off by my fat, black, furry cat thereafter. It had been a very common butterfly of the white variety, with small spots on it that got more black towards the center, except for a powdery yellow dot here and there.

My tongue made a soggy sound as it hit the fleshy lower half of my palate, while the butterfly was carefully being caressed by my disembarking friend from an obvious angle. It then flew away in a completely relaxed pattern – an additional insult directed at the supposed predator lurking around the corner – so as to let us both take comfort in an ominous yet glorious moment of “simply being beings“; a feeling of consent, knowing that all that is beautiful today need not be special tomorrow – knowing that beauty lies within a maiden voyage and a first encounter, without the need of these being repeated routinely.

Beauty, then, lies within memories worth shedding light upon. There’s beauty within the light itself, worthy of this memory.

“What a journey, nay, Nabokov?”

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