Artists to Authors is an exploration of the how art influences authors. Artist Grey Cross has opened his entire portfolio to any author who would like to choose a piece of art and create a short story around it. You can find more information on the project at:
The caterpillar dies so the butterfly could be born. And, yet, the caterpillar lives in the butterfly and they are but one. So, when I die, it will be that I have been transformed from the caterpillar of earth to the butterfly of the universe.”
– John Harricharan
Those ugly butterflies…You know the ones, found in countless homes of the elderly and the dark corners of junk shops amongst the forgotten kitsch. The kind that hang from wires or string and are made up of fabric and nylon. Yes those butterflies. Ours were pink and violet and hung in our pink rugged bathroom. How I hated those things but mom loved her butterfly's and the color pink. We had expensive looking pink curtains and even the paneling in the dining room had pink roses. I think she loved pink as much as those ugly hanging bugs. There was also a mauve colored phone in that bathroom that would make odd beeping sounds anytime I had to pee in the middle of the night. They were all part of the decor of my every day and I was more than ready to escape it. I was married and in my late twenties. In my mind I was ready to flee the nest and all that pink.
I loved Halloween and never understood why my grotesque amount of decorations were packed up and gone on the morning of Nov 1st. Mom never said anything to me. It was just gone the day after. I wanted to leave them up just a little bit longer. I wanted to find my own apartment even if it meant paying rent to a nameless person instead of the fifty bucks we kicked in for the mortgage. Not to mention the other bills we didn’t pay along with the chores we didn’t do. Mom did it all and if she complained she didn’t do it to us. Or maybe she did and I didn’t hear her. I just wanted my freedom.
I of course was paralyzed with fear at the thought of not having her around. I was her baby, she said so, and let slide all the stuff that probably annoyed her. She cooked cleaned and picked up after us and even let my ex who was also my husbands best friend move in the spare bedroom. Looking back she should have kicked us all the curb and didn’t. We struggled though family deaths and her divorce from dad but every holiday and most other days the door was open for anyone, even dad. We laughed lived and loved.
She started to feel unwell in the spring. The doctor, who had just lost his four sons over Thanksgiving weekend sent her home after a round a of blood-tests. She didn’t look Ok but she also never said a lot to me other than wanting to sit down and tell me where the car title was and what things she wanted my sisters to have if something did happen. Then one evening she made a joke about the day old sandwich in the fridge that she ate. I was mad she would joke about passing from bad food. She hugged me and said she would be mad if she passed before she got to fly to my sisters house and I promised to fly her ashes if she did.
I worked the next day and everyone was excited about the new Star Wars movie. It sounded like fun so I hurried home after a long day, tired and wanting to get to the movies. It was payday and all I saw was the night ahead. Mom never said anything until I got mad about the fifty dollars she expected me to pay even though it was a triple paycheck month. She then said she didn’t feel good and I slammed the bedroom door on her…….
Into that pink bathroom to take a shower I went. I grabbed my cloths and felt bad for yelling so I went to her door to apologize….It was too late. Time slowed and my screams echoed, bringing the boys up from the basement. Everyone said it would be Ok but I knew that nothing would ever be Ok again.
I like to think that I can still recall every moment after mom was gone. I can’t or maybe my brain won’t let me. I tried to drown everything out, drink, drug and tears got me through. I know had to live without really living before. I had dreaded this moment but the reality of the situation was so much worse. I had no family in my town other than mom and wanted to stay in town. I had a good job and friends. The ex had a son that I treated like my own and wouldn’t have walked away from.
Why we didn’t stay in the house I don’t know. We could have but at that time it seemed so daunting. We found a tiny upper floor apartment down the block and I stumbled though…so many things didn’t come with me. The butterfly's and the pink curtains remained behind. I cried daily and even when the birds rapped at my window and the tiny white butterfly's flew around me I didn’t see. My husband was less than understanding as was his family. Our problems were mine and mine alone. I would often smell her old gold cigarettes and had a dream so real I woke up crying.
My marriage was falling apart. Mom had tried to warn me before I got married that it would be a bad idea and I blew her off again. He wouldn’t do the things he did to everyone else to me, nope. His verbal abuse was ok because he didn’t hit me, besides it was my fault for being emotionally unstable and crazy right? When he started to throw things I realized I had to go. I had to swallow my fear of being alone and leave. I never meant to be gone for long but when you find out that the person you trusted and expected to do the right thing steals all your stuff and pawns it or sells it, well that was the end for me. I moved in with my sister and got my life back. Mom came to me in dreams again, telling me that I would meet someone and everything was going to be fine. Fine? Mom was gone and not coming back, things were not fine and then I met someone new. Not long after I got my divorce and my life back.
And even now. Almost twenty years later, far away from the town I never thought I would ever leave and being a mother of my own I often wish I had those ugly butterflies to put in my own bathroom, Not pink but purple and mom approved I hope. I have suffered loss and survived it. I will suffer more loss in the future and I wonder if I will see more beautiful fluttering wing's or smell something that will let me know that even if one life is over another one awaits
J. M. Rosenberry is a Midwestern author and artist. A lover of all things horror and Gothic. J M has been influenced by the likes of Poppy Z. Brite, Stephen king and Anne Rice. She lives in Fargo N.D. with her husband, son three cats and her beloved Japanese Chin, Sookie and often dreams of escaping to her favorite city of New Orleans.
You can also find me on FB https://www.facebook.com/JMROSENBERRY/