She woke with a jolt. Her dreams came wild—often and intense. Yet somehow, the butterflies slept soundly on the bureau, fluttering lightly in a gleaming breeze through the window screen. She noticed a dime-sized hole in the wires—it had been patiently chewed. Their entry to Rainbow Bridge. She was much too obnoxious to be an Elizabeth Smith. She wouldn’t even answer people unless they called her Cassandra. Holding out the “a” like this: Cassaaandra. She didn’t like correcting people, so she just wore a name tag to help out. She tried to remember her dream. The more she tried the less she knew. She even started to forget what she had to do today. Program her mind. She would have her best night of sleep ever. She would stop referring to herself in third person. Tomorrow. Maybe she could even write her sleep apnea away.
When she awoke the next morning, one of the butterflies told her that her name was Walter Woo. You must be joking, she remembered thinking as she reached down and checked her engine. No extra parts. She was good. It reminded her of Kundalini. Coiled energy at the base of her spine. Active feminine energy. Dormant male energy. No wonder she always wanted sex and Walter didn’t. He had potential though. She felt gleaming breath near her face. Opened her eyes. She was huddled over like a warm fire. She was a warm fire. Fast and Furious under the hood. The Vin Diesel of the Sanctuary. A theater full of butterflies sweating over Dom Toretto.
Somehow, they know she eats fire. It’s not just for fun though, being a wannabe dragon. She can take fire in but she can’t remember how to breathe it back out. When she gets some REM sleep, she’ll remember. But for now, being a fire eater is her job. That’s what it says on her tax forms. You have to be careful when opening your mouth in a Butterfly Sanctuary, but especially if you’re a fire eater. Those winged art palettes—they’re so delicate and I’m so dramatic. Some people already knew that about me. Mainly, the-accountants-who-became-accountants-because-it-was-their-parents’-dream-for-them-to-become-accountants. Not for the love of numbers. They secretly wanted to be trapeze artists or lion tamers—but it was not in the Tarot’s for them. These were the people who could tell right off who she really was.
She was man and woman. Like the sign from Prince’s purple motorcycle. They knew this, but wondered if she knew. These dreams were being sent to her to let her know that many realities exist on the same timeline. A slight shift one way and it’s like being in outer space. Not by choice like being an astronaut. Nah, you are obnoxious. You like being thrust out into the galaxies.
Walter’s voice comes
home to me
Some days she comes in wearing her long dark hair in uneven braids. Trying to hide from blonde jokes. Looks like it was done with the black shoe polish Walter kept in his medicine cabinet. She didn’t know how she knew this, but she did. Random facts abounded in gray matter. She remembered a line from a movie she fell asleep watching the other night that made her laugh. Something like, “Sleeping with snakes or sleeping with men, it’s not much different. But it’s the poisonous ones I worry about, and I’m not talking about the snakes.” She didn’t think that was the kind of movie Walter would sit around and watch. He’d recently become obsessed with finding his Shakti energy--which by the way, still eluded him.
To calm himself in hopes of getting lit with some enlightenment or bliss, he’d eat junk food fire. The way some people go for chocolate cake or a six-pack of Coca-Cola.™ He eats fire sandwiches, fire kebabs, fire pancakes--imagines they are words to novels in his head he never typed out. If Hemingway can do it, we can do it. He’s a man, but I’m a woman and a man. I can write from both perspectives. When I go look in the mirror to make sure I’m still me, and no one has made off with my face, I notice I’m average height and weight and look like I walked crooked out of a Joan Baez concert.
I pull butterflies out of my hair, my comb, a flapping string of ballroom silver. I’d love to be a dancer but I have two left feet. I literally have two left feet. You should see the shoe aisle at DSW. No one can figure out why only the right shoes are left strewn down the aisles. Walter is pissed because he wants some “Carrie Bradshaw’s” and I told him we are not paying $500 for two left shoes. I’m telling that to a man. Yes, it’s that irony that keeps me interested in him. I guess I’m lucky that Walter and I get along most of the time. But he hates it when I dress Bohemian Chic. He says that’s a kind way to put it. He once tried to pack up all my long skirts, scarves and even my Native American jewelry. Who has a problem with turquoise? Does anyone you know have a problem with turquoise? I didn’t think so. I figure, we have eyes like Sinatra, blue magnets to a world of steel. What else do we need? If people really looked, they’d figure us out. Walter is lit up half the time and is always trying to get the butterflies drunk. Great. Just what we need around here. A sanctuary full of stumbling butterflies drunk off their asses. Tiny smudges of guts and color splattered on walls.
obnoxious fist fights?
Nah. Just sleep it off. If you think you befuddled people, please have them read below:
Walter & Cassandra fell asleep~~fuzzy. This is where poems entered their mind. Words did so much prep work before they got typed onto the page. Sometimes they came as dreams demanding to be written down. But first, they had to be lived. If only for a short while. Walter and Cassandra wondered how many others had figured it out. That all poems start as caterpillars.
Alicia Mathias writes and lives in Syracuse, New York with a Scottish Fold feline named Zeppelin. Her poems have recently appeared in The Bitter Oleander.