The wings were perfect, even moist, as if fresh from the cocoonthough this might simply have been the mornings dampened breath, for they lay still flightless. Their silken poetry, their symmetry in powdered color, belied the crippled juncture where death and antennae had collided, deforming sheer fragility into a chaos of legs and ochre pus. How had the wings survived so crushing an impact? He stood there, on the soft shoulder, staring (divination crucial), a wandererfunctionally mutepausing, all alone, on an abandoned back road:
where wild grasses already reclaimed the asphalts fractures
Perhaps it was the theme of aborted flight that drew his attention, an airborne potential obliterated with one indelicate stroke. Or the grim allure of fatality, in its unfamiliar, fascinating guise. Or maybe his was a sentimental reverie, wherein beauty transcended things mortallike love surmounting cynicism. Then again, it was just as likelysince the road was barren, ride prospects bleak, and the day longthat there was little better to do than look upon this mishap at his feet. Simon looked. Intricate capillaries that once throbbed, however imperceptibly, throbbed no more. He knelt. Placing his hands in the dirt on either side, he compared his flesh and tendon to the insects corpse; their difference, in his estimate, merely a heartbeat.
Sun-browned and prominently veined, Simons outstretched hands were masculine sculpturesthe last two years having weathered rough patterns unique to the open road. Their strength and grace reflected, nevertheless, an androgynous qualityevident throughout the balance of his twenty-eight-year-old features. Not that his gender was questionable; his body simply reflected a certain dualityunsettling only by virtue of its being rare. Totally absorbed in this juxtaposition of hand to wing, wing to hand, he failed to notice the approach of a car (at lead-footed speed). He looked up just in time to wave a belated thumb in its indifferent wake. With the up-churned dust, resignation settled quietly into Simons lyric face; tears welled up to cleanse the grit away. Turning back, he resumed contemplation of the highways other casualty.
Two years of wayfaring had passed. The first, devoted to forgetfulness, he had
Year of the Lotus
The second, Year of the Dandelion (or childs yellow rose), had been dedicated to seeing the world afresh, and had come to a close this very morning, leaving a subtle sign (now framed by equidistant hand prints).
That speeding car had been only the second to pass since dawn. Simon wondered where he was then entertained the notion of having somehow become invisible except, late on the previous night, a woman had almost stopped. Almost. At least she hadnt swerved while trying to lock the passenger-side door. How frightened most folks werewomen, especially but men, too. Beware the terrible stranger, the hitchhikerBogeyman incarnate. Ah well, why be bitter? He alone was to blame for his cold bones and worn out mocassins. Besides, the early sun was like liniment penetrating Simons chilliness. But this butterfly, surrounded by his impressions Was he to read its wings as a Seer interprets palms? There followed a strange ceremony.
Removing the sash belt from his waist, Simon arranged it on the ground in an ellipse, encircling the dead swallowtail. He then slipped off his backpack, and, setting it aside, unbuttoned his shirtwhich he carefully spread below the sash, forming a crescent with its empty sleeves. Feet together, V-fashion, he stepped from his moccasins onto the shirt front. Next he untied his drawstring pantswhich dropped around his anklesand stepping out, bare naked, assumed a cross-legged posture, smack dab in the middle of this curious configuration. He sat like this, without moving, for a long, long while
A shudder ran through Simon, as if some inner tremor had rocked his very soul. The sun (quite high) sucked sweat from his pores, while shriveling the butterflys idle carcass, its mangled thorax detached from the undamaged wingswhich Simon, ever so gently, plucked; first one, then the other, kissing both before placing each on either shoulder blade where, soaking up perspiration, they adhered. Then, with the same slow care, he dressed took up his pack and walked on down the road.