how to catch a butterfly

I am painting a window pane, which I found on the street many months ago. The time of day is passionately hot and I secretly love the singeing of my skin from the aggressive sun.

Chosen paint colors are turquoise and green like grasshopper or grass stain. I am slow with my strokes, meditating on the spread and merge of hues.

“What are you painting?”

I look up and see a kid who I immediately feel a kinship with because I cannot for the life of me calculate their gender.

“Oh, just this window. I found it awhile back just waiting on a curb to be thrown away.”

“Cool. I love this garden,” they say, referring to the one surrounding me. “I always visit it. Just looking in. But…I never steal.”

“Well, no worries if you do,” I say. “It was planted by one of the tenants here.” I point to the building I’m beside which my partner resides in and I tend to sleep in as well. “Anyway, so much was wasted. So many herbs and vegetables, so if you want to take, you can.” I say this knowing they won’t.

Suddenly, the young one’s attention gets stolen away by butterflies.

“I catch them,” they say. “You know the best way to get one?”

“No,” I answer.

“Grab it from behind. But the white ones…they are the most difficult to catch.”

I watch as this kid slowly remains still, pinches their fingers together over wings and catches one.


“Wow,” I say. “Nice job. But…what do you do once you catch them?”

“Put ’em in a jar. I’ve got a few already. Do you have a jar?”

“Uh…” I don’t really want to encourage the enslavement of such beautiful creatures, so I shake my head. “Sorry.”

We chat a little longer. Mostly about butterflies. How they mate. The plants and flowers which they tend to yield to.

I listen. I listen, as I think of a beautiful oil painter in Nebraska who reminded me that so often people swallow their words, living in silence until…until someone warmly rotates their volume to loud or loudER. Some people just really need to be heard.

The young one leaves and I continue painting. My skin drips into a pile of early summer sweat below me. I want to splash in my perspiration but instead, pick up my window, which has rapidly dried from the sun, head upstairs and write.


One response to “how to catch a butterfly

  1. You had me with “…What are you painting?” I could see/imagine the human you were speaking with… I could even see/imagine the painting form, (or the form in the painting come to life)… I could feel/imagine the sun shining down. Aimee Herman, you make words come to life. That is not all you do – you make me think of better things, almost always, and because of that you are such a special gift to all who know you.

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