Today we went behind the pink cabin, and there were seven butterflies, each of are seven butterflies, each of them curling their tongues to the ground and lapping up the nectar left by a spilled bottle of Coke. Five of the butterflies were zebra swallowtails, one is a Ulysses. The seventh was a surprise, a little cornflower blue Kaplan. It flew up from beneath the rest, who were clumped into a circle. Our son was the one who pointed them out to me. I was too busy looking at the water, and back at the pink cabin. I was thinking of caves, filled with cool quiet and sick brown bats with fuzzy white fungus on their small, piggish noses.
When you and I first moved down here, freshly separted from grey Ohio, the peaceful mountains and the tourist-trap towns felt both exotic and fulfilling. Every hemlock and mountain laurel was our liberation; every waterfall sent us deep into rapture. I fear your passion for the region has faded, and has been replaced by that big white ghost ALASKA. She infected us, how could she not? How can this quiet part of the country compete with something that big and bold? With barbeque, with bears that sleep and hide in the shady elevations, with mandolins and salamanders? Any glacier that swept through this place was long ago replaced by grass, by lichen, by acres of trillium. Any giants that lived here were long ago tamed, smoothed, like pin-up girls who’ve grown old and are now grandmothers.
But don’t you remember? We used to love it here a little more than we do now. We once shut a hotel room door, leaving the long, cool shadow of the Smokies behind us. I was newly pregnant, my once petite breasts had become heavy, my flat stomach just starting to round. You lifted up my sweater, buried your face underneath. Afterward we laid down on the hotel bed, talked about where to eat for dinner, and remarked how wonderful it was not to have to worry about me becoming pregnant (because I of course already was). While you watched a bit of the news and I read the book I had packed, I felt our son move inside of me for the first time. I thought it was too early for all that, since I was only about four months along. But still, what else could it be? A flurry of butterfly wings, is what I remember it feeling like. So light and vague and soft compared to the shoves and kicks to the ribs in the last trimester. I told you what was happening, told you the baby was moving. I don’t remember your reaction now. My memories are like anyone else’s: full of fog and mist and only short moments of clarity. The things I write about are the tiny beams of light pouring through the cracks. The clear pictures are often swept away. I can’t reach out and touch what I don’t see.