When I was a child I loved drawing butterflies. I would curl the wings at the corners, spiral the antennas like the inside of a kaleidoscope and imagine that their wings had eyes. Today the rain poured like quartz from the sky and I am now on the 177 to Peckham. On buses my eyes dance between people and street names and other little details. I squeezed on the wet bus by three women, one opposite me, one beside, and another gripping a large reusable bag. My mind felt as though it was covered in mist and although I didn’t feel like reading I picked up my book for something to do with my hands and somewhere to place my eyes. ‘It is time to ask for your sign’ the book said.
The sign is the salute from God, the symbol that gives you the green light, when you see it you will know. It could be a number, a word; mine is a butterfly. Even though I don’t like them. Even though I am frightened by them. A few months ago I dreamt of an oak tree with blossoms pink like candy floss, they shimmered like satin in the night. I was alone in this field where green went on and on and I walked towards forever in a little white dress. I remember the wind sweeping the tree’s blossoms my way as I walked forward, as they drew close I could see they were butterflies spiralling around and in front of me, wings rippling in the wind. One butterfly flew to my hand and gripped my veins with tiny black claws. The harder I tried to tear it away from my skin, the tighter it clung to it, squeezing me with all its life. I woke up in panic, skipping breaths. That is all I remember.
I feel deeply that butterfly is my sign, but I am in a tug of war with myself. I did this running with wolves guided meditation one time and I swear I came out of it brand new, so of course my sign must be a wolf, I think to myself. My head is still feeling heavy so I put my book down. I glance at the woman in the seat across me to the right, I could see her bag in my periphery the whole time I was reading, I look down at it. There is a butterfly on her bag. Big and blue like a lagoon. The book said ‘your sign will be crystal clear if you’re going in the right direction’. I look away, I look back, I look away, I look back and then I look at her. She could sense my intrigue. It was a sure sign that it was my sign.
Today has been difficult. I have been told three sad things. Why does everything go wrong at once? I have attended three funerals in the last year, two in the last month. When pain is present it is persistent. It doesn’t come piece by piece. It comes after you like bullets from a machine gun. What do I say when there is nothing I can say? I sit here with a slug in my throat afraid that I have said the wrong thing. So I hop on the 177 to the library to chase the paper with my pen, the place I run to make it right. I sit here dwelling in admiration for the people in my life. The best humans are alchemists, we take our pain and we make it beautiful.
I am at my care job. My summer work dates have now been confirmed, soon I will be working in Somerset. I hadn’t realised that this would be my last weekend here. I didn’t think I’d miss this place, but as I prepare myself to go, it dawns on me what I will be leaving behind. I tell one of the men I support that I will be leaving. ‘Org’ he says with a sad face, ‘I miss you.’ When he says it I know that he means it. I tell another and she says ‘okay’ in a soft voice, ‘I want to go and get some sweets.’ That is the thing about people on the learning disability spectrum, they are made of titanium. When they are sad, they are sad, when they want something they might cry or scream or just ask, when they are happy they light up the room, there is never any confusion about where you stand with them. When they are out of line I tell them thats’s not cool and they say ‘sorry mum’, we move into a new moment as if it were a new moon and the past just the past. They live in so much wonder and I will miss that. But I see work like relationships, when it becomes toxic it is time to go. I am so glad I am leaving on a high, rather than trying to make it work and make it work and then make it ugly. I am reminded of the quote ‘and then you know it is time to start something new, and trust the magic of new beginnings.’
After the fire I noticed a couple heads get greyer as the days rolled over. I had a one of those rare conversations with my co-worker, speaking honestly about the way we feel. A couple times during the shift I wondered to myself if I am doing this all wrong, shortly after I saw a butterfly on the TV. I did a sleep-in shift and woke up earlier than usual so I didn’t get to have breakfast. My co-worker made me a sandwich with fried egg and grilled cherry vine tomatoes and lettuce and avocado, it was so good. There is no feeling in the world like a meal made with love. Things about my workplace that I usually can’t stand look so lovely to me today, crazy how people are most beautiful to you just before they slip through your fingers.