I tug at my dress as I swing my right leg out of the car, quickly followed by my left. I stand up and caterpillars are crawling beneath my skin as I connect eyes with her. The closer I get to her, the more the steady prickly feeling of the caterpillars crawling turns into a stampede. They’re all charging toward my stomach and as her arms wrap around my neck and mine wrap around her waist, each caterpillar emerges from its chrysalis. Their wings are flapping to the beat of my heart and there’s no way she doesn’t feel the rabble of butterflies now taking refuge in my chest as it’s pressed against hers.
We detach and I look at her and then quickly look down and I say, “Hi…I – I’m nervous.” I imagine all the newly hatched butterflies rolling their eyes.
“Hi, nervous! I’m Abby!” Then Abby laughs and starts walking toward the open doors of the movie theater and just like that, the butterflies are gliding now. They’re there and I know they’re there, but we’re coexisting. “Claire?” I blink up at Abby and she’s still smiling from her terrible joke. “You coming?”
I catch up to her and even take a few steps ahead so I could pay for her ticket and when I pass it to her, her cheeks blend in with the color of her pink lipstick. The butterflies break from their glide and start doing the butterfly equivalent of jogging. I’m going to have to look into buying them a track to run on, if they plan on staying a while. At least then they’ll all be flying in a straight line and it won’t feel like complete chaos.
We’re sitting in the back row of the theater and the previews before the previews are playing so everyone is speaking quietly. A Tom Hanks trivia question pops up on the screen and I forget where I am as I scream out the answer.
Abby giggles and whispers, “I’m so glad you’re here.” Then she lets her head fall onto my shoulder.
Her hair brushes against my left cheek and the butterflies are rowdy. Not even a track stolen from the Olympic stadium could settle their wings. But seconds before the domino effect that her touching me has on the butterflies’ behavior begins – the moment the weight of her skull rests gently on my shoulder – ten thousand things swarm into my mind at once.
Her head hits my shoulder and I think of the poem I wrote two weeks after having my first conversation with her online. How my mind was mad with the beauty of the freckles that scattered across her skin and the passion she exuded whenever she spoke about anything that meant something to her. How the last line of the poem was, ‘even if it’s love, it’s heartbreak’ because eight hundred miles seemed like too big of a hurdle to jump over.
Her head hits my shoulder and I think of the first night she told me she loved me. The song she told me reminded her of us and then when she immediately back-tracked her statement, worried she’d gone too far. How I wished I could reach my hand through the telephone to grab hers, to calm her down wordlessly, but instead just clearly stated into the phone, “I love you too.”
Her head hits my shoulder and I think of the night she called me, drunk out of her mind, rambling about how sad she was that she was allergic to bananas. How she eats banana-flavored things anyway, but not to worry because, “I keep my EpiPen right next to me.” How my cheeks hurt from smiling and then burned from the tears pouring lightly down my face when she told me she didn’t know how she would have gotten through the last few months without me.
Her head hits my shoulder and my skin feels like it’s cracking and I think maybe my body is the chrysalis and the butterflies are finally ready to fly away because she’s here. And her head is on my shoulder.