- Mithila Malaviya
Updated: Oct 20, 2020
Butterflies have a peculiar life. Jimmy observed one as he stood there in the middle of the pineapple plantation. She flew around the lush green trees on that beautiful day, ending her trip on Jimmy’s hand. The polka-dotted beauty had landed on Jimmy’s scrummy, mud-riddled, scabbed hands. The contrast was fascinating to observe. The beauty of the yellow wings as they flap slowly to keep the momentum, with Jimmy in the background. His unusually round eyes shouldering his heavy eyebrows, that not just hovered but covered his green-blue eyes. At the right angle in the sun, Jimmy’s eyes changed colours like a chameleon, depending on who they had to charm. Jimmy smiled as the butterfly stayed longer than expected, some sort of trust was being built between the two. The crinkly smile with bracketing wrinkles at each end were hauntingly beautiful. Atop the smile perched an elongated nose. Some of his friends described it as a “Jewish Nose” but Jimmy, never believed in labels.
Still in contact with the butterfly, Jimmy now wanted a closer look. His eyebrows burrowed till there was only one in place of two. The yellow wings reminded Jimmy of his white hair that had started to come in on his jet black mane, just like the polka dots on the butterfly. Suddenly it flew away. Jimmy got too close. He was upset but by now he knew how to deal with sadness in his life. People had left before.
Wearing ragged clothes that were obviously too big for him, bare feet, he returned to the plantation. The sweat was back, dripping down his salt and pepper beard.
“Oi! Jimmy!”, called his manager. Jimmy’s big heavy ears twitched as he looked at Gilderoy, his manager. An older man with all-white hair on a dark-skinned face. He was God’s raw creation at its finest. Gilderoy was always good to Jimmy. They had known each other for years now. He had seen Jimmy go through a lot of things but, never a cry. “Boss. I…um…was just trying to finish up real quick. Sorry, it's taking so long”, Jimmy mumbled. Standing in Gilderoy’s office where the walls were covered in big, green, leafy wallpaper, Jimmy was still sweating. Gilderoy smirked, “Heres your money boy.”, standing behind his larger than what-would-fit-through-the-door desk, he sent Jimmy on his way. Jimmy was always nervous when the Boss called. He was the best at his job but he still believed that he would get fired in a breath. Maybe thats what kept Jimmy grounded. He grabbed his cigarettes, keys, gloves and started walking out the gate.
Gilderoy had an open view of the gate right from his office. He liked to keep an eye on who walked in and out of his property. He watched as Jimmy walked out thinking back to all the hardships that Jimmy had experienced. He almost started counting all the times he would have given up on life if he was in Jimmy’s situations. The time when he found Jimmy being beaten up senseless at the local watering hole, but he still had a smile on his face when Gilderoy shooed away the hooligans. “Don't worry Boss, my hands still work! 9:00 am sharp tomorrow?” Jimmy said. The time he found out that Jimmy had been molested by some strangers who thought he was gay. Gilderoy was the one who found him injured in the ditch and took him to the doctor. Or the first time when Jimmy had been left stranded at the side of the road by his grandparents, that's when he had hired Jimmy. No matter how hard life hit Jimmy, he never called for help. That's the only thing Jimmy’s father had taught him, never come home injured, physically or mentally. Gilderoy took back the tear that was approaching his dark brown eyes and pushed back his hair. There were more things but Gilderoy had no heart left to re-live those moments anymore. He sat back in his black leather chair that went higher than his head and put on his glasses. His expense report was waiting to be finished.
As Jimmy walked down the dusty small road that had not even been cemented, he lit up a smoke. His colleagues always smoked the thin cigarettes which had lesser nicotine and did not burn the back of their throats as much. Some kept quitting. They all always tried to convince Jimmy to quit or switch to the “Milder Stuff”, but Jimmy liked the burn at the back of his throat. He liked when he could feel that it was harming him. It made him remember he was still alive. Bud, ground, foot- Jimmy threw the cigarette away and walked into the clinic. “Jimmy! Always a pleasure!”, exclaimed the doctor, “I have never seen you without a smile!”, he continued. Jimmy smiled and sat there in silence. He had lost tons of weight in the past month and was feeling more tired than usual at work. He thought he was up for a general check up, which is why he got himself landed in the clinic.
“So, I got you tested for almost everything that we can test you here for!”, the doctor chuckled. “Actually I have not seen the results myself, I have been with patients all day. Over that, my wife keeps fighting with me because she thinks I ate her sandwich! Can you believe that? I mean why would…”, he continued but Jimmy cut him off. “If you do not mind I have to get back to the plantation. Can I just read the reports myself?”, Jimmy asked. He had been in that clinic too many times over the years. He disliked the receptionist who never paid attention to the patients, nor the pale eggshell white walls that were unnerving, nor the doctor who was a little too cheerful to be treating death riddled patients all day. “Of course. If you do or do not have anything the file will explain it to you. It is very detailed. The things in bold red are the bad things you have and the things in bold black are what you need not worry about. Actually, I came up with this system, you see it helps the patients…”, the doctor explained before getting cut off again. “See ya doc!”, Jimmy said bending down to walk out the unnecessarily small door.
Jimmy lit another cigarette. The burning felt good. It made him feel alive and numb together. At the moment that he pulled the smoke in, he was alive and the moment he left it, he was numb. Numb to the world. Numb to his past. Numb to his hidden pain. He knew something was not right in the file. He felt it in his gut. He did not want the doctor to know as the doctor and Gilderoy were good friends. He did not want Gilderoy to anymore be troubled by Jimmy. He walked onto an even smaller road this time, secluded, with these thoughts running through his mind. As he walked across the wild plants that grew taller than him, he smiled. He did not care what was in those files at that moment. He was alive and well for now. He was completely blooming in the prime of his life, till he opens the file. He knew the file would change his life and his outlook of the world, so he enjoyed this walk while he could. The road now opened up to a water-body. Jimmy arrived ate his secret happy place. He sat down and lit another cigarette. In, and out. The smoke went in all the directions as the wind blew. The birds chirped as the water crashed the land. In, and out. He looked back to the times he was happy. Every time he knew he could count on Gilderoy. All the smiles he got when he first walked into the plantation every morning. All the kids playing outside his house. He opened the file. Matso, who always gave him extra cigarettes when he came in. In, and out. The day he won the poker match. The light in his room that he fixed all by himself. Bold Red. His eyebrows burrowed till there was only one in place of two, like this morning when he was appreciating the butterfly. In, and out. Lung Cancer. In, and out.