FROM “THE HEALER”
I’d been shaking since I was a kid. It felt like thousands of butterflies battling inside my internal organs. I would stop breathing and pretend that I was invisible. My siblings had other ways of coping with a raging father and a mother as afraid of him as we were, but mine was like a strange purple birthmark that a girl I once knew had plastered over half of her face. People would stare at her, furrow their eyebrows and then turn quickly away, but I knew that girl had noticed every one of them study her in horror before they moved on. She didn’t notice me smiling at her all the time like some kind of loon, but I was sure we were kindred souls. My birthmark was rupturing from the inside so that I was compelled to stay in motion or the tics and shaking would come to the surface. I ran track races and played basketball, baseball and raced on a swim team, but I never could outrun it.
When I arrived at the dirt path that led to the waterfall with a wooden sign welcoming everyone and listing the rules—silence and single file only, in three languages—I got in line behind a group of elderly women. They had a few kids with them, but no one that I knew, which made me calmer. It would be my solitary goodbye to Brazil. Some of the women wore their skirts and shirts into the waterfall. The kids were already stripped of clothes and in their bathing suits. I had gotten down to the rocks and was waiting for my turn. What a bizarre ordeal this had been. I felt worse than I had ever felt in my life. I was looking forward to getting home to my house. I came closest to what they called peace when I was alone. I hoped I could make it through the hell of the airport security and long flights without breaking down. I could see the birthmark getting brighter and brighter everyday.
I heard voices and looked around. I remembered that this was supposed to be a quiet sanctuary. One kid was pointing at me and a few of them were yelling out in Portuguese. All the old women were looking in my direction, putting their hands up, and a few dropped to their knees. There was a golden light beaming through the trees. I noticed blurs of blue around me. I stood on two rocks while a swarm of the most exotic, magnificent blue-purple butterflies whirled and beat their wings around me. They landed on my head, my arms, and fluttered everywhere. I smiled through tears trying to keep the butterflies inside me as still as possible.
I closed my eyes. He had seen me. I was inside a miracle. When I recovered I would make sure that Melanie wrote this one up in the books.
Beth Couture is an assistant editor with Sundress Publication and the secretary of the board of directors of SAFTA. She is also the fiction editor of Sundress’ newest imprint, Doubleback Books. Her own work can be found in Gargoyle, Drunken Boat, Yalobusha Review, the Thirty Under Thirtyanthology from Starcherone Books, Dirty, Dirty from Jaded Ibis Press, and other publications. Her first book, a novella titled Women Born with Fur, is due out in the fall from Jaded Ibis Press. She teaches at Bloomsburg University in Bloomsburg, PA.