Friday, October 23, 2009


mulholland dr
Hey you, said Haylee, nudging at my side. From the kitchen, she passed me a plate of grilled shrimp with yellow rice, beans, pico de gallo and guacamole through the service window. I felt very special because the shrimp dish was the most expensive item in the menu.
No not you. She pointed at Nile.
Oh gotcha.
Nile sat on the counter, her elbow on the bar, resting her head, looking nowhere in particular. A beautiful girl- tall slender figure, high forehead, long intricate dreads, furious eyebrows, humongous light brown eyes, long dignified nose and luscious lips made her look like the Nefertiti reincarnate.
Haylee, the short order cook of this burrito joint was from Hawaii. Because of her small stature and boyish looks, she was always mistaken for a Hispanic boy among the pre-dominantly Mexican co-workers. She’d lose her temper when people start speaking Spanish to her.
I don’t understand Spanish, comprende?

Nile was a flamenco dancer. Sometimes she came in for her shift in full costumes, drenched in sweat, still full of her infectious laugh and energy. We were all in awe of her, especially Haylee. Most of us wait staff were consisted of dreamers, trying to become dancers, writers, artists... in the big city. Even though we were all transients, interlopers just passing through the job to make ends meet, there was a certain camaraderie we shared. Nile was special though. There was an air of exclusivity around her that we common people couldn’t reach. It was matter of time she called it quits on being a waitress.

No, no. I can’t eat this, whispered Nile, shaking her head firmly while looking at me and the kitchen back and forth. I read it on her face that she didn’t want Haylee’s special attention anymore.
It’s not right.
I ended up eating the shrimp.

I was scribbling away in my note pad just as I am doing now.
You have a pretty handwriting.

I looked up.
What are you writing? Nile asked, just before the evening rush. Her beautiful eyes penetrating my soul. I had to look away.
It’s about a girl who swallowed a butterfly. I thought I heard her snickering at my response. I could tell that Nile was only half interested as I told her a story of a young girl who had a cold and had to be cooped up indoors:

She looked outside through the window enviously. There was a thermometer placed in her mouth. It was a beautiful bright summer day. The cloudless sky was bright blue and the flowers were in full bloom and the grasses were lush green. The girl wanted to be outside so badly. She climbed down from the sofa and put the thermometer in her unfinished bowl of chicken soup. She looked around cautiously and walked out of the house. The sun was blinding, she had to shade her eyes under her tiny hands for a while. Her barefoot first tested the top of the grass as if they were made out of needles, then she stepped in to the backyard garden. Birds were chirping and butterflies were fluttering about. She cautiously walked to the middle of the garden. She looked up. It felt good to be out. She then outstretched her arms as if to hug the sky and opened her mouth to take in all the energy around her and be rid of all her illness. Then a butterfly flew in to her mouth.

Nile didn’t get to hear the end of my story. We had to work. The evening rush was on.

To Haylee’s dismay, Nile quit the job a couple of days later without saying goodbye to anyone.
She didn’t say anything about me before she left? Haylee asked me.
No but she left this for you. I handed her a note. Haylee opened it. In a pretty hand writing, it said;

Don’t think that I didn’t notice you always setting aside the best food for me. I thank you for that. I’ll always think of you as my butterfly.

Love, Nile.

I’ll always treasure the smile on Haylee’s face that day.

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