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Each morning and afternoon on my walk to and from work, I pass many people and things that are unique to the city and may seem absurd to an outsider. I suppose I have become accustomed to the carts overflowing with knock-off Louis Vitton purses and Dolce and Gabbana sunglasses. Even the more aggressive salespeople who will nearly assault someone if it means they can make a buck or two no longer faze me. I’m usually in too much of a hurry for that type of thing anyway.
However, in the past week or so I have noticed an unusual addition to the makeshift market place. On a corner between a used book cart and a shoe vendor stands a woman wearing a trench coat, with dark curly hair tucked beneath a bowler hat and a fake mustache above her plump crimson lips. Despite her absurd appearance I often catch a glimpse of her gleefully greeting passerby. She opens her jacket to reveal something I can never quite make out. I’ve never once seen her make a sale, nor does anyone even greet her in return. Yet this does not seem to faze her, for she returns morning after morning. Until now, I had dismissed her for a loon, a bum, a drug dealer, or all of the above.
I do not know what possessed me to do so, but the other day I altered by route to work so that I could come closer to this curious woman. Like I had seen her do to others, she greeted me with a giant toothy grin and a cheerful, “Good morning miss!”
“Morning,” I replied hesitantly, yet curious.
Still smiling and giggling to herself, she asked, “Would ya’ like to see what’s in my jacket?”
I tried to be inconspicuous as I briefly scanned my surroundings for a cop. Feeling guilty, I told her I would.
She became even more gleeful, as she untied her belt and held the flaps of her trench coat. She glanced from me to her jacket and back again as she slowly revealed what she had been hiding.
From the inside of her jacket hung rows of what must have been hundreds of small glass vials, each housing a butterfly. Monarchs, painted ladies, blue morphos, swallowtails and more hung curled in their synthetic cocoons. She looked at me with an anticipating glance, waiting for my reaction. I was shocked, yet amazed. They were beautiful.
“Are they alive?” I asked.
Slightly offended, she replied, “Of course they’re alive! I wouldn’t dare kill such beautiful creatures. In fact, I’m gonna set them free! Right now!”
Before I could even comprehend the situation, she unleashed a swarm of butterflies. The cruel concrete jungle had never seen such a magnificent sight. I gazed in awe as they flew in the air, a mix of colors and patterns. Their wings felt like delicate kisses as they brushed past my face. Even the peddlers halted their haggling to watch the spectacle.
Through the cloud of wings and antennas, I could see that toothy grin and hear that excited giggle.