I keep a small, flat ticket no larger than 2x4 inches. Shades of yellow line its borders with the center remaining white. In black print, the date and time were given. July 12, 2016, at 4:00pm. A small blue emblem with a bright yellow sun in sits on one of the ticket’s corners. “The Smithsonian Institute” is written in black beneath the emblem. One side of the durable paper is perforated from being torn. It allows one entry to the butterfly house. I keep this to remind myself of something very important, something I cannot forget.
From the heat and humidity outside into the cold, crisp air conditioning, it felt like a breath of fresh air. As I ran up the stairs, I could feel my legs burn from the walking I had done previously, but I didn’t mind. I was too excited to get to what those stairs led to. I walked into a gray-clad room with large windows and a high ceiling. The windows allowed a plethora of light in. In the distance stood a monument, towering above all other buildings in the nation’s capital. I turned my attention towards the room I was in. Different bugs lined the wall, all of them in a display with a neatly written explanation of what they were, where they lived, and what their purpose was. In the center of this room was a tiny jungle. A wall of glass allowed me to see through to the bright flowers and various fruits inside. This is the Smithsonian butterfly house, only free to the public on Tuesdays, the day I happened to be there.
I was so incredibly excited to see the butterfly house, I knew that I had to. The timing was just perfect, so I knew it was meant to be. After the long day of touring Washington D.C. in 90° heat and 80% humidity, my family and I took sanctuary in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. When we entered, we were told the butterfly house was open to the public that day. I decided I’d go by myself while my family had lunch. The museum had set times on when you could enter, and I got the last ticket for the 4:00 time. It was 3:45, so I went to go look at the geology and mineralogy exhibit while I waited.
When the 15 minutes were up, I got in line and anxiously waited for the doors to open. Once I was inside, the humidity hit me like a brick wall. It was practically as bad as it had been outside, but I didn’t mind. I happened to be too enamored with these small creatures to care. There were butterflies of every single color, brilliant blue, bright orange, even butterflies with transparent wings. One landed on me and stayed with me the entire time I was there. “I wish one would land on me,” said a lady as she took a picture of the butterfly on my shoulder. “You just have to wait and be patient; I’m sure one will land on you,” I responded. She wanted one to land on her, and I understood that. She was pretty; I remember she had nice shoes. As I was poised to compliment her shoes, a butterfly landed on the ground. It sat there for a minute, as did I. When it opened its dull, brown wings, a flash of the most brilliant blue I’d ever seen appeared. Brown, blue, brown, blue. I watched it, mesmerized.
The woman who I’d talked to before was entranced by the same butterfly I was, however, we had different ideas of appreciating it. She kicked the butterfly with her shoes I once thought had been pretty. She kicked it, and kicked it, so it would fly towards her. Once it was frantically flying, she grabbed for it. She didn’t bother to realize she had torn its wing. She wanted it to land on her I realized. I was paralyzed, I couldn’t do anything, I could only watch in horror as she ripped its wing further. Stop! I wanted to cry out, but I couldn’t. After she was done picking up the helpless creature by its wing and taking pictures, she threw it on the ground. She grabbed her child’s hand and walked out of the butterfly house.
Why hadn’t I said anything? Why hadn’t I done anything? I couldn’t pretend I didn’t see, I was watching the entire time. I went to the curator of the exhibit and told him what had happened. “We let people in here for free, you think they’d have more respect,” he said sadly. The curator was an older man who had such an adoration for these small creatures. I could tell by the way he gently picked up the butterfly with a paintbrush and put it on a flower. His voice had an air of hopelessness. He was defeated, none of these people had the same respect for the butterflies as he did. The ones that had been trampled weighed down on him. I felt sorry.
This butterfly couldn’t fly anymore. It might have been directly because of that woman, but it was indirectly because of me. I felt awful, and I still do. Somehow, I don’t feel like this was a coincidence. Everything leading up to this situation needed to happen so I could have the experience I did. I keep the ticket from this butterfly house as a reminder to take every opportunity that presents itself. I can’t be afraid to do things, especially if it helps me or others. I must say what I’m thinking if I ever want peace of mind. It might have been just a butterfly to anyone else, but it was so much bigger to me.