After graduating from Xavier University, working a summer and then traveling around seeing America, there was a strong need to find a job. The first offer, which I accepted, was from Lincoln Life Insurance as an Underwriter for Life Insurance. I sat in my cubicle first as Underwriter Trainee and gradually moved up the line of desk over the next three years until I became a Senior Underwriter.
The job itself taught me more about medical problems than anything but I did also learned much about the way large corporation run a business and managerial techniques. There were benefits, 37 ½ hour work week, (Friday Afternoons off), also all the extra social programs like coaching the women’s softball team, my first art show, bridge league, and most of all 5,000 female employees, many who were single and young.
In those three years I worked at Lincoln I learned more about women then the rest of my years combined. It basically caught me by surprise. They would just come by my apartment, do my laundry, ask to be drawn. There were many parties. I was able to meet a number of women and enjoyed dating around.
One particular young girl I met was an 18 year old blond. She was tall and thin with a shapely figure. She was very pretty and sexy but in an innocent sort of way. Her eyes were deep with a long sloping nose and a wide mouth. Her smile was beautiful and intoxicating, but what many men would find out was that there was a lot more going on behind that attractive smile. Intelligent and gregarious she had many friends and dated a lot. We met at parties and after work. We became friends.
This young girl almost 5 years younger than me came over one Friday afternoon for a pre arrange appointment to have a her portrait drawn. We sat on the couch and I remember leaning over and kissing her on that long mouth of hers. She was a good kisser. After a few more she leaned back and slowly unbuttoned the blouse she was wearing with no bra. She said she want to go to bed with me. At first I jumped at the idea. It’s hard to turn that down. But she was so young. I knew she had had many partners and she would have many, many more. We fumbled for a while and it just didn’t feel right. So I back off and told her not now. Twenty years later she would ask me why we never made love. I told her I couldn’t remember but it was better that way.
Actually I knew if we made love, it wouldn’t last long. She was so young and she would soon move on. I really didn’t want to say good-bye to her. It is like a painting that you would love to have but you know you couldn’t keep it so you donate to a museum so that you could visit it often and enjoy it. I remembered a saying about letting a butterfly go free and if it returned , it was yours forever, if it did not, it was never yours to begin with or something like that. In my mind I called her My Butterfly.
So friends it became and we would go out periodically for years. She would set me up for dates with her own friends and sometime we’d double. We had an ongoing agreement that once a month we would go to a bar that the other had never been to. One month it was my turn and the following month it was hers. This continued on for years and through three of her husbands but slowed down over time. I would pick her up, say “Hi!” to her husband and we would go out and talk for hours about everything. She told me she was abused as a child, raped later on, and her desires, her sexual fantasies. I’m not really sure how much to believe. My Butterfly was always into something a little strange and far out. From astrology to tarot cards to fortune teller to God she usually tried to convince me how great they were and I should try it. She was always searching.
Her third husband was a good man. She ended up having three children by this person. And he was also a good father. I remember when she had her first child, a little boy. She wanted me to come over and see the baby right away. When I got there I sat down and she quickly handed the little baby boy over to me and I held it in my arms. It seemed like so long ago.
The week before I got married My Butterfly and I met for lunch and after wards instead of the traditional kiss on the cheek I kissed her long on the lips for the first time since on the couch 8 years before. She didn’t pull back. We just both smiled and I said goodbye.
Her three children grew up and she divorced their father, not really sure why. We would still get together for a drink or lunch but not as often. The time between became longer and longer. The last time we had lunch was about five years ago. She called and wanted to know if we would hire her son that I had held in my arms so many years before. He was having trouble. An artist, he was a bit of a rebel and she wanted him to get a regular job. She was worried. So we hired him and agreed to meet again for lunch. I remember sitting at Yen Chings where we ate Chinese food and remembering how my little Butterfly still looked so young. She even confided in me that she had been dating what she called “boys” more than ten years younger and was having fun. Having torn my shoulder I told her I needed surgery. No, she said, you need to mend from inside. She put her long slender hands on my shoulder and closed her eyes for more than a few minutes and tried to cure my sore shoulder with pleasant thoughts. She instructed me to do the same, but I kept my eyes open and just looked at her and smiled. It is probably why it wasn’t successful.
So I was startled when I saw her picture in the obituary. We had a conversation or two on the phone and we were going to get together but it didn’t happen. I had heard she married again and was happy. So I went to the funeral home by myself. I wanted to know what happened.
The funeral home was crowded. I searched the room for people I knew. I found one of her old friends from the days at Lincoln Life. This friend told me that My Butterfly put a 38 revolver to her head and shot herself. She hadn’t been able to sleep at all for three straight months. It drove her crazy. They were planning to go to John Hopkins in Cleveland but she gave up hope I was told. They thought maybe it was a virus. No one knew for sure. This long-time friend of My Butterfly said it was so sad because she had finally found a man that loved her and cared for her the way she deserved. They had been married two months ago. He found her with the 38 by her side.
So I met the husband number four or five, the one who found her. He was about my age and was a handsome man. I also talked to the third one who was with his current wife, the father of her children and then left and walked to my car. As I was about to get into the car I heard someone yell “Wait Mr. Kelly!” It was her son the one I held in my arms so long ago, the one that had worked for me. His girlfriend from out East was with him and they came running up to me. He thanked me for coming. He wanted me to meet his girlfriend, an artist too. I expressed how sorry I was. Her boy, now a young man, told me he was back at school studying art out East. We talked about his Mom for a bit before he told me he had been going through his mom’s things and found every one of my Christmas cards that I sent her. She kept them all. He explained that he was going to keep them. I told him I thought it was a good idea. What I didn’t tell him was that so many years before, his Mom, My Butterfly, received the first and the only Christmas drawing that I sent out that year in 1974 or 75. She had it framed and hung it on her wall. The second year I did a screen print of a lady laughing on t-shirts and sent those out to 6 or 7 close friends, including her. I then started sending drawings out to more and more people every year. But she was the first and the only one that year and received one every year thereafter. She was the only one that had them all.
As I sat in my car, I wondered what would have happened if things went differently on the couch when we were so young. I wondered why she didn’t call me when she was in so much trouble. I wondered if I could have helped. And I wondered why…. why she did it, what was wrong, an answer nobody will know.
So I just sat there for what seemed a long time. I sat and thought of all the time we spent together. But most of all I sat and wished I could have said good bye….. to My Butterfly.