The Butterfly Effect

By Anwin Harvey



“Good morning, Mr Farfella, have a seat.”


“Morning, Mrs Dove. Hope you had a nice Christmas!”


“Oh, it’s Ms Dove now, actually. My husband passed away a few weeks ago. He flew into a glass window.”


“Oh, fatal collision, huh?”


“Oh no, it caused a concussion. Severe brain damage. He stepped off the Golden Gate the next day. Forgot he could fly. He drowned.”


(Coughs) “I’m sorry to hear that!”


“Oh, don’t worry, it’s been a few weeks now. I’ve moved on.”


“I’m glad to hear that.”


“Let’s talk about you, Mr Farfella. We were supposed to have our first session a week ago. You didn’t show up. I see you’ve changed your mind.”


“Yeah, I was having second thoughts. I thought, maybe I’ll travel the world a bit to,” (making air quotes) “find myself. But, really, how far can you fly away from your problems? I don’t know, maybe because the world is round, I find myself back where I started. Honestly, I still wasn’t sure if I should come. You know how they say only crazy people need help?”


“That’s not true. Besides, don’t think of it as help, if that helps. I’m just here to listen.”


(Coughs) “Hmmm. Ok.”


“So, what do you wanna talk about?”




“It’s ok.”


“Well, here’s the thing. I hate the way I look. I absolutely hate it. I don’t wanna look like this.”




“Until a few weeks ago, everything was fine. I was ugly as a grub, well, caterpillar, and it was perfect. I would be in my cocoon the whole day, reading Nietzsche or Sartre. I would only come out occasionally to ask my neighbors to keep it down. They’re bees, you see. The buzzing really bothers me.”


“And why do you think that bothers you?”


“I don’t know, it’s just not very pleasant to the ears, you know? They aren’t exactly The Beatles. Oh boy, I love the Beatles. When they hold a concert nearby, I put down whatever I’m reading and just listen to them. ‘Let it, Bee’ is my favorite. Are you a fan?”




“You know, I used to love The Vultures too, but then after that whole expose came out, I stopped listening to them. Apparently, they systematically targeted and groomed vulnerable female fans! You think you know someone from their album cover and then Ronan Sparrow publishes a Pulitzer Prize winning expose. It’s scary, you know?”




“I’m sorry, I digress. So, as I was saying, everything was A-ok, and then one day I wake up looking like this. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have body dysmorphia or anything. I’m well aware of the allure of my appearance. I look gorgeous now and that’s exactly my issue.”


“What is it about your appearance that bothers you?”


“All the attention. People are treating me differently now and I hate it. It’s like I’ve been stripped of my individuality. Now, I’m just ‘that really hot guy next tree,’ a stereotype! Like, this other night, I was out on a blind date with this chick, Gazelle Bundchen. A deer mutual friend set us up. So, we were at this new vegan bistro that had recently opened by the river, you know, since she’s a vegan. Anyways, I was sharing my theory of what Nietzsche meant when he said, ‘God is dead’ and she just kept staring into my eyes the whole time. She wasn’t paying attention to anything I was saying. Just ‘lost in my beauty’ as she said, like it’s meant to be some kind of compliment. And then this Bimbo tells me a sob story about her stepfather Bambi and how he killed himself. So, obviously I feel bad because I’m an empathetic person and I try to comfort her. Fast forward to the next day and I find out she was trying to get me to sleep with her out of pity. She manipulated me! Turns out, she and her father were estranged, and she was partly the reason he killed himself! This would never have happened if I was still a caterpillar, you know?”


“I understand.”


“Beauty is a curse. I mean it! And I don’t mean it in a condescending, patronizing way, like those peacocks. I really mean it. I hate the fact that I’m so attractive. I don’t feel at home in my body. It feels more like a bodysuit.”


“You said you don’t feel at home in your body. Do you mean to say you don’t identify with being a butterfly?”


“What I mean is, I’m not comfortable with being perceived as beautiful. I find it limiting. Like, people are more interested in my spots than my thoughts. And I don’t like that. Think how Bee-thoven would have felt if he heard people talk about how many flowers he made out with, instead of his symphonies, if he could hear them! Or imagine how Virginia Wolf would have felt if people talked about her ‘sexy tail’ instead of her brilliant literary works? She would have killed herself. I mean, yeah, she did kill herself, but for completely different reasons.”


“Do you think maybe the problem isn’t your looks but how people see you?”


“I don’t know. Sure, it would better if people are able to look beyond my looks and appreciate me for the intelligent being that I am. But also, I think, sometimes they can’t help it. It is, after all, basic animal nature. I would be lying if I said I haven’t looked twice at a beautiful swan when I’m hanging by the river. In fact, my first girlfriend was a swan. Actually, a cygnet. She was a runaway, you know? Her riverfolk used to call her ‘ugly duckling’ and so she moved out of her hometown to get away from them. And guess what? She left me when she grew up to be a swan. She thought she was too good for me. Good riddance, I say. I don’t think it’s true what they say about beauty changing people. I don’t think beauty changes people. I think it reveals them, for who they are. Like my girlfriend. She didn’t wake up one day and suddenly become a shallow, elitist, vain, conceited, narcissistic, short-sighted, long-necked, judgmental bitch. It was who she was, inside. Look at me! I could be conceited and vain, I could be a supermodel if I want. But I know beauty is only skin deep. It’s who you are on the inside that counts. And inside, I’m a really smart, perceptive, articulate, intelligent man who deserves to be seen for who he is. Prescription glasses, grey hairs, a beard and a protruding belly – that’s the look that matches my mind. People would address me as Professor Farfella. It’s a pipedream, I know!”


“Have you considered maybe not acknowledging your beauty? Maybe try going about your day like you’re still the same old caterpillar?”


“Easier said than done, Ms Dove. It’s hard to ignore it when it calls attention to itself. When I go out, flowers whistle at me and make sexually suggestive gestures, like opening up their petals. It’s obscene. When I go to a café and sit down just to have a cup of coffee and read some Camus in peace, I notice humans pointing me out to their little toddlers. Oh, and these toddlers, they’re disgusting, I tell you! They have no concept of personal space. They come and try to touch and rub my wings like it’s okay! I feel violated, you know?”


“I understand.”


“Honestly, I would give anything to go back to being the caterpillar I once was. People are like ‘that was just a phase.’ But no, I know it wasn’t. That was me. That’s who I am.”


(Ms Dove coos sympathetically)


“Yeah.” (Mr Farfella looks away)


“Is there something else you wanna tell me, Mr Farfella? I’m sorry if I’m intruding, but I feel like there’s something else weighing on your mind.”


“Well…” (Coughs)


“You can tell me.”


“Uhmm…I’m sorry, my throat is a lil’ dry. Do you have something to drink?”


(Ms Dove pours some coffee into a mug and hands it to Mr Farfella)


(Slurping) “Did you make this yourself?”


“No, my maid did.”


“Then you need to get yourself a new maid. Pardon me, but this tastes like mud water!”


“Mr Farfella, don’t worry about the coffee. There’s something else you wanted to talk to me about. What is it?”


“Okay. Fine.” (Sighs heavily) “The other night, I tried to cut off my wings. Now, I know, self-harm is never the answer and I’m a rational being. But sometimes, I can’t help but think, if I just cut off my wings, everything will go back to normal.”


“Do you think that maybe it’s more a fix than a solution?”


“I don’t know. The only thing that stopped me from doing it is the undeniable physiological benefit that comes with having wings. I like being able to fly. I just wish it didn’t come with having to carry the crushing weight of beauty. I have too many people crushing on me on account of my looks, I hate it!”


“Hmm.” (Jots down notes)


“I guess what I’m saying is, I want people to want me for my smarts and not my looks. If their eyes could see beyond the glittery surface, my brain is my most attractive trait.”


(Ms Dove continues to take notes)


(Sneezes) “So, I don’t know, Ms Dove, what do I do?”


“Hmmm. Well, see Mr Farfalla, to be honest, let me just say this. Unlike most of my patients, the problem isn’t with how you see yourself but with how the world sees you. And to some extent, I believe I can relate to your problem. But the fact is, there’s only so much we can do to change the world around us. In an ideal world, like Martin Luther King Cobra said, shortly before he was killed, we shouldn’t be judged by ‘the black-market value of our skin, but the content of our character.’ And, true, it’s a tragedy that our society places so much importance on beauty. It’s an imperfect world, but, hey, it’s the world we live in. So, we must learn to adapt. Let me just say this. It doesn’t matter if the world sees you as a beautiful butterfly who flies around, making out with flowers all day. What matters is if, deep inside, you believe you’re still the same ugly caterpillar who refuses to grow up because the world wants him to. You are what you feel you are, not what the world thinks you are!”


“Thanks, Ms Dove, that actually helps. So, same time next week?”


“Oh, sorry, I’m not available next week. The dove association is organizing a peaceful rally against the crows that have migrated to our neighborhood. There’ll be hundreds of us attending. They’re violent creatures by nature, you see? There’s a reason they’re called a ‘murder of crows,’ after all. It’s not ok for them to come dirty our neighborhood with their filth! I mean, go back to your electric pole, am I right? But we don’t believe in violence; it’ll just be a peaceful protest. We’ll be carrying olive branches. You’re welcome to join!”


“Oh, I’d love to!” (Mr Farfella coughs repeatedly)


“You should probably get that checked, Mr Farfella.”


“Ah, it’s nothing. I just got back from China two days ago. It’s the sudden temperature change. That’s probably why I’m feeling a little under the weather, haha. Don’t worry about it. So, I guess I’ll see you at the rally then?”


“Yeah, see you at the rally!”



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