I spent most of my life trying to Americanize myself, but all that rebelliousness melted away when the earthquake hit
“Did you see?” my mother says to me, ripping up tissue paper. “The butterflies couldn’t get out of their cocoons. Their eyes are deformed, legs crooked, wings bent.”
She forwards me an article from Nature about the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear-plant explosions and the butterflies that had hatched from radiated cocoons. Zizeeria maha, they’re called, or the pale grass blue butterfly. This is a time when people in Tokyo are suddenly using foreign words like microsieverts and Geiger counters while avoiding nuclear and radiation, and instead talk about butterflies, whose collapsed eye sockets resemble popped bubble wrap. “If the soil is contaminated, everything is contaminated. If the water’s contaminated, everything’s contaminated.”
My mother loves concrete because it lets her high heels clack. She’s like an indoor cat that appreciates nature from the closed window. She’s always hated butterflies, calling them caterpillars with wings. And here she is, obsessing over them.
I say goodbye, click the exit box, and shut my laptop. The New York sirens wail outside my apartment, reminding me that I’m far away from her and have been for a long time.