Ginny Lee

There is a moth who sniffles and sulks at the train station at every dawn without fail. I am there most weekdays because the coffee shop I work at starts its daily cycle around then. The moth would greet me with a nod as we became friendly strangers. For the first few months, we were silent, both yearning to speak. 

The first time he croaked to me, looking slightly more elderly than usual, “And I am nocturnal because I require an abundance of privacy”. He looked deep into my eyes, wings drooping, as if daring me to utter a word for him to chew carefully and swallow, but I only nodded curtly and stepped into the flickering fluorescent lights of a dingy train car. As it sped off, I watched him grow smaller and smaller in the distance, a fading crescent moon in the morning light.

The next day, he wasn’t there in his usual place on the bench. I felt awful sorry, wondering where he was, saddened by yesterday’s reluctance to speak to him. I sat on the middle bench where he had sat, wondering where he had flown off to. That was when I noticed a gray little grub by my pinky finger, squirming about, retreating to some dark place under the bench, perhaps to sleep.

I would later learn that it had been him. The moth. 

After his 10,457th metamorphosis, he explained to me that he was an eternal moth. A distorted version of a phoenix. Every 6 months, he dies with his wings folded over his torso, gray and flat. Each time, he hopes that it is the end or the preface of a new beginning, yet it never is. Instead, he always emerges as a displeased larva subject to building a miserly bundle of a cocoon. That is his tragedy. Constantly growing and changing in the same way. 

“The growing and changing,” he says. “The growing and changing. I liquify somewhere in between. Then, retreatment. The stewing in the cocoon, paired with the anxiety of wondering what’s outside all over again. ‘How different will it be this time? Will it be different?’ Emerging like a fresh wound with wet wings. But this wound scars over and over again.”

He hopes for a real morning, maybe a rebirth in a new location or as a different being. But each time he emerges, it is still night. It is still the same station. He claims to have learned an abundance of information in each life cycle. I do not believe him because he still reaches for an artificial light, afraid of the white hot rays of daylight. That is why he sits under the station’s buzzing light each night and retreats soon after dawn. 

One dawn, as I awaited the first train, I offered to accompany him to take a few steps beyond the shaded platform. We both knew it was an invitation of friendship and companionship. If he agreed, we would emerge together in a fresh expanse of daylight, no longer as just polite strangers. He considered thoughtfully for a second before something in him abruptly refused. He covered much of his face behind the corner of a wing as he muttered, “I will nibble holes into your old cable knit sweaters. This is a crime you will not take lightly because those are the very clothes you do not wear. They are idealized in your memory so they sit in your closet with the intent of long lasting preservation for you to stumble on and look fondly upon on warm afternoons. 

But yes, I will puncture holes in them. I will not know how to be sorry because I am convinced that it might not be in my nature. 

Or maybe it was at some point…Some several hundred metamorphoses ago…

I cannot remember correctly. Eternity erases significance. It is too much time to change in a real way.”

I couldn’t quite grasp his words at the moment. Disappointed, I boarded the train when it came and waved to him from the window. His face was still covered. I turned his words over and over in my head all the way to the coffee shop, letting them go through their own metamorphosis. 

During the last few weeks of our dawn encounters, he became more irritable. He somehow seemed to sense that I would be leaving soon, something that he yearned for but was never capable of achieving. At our last goodbye, I asked him about taking a look at the daylight again. With me. 

He would not look at me. He would not respond. 

If you are ever at the Convent Station at the intersection of Elizabeth Avenue and Reservoir Street, you might see him. By this time, he must be closing in on his 10,600th metamorphosis. I don’t know what form he will be in. Look above you for a bulky brown cocoon. If he is a larva, be careful not to sit or step on him–he may be an eternal thing, but it will still pain him. If he has grown into a moth by the time you encounter him, you will see him slouching on the middle bench. 

I have not been back since. Maybe he has switched locations. Maybe he has boarded the train. Maybe he has figured out a way into the daylight. He might even be some other being, no longer a faded moth. That is what I secretly wish for him, but I am not sure.

Ginny Lee is a senior majoring in RTVF and environmental sciences. She’s graduating soon and finally found a nail polish in the perfect shade of green.