I had no idea what would happen to me as I set out on my trip. I was going to Utah to do a workshop on federal grants for community mental health centers and then on to San Francisco to visit my son. I soon realized as the workshop got underway that the purpose of the workshop was to enable the gracious lady who arranged it to prove that she was in charge. The not so gracious gentleman who was one of the participants got the point right away. After all, it was happening for his benefit. I was not sure how much the others were aware of the interchange. Perhaps it happened often and they knew more about it than I.

As it was it freed me from the sense of guilt I often felt at these funding workshops. It was true that I knew all there was to know about finding Federal grant money. I could not have operated my Federal Funding File if I had not known that. The embarrassing thing was, however, that all they needed to know was to read the back two pages of the Federal Register. This is a weekly publication of the Federal government. It announces every grant program as it goes into operation, including the legislation that authorizes it and the agency (including their address and telephone number) that awards the funds.

I managed to pass the copy of the Register they had on the table to one of the participants and point to the pertinent information while our gracious lady was sounding off so strongly that she would not notice what I was doing. The workshop worried on through the day and I was free to leave in time to take a taxi to the airport to catch my plane for San Francisco.

As far back in my life as I remember I have lived my life on two levels. On top I always did everything I could to make those around me comfortable and happy. The underneath layer was a heavy layer of grief. I lived on the top layer as much as possible. I had been amused at the behaviors at the workshop which kept me safely on the top layer.

As soon as I was safely clipped in my seat on the plane, I collapsed into the lower level. How was I going to behave when I met Jonah in San Francisco? Should I chatter on about the workshop? Should I weep the ocean of tears always there below the surface of my life? Should I advance my courage to the sticking point and carry on a reasonable conversation?

Fortunately the flight was not overly long. We did arrive in San Francisco before I ran out of possible alternatives, and I rose to the surface again in the process of deplaning. Jonah was there at the gate to meet me. He had rented a car so it was an easy trip to town and to his apartment. Conversation was all surface so I did not try to talk about the difficult things.

I had not seen his apartment before. It was quite modest but incredibly delightful. It was on the second floor. A broad door opening on the flat roof of a garage revealed a beautiful outside garden. Jonah was an artist. His artistic skill took many forms. He drew. He was a chef. He was a decorator. He painted, and when he gardened the result was a masterpiece of color and form. He knew how much I loved gardening and stood back watching me with a grin on his face as I reacted dynamically to his creation.

Jonah was gay. He had written to tell me so when one of the leaders of the gay community in San Francisco told the people that they should come out and tell people that they were gay.

I had no problem with that. In my psychology studies I had figured out that everyone naturally has both impulses. Since society has condemned homosexuality, we suppress that impulse and feel guilty about it. In man’s early development there was a reason for condemning it. We could not afford to waste the sperms because there were not that many people around. Now we have too many people in the world and we can afford to waste a few sperms. The immorality got mixed up with the Bible, most of which was written in man’s early history.

So I was not upset by Jonah’s news. Because I was not so sure how my husband would feel about it, I wrote to Jonah and asked him if I should tell his father. Jonah never answered my query. Instead he wrote to inform me that he has AIDS. Homosexuality was no issue at all when I talked to my husband because I had to tell him that Jonah has AIDS.

Now that I was here with Jonah close to my arms I needed to make a decision about how to approach him. We went to bed without discussing AIDS that night. The next morning Jonah told me about his doctor, his medication, and the fact that the disease had not developed very far in a matter of fact way. So I had no need for hysterics and I managed to stay comfortably on the surface for the early part of my visit.

Jonah had rented the car because he planned to take me on a drive down the California coast to a town that had an unusual maritime museum with a famous dolphin show and even a whale under glass. I labored to keep my conversation pleasant while we were underway. I even tried to make Jonas laugh when I described the tactics of the Gracious Lady at the workshop.

I spent most of my time at the Museum watching the huge whale. He was in an enormous water cage. He kept moving around, returning to the place where I stood frequently. I could not tell whether or not he was aware of me, but I certainly was aware of him. I thought we had a lot in common. He must strive to live on the surface of his life as much as I. To go below he would have to be so enraged over his captivity that it would certainly destroy him.

Jonah joined me after his wanderings soon enough to take me outside to watch the dolphin show. The audience enjoyed it far more than I. I was still focused on the whale and sinking deeper into my depression. We left after the show to return to San Francisco. Neither of us had much to say. Jason kept referring to the map and explained why as he turned off the thruway to go west toward the ocean.

“I wanted you to see the butterflies in this park,” he said. “They migrate to this area in the fall and remain here until spring. Then they start the migration back to the northern area where they spend their summers.”

“Butterflies do not migrate,” was the most I had to offer from my depressed condition.

“Well,” my Jonah replied. “We can see if there are any butterflies here.”

There were hordes of butterflies all over the park. My neuropathic feet stumbled among the piles of dead leaves on the ground flinging my head square into a solid flutter of these black and orange beauties. I heard them scream as the flutter broke apart sending many of them to the ground dead. I could not scream. Jonah was here and he would hear me.

As Jonah and I walked around through the park I turned away from his side indicating that I would like to walk alone. Everywhere I wandered the scream grew in intensity. The scream inside me swelled until I, too, would like to spread myself on the ground dead.

Thousands of the creatures were flying everywhere around the park. And everywhere they were flying they were screaming. I panicked. I could not stand this any more. I finally rushed toward Jonah shouting, “Get me out of here!”

Jonah rushed to my side, concerned that I was in some kind of trouble. Seeing that I looked alright, he chuckled.

"I guess if you see one you have seen them all.” he remarked.

“It has been a long day,” Jonah reasoned as we headed north on the throughway. I pretended I was asleep so I would not have to carry on a conversation. The scream died slowly as we moved closer to the beautiful garden on Jonah’s garage roof.

I learned later that they were monarch butterflies and that they were the only butterflies that migrated. I seemed to be the only one who knew they screamed.


Next: Scream of the Butterfly 2