He’s just a baby now, you said, holding the fuzzy blue-and-black caterpillar on your hand. When he touches me it’s like little tickles, his baby feet and fingers are soft. But he will grow and change, you know. Soon he’ll be a butterfly or a moth or something and he’ll forget I ever held him in our yard. He won’t remember that I let him walk over my knuckles like an endless staircase going up and up and up into the sky.
Maybe someday, your brother replied, he will open his wings high up in the sky and look down below where he is flying and he will say, ‘oh! That is the yard where a boy once let me crawl on his hand’!
Maybe, you agreed, but I don’t think their brains can hold that many memories or thoughts. When you think about it, he can’t really be thinking much of anything.
Like the cat? Your brother asked, grinning the grin that lights up his face and makes his eyes sparkle.
Oh, this caterpillar is dumber even than the cat. But he does everything by instinct, so that’s kind of a different kind of smart. He does what evolution has taught him to do: he crawls on the ground, climbs into trees, eats leaves, weaves a cocoon, transforms into a butterfly or a moth, then he flies away and mates and dies. That’s all he knows how to do, but that’s really all he needs to know how to do.
(You spoke so eloquently and so assuredly, and I stood in the garden and watched you and your brother, crouched down on the deck like I’d seen you do together since your brother could crouch without tumbling forward onto his nose. The images of the two of you from a year ago, two years ago, five years ago crowded together, superimposed one over the other. At once, you had chubby hands and short legs; your face was still round. Your brother’s starfish hands, reaching for you, for the crawling thing you held. But there you both were another five years from now; lanky, awkward, your voices changing…becoming the men you shall be.)
Do you want to hold him? You asked.
No thanks, your brother answered, and the moment was broken; the magic disintigrated like sand on the wind.