Being brave is being afraid
. . . but doing it anyway.

. Katherine Marple

These Brief Moments

copyright © 2009

Greet the Reaper

My hands are shaking,
on my face a smile
What can I say to you?
I lie

I can beg, I can plead-
in my eyes no fear
Can’t stop this pull, no way-
can’t flee

I’m a coward, but strong
In my stride, no break
Can’t ignore the table,
I’m wrong

I’m a walking contradiction
In my heart, a fool
It is what it is:
Addiction

Pound out the peaks, I’m straight
Open my eyes, I’m fake
I sweat and I bleed,
I cry

My body is shivering,
can’t hide it on my face
Tainted and abused:
mercy

I wake a pile of me
Never again, I plead
Stomach churns, body breaks:
mercy

Don’t understand, I want
Not pulls, it taunts
Greet the Reaper again:
it’s me

I can beg, I can plead
Pound out the peaks
Greet the Reaper:
mercy 

The Dragon's Mouth

copyright © 2009

coming soon!

My mother died when I was fifteen.

It was sudden; a complete surprise to us all. It was the day before her fortieth birthday. She was always afraid of getting old, so at least she was able to cease life before she was officially over the hill.

The cemetery was in an open space of field. The air had the crisp summer smell of a breezy May day in New England. The large topped, crisp green trees surrounded us in the center, enclosing us in. The sun was shining; another blessing. My mother loved the summers to bathe in the sunshine all day and every day. If she didn’t have to work, she would be outside until the sun was hidden. Even if she did have to work, she’d hop on her bicycle as long as the roads were clear from massive rain puddles or snow heaps, and she’d pedal her two mile hike to work. Boy, did she love those UV rays. She swore she’d one day move to the beaches down south to have summers year round. I think part of her stayed because she also loved the season changes. She was afraid she’d miss them. When I walked toward the steel black casket, the dry grass crunched beneath my feet. I placed a lily on top of her closed casket along with a brand new bicycle helmet. A little bit of an ironic choice of parting gift, seeing as she was hit by a car and died due to lack of a helmet, but there it was; I was her only child and my mourning process was more extreme than the rest of our family. I simply swallowed and moved on. I tried not to let it affect me at all.

Danny reached for my hand as I stepped back to watch them lower her into the ground. It seemed such a brief ceremony- for those of us who cried, there was barely enough time to do so. I didn’t even need to look at Danny to know that he was watching to see if I’d break at the sight of her disappearing beneath the earth’s surface. He was watching to see if I’d need him to comfort me. I didn’t. I took two steps back, crunching the grass that seemed to echo in the breeze. I was going to be alright.

Danny and I practically grew up together. He was at every one of my family functions, always at my side. He was just over 6’2” and he didn’t keep to his appearance with much enthusiasm. He managed to look handsome and worn in at the same time, with his just-over-the-ear thick auburn hair always mopped and flying in every different direction. His body was long and very lean. We bicycled everywhere we went and I really didn’t see him eat very often. I’d say he was a little thicker than a heroin addict at 150 lbs, being as tall as he was.

I reached and grasped Danny’s hand lightly; simply touching him brought immense comfort. I sighed as the wind blew my short blonde hair into my brown eyes. I dragged my fingers across my pale skin, drawing the strands behind my ears. My face was damp with perspiration. The heat delved deep into my skin due to the lack of shade and the black clothes we were forced to wear. Black wasn’t my original choice of clothing because it seemed too ordinary for such an extra-ordinary day. I wore black every day, and originally I had chosen to wear an emerald green pantsuit. I thought that would bring presence and force me to realize that something was amiss. My Aunt Kathy disagreed, politely, and stuffed me into a black top and black skirt with ruffles. I was fifteen. What was I going to say to someone who flew all the way in from San Francisco to attend her dear sister’s entombment? So, I complied- nylons, pumps and all. I was practically baking with discomfort.My father stood directly across from me, on the other side of the coffin. He had been out of the picture for many years by the time I reached fifteen. It was actually really surprising, yet superfluous, that he attended. His slumped frame in his deep gray (rather than faded black) suit stated that he was not used to being around so much of our dysfunctional family at the same time. He had missed the past six Christmas parties, New Years parties, Fourth of July Fireman’s Parade parties, birthdays… my family partied all the time. The funny thing was, though, that the whole purpose of those parties was to tit and tattle on everyone who did not attend. My father was a consistent subject each month. With the fifteen feet of space between us (including the body of my mother) it was a little strange that he was almost unrecognizable to me.

Wretched (this is my sorry)

copyright © 2008

2nd Edition Released April 2010

 ***(minor adjustments to interior & new cover design)***

“You don’t love me anymore!” I shouted, purposefully not understanding what he was saying to me.  I wanted him so badly to say, ‘Yes, I do love you, I always will.  I’m sorry.  Come back to me.’ 
But instead, he sighed and said, “I guess I don’t.”
My heart dropped out of my chest.  I felt like I had been slapped in the face.  His words were so strong, the wind had been knocked out of me.
“I’m tired of fighting with you.”  He opened his car door and started to get in.  “I think it’s time you should move out.”
My whole world had changed that day.  My whole life, and what I thought it was going to be like, was completely different the moment I woke up that morning.  Now, this.  Now, the love of my life was telling me that he couldn’t handle me either.  No one could handle me.  No one could help me.  I was weak and I was trouble.
I threw my ring at him.  The ring that symbolized our love, our promise to always be together, cut his face and then dropped onto the dirt.  The promise that, eventually, when we had enough money, we’d marry and start a family was broken and seemed to be over.
He stepped into his car, and I begged myself to stop him.  I told myself not to let him get away.  My heart lurched out of my chest, and I felt like I was going to throw up.  How could it happen like this?  How could we be like this?  We’ve always fought, but we’ve never been separated after.  We’ve always worked it out.  But this time, he drove away, and as I watched his car speed down the road until I couldn’t see it anymore, my heart felt like it had stopped.  I was numb.  I died inside.  Trying so many different scenarios in my head, I kicked about the dirt, looking for my ring.  Even though I knew it was over, I didn’t want my finger to be bare.  It felt so strange to say that it was over.  How could it be when we were so in love?
At that time, it was three years into our relationship and I had been in and out of hospitals more times than I could count.  I had awful mood swings that went from loving, understanding girlfriend to jealous raged psycho bitch from hell in 2 seconds flat.  We had no money and we had different desires.   Because of each of these factors, we fought daily.   We fought so much that, even now, our friends don’t want anything to do with us.  I guessed we didn’t want anything to do with them, but deep down inside I knew that was just to fight the undeniable loneliness that dwelled within me.  We ruined holidays, parties, celebrations and anniversaries because we just couldn’t get it together.  However, an hour after each fight, we were back into each other’s arms, devouring our love for each other.  It was always a roller coaster of emotions, not to get cliché.   We survived and thrived off of our passion for one another.

 

We weren’t always at each other’s throats like this fight, though.  For about the first eight months, everything was grand.  Everything was so wonderful that we couldn’t believe that we were so happy.  Everyone was jealous of us and we were each other’s longest romance.   But when I moved in with him after a year, well… believe your folks when they say not to push too soon.  They actually may know what they’re talking about sometimes.  By all means, live together before you get married, to know what each of you is like at all angles, but don’t push to live together right away.  It’s too much too soon.  And it’s not true when they say that love can conquer all.  Just like making love feels best with foreplay and when slow, so does marrying.  Date for say, ten years.  Maybe twenty.  Who needs kids?  Just don’t kid yourself about who’s the right person.


When we first met, he swept me off of my feet.  He was a pure gentleman, refusing to even kiss on the first date.  That was completely different than what I was used to.  The guys I was usually around treated me like I was a trophy, and they used me and I let them.  That’s why none of them lasted… until Shane.  He treated me like a princess, taking me to a strictly candlelit dinner on our first date.  I wore an evening gown and he wore a pinstriped suit.  Even the bathroom was candlelit, which caused some drama with finding the toilet paper in the stall, but the whole evening was lovely anyway.  He ordered duck for me, which was exquisite, and we had sparkling champagne, topped off with chocolate mousse.   When I returned to my seat, after ten minutes of reapplying my make up and shaking the first date nerves, a single red rose awaited me.  The candles flickered, shadowing his already mysteriously sexy face and enhanced his dark, ethnic features.  Really, he wasn’t my type, but that night, he was so much more than I ever thought I would find and more than I thought I deserved. 
 He rose and pulled out my chair for me.  “You look absolutely stunning tonight,” he whispered into my diamond-studded ear.
 “Why thank you,” I said, smoothing my long, sleeveless, backless, black dress over my thin but womanly hips.  I wore my long red hair in waves cascading down my bare back.  Really, it was much more revealing than I normally dressed, being such a modest and mostly insecure woman, but it had been such a long time since I was able to wear such a nice dress.  I felt the need to not only impress my new beau, but to also impress myself.  I really wanted to knock ‘em dead.  “You look quite striking yourself tonight.  I didn’t expect you’d clean up quite so nicely.”
 Shane usually dressed in loose jeans and polo shirts, in addition to his worn cowboy hat and skateboard sneakers.  He was quite the mixture of men, agreeing with his mixture in tastes of clothes.  His body was shaped taut and muscular, while still being small and unobtrusive.  He acquired his build by working out, gardening and strumming his bass guitar.  I acquired my thinness, apart from my slightly wide ass from writing and mulling over poetry, music, and waitressing on weekends.  We were both so full of hopes and we were so ready to take on life.  He wanted everything and so did I.  We both came from broken homes and we both wanted to make up for our parents’ mistakes.  We both had holes that needed filling.  Maybe I had more holes than he did, but we wouldn’t find that out until later.
 After an exquisite meal and a lavish dessert at the most romantic place I had been in my entire life, we walked on the beach.  I grasped his hand so easily, as if we had been together forever already and it fit so perfectly.  You know it’s right when your hands fit together.  I took off my strappy sandals, wading in the ice cold sand, holding the wonderful long stemmed rose in my other hand.  We walked among the cliché moon and galloped quickly into our love story.  All was so well and beautiful.  My eyes opened so much wider and the smile never left my face.  He, a gentleman who wrote poetry to woo me, and me a woman who could easily be wooed because I was looking for someone to protect me, to care for me, and to need me.  I was filled with way too many love stories and fairytale endings.


As we both agreed on most things in the beginning, we also agreed on running with our eyes shut tight and one quick month after our first date, we exchanged ‘I love yous’.  Five months later, he offered me a promise ring.  Scared to death we were moving too fast, but so hopeful that our romance would never end, I told Shane that he meant everything to me too.
 It was on my birthday and we went to our annual town carnival.  Being my first birthday with him and only five months into our relationship, I really expected nothing.  Maybe he’d win a teddy for me, or one of those inexplicably odd looking alien stuffed animals at the games that no one could win for less than $20.00, but I didn’t expect anything more.  Well, he did all those things (I still have this orange cow/giraffe thing he won me in the backseat of my car) and he also dragged me onto the Ferris wheel.  When suspended in the air, at the top, feeling completely weightless, I overlooked our small town.  We could see the river in the next town over and the city lights on the other side. 
 “It’s so beautiful, isn’t it Shane?”  Shane’s name, once I’d looked it up in my name dictionary, meant God’s Gift.  Maybe this was true, maybe an exaggeration, but at the time, he was my hero. 
 When he didn’t respond, I looked over at him and saw his sweaty hand furnish a small gray velvet box.  My heart skipped a beat.  If my body had leapt with my heart, I would have tipped over the side and fallen a hundred feet to my death.
 “Um, I know this is kind of sudden and it feels like we’re moving so fast…”  The sweat on his forehead mounted slightly.  He took my hand in his.  “I’m so in love with you.  And someday, we’ll have enough money and we’ll have time and…”  He cleared his throat and delved his deep brown eyes into mine.  “What I’m trying to say is, in future tense, will you marry me?”
 Taken by shock and romance and blind love, I wrapped my arms around his neck and squeezed.  “Oh, Shane, I love you too!  Of course I will!”
 He laughed and hugged me back.
 “Well, here.”  He peeled me off of him and placed the diamond on my left ring finger.  It was a humble stone, afforded on his amateur wages as a computer tech at a local store, but people would constantly question, as we got older, if we were engaged.  I would smile and say, “No, but seriously committed.”
 He smiled brighter, slipping the ring on my finger and said, “Think of this as a pre-engagement ring.  Someday, we’ll be able to afford a better one, but for now, this is all I could get for you.”
 “Oh, Shane, it’s so beautiful.”  I stretched my hand out in front of me and admired the stone in the glow of the setting sun and the air of my birthday dreams.  “Thank you so much.”  It twinkled one more time before I wrapped my arms around him again and wrapped my lips around his.


That was one of the happiest memories I can remember, one of the happiest days of my life still, but that’s also where it may have started going awry.  I started believing and relishing on the idea that I was Shane’s wife or soon to be so, and I thought of nothing else.  I stopped writing, I stopped my music; I stopped and put aside all of my dreams and worked more and more.  My new dream was to get married to Shane.  My life was rushing by me.  I wasn’t prepared for what came with a ring and a promise.  Shane kept his head on straight, but I ran away with all the glamour that a wedding and a honeymoon promised me.


Speaking of honeymoons, I remember the first time we made love too.  It was a couple of months after that magnificent birthday, about eight months into our relationship.  We went back to the candlelit dinner and again had the wonderful chocolate mousse.  That taste alone brings back gorgeous thoughts that I associate that night with.  Every time we did something wonderful, we’d eat that chocolate mousse.  That night, we walked back outside, where we walked hand in hand that first date night on the beach.  We lay down in the desolate sand, away from the public and not quite in the private.  All we could hear was the sound of the waves crashing against the shore and our quietly labored breathing.   It was autumn by then, and it was definitely cold, but that alone gave us more reason to cling to each other, to cover and dwell, to envelop our nakedness.  That night, I swore to myself that he was the one.  I swore that I would forever hold on to this amazing man.
 At that moment, we still felt as if nothing could ever come between us.  Nothing could come between us, until I became more and more sick.  I had told him that I was diabetic before and he brushed it off, saying that his family had dealt with it and that it didn’t bother him.  I was grateful that he took it so well, because, frankly, the disease scared the shit out of me and I assumed it would scare him too.  Which it should have.  That disease has a mind of its own.  I can’t count how many times I’ve felt like my body was doing things without letting my mind know, like the physical and the mental had lost their link.  I started to fall into comas while I was asleep.  My mind was dreaming peacefully, telling me glorious stories while my body was shutting down the most unnecessary parts of my body, preparing itself for a long rest.  It was saving itself for the possibly long trek ahead of me, but knowing that eventually Shane would wake next to me, feel me cold, and get help.  My body was preserving itself, preparing for the worst, without even asking my permission.  It’s a real scary thing having your body do something without you knowing about it.
“Can you hear me?” 
 I mind-numbingly forced open my eyes a slit and watched as the paramedic, Mike, slipped an oxygen mask over my mouth and nose.  I didn’t know where I was.  I didn’t recognize the room I was in, even though I’d been sleeping there for months.  I didn’t recognize anyone around me.  I was terrified of what was happening to me.
 “Shane,” I thought I screamed, trying to scramble out from under the EMT’s grasp on me.  Only a whisper came out.  I struggled beneath Mike’s weight, as he tried to pin me down against the mattress.  Although I was weak from my organs beginning to shut down, I knew that they were inserting a needle into my arm and that it hurt.
 “Shane, where are you?”
 “Let’s get her into an ambulance,” Mike said to another EMT.
 “Hello.  My name is Emma.  I’m going to be helping you onto the stretcher.  How are you feeling?  Can you sit up?”
 I feel like shit, Emma.  I have I.V.s hanging out of my arms, electric shock magnets on my chest and an oxygen mask on my face, Miss Fucking Sunshine.   “Where’s Shane?”  I tried to scream.  My near-coma experience had temporarily impaired my vocal chords.
 Emma smiled helpfully, but with obvious impatience.  “Your boyfriend is right here.  Can you hear me?”  Emma pointed to Shane and then shoved her ugly unwanted face in mine.
 I looked around her and saw that Shane was standing in the corner of the room, tears streaming down his face.  He looked terrified and helpless.  I will never ever forget that face.
 “What day is this?” Emma asked me while Mike was checking my vitals.  “I need you to talk to me.  Can you tell me what day this is?”
 I lazily looked at her.  “Today is Tuesday.  The year is 2002 and the month is April.”
 Although it was hard to focus and remember, I knew the drill.  I had been through this before.  Shane hadn’t.
 “Shane, I’m sorry,” I said, struggling to look around Mike and to see his face.
 “She’s fine,” Emma told Mike and they continued to lift me onto the stretcher.
 “Shane, I’m so sorry,” I cried, getting my voice back.  “I want him to come with us.”  I looked at Emma, fear screaming out of my eyes.  For some reason, I believed that if he didn’t come with us, he wouldn’t be there when I returned.
 “Sure, he can ride up front with me.  Mike will be in the back with you anyway.”  She helped him lift me onto the ramp and into the ambulance.  We went to the emergency room, and within a couple of hours, I was sent on my way.

That was the first time I went to the hospital.  It progressively got worse.  Almost monthly, I was in and out of hospitals.  I began to know the EMTs by name and when Shane called to get help, they would reply, “Oh, I know that house.”  I began to rack up hospital bills and I began to develop more and more problems. 
I was losing control of my levels more and more.  I was changing medications and dosages daily and I couldn’t figure out what was working.  It seemed that my body was fighting the medicines it needed to stay alive.
By the time we got to the day when Shane finally said ‘enough, move out,’ that morning was the worst yet.
 I was lying in the intensive care unit.  Shane had just stepped outside to allow the nurses to perform a minor surgery to see if my kidneys had yet been affected by my final episode.  I felt everything.  It seemed to be enhanced as well, because the meds blocked out most everything else, except the pain of the knife.  I screamed.  “That hurts!  Please stop!”  I was trying to be strong, but it was excruciating pain and I had no strength to lift my arms to make them stop.  I felt helpless.  A tear rolled down my cheek as I clenched my teeth.
 “I don’t know why she feels this,” one nurse said to the other.  “Give her another shot.”
 The injection stung and five minutes later, when they pressed the knife against my pelvis, I cried again, feeling every incision.
 “Look, we can’t give her more,” one nurse said to the other.  “It’ll kill her.”
 “We’ll just have to move quickly so she feels the least possible amount of pain.”
 Shane poked his head inside the curtain.  “Is she alright?” he asked.
 “Yes, Sir.”
 “We need you to stay outside, please.  We’ll let you know when we’re finished.  It should just be a few more minutes.”
 I heard him step back out.

 After they finished, I dozed off to sleep, trying to stay strong.
 A day later, the doctors released me.  On the car ride home, Shane tried to explain what had happened.  “I woke up to you kicking me.”  He talked quietly.   I knew that this time was the worst it had ever been and it really scared him.  I was simply numb about the whole thing.  I was tired.  It seemed that no matter how hard I tried, I was doomed to be sick and weak and tired forever.
 “You were kicking really hard so when I turned over to wake you up, you were ice cold.”  His voice started to quiver.  “You felt like you were dead.  All of your muscles tightened up, your arms pressed hard against your chest.  I tried to move your legs, because they looked so distorted, but I couldn’t fight against the strength of your strained muscles.”  His hands tightened on the steering wheel.  He kept staring straight ahead.  “You were biting your tongue hard and your eyes rolled back into your head.  I thought you were dying.”
 I kept staring out my window.  I didn’t really want to hear any more, but I knew that I had to.  I had to know how bad I was getting.  I had to know what was going on with my body.
 “You were having a seizure and then, all of a sudden, you stopped.  I thought it was over.  I thought it was all over.  I thought I had lost you.”  A tear ran down his cheek.  “Damn it!”  He slammed his fist down on the steering wheel.  “I have never felt so helpless!  I tried so hard to wake you, to make you stop and I couldn’t!  You were so much stronger than me.”
 “I’m so sorry, Shane,” I whispered as I turned to face him and placed my hand over his.  “I didn’t mean for this to happen.  Please don’t be angry.”  I wasn’t quite sure what I was apologizing for.  It wasn’t as if it was all intentional.  But I knew he was hurting.  I knew one of us had to be sorry.
 He gently put my hand onto my lap and removed his. “You need to start putting yourself first.  You need to start taking care of yourself.  If I could, I would do it for you.  But I can’t.  This is something that you have to do on your own.”
 “I know, Shane.  I’m trying.”  I felt like a small child being scolded by her father.  But I also knew he was right and I knew he had to feel a sense of control.    I watched the road go by as we continued to travel.  “I really am.  I feel so helpless.  Please don’t think I’m not trying.”  I turned to look at him and I could read in his face that he had something to tell me.  Something that was going to break my heart.
 He wouldn’t look at my face.  “I can’t do this anymore.  I can’t wake up every morning, scared that I’m waking up to my dead girlfriend.  I can’t do it.  And I won’t do it.”
 “Shane, please.  This is the last time.  I swear.  Things’ll be different.”  I reached over and affectionately squeezed his thigh. 
 We pulled into our driveway.  He put the car in park and sighed.  “I just can’t do it.”  He turned to look at me. 
 I turned away.  “You can’t or you don’t want to, Shane?” I asked, getting defensive.  I took my hand away from him and started to undo my seatbelt.
 “Why would you…” He sighed.  “Both.  I don’t want to deal with the stress and I can’t.  You’re killing me.  My body can’t take it and neither can yours.”
 I looked into his eyes and saw that his mind was made up.  Inside, I screamed, grasping for some sense of control over our relationship, struggling to find words to make him stay, and silently knowing that we were through.  Anger rose within me.
 “Fine.”  I jumped out of his car, slammed the door and began to storm towards the house. 
 We’d been living together nearly two years at that time.  I knew this was going to be a bad fight.  I felt like he was giving up on me.  I had given up on myself a long time ago.  But it made my heart stop when I heard him giving up on me too.
 “Please don’t do this.”  He got out of his car and reached out for me.  “Please don’t make this harder than it already is.”
 ”Let go of me, Shane.”
 “We’re just in different places right now.  We need to take in some air,” he logically tried to explain.
 “If you don’t want to deal with me anymore, then fine.”  I ripped my arm out of his hand.  I felt like I was suffocating.  I felt like he was suffocating me with a prickly fucking pillow; he was drowning me.
 “I just can’t do it.  You need to do this on your own.  I’ve been trying to help you, but it seems you won’t do anything for yourself unless you’re forced to.”
 I whirled around to face him.               “You don’t love me anymore!” I shouted, purposefully not understanding what he was saying to me.  I wanted him so badly to say, ‘Yes, I do love you, I always will.  I’m sorry.  Come back to me.’ 
 But instead, he sighed and said, “I guess I don’t.”
 My heart dropped out of my chest.  I felt like I had been slapped in the face.  His words were so strong, the wind had been knocked out of me.
 “I’m tired of fighting with you.”  He opened his car door and started to get in.  “I think it’s time you should move out.”
 My whole world had changed that day.  My whole life, and what I thought it was going to be like, was completely different the moment I woke up that morning.  Now, this.  Now, the love of my life was telling me that he couldn’t handle me either.  No one could handle me.  No one could help me.  I was weak and I was trouble.
 I threw my ring at him.  The ring that symbolized our love, our promise to always be together, cut his face and then dropped onto the dirt.  The promise that, eventually, when we had enough money, we’d marry and start a family was broken and seemed to be over.
 He stepped into his car, and I begged myself to stop him.  I told myself not to let him get away.  My heart lurched out of my chest, and I felt like I was going to throw up.  How could it happen like this?  How could we be like this?  We’ve always fought, but we’ve never been separated after.  We’ve always worked it out.  But this time, he drove away, and as I watched his car speed down the road until I couldn’t see it anymore, my heart felt like it had stopped.  I was numb.  I died inside.  Trying so many different scenarios in my head, I kicked about the dirt, looking for my ring.  Even though I knew it was over, I didn’t want my finger to be bare.  It felt so strange to say that it was over.  How could it be when we were so in love?
 I packed up all of my belongings and called my father.  He was always a comfort in all the rough times I’ve ever been through.  I knew I could count on him and he invited me into his home with open arms. 
 “Sorry it’s under these circumstances, but I’m always happy to have you,” he told me over the phone.
 “Thanks, Daddy.  Me too.”
 It was tough packing up my things that I had accumulated over the years with Shane.  I had so many memories and so much of my stuff had become his stuff.  I didn’t really want it all anyway, but I knew it was only fair that I took what was mine.  I filled two garbage bags and three cardboard boxes and stuffed them into my car.  What filled an entire apartment fit into the backseat and trunk of my little car and that was that.  I was almost disappointed when I was finished because I had always thought that I had so much more.  I was packed and ready to go, but all that I could think about was how much I wanted Shane to call and say that he was sorry.  I wanted him to come home to our apartment and to tell me how much he loved me and how much he cared and how much he wanted to help me get better and to help me make my life wonderful.  I wanted him to say that we were going to be together forever, just like he told me on my birthday on that Ferris wheel. 
 But he never called.  I drove to my father’s house in tears.  I felt like my life had ended, when really it had just begun.

Okay

Copyright © 2007

Now:

I carried my convenience store grocery bags down the street, trying unsuccessfully not to think.  Every day I thought about him. 

Every single day. 

The wind that morning was light.  The humidity dampened my hair against my neck; the sun was high in the sky.  My breath caught in my throat when a helicopter glided through the clouds.   It seemed just above the palm trees, just like before. 

I struggled with myself, again, not to break into a run and chase it. 

He wouldn’t be there anyway.  It was no use. 

But every time I hear a helicopter, he’s who I think of.  Every time I see or do anything, I think of London.

 

If I could start over again, I wouldn’t.  I ended up where I needed to be.  But if I could do some things differently, I would. 

I would have at least told him… told him what?  I would have told him that I loved him.  That I love him. 

But now he’s gone.  So I can’t. That is the worst feeling anyone could ever feel; the need and to have no way to release it.

 

So many times I’ve wished I could have done things differently.  I’ve wished that I could go back.  At the time, I had thought I was hurting no one but myself; I was so wrong.  I had thought no one understood me.  Again, I was very wrong.  I thought I couldn’t feel anything from (or for) anyone.  I was hollow.  But London taught me how to feel.  He made me break free from most of my pain.  He taught me how to forgive.  He taught me how to move on and to grow.  I was too blind to have seen any of this at the time.  I realized everything too late.  It was all too late.  He was gone.

If only I could have one wish.

I would give up everything to have just one single wish.  I want him to return to me.

 

 

 

 The Story:

London and I grew up together.  In grade school, my third grade class liked to tease me.  Kids were kids.  But London, being a year ahead, always pushed those bullies down and stood by my side.  He’d taken my hand and whisked me away from all those mean words.  He made me feel beautiful.  Even at the young age of nine, he was my best friend and we counted on each other.  His parents used to joke with us, as we grew up, that we’d marry some day.  Even while we were so young, he took care of me.  Even while horrible things happened to me, he was there to work things out.  He was the strongest man I had ever met. 

 

We went to high school together and remained very close.  If anything ever happened at my home, and most nights something did, I would run to his house and he’d let down a fire escape ladder to guide me into his room.  His parents didn’t care that we met in the middle of the night because we had been doing it since I was eight.  However, if my parents had found out, I wouldn’t have been able to walk again.

We were both an only child, we both lived on the same street, we both had the same type of ranch house with shutters on the windows and a long driveway.  We both had the same neighborhood, however, only one of us had a caring family to come home to. 

 

London knew what happened at my house and he planned on helping me get out of there some day.  We were both biding time until we could graduate and move out to college campuses.  I was counting on getting into a good college far away from Maine and far away from my Father.  I wasn’t sure if anywhere would be far enough away, but California seemed a good start. 
                London wanted to go to film school.  He wasn’t usually a very ambitious kid, but he knew what good art was and he knew how to work hard until it was time enough for him to get what he wanted.  And London wanted film school.

 

I just wanted to get out.  I wanted to see the lights and the buildings, the skyscrapers and the ocean.  I wanted so badly to see a beautiful ocean.  And all those beautiful people too.

Someday I’d get there.  Someday I’d make something of myself.  Someday I’d find someplace that I loved and wanted to come home to at the end of the day.

I knew how to work hard too.  As long as my mind was in the right place, I’d be fine.

 

My Father made sure that I was very careful who I spent my time with.  There really was only London, but my Father didn’t like him.  So, London was also called Beth and Carolyn when I mentioned whose house I was going to for the night.  My Father was too drunk to ever think to call and check.

 

The last night I spent in our little town in Maine, London and I were at his graduation party.  He was a senior, about to embark on the world, and I was a junior, wishing to all hell that I could do it all with him.

 

The sky was darkening and the kids were partying as hard as I’d ever seen anyone party.  London and I sat together in a corner of the noise, under a pine tree.  I was thinking, as usual, as he wrote in his journal.  He always carried that thing with him, jotting down ideas for plays when they came to him.  I knew enough to stay quiet else he’d lose his train of thought.

When he finished writing, he looked up at me with a mischievous smile on his face, a curl of his brown hair crossed his forehead and made his teenaged-manly body look even younger.

I cocked one eyebrow in question.  “What?”

“I just got the greatest idea ever,” his bright green eyes twinkled.

“What?” I leaned forward in the grass, my interest piqued.

His smile widened.  “I can’t tell you.”

“That’s stupid, London.  Why not?”  I was getting angry.  He was always keeping his great screenplay ideas to himself.  He was so scared of someone overhearing him, so he’d never allow even me (!) to hear or see anything in that journal of his.

“What if someone hears?” he asked, hugging the journal to his chest like a girl.

I sat back on my legs and smacked his shoulder.  “No one will hear. And then what?  And then they’ll take your idea and make millions of dollars off it?”

“Maybe,” he said, starting to relax.  “My dad did that.  He opened his mouth at the wrong time, and someone stole his idea.  If he’d kept it shut, we’d be millionaires right now.”

“What idea?”

“Reese’s cereal.”  He said this with such conviction that it was the greatest invention of all-time.

I stared at him for a moment.  “Reese’s cereal was your dad’s big idea?”

He looked at me matter-of-factly.  “Yup.”

I let another moment pass with the absurdity.

Then I broke into a laugh.  It wasn’t just a chuckle, but a rolling on the ground, kicking my legs in the air kind of laugh that starts in your stomach and pours out your mouth until you’re left completely winded.

He looked at me, completely displeased with my actions.

I sat up straight, and wiped off my shorts with no expression on my face.  “I’m gonna go get a drink.  Want one?”

“Sprite.”

“Okay.” 

 

I sauntered across the lawn, dodging bodies of teenagers sprawled out on the grass, and dancing with profanity and elaborated enthusiasm.  The air was crisp, and the aura was full of hopes.  I had no idea that the anticipation I had felt was actually for myself, but it turned out that it was.

There was so much tension in the air from the surrounding conversations and relationships. 

I dipped my hand into the cooler and pulled out a fresh Sprite and Iced Tea.  When I turned around to return to London, Bruce caught my eye.  He was tall and muscular in a jock sort of way, and I had had my eye on him for years.  He leaned against the tree with such finesse, that I caught myself frozen in the middle of the grass, holding two freezing cold cans of liquids in my hands, dripping the condensation onto the dirt.  He smiled easily, and stood up straight.  As he closed the gap between us, I pictured him moving in a seductive slow-motion.  He had never really “seen” me before.  When I realized he was actually coming towards me, I straightened my body with complete awkwardness and tried my hardest not to fidget.  He stopped in front of me, and I inhaled his scent discreetly.  Calvin Klein Eternity.  I barely stopped myself from drooling.

“Hi,” he said, pulling one hand through his thick, luxurious, blonde hair, and the other hand in his pocket of his just-tight-enough-through-the-hips jeans that he wore so well.

When my brain registered that he was speaking, I resisted the urge to turn around and see who he was talking to, and trained my eyes on his nose. 

“Hi,” I breathed.

“I’ve never really talked to you before.  I just thought that was strange.  I’ve always noticed you during classes and stuff, just never got around to saying hi,” he started.

The truth of the matter was, he never really noticed me before, because prior to that summer, my body was shaped like a boy and I hid underneath baggy clothes.  But that summer, my breasts had grown just enough, my long body had thinned out, and my brown hair had grown longer.  I still wore long clothes most of the time, to cover any stray bruises, but not as bad as before.  So, when Bruce could see that I actually had some shape to me, he was interested in what he saw.  Naturally. 

“I’ve noticed you, too,” I said, still focusing on his nose.  If I looked there, I didn’t seem so shy.  And if I looked there, I didn’t have to look into those gorgeous eyes of his that made me shutter with dreamy delight, and made my knees go weak.  I shifted my feet and held the two cans of drink steady in my shaking hands.

“Really?  You always looked so interested in your books,” he shoved his other hand into his other pocket and kicked the dirt nonchalantly.

I nervously laughed.  “No… no… I just keep my head down a lot.”

He stood straight, and touched my elbow gently with his hand.  “Well, you shouldn’t.”

My body stiffened with his touch.  A man’s touch was supposed to be gentle, but I had learned otherwise.  Being touched gently by him, a man I had been infatuated with for years, was a shock for me.

He smiled, sweetly.  “Keep you head down, I mean.  You shouldn’t.  You’re gorgeous.  You should share those beautiful blue eyes with everyone.”

I smiled, surprised at his kind words.

He took his hand from my elbow, and returned it to his side.  “Well,” he said, sheepishly.  “I guess I’ll see you around.”  He uncharacteristically dipped his head and shuffled his feet in the dirt.  He sighed and looked up at me again.  “It was nice talking to you.”

My smile broadened across my face so tightly I thought it was going to rip me mouth clear in half.  “Thank you.  It was nice seeing you, too.”

And then the Bruce Almighty left my graces.  Well, I can’t say that I was very graceful, but under the circumstances, I did the best that I could.

 

I practically skipped back to London.  His face was back in his journal.  I was beaming from ear to ear. 
”Here,” I thrust his Sprite towards his face, proudly, holding it out in front of me, the cool water dripping onto his lap.

“Wow.  Thanks.”  He snapped open the tab and swigged generously from the can, before he proceeded to nag me about my whereabouts.  “Bruce, huh?”  His eyebrow was cocked in question.

I looked up from my Iced Tea; ripped from my dreamland.  “What?” I asked sweetly, situating my body beneath the tree again.

He motioned with the can in his hand, impatiently.  “Bruce.  He was talking to you.”

I smiled, remembering.  “Yeah,” I sighed and re-crossed my legs in front of me.

“Why?”

I snapped out of my trance and acted normal.  “Because he noticed we’ve never really talked before.”  I shrugged.  “It bother you?”

He shook his head.  “No.”

I rolled my eyes.  “Then, what?”

He shrugged his shoulders too.  “It’s just that…”  He paused.

“What, London.  What?”

Then he let the words flow through his lips with a vengeance.  “He’s a pig!  He’s slept with just about every girl in school, cheats on everyone… he thinks women are possessions!  And him talking to you and you thinking it’s the greatest thing, just makes me want to throw up!”  He sighed heavily and slapped his hands onto his notebook.  “I just hate that some guys,” he pointed towards the crowd where Bruce still stood, “exhibit A, can get away with anything.  And then even after that, they still have everything in the whole world just handed to them.  Some guys just never have to work for a fucking thing.  It’s such bull shit.”

I sat scooted over next to London and patted his knee companionably.  “I know what you mean, but…”

“What, you don’t agree with me?  You think I’m overreacting?”

“No, it’s not that.”  I sighed nervously, and looked down at the grass.  “Guys don’t notice me very much, you know.  And when a guy like Bruce Welder notices me, it makes me feel so good.  I felt like a woman.  I don’t feel that very often.”

He sighed again.  “That’s stupid.”  He started to pull grass out of the earth, fidgeting.

“What?”  I laughed, surprised.  “Why?”

“You’re beautiful.”

I smiled.  “Oh.” 

“You don’t think so?”

“Coming from you, it doesn’t mean much.  You’ve known me too long to have any kind of real judgment.”

He started to protest his worth, but I cut him off again.

“Plus!  Plus!”  We both laughed at our argument.  “Plus you’ve seen me naked.”

“What?!” he continued to laugh and pushed me down on the grass.  “That was, like, ten years ago!”

“Not so!  We haven’t even known each other for ten years!”

“Fine, like, five years then,” he said, pushing his body on top of mine.  “You didn’t even have any boobs then; it doesn’t count.”  He smiled his crooked smile.

I rolled my eyes and cocked one eyebrow.  London, I don’t have any boobs now.  Who you tryin’ to kid?”

He smiled at my insecurity.  Actually, since my body had developed some little curves over that summer, everyone (including London) had noticed.  “You’re all right.”  A smile crept across his face.

“Oh, you think so?  Well, thank you for your mark of approval.  I’ll be sure to be more confident every morning when snapping on my tiny bra because London says I’m ‘all right’.  Wow.  Thanks.”  I rolled my eyes and tried little to push him off of me.

“Don’t make me spell it out for you,” he whispered.  He pushed my brown hair across my forehead, smoothing it along my cheek.

I winced a little, noticing the look of mock-infatuation on his face.  “Are you trying to be sexy?”  I mimicked his motions and pulled his boyishly long, brown, curly hair across his forehead.  His brown hair set off the color of his green eyes, and the shape of his slightly long hair framed his strong jaw line.  The long lashes that surrounded his huge jade eyes made me envious, however.  He had longer eyelashes than I did when I wore mascara.

“Is it working?” he asked, huskily, moving his face a little closer to mine, breathing slightly against my lips.

I pretended to consider what I’d answer, then stated, “No.”

He inhaled comically and mocked emotional pain.  “Well, then.”  He picked his body up from mine and scooted across the grass, back to his spot against the tree.

I smiled as I straightened back up to a seated position.

“You’re stupid,” I said, teasing, brushing grass off my tank top.

“I’m not stupid and I’m not blind, either,” he said, flipping to the next page in his journal.

“You don’t need to be blind to see the things that I do,” I said, deeply.

He smiled, sweetly, taking in the sight of a melancholy me.  “You’ll be alright, Sweetheart.”

I looked up, again, broken from my trance.  That trance, however, was not as sweet as the one before, regarding Bruce.  I shrugged, inefficiently rolling the bad thoughts from my mind.  “I know.  I’ll be alright.”  I pulled out a few strands of grass from the earth, thinking, and chucked them into a scattered pile in front of me.

“You’ll figure it out.  Or you’ll figure a way out.”  He patted my knee affectionately.

I smiled again and let the rest of the night roll by.

 

Under the stars, later, we lay on the grass, soaking up the summer breeze.  Our hands were clasped behind our heads, and we lay side by side.  He was always my closest companion.

“Do you think we’ll ever get out of here?” I murmured, surprising myself with the words as they came out of my mouth.

“Eventually, we will,” London whispered back, thoughtfully.

“How do you think it’ll happen?”

He nudged my elbow with his while he thought silently.  “I guess either I’d go to California to film school, if they accept me, or you’ll just pack up your bags and I’ll be chasing you down the road, trying to keep up.”

I smiled, and turned my body to his, absorbing his companion warmth.  “I probably won’t take much more, will I?”

“You’re a brave girl, Hunny.  You’re smart and you’re strong.  You won’t take much more.  And I know you’ll figure a way out.”

I snuggled closer to his skin, trying to embrace his words as I embraced his body.  “You gonna wait for me?”

He smiled with his whole body and let out a soft chuckle.  “No.”

I moved to get up but he used his arm to hold me in place. 

“You’re stupid,” he laughed.

I pouted beside him.

“I’m not going to go anywhere without you, Kid.  Never.”

I smiled.  I knew he was going to say something to that effect, but I really enjoyed hearing the comforting words.  He helped me feel wanted and accepted.  He never asked me to be a certain way or to feel a certain emotion.  London just let me be.

Test

copyright © 2005 

I saw Graham again a couple days later.  He came and picked me up but we had no plans for our date.  I didn’t really feel like going to the movies and neither did he.  So, we ended up doing that ‘something’ after all. 

He took me back to his place.  He lived in a yellow two-story house on farm country.  Simple guys tend to live on a lot of land, but I’m not sure why.  We talked for fourteen hours about… nothing.  He liked to watch cartoons and eat cereal for dinner.  I liked the color blue because it reminded me of my mom’s eyes.  He liked to play soccer because it made him feel strong.  I liked to play dominos because it made me feel creative.  Nothing was off-limits for him to discuss, all the way down to his past relationships (many) and my past relationship (singular). 

Then, he personally introduced me to his bed.  Tangled in his arms, he smelled of a summer sweat right after a run in a misty rain.  But, it wasn’t raining outside, he just naturally smelled that way.  He kissed my neck and pulled off my shirt.  Quite rowdy for the first date, but I had missed feeling like that; it had been at least a month.  His tongue touched mine; his hands graced my breasts, sliding down my stomach.  He began fumbling with my belt.

“Is this okay?” he asked quietly.

I watched him, my heart hammering in my ribcage.  I heard the rock and roll music playing softly from his stereo across the room, but I couldn’t remember ever turning it on.

He stopped touching me.  “Is this okay?” he asked a little more concerned.

I nodded and whispered, “Yes,” even though I wasn’t really sure if it was.  Everything was moving so fast.  I also had gotten to the point where I simply didn’t care anymore.  He could do anything to me and I wouldn’t have set up any boundaries.  It was like I was detached from my body, watching my actions instead of living through them.

He pulled off his shirt.  I saw his muscles in the light which made chills race up my spine.  He began to finish pulling off my clothes, but I stopped him.

“Could you please turn off the light?” I asked.

A moment of still air pressed between us, allowing the old rock and roll music to enter my ears.

“Okay,” he said.

The light was out and things went that much smoother.  We were naked, lying against each other, one not really knowing the next.  He kissed my neck again, kissing my shoulders, running his hands over my back, pressing his body tight against mine.  He planted kisses down my stomach and back up again.  I kissed his mouth when he returned in sight.  Our tongues intertwined, our hands laced in each other’s.  Then we lay there, listening to us breathe.  There was music still playing, but I wasn’t listening to it anymore.  I thought about what I was doing.  There I was, with another man, naked, in his bed.  I hardly knew him at all, and he didn’t know me.  What could I possibly want from him in a manner, like this?  Was I being wrong?  Was I using him?  Was he using me?

Then I dismissed all the thoughts all together.  Why figure it out when everything seemed so perfect?  Who needs reasons for doing what we do as long as it feels good, right?  We all use somebody at some point.

We lay in the stillness for almost an hour.  No one has ever paid that much silent intimacy to me before.

He dressed while I lay in bed, watching him.  He was handsome.  He smiled at me, pulling on his clothes.  It was then that I noticed he had tattoos on his calves.  They were cartoonish naked women.  Usually I hated things like that, but on him, it was so perfect.  It seemed old-fashioned, almost- like little Betty Boops on his legs.  I quickly decided that I loved them.  His whole body was an art piece.

He kissed my forehead.

“So, how are you?” I asked, smiling because I was still uncomfortable talking with him.  It was easier to just act rather than discuss when it came to Graham.  Either he understood that we didn’t really have anything to say to each other (of any depth anyway) or he just didn’t sense the tension of trying to fill the silences.

“Great, actually.  How are you?”

I smiled, giving up on the stupid pleasantries.  “Come here.”

He walked to me.  I pulled him on the bed.  I didn’t care that the light was now on and I was completely naked.  I kissed him and he wrapped his athletic arms around me.  It was almost as if we really cared about each other.  If someone was watching from a window (creepy) and saw us, it would definitely look like we were in love.  If we had more time, maybe I really could love this man. 

I know I could. 

Then he lay there, propped up on one elbow, surveying me.

“Can I just look at you?” he asked, tracing his fingertips across my knee.

I lay, sprawled out on his bed, nothing covering me for a couple of seconds.  Embarrassed, I leaned forward and used the closeness of him to shield my body from his view.  “Okay, that’s enough.”

Wrapping my arms around his neck and kissing him, I pulled his body on top of mine.  I liked touching him.  He was warm and didn’t seem to ask anything from me. 

 

Maybe we’d write while he was away in the Navy.  Maybe we’d be a long-term romance only because I’d feel too bad to leave him out in the cold while he was on a ship full of men.  And through letters, maybe we could learn how to communicate.

 

It was kind of romantic, I guess.