Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sustaining Forces

“In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe it's wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, which -- perhaps I'm a little biased in that it's during my birth month -- is one of my favorite holidays, I've been thinking about the things I'm grateful for. Clearly, some of them are no brainers ... my health, my family, friends, pets, job, my parents and upbringing, my grandma and her warm brown eyes, those that have loved me, those that love me still ... those who will come to love me, my home and my capacity for growth.

Thinking about the above leads me to think about those who don't have those things -- some, never have. And that does something to my insides I'll never quite be able to put into words ... only that it's unsettling in a grounding, humbling, overwhelming way.

It's easy for me to think about the negative things in my life, the things I wish I could change, the things that are unsatisfying, the parts of me I want to alter all at once, the sad parts, the memories, the lost dreams. But the truth is, when I bring it all back into perspective, I am more blessed than I realize. In fact, I'm sure many of us are. For me, it's always easier to get caught up in this negative web of self defeatist thinking rather than focus on the benevolent things, the very simple things, like the fact I can get out of bed every day, go to work, support myself and come home to a pair of the goofiest, most loving and amusing pets anyone could have. Sometimes, it can really be that simple.

I've also been thinking about a notion I've mentioned in past posts -- sustaining forces. I believe there are different kinds of forces in our lives: those that drain us, pull us down, try to break us; those that push us, challenge us, help us grow and flourish; and those that sustain us. We all have sustaining forces in one way or another. They're those people, animals, elements, that faith in our lives that keeps us alive, that keeps us breathing, moving forward; that gives us a reason to wake up every morning. And I have many of them. If I really sit here and think about it, they're surrounding me. Whether it's Lakota and Bella with their deep eyes of wisdom, my closest friends and their undeniable way of "getting me," welcoming me and loving me inside and out no matter what, my family and their undying loyalty, understanding and support, my talents and wisdom, my inner strength, my job and the amazing stories I stumble across, my inspiration -- they all make up the very foundation I stand on, the fuel that moves my body, heart, mind and soul.

And the truth of the matter is, if so many sustaining forces have gravitated toward me all my life, then all those negative things I wish I could change truly pale in comparison to the good things. Because, being a believer in the positive and negative forces of the universe, I find we're often a magnet to what we exude. So, despite my anxieties, fears, anger or mistakes and the things they've manifested over the years, none of that holds a candle to the amazing souls I've come into contact with or to the opportunities I've had, to the accomplishments I've made and experiences I've endured.

Some days, like we all do at times I'm sure, I easily forget these things. I get so wrapped up in the broken pieces inside me that I forget the parts that never shattered, the parts that are whole and pulsing with energy waiting to create, to love, to spur growth and to develop. So, even during those times when I feel lowest, saddest, when my heart hurts, yearns, misses, aches, I remember that the force I am, all in all, is reflected in those elements and people around me who are closest to my life, my heart and soul ... to those sustaining forces I'm not sure I could ever live without.

So, as I sit here in my candle-lit living room, gazing over at Lakota, sprawled out on the floor next to me, and Bella, curled up on the couch -- two of my biggest sustaining forces and teachers right now, I choose to "surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely" for as long as I have a voice.

~ C ~

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Misty Hill

Several ideas swirled through my brain when I first saw this picture Sandy took for our next writing/photo challenge, but I stopped on the image of a girl that's been in my head for years, that's been a part of me. A girl. And a porch. And an older woman walking in the rain ... let's see where they take me.

The Misty Hill

She sat in the old wooden rocking chair on the porch, feeling it creak with her weight as she leaned back far enough to prop her feet, clad in knee-high, chunky black boots on the banister in front of her. A light mist began to fall as Lumina slowly lifted her crumpled pack of cigarettes to her black lips, pulling one out while simultaneously reaching for her lighter. Donning a silver ring on every finger, she threw her head back to get her dark, red-streaked hair out of her eyes before lighting the tip of the cigarette. Closing her dark eyelids, she slowly took in the first drag, reveling in the way it expanded her lungs, feeling instant release as the nicotine coursed through her veins. Slapping the lighter shut, she opened her eyes, releasing the smoke through her lips as she tossed her long bangs to the side once more and looked out to the sidewalk in front of her.

It was autumn, but a cold, rainy one. Lumina leaned forward over her studded belt to pull at her black, fishnet tights before tightening the laces on her boots and recrossing them on the banister. She pulled in another long drag, leaning back farther to blow the smoke up toward the wooden overhang above her. Suddenly, she heard him rustling in the house, stumbling toward the kitchen from the bedroom. Her heart tightened in her chest as her stomach wove into several small knots. She froze in place, not daring to make a sound. Maybe he wouldn't hear her. She lowered her lashes as she took another hit, so quiet she could hear the cigarette paper crackling. It's red butt burned in the reflection of her dark pupils as she stared at it, transfixed.

But the smoke must have wafted into the kitchen, because moments later, his silhouette stood in front of the screen door behind her.

"What are you doing out here? It's cold," he grumbled, his eyes barely open.

"Just havin' a smoke," she said, her voice worn, like sandpaper.

"You look like a whore," he snarled, his bloodshot eyes now more open as he examined her body.

"Fuck you," she snapped, before catching herself. And in an instant, the screen door whipped open and he was in her face, whiskey-filled rage permeating from every pore in his skin. He held both of her shoulders tightly, pinning her against the back wall as the rocking chair creaked under the added weight.

"I, I'm sorry ... please, let go," she sputtered. But he refused to budge, his stale, acrid breath violating her entire existence. She remembered the burning cigarette then, fantasizing the look on his face as she pressed it to his thigh. But the memories of the last time she attempted defiance flashed through her mind, reminding her of the fine, silvery scar next to her left eye. So instead, she lowered her long, mascara doused lashes and simply held her breath, waiting.

His painful grip finally loosened as he realized he was half dressed and freezing. He let go, staring her down a moment longer with his pale, translucent eyes,  before opening the screen door back up and going inside. She looked down at her tattooed wrists, remembering the prick of the ink-filled needle, the intoxicating feeling of relief she'd felt. She zoomed in on the still fresh bruises from the other night. Realizing her cigarette was almost out, she took one last drag before smashing it against the wet wooden stand next to her. She pulled her feet off the banister, leaning forward and resting her elbows on her knees, her forehead in her hands. Slowly, she rubbed her temples, her dark purple nails a stark contrast to her pale, angelic skin. She pulled her pack of cigarettes out again and took another, taking a moment to gaze into the flame of her lighter before lighting the tip of the cigarette.

Suddenly, she heard footsteps and saw a heavyset woman walking down the sidewalk. She narrowed her eyes, squinting through the misty rain. The woman looked Slovenian, perhaps Serbian, but definitely Eastern European, Lumina observed. She'd seen her many times, like clockwork, walking home from the bakery at the same time every day. But something felt different today. Her step was slightly slower, her umbrella tipped a bit farther forward, as though it was harder for her to hold up. And the blue scarf around her head looked iridescent somehow. Lumina took another hit of her cigarette while watching the woman's slow, deliberate gait as she made her way past her house and down the hill. She knew she shouldn't leave. She knew she'd get into trouble, but in that moment, she didn't care. Lumina stood up and walked down the porch steps, beginning to follow the woman. The cool mist clung to her long, dark hair, making it's red streaks a deep burgundy. She pulled the edges of her black sleeves down past her palms, clasping them with her fingers as she continued walking and smoking.

A skater glided past her going in the opposite direction, sneering at her as he passed while mumbling, "freak," under his breath. She was used to it by then. Eventually, the woman turned down a narrow street and into a driveway of a small brick bungalow. Lumina stayed back a bit, not wanting to alert the woman of her presence. She saw now she had a bag in her hand with what looked like a loaf of bread. Lumina's stomach grumbled at the sight, though the cigarette was helping stave off her hunger. Her black, pleated skirt was beginning to get soaked by the continuous mist as Lumina realized she'd wandered off far enough and should turn around before he realized she'd gone. But something made her stay.

She began walking toward the woman's house, not sure why or what she'd do once she got there. But, there she found herself, by the side door, peering through the window. By now, the sun had set and darkness began to cloak her surroundings. Lumina didn't care. She was mesmerized by the scene before her. The older woman had cooked a huge pot of chicken stew and was slicing the rye bread while someone sat down at the table. Lumina assumed the elderly, gray-haired man was her husband. He, too, looked Eastern European, his ethnic nose sharp and filled with character. Lumina quickly realized she'd been breathing onto the windowpane, causing it to fog up. She used her sleeve to clear the moisture while trying to remain hidden from any of their views.

What am I doing? she thought, thinking of the punishment waiting for her upon her return.

She brought her dark, smoky eyes back to the glass, peering in at the couple, now serving the stew with bread and butter. Her stomach grumbled again, pulling her back into reality. She pulled away from the glass and began walking back down the drive, but to her mortification, she heard the side door swing open and a low voice yell, "Hey. Girl."

She picked up her speed, but she heard quick footfalls gaining on her.

Damn these boots, she cursed as she tried to walk faster. But it was too late, the woman had caught up and gently touched her upper arm.

"Child," she said, as Lumina turned to face her, before catching herself and looking down.

"I'm sorry, I wasn't spying ... I was just. I ..." she trailed off, her mind and mouth utterly betraying her.

"I saw you follow me home," she said, her voice thick with a melodic accent that momentarily assailed Lumina's senses. Her words caused Lumina's cheeks to flush with embarrassment. "I was going to invite you in, but you appeared as though you wanted to remain invisible."

Lumina simply nodded, painfully yearning for another cigarette, just something, anything to do besides standing in the rain with this awkward stranger. But she did not relent, even as Lumina pulled away and turned around.

"How about you come out of the shadows for a moment?" She whispered, causing her to pause near a large maple tree. "How about you join us for dinner?"

Lumina knew she mustn't. She'd never talked to a single person in the neighborhood since they'd moved there three months ago. But, everything inside of her overpowered her mindful fears. She timidly turned back around and walked toward the house. The woman examined her entirely now, causing Lumina to slightly cringe. Normally, she never cared what others thought. She wanted to be left alone and dressed the part. But this woman didn't seem to look at her that way. She seemed intrigued instead. It terrified her.

Counting from 10 to zero in her head while taking deep breathes, Lumina walked beside the woman and into the house, where the man had already begun eating.

"Come, sit. Have some stew," she said in that same, thick accent. "I'm Doina. This is my husband, George."

The old man only glanced up briefly and nodded, before returning to his stew.

"I'm ... Lumina," she said, her voice barely above a whisper. And moments later, she was at the table, scooping up mouthful after mouthful of the best stew she'd ever tasted. Every bite of the baked bread felt like heaven. The entire experience was surreal, as though she'd fallen asleep on that porch and was merely dreaming.

"Why do you hide behind this mask?" Doina asked suddenly, breaking Lumina of her contented silence.

"I don't know ... I don't like myself I guess. I'd rather hide than be seen," she answered.

"I've seen the man you stay with ... he's no man at all. He's pure evil," she said, before touching her fingers to her lips as though realizing her bluntness for the first time. But for some reason, it didn't offend Lumina. Instead, her words hit a deep place inside of her, shifting something.

Doina leaned forward, examining Lumina in a way that made her feel stripped to her core. After several long, painstaking minutes, she shifted back in her chair and folded her arms. George had finally stopped eating and sat back as well, watching her.

"How about you come stay with us?" she said. Lumina stared at her in shock.

"But, I've only just met you," she said, completely aghast. Doina huffed.

"No matter. You need a good home. You don't need what that man is giving you," she said. Again, each word cut into Lumina, causing her eyes to water. She dabbed at the inner corners of them with her napkin, set it down and rose from the table.

"I must go," she said, feeling her knees begin to tremble. But something inside her felt different. She felt less hazy, less trapped somehow. George rose as well, trying to stop her, but Doina held up her hand, halting him. Lumina ran out into the biting mist, wobbling under the cutting breeze as she made her way back home. But she felt her knees buckle beneath her, causing her to fall forward, hitting her head on the pavement.

Rubbing her forehead, Lumina opened her eyes, groggily looking around her. She noticed she was back on the porch, a snuffed out cigarette butt under her right hand. It had been a dream after all, she realized, her stomach dropping. But the subtle change inside her was still there. Without thinking, she stood up and walked into the house. She exhaled with relief seeing he was passed out on the couch, the stench of stale beer curdling her stomach. She entered his bedroom and feverishly began packing her tattered duffel bag with everything she could fit. She lifted the loose wooden floorboard beneath the dresser and grabbed the wad of cash she'd stolen, little by little, from him over the last several months. But as she walked past the hallway mirror, she saw her reflection and noticed a gash in her forehead. She quickly looked down at her knees and saw her tights had been torn, her kneecaps skinned. She let out a shaky breath and ran into the bathroom, grabbing a towel. She lathered it in soap and washed her entire face clean, every ounce of black makeup soiling the towel. She then grabbed a pair of scissors and one strand at a time, cut off all of her hair before shaving her entire head.

She stared, examining every defined contour of her skull, her face, her sharp jawline, her prominent nose, pointed cheekbones, her dark green irises and softly arched eyebrows. She felt as though she saw herself for the first time. Tears streamed down her face at the woman she saw before her, no longer hiding behind a mask. She licked her pale pink lips, tasting the salt of her tears before wiping them away with her hands. The scar by her eye was almost translucent in the bathroom light. Lumina heard him stir then and realized she had to go. Taking one last look at herself in the mirror, she shut off the light, picked up her bag and ran toward the front door.

But suddenly, a strong hand grabbed her, whipping her around.

"Jussst where d'ya think yer going?" he slurred, anger, fear and lust in his eyes. She said nothing at first, she only stared at him, watching his eyes widen in shock at her appearance.

"What the fuck have ya done to yerself?" He screamed, wrapping his hand around her throat, closing off her air supply. She desperately grasped at it his fingers before something caught the corner of her eye. Smoke ... a half-burned cigarette in the tray next to her. Without hesitation, she grabbed it and brought the end to his left temple, causing him to wail in both horror and pain, releasing her. She kneed him in the groin then stood over his crumbled body on the dirty floor.

"Don't ever ... ever touch me like that again," she growled in a low, measured voice. She then turned and walked out of the house and down the hill.

She knew she needed to get to the bus station and as far away from him as possible, but something made her turn up that narrow side street first. The brick bungalow was dark. In fact, it looked completely abandoned now, the windows boarded. Lumina shook her head in confusion, looking back down at her skinned knees again. She began to turn away, before something made her try the side door. It opened easily as Lumina stepped in. The house was vacant, without a trace of a human being's presence. Except for something on the table.

Lumina walked toward it, seeing that whatever it was, it was covered by a towel. She slowly lifted the cloth, feeling immediate warmth hit her face.

It was a loaf of rye bread, an umbrella ... and a blue scarf.


Sunday, November 20, 2011


Without passion, man is a mere latent force and possibility, like the flint which awaits the shock of the iron before it can give forth its spark. ~ Henri-Frédéric Amiel

I may have high standards for the way I wish to live my life and the dreams I hope to reach, but I can honestly say there are only a few things I believe I can't live without. One of those things -- passion. To me, it's as natural a feeling as breathing. I don't even think about it. It's just this constant smoldering force I feel deep inside me that ebbs and flows, makes my heart swell against my ribcage or leaves me breathless. But I've come across people in my time that act as though they haven't a clue as to what I'm talking about. Often, these are people who are content to float through life in their comfort zones, who don't have many major aspirations, who don't have that feeling inside them like a burning flame that refuses to be squelched.

And when I've encountered these people, whose very monotonous essence drones on like background noise, I can't wrap my mind around how they do it, how they find purpose in their daily lives. Because to me, experiencing life without the depth of passion is not living at all. And I'm not just referring to finding something that drives you, though that is definitely part of it, but it's more about the way you go through your every day life. It's about finding the passion in the things you do, even the seemingly mundane things, like the walk from your car into your work, or just standing for a moment outside at night and looking up at the moon as you listen to the wind in the trees, or closing your eyes and breathing in the air as a breeze hits.

Maybe, when you're doing laundry, you can let the memories of the day you wore that shirt, that dress or that pair of pants tickle the edges of your mind. Maybe it's breathing in the richness of the leaves as you rake or looking in the mirror and finding one feature on you that you're truly confident about and letting the artistic beauty of it sink in for a few moments. I think people sometimes forget what passion is, how it brings you to life. I think we all sometimes get so caught up in all the things in our lives we wish we could change or we wish we had, that we forget the basics ... the significance of the basics. Sometimes, we forget what it's like, to not just feel a burning inside, but to actually become the flame in your very existence. I certainly have my moments where I forget, where I struggle to keep those embers glowing, especially these days ... but I can honestly say that if I'm not passionate about my life, the things I do with it, the people I share it with, the ways in which I experience it, than it's not a life worth living. And I'm far too restless for that kind of existence.

I could never be that person, nesting in a daily routine of complacency, turgid, buttoned up, reserved, a tiny speck on the drab wallpaper that is tedium. And I've also discovered that I can't satisfy that blaze inside me just through merely doing things I love to do or I'm passionate about. Yes, I can channel it in my work, through writing, music, playing guitar or piano, sketching, exercising ... connecting with nature and people. But the truth is, just those things alone won't satisfy me entirely. They will work for now. But as I'm working through my fears, my issues and rediscovering who I am -- what I want and don't want -- one thing I can say with certainty is, while I can channel my passion all I want in the above ways, when the time is right to share it with someone, I must be equally passionate about that person as well.

Because, settling for anything less, well ... that's just not something I'm capable of doing.


Monday, November 14, 2011

The Door

Random photo/creative writing challenge number II, complements of Mrs. Sandra Ward and her lovely talents. Here goes nothing ...

The Door

There it stood, stark against the blinding florescent light that cascaded down the walls surrounding it. The dark, wooden door, framed by brick walls and an arced piece of glass, looked as though it housed a secret vortex into another world. Or perhaps it conveyed the exit of a long, fitful labyrinth, crowned by a halo of light. Maybe, it was a theatre's backstage door, a place to escape behind the scenes. Evan had so often longed for escape.

As it were, the door was just a door, its pane of glass shielded by disheveled blinds. Evan stepped forward, squinting his eyes beneath the bright light and peering into the glass, but saw nothing between the opened slits in the blinds. He turned around and began walking across the town square toward his home, unsettled somehow.

As he got in bed that night, he looked over to his left, the place his wife once slept, and felt a cold chill slither down his spine. It'd been 7 years since she left. In many ways, he continued to blame himself for her abrupt departure. He had never been in love with her, he wasn't even sure he knew how to love. He shut his eyes tightly, wishing flashbacks of his own mother leaving him as a child would disappear with the blackness of his closed eyelids. But it seemed to make the image of her slamming the door, getting in her jeep and disintegrating into the dusk-filled horizon all the more vivid. He had been 9 years old. His father had always been emotionally detached, an alcoholic; his mother, verbally abused, restless and unsatisfied.

Slowly, he slid his back down the backboard and slipped under his plaid sheets, crossing his hands over his chest as he stared at the ceiling. He felt nothing. The walls practically dripped with stagnancy, as though taunting him with the fact his life was a charade. His thoughts suddenly drifted to his father's funeral two years ago. He had no siblings, his father had been disowned by his family for his drinking problems and Evan had never looked them up once he grew old enough to move out. Sometimes, he wished he had, but he wasn't sure what he'd say. So there he had sat at the wake, surrounded by no one else. His father had drank himself into a life-long oblivion after his mother left. Evan still had the physical scars to remind him just how blind and broken his father had been. These images played like a broken record in his mind, until he fell into a dark, dreamless sleep.

The next morning was the day before Thanksgiving. He'd spend it alone, as he did every holiday for the last 7 years. Evan looked at himself in the mirror, noticing the light flecks of silver hair on the sides of his head. It made him sad somehow, not because he felt his age setting in, but because he was despondent about the entire thing, numb. He worked his shift at the local library before grabbing a cup of hot cider on his walk home. The leaves had turned, the wind was picking up and he could feel winter's breath on his neck. He pulled his coat collar up and his scarf tighter as he began to walk home.

But as he passed the spotlit door again, he couldn't help but see a dark shadow in the peripheral of his vision. He looked to see a young girl, curled up in a ball in front of the door, her breath silver underneath the florescent light. It wasn't the first time he'd seen someone curled up there. Sometimes bums found their way here during the colder months. But this girl didn't look like a bum. Overall, she looked in her early to mid-20s, though her face could have been mistaken for younger. She wore a thick coat, winter hat and gloves, but she was clearly shaking.

Evan hesitated, unsure of what to do. Any other time, he'd have continued on, sipping his cider, without a moment's notice. But something held his feet still. He felt himself strangely sinking in place as though the bricks beneath his feet were morphing into quicksand. He knew he had to move toward her, so he did. He could see she'd been crying, her mascara running, creating subtle dark streaks down her defined cheekbones and jawline. As he approached, she began to pull from whatever trance she had been in and looked up at him. She quickly glanced around her, startled, as though realizing where she was for the first time. He stopped in his tracks and put a hand up, as if to show he meant no harm.

What am I even doing? He thought, suddenly mortified and wishing he'd never stopped in the first place. 

But then she did something that surprised him. She stood up and turned toward him, wiping away some of her mascara streaks with her gloved palms and loudly sniffled. Her long, dark hair poured out of her hat and fell past her shoulders as she put her right hand forward.

"My name is Kayla," she said.

Evan was flabbergasted. For a moment, he said nothing, leaving her hand abandoned. But then he cleared his throat, put his own hand out and shook hers.

"Evan," he gruffly said, before pulling his hand quickly back and shoving it into his pocket. Clearly, she was OK, he observed, deciding he'd better head home. But she moved toward him as he began to turn to leave.

"Wait ..." she said, sniffling again. He stopped and turned back toward her. "May I have a sip of your cider? I haven't had anything warm in days. My insides feel like ice."

Evan felt something stir inside him. He didn't like it. It felt foreign and dangerous. But he couldn't continue on either. So, he bent down, put the cider on the ground and told her to keep it, before he turned and quickly shuffled off. The wind was biting now, as though angry with him.

Kayla scooped up the cider, took a long, mournful look at the door and then ran after him. He heard her footsteps and briskly turned around.

"Don't follow me," he said.

"Why?" she asked, her dark eyes large and innocent. His chest felt tight suddenly, as though deciding to cut off air to his lungs.

What is going on? He thought angrily.

"Look, I only wanted to make sure you were alive. I gave you cider. Please, let me be," he growled before turning back around. But still, he felt her following him. And what was worse, his anger was beginning to subside and confusion had set in. Finally, curiosity won out. He spun back around, jarring her to stop and take a tentative step back.

"Why were you by that door? Why were you crying? Why did you look back at it, as though closing a chapter you didn't want to close?" He hurled at her.

"Because ... I was," she said.

The simple answer somehow satisfied Evan, as he began to walk again, now almost expecting her to follow. They finally got to his door and he turned toward her.

"Do you have no one?" he asked. She shook her head; her sad, layered eyes now brimming again. He unlocked his door and pushed it open, gesturing for her to come in. He felt as though he was possessed. Since his wife, he'd let no one come into his home, and here he was, inviting a complete stranger in, and one half his age for that matter. As she took off her coat, Evan noticed horizontal scars across each of her inner wrists. His stomach tightened again, instantly frustrating him.

How is it possible this mess of a person that stood before him was somehow pressing against his caulked insides?

He decided he must be losing his mind.

"You can sleep on the couch," he said, heading to his linen closet to grab sheets and a blanket. She merely stood in his hallway, in a long, black sweater and torn jeans, staring back at him, before softly nodding. Tears poured down her cheeks again, creating new streams of mascara. Something about the unkempt, messy look of her ignited something inside him, burning his insides. It was a completely unfamiliar feeling, one he didn't understand at that very moment. It was only later, he knew.

He handed her the linens, coming within inches of her face. She softly sniffled again, using the inner sleeve of her sweater to blot her nose before grabbing the sheets from him. Their eyes locked for a moment. Hers were as dark as the oak wood of that door, with faint golden rings of wisdom and age that spiraled to a terrifying depth he was on the brink of plunging into. Startled, he withdrew, quickly pivoting and scampering back to his room. He barely made a sound as he lay in bed, staring at his ceiling, afraid to even breathe.

What is happening to me?

The next morning, he woke up and blearily looked over at his alarm clock. 8:15 a.m. Suddenly, he recalled the girl from the night before and shot up in bed. He felt both terrified and full of anticipation to see if she was up or still asleep. But when he got to his couch, he saw it was empty. In fact, there was no trace of her at all as his linens were back in his closet, virtually untouched. Baffled, he looked around the rest of the place, scrambling to find some semblance she had been there. Nothing. Evan threw on his hat and coat and went outside toward the square.

Toward the door.

He stopped abruptly before it, now cloaked in shadows while the sun peered out from the clouds above him. He looked down on the ground and spotted his Styrofoam cup of cider.

But she'd taken it with her ... I remember it being in her hands as we walked and as she entered my house, he thought, utterly incredulous.

He kept staring at the cup, bewildered, before he finally swooped down to pick it up. It was still half-full, as he'd left it for her last night. He slowly shook his head and began to walk the cup over to the nearby trashcan when something on the side of the cup by his thumb caught his eye. It was faint writing, but distinctively female. It simply said: Call them.

Evan turned the phrase over in his head again and again, pondering its meaning. He searched through his memories over the last several days and then it hit him, like a punch to the stomach.

Today was Thanksgiving. He was alone. He was always alone.

He suddenly thought of his estranged family. He had a number. It had always been there, buried in between the pages of his address book. He felt a sense of madness set in. Quickly, unsure of every movement he made, he ambled back to his house and pulled open his address book. And before he could let a single thought assail him, he pulled out his cell phone and dialed the number. An older woman's voice answered. His aunt Hilda. He hadn't forgotten ... in all these years, he hadn't forgotten.

"Aunt Hilda ... it's me, your nephew. It's Evan."

And as he heard his aunt let out a tearful gasp of relief, Evan's eye landed on the cider cup in his hand -- where he softly ran his thumb over a faint trace of dried mascara.

~ C ~

Saturday, November 12, 2011


She lacks confidence, she craves admiration insatiably. She lives on the reflections of herself in the eyes of others. She does not dare to be herself. ~ Anais Nin

Realities ... are tough sometimes. And what's even harder is facing them, accepting them before letting them go. Who wants to admit faults? Who really admits them out loud? How often?

Well, this is my reality. In trying to get to a better place, I've felt lately as though I'm in the dark, feeling my way around and not quite sure of anything my fingers graze against. However, as is with those who are blind, I'm realizing my other senses have been forced to adapt and dominate over my sight — or lack thereof. It's as though the more I stop trying to squint into the darkness to see everything or even just anything, the more I'll begin to trust in my other senses and instincts, my intuition again.

Eventually ... I'd like to trust myself again.

So, my reality is, I haven't dared to be myself in a long time, if ever really. In some way or another, I've compromised parts of myself to meet someone else's criteria, society's criteria or simply to try and "fit in," somehow, to feel as though I belong somewhere. But the truth is, that never really works, because I can't possibly feel as though I fit somewhere when I'm not being true to myself. And I can't really get to know myself until I face this reality. So here I am, staring it in the eyes, terrified. But I refuse to relinquish my intent to embrace who I truly am. I'm tired of looking to others' eyes to "see" myself in them, to know myself. I'm tired of trying not to draw attention to myself, while secretly needing it to feel validated as a presence in this world. It's exhausting really.

It's not as though I've been wholly fake, ever. In fact, I despise disingenuous people with a passion. I can always spot them by how they make me feel ... I never quite trust them. And I never want to join their ranks.

Sure, different people bring out different parts of me, different sides of me. I think other people might be able to relate to that. Certainly, we're different around our parents or certain friends than we are around other environments, people, places, etc. However, to compromise certain aspects of myself, self-sacrifice myself — as i have in the past couple of years — just to avoid causing tension, harm, anger, frustration or pain, well ... that's not being very genuine either. And it's in that way that I feel I haven't been entirely myself, at least not since I was a child. I've been giving into fear and anxiety. And I'm tired of that, too.

So, I've decided I'm done looking to others to find myself. Because that's just not the real way of things. And while most of my close friends and family know who I am, despite my attempts as masking things sometimes, it's time for me to actual embrace that person.

Because, it's one thing to "hear" what she is to others, but it's another to believe it.

So, I've decided to toss out a few miscellaneous pieces of authenticity:

- I love mystery, whether it's in everyday things, like someone catching my eye and making me wonder what his or her story is, or just in watching the sun set, bewildered.

- I love my grams, she's one of my favorite people in this world. She's one of the only people who DOES make me believe my worth when she cups my face in her hands.

- I'm a total dork. And what's more, I love dorks, men, women. Honestly, I think everyone has a little "dork" in them and if they don't think so, well, they're in denial.

- I love nature. My grams always calls me a pagan the way I worship it, but I can't help it. Everyone has their thing, that brings them peace, whether it's their faith or a comfort food or something else. For me, it's nature. I just need to breathe in the wind or look at the moon or a tree or the sky and I'm at its serene mercy. Sometimes, I feel so much at once, I think I'm simply going to burst.

- I love music, all different kinds. My barometer for good music is the way it touches me, the way it stirs me or makes me feel, if it gives me chills or makes me cry, laugh, sing. Even silly songs, or (my once archenemy) pop music, has its place. I may be a "music" nazi, as one of my friends calls me, sometimes, but I can ALWAYS appreciate song, no matter what kind, that moves me.

- I love books, even guilty pleasures like vampire stories and cheesy romance novels. I love classic literature, poetry, science fiction, fantasy fiction, mystery, horror. My favorite kind of book is the kind that gives me what I call a "good headache." It's when I've been up so late reading for so long that my eyes are strained and my head hurts, but I just can't stop reading.

- I love looking at random people, strangers throughout my day, catching meaningful moments passing between them, or just wondering what they're thinking, what their life is like, where they're going, coming from ... what their favorite childhood memory is. I especially love looking at rough worn people, because they often are some of the best living, breathing, walking novels. Sometimes, certain people make me feel the strangest feelings inside. Sometimes it's hard to breathe.

— I love writing. It's exhausting, but the best kind of tired I can imagine. Every time I write a story, poem or chapter or blog post, I feel as though my entire insides have been scraped by a knife, extracted from inside me and laid out onto the pages before me. It's raw, vulnerable, painful and elating.

— I love fantasy fiction computer video games. If I get started on one, you won't see me reemerge into society or the social network for days.

— I love old movies, black and whites, foreign films, independent movies ... and mainstream as well. But classic black and whites, or 1940s and 50s films, I'm completely enamored of. A large piece of that is the tie to my grandma, but there's a beauty in the simplicity of how films were made then, and how actors truly had to carry every scene, that often steals my breath.

— I have really bad eyes ... and I wear contacts and glasses. I used to never like wearing glasses in public, but not as much anymore. I'm seeing the beauty in being "real" in that way, too.

— I have nervous habits, (how I channel anxiety) picking at my hands, biting the inner lining of my lip, fidgeting, visibly burning up if I'm anxious or flustered or affected by someone or something.

— I hate bullies ... angry people and the way they hurt others, like myself.

— I love romance, seeing the magic in the most mundane places or moments.

— I love making people laugh. When I make someone laugh a good belly laugh (as I call it), I feel everything inside of me melt.

— I love laughing. It's not hard to do, I'm one of the most easily amused people I think anyone could meet. But I love laughing until my stomach hurts and my eyes are watering.

— I hate anxiety. I hate what it does to me and how it makes me not myself, how it inhibits me.

— I love peace. I love bringing someone peace, but I especially love when someone, somehow, brings me peace. It so rarely happens, but when it does, I can't explain what it does to me, just that it does.

— I love feeling welcome, feeling at home, feeling safe. I hate when I feel like I don't belong, when I feel like I have to meet a bunch of criteria to be accepted, I guess that's why I never liked cliches in high school, or fraternities or sororities. The friends I had ... they mirrored my family ... they always made me feel welcome.

~ C ~

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Through the Looking Glass

"I wonder if I've been changed in the night ...Was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I'm not the same, the next question is 'Who in the world am I?'" ~ Alice

The Looking Glass

Feeling her eyes swollen shut with tearful sleep, she lay there. The sun poured through the blinders against her eyelids, tempting her to open them. Slowly, she parted them, feeling her lashes pull against each other as her pupils adjusted to the blast of sunlight. 

With tight fists, she rubbed her eyes like a child before sitting up. As she rose, she felt a slight pull against her skin, as though some unknown force was beckoning her back to the sheets beneath her. But something inside her fueled her body forward to a seated position as she turned around to face her pillow. She gasped slightly, looking at the slight indent on the pillow. She squinted through the sunlight, seeing the vague outline of a body, though it was a phantom image, barely visible, transparent in the shadows. Rubbing her eyes and shaking her head, she looked again, but the ghost did not move. She leaned in a bit to get a better look at the face.

It was her, only she barely recognized herself … ashen, thin, dark haunting eyes. She lay there, staring up at the ceiling, tears streaming down her face. Her lips were slightly parted and her pale inner wrists exposed faint blue veins next to each of her ears, as though pinned to the bed. She was looking up, but her eyes were not seeing the ceiling.

She pulled her eyes away from the image and shuddered in the sunlight before getting out of bed. When she turned back, the phantom body was gone, leaving only the indent in the pillow. Suddenly, she felt a weight lift from inside her as she ran her fingers, still stiff from sleep, through her mangled hair.

After her shower, she wrapped her chocolate brown towel around her and walked into her bedroom, but her dog’s gaze stopped her in her tracks. He was looking at the wall in front of her with his deep, golden eyes. He seemed torn between staying in place and moving toward the wall. She looked to where he stared, his eyes mirroring a desperate, pleading look. She saw a glimmer of a silhouette curled up against the wall, arms wrapped around legs. She felt her heart tighten inside, her stomach turn. She looked at her dog, who was now gazing at her. His eyes, filled with wisdom, loyalty and unconditional love never wavered from hers. They no longer looked torn. They looked to her as though seeing her for the first time in a long time. She felt her eyes brim with tears as she looked back to the wall, now washed in sunlight. She wiped her cheeks, went over and kissed her dog before heading to the kitchen to brew coffee.

Was she dreaming again? Was this all some strange illusion?

She felt lighter with each step, but her heart also began thumping more heavily against her ribcage as she drew nearer the kitchen. It was there she came upon another body, this one slightly more vivid and lying in fetal position on the floor, crying. She took a hesitant step forward, feeling her knees slightly quiver and her breath catch. It was her again, but the body seemed hollow somehow, burning from the inside out. Catching herself starting to sink to the floor, she straightened up, took a deep breath and stepped right into the phantom image, shattering it as she filled the coffee pot. She watched the water rise above each line, feeling as though her insides poured out of her. Suddenly, her lungs felt lighter with every breath she took in.

As she entered her living room, she looked into the mirror on her wall. It was an antique, given to her by her great aunt Mary. She peered into it, seeing her recliner in the background … and another ghostly image of herself, wrapped in her blanket, holding her phone in her hand, tears streaming down her face. Black straps are tied tightly on each wrist, choking the blue veins. Her heart, barely visible beneath her phantom flesh, is pinched by a belt, wound tightly around it. Her eyes, haunted, are almost black as she slowly rocks back and forth ‑- frozen in place with the knowledge that her hurt and pain, this darkness inside her, continues to hurt someone she loves.   

This image does not fade. It only flickers. She brings her eyes back to her face in the mirror and gazes at them. Her heart hurts as she sees they have begun to glimmer with emotion evoked from the fresh memory. She imagines the mirror shattering before her and then slowly glued back together, piece by piece. She feels their ragged, sharp edges press against her insides, as though she were the shattered mirror, slowly piecing herself back together.

Her face begins to slightly distort before her eyes as she looks to the reflected recliner again.  The translucent image remains, yet flickers more fervently as she looks back at her real reflection and feels her heart begin to swell, ever so slightly. The belt begins to wane against the strain, the straps around her wrists start to tear at the seams. She feels her body being pulled toward the mirror, as though her reflected self has wrapped its arms around her neck. The mirror morphs into a metallic liquid mass as she begins to give into the pull. It’s painful, as though layers of her skin are being peeled with every inch she presses forward, but it’s a good pain.

Suddenly, she’s immersed, feeling the mirror encompass her entire being. Its placid mass swells outward into the living room before snapping back into a hard surface.

Silence pours into the dark room, pierced only by the slight squeak of the recliner rocking back and forth.