Monday, December 24, 2012

In the Garden...

He sits languidly in the lawn chair, one arm slung behind his head, the other propped on his lap holding a styrofoam cup half-filled with coffee. His intense gaze fixed on the empty air in front of him, he absentmindedly rotates the cup of coffee in his hand.

She watches him, taking in every minute detail. How his forearm muscles flex as he turns the cup slowly between his fingers. How perfectly his dark blue jeans fit his legs. How his chest rises rhythmically with each inhalation and exhalation of his breath. How his eyelashes hover as he lets his eyelids close slightly. She closes her own eyes and takes a deep breath, trying to calm her racing heartbeat.

He doesn't see her. He can't see her. She is invisible. Her invisibility is a part of who she is. Normally she likes the comfort of anonymity this gives her, but not with him. She wants to show herself. But she doesn't belong in his world. Forcing herself there would only bring them both pain. Again.

He shifts slightly, breaking her reverie. She realizes her mistake immediately. It takes concentration to stay invisible and she has let her concentration go completely, wrapped up so entirely in looking at him, listening to him. She should go invisible and run. Get away.

But it is too late. He sees her. He's coming toward her.

"Bijou," he whispers, his eyes searching hers. Her name on his lips sends shivers through her. "Not here to do another one of your disappearing acts, are you?"

How does she explain that she shouldn't be there? That she needs to go? That she hadn't meant to stay watching him for so long?

Before these dreadful thoughts can fully form, his lips are on hers for the first time. The kiss is passionate and reassuring. In that moment she realizes that nothing else matters. Just the two of them. She is his and she will do anything and endure anything to keep it that way.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

All Over...

On the precipice of fortune's misfortune,
The powerful sit powerless
Individual islands with conflicting flags,
Battlements fortified against allies

The 'face of evil' is but a babe
The body, vestments of our discord,
An unclear enemy with unclear goals
Targeting our hearts and souls

Lessons learned, but forgotten
Unity pays, division costs
Lessons missed, no second chances
Collaboration, not compromise

The blame is ours to share
So, too, is the solution
Differences need not divide
Our mutual destruction is not a given.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

At the Intersection of Childhood and Innocence Lost...

She was sick. That was true, but why did he accept that as a good enough reason to leave her behind? She was always sick.

She stays hidden. Just as her mother told her to do. She doesn't let him see her. Not that it matters, he doesn't ask.

Jolie places her head against the wall, as close to the edge as she possibly can and strains to hear their conversation.

"She's sick again?" her father asks. He doesn't sound concerned, only angry. "Why is she always sick?"

"I don't know. She's just been coughing and wheezing. Her nose is really bad too." she hears her mother quickly explain.

"She can't even come with us to get ice cream?" he asks and Jolie perks up. "Yeah Mom," she thinks, "it's only ice cream, besides, it'll make my throat feel better."

"No, she's resting."

"Fine then, it'll be just us boys, right Roger?" her father says without hesitation. Jolie can hear her brother's squeals and laughter as her father scoops him up into his arms. "You can't keep her from me forever, you know that, right?"

"I'm not keeping her from you, you can go see her right now, she just can't go with you because she needs her rest."

At this, Jolie darts back into her grandma's bedroom and climbs back into her grandma's big bed and pulls the covers up to her chin. Anxiously waiting for her father to come in and check on her.

But he didn't.

Jolie should not have been surprised—even then, at five years old—that he didn't care to check.

She spent all her energy trying to make him like her. To pay attention to her.

But he didn't.

Then, much later, he did, and it was the most glorious time. He spent so much time with her. He took her rollerskating at the local roller rink and shopping at the mall. They visited museums and played in the park. He sang her songs from the operas that he loved.

She didn't realize he could hurt her even more than he already had, but, ever so slowly, ever so perniciously, he did.

And just as slowly, she learned to never trust him, just as her mother had. She had learned the hard way of course.

Yet, despite all of that, this little memory was the one that hurt the most. Jolie could still feel the cool hardwood floor beneath her feet. Still feel the painted cabinet that she traced the outline of with her little pudgy finger as she listened covertly to her parents those twenty years ago. Still smell the wallpapered wall  pressed up against her face, it smelled like her grandma's house. She could even feel the elastic waistband and shoulder ties of the little romper that she wore that day (she never did tell her mom how much she hated those).

At the time she was very confused, but not angry with him. She was angry with her mom for making her stay home, but she was not angry with him. She was hurt, very hurt, that he didn't come to make her feel better. She wanted to hear his voice...maybe even a sweet song from him.

She has come to understand that her mom was attempting to protect her from him. Protect her brother too. Her mother knew she couldn't keep both of them, but she felt that if only one of them went, then her father would be more likely to return her brother.

Besides, Jolie was always sick and her father never forced the issue.

Monday, December 3, 2012

At the Café...

Sitting outside the café with the sun on her face and the cracked pavement beneath her feet, she could feel the desolation and despair creeping in like an unwelcome intruder. She tried so hard to fight it back, but Heather’s willpower and her heart were at odds with each other. Deep down she knew nothing ever came from giving in to the painful memories, but her heart craved the comfort that came from giving in, because with it, came him.

It had been over a year since she last spoke to him. She kept hoping that one day she would check her email and discover an email from him, telling her why he disappeared and that he was coming back. She had imagined the reunion so many times. Yet, she knew it would never happen. Every time she felt she had come to terms with his absence, she would see something else that would drag her down. 

Today, it was a car that looked like his car. When Heather saw the car stopped at the stop sign two streets up from where she was stopped, her heart started racing. When her light turned green and she pulled passed the car, she saw that it was not his car. It didn’t even look like it when she got close and it was driven by a little gray-haired woman. Then the tears came. So strong that she had to stop and gather her thoughts.

But she didn’t gather her thoughts, she just stared at her drink she wouldn’t drink and told herself to stop thinking about him. That’s when the melancholy took over. It oozed up her body from the deepest recesses of her soul like an inky-black ocean and washed over her with icy despair.

Then the release came and she was transported back to the day they met. It was a day like any other day—nothing special to mark it as the day that her life would change. She had woken up, jogged a mile, showered, dressed, and drove the short distance into work, just as she did every morning. With her mind on her work and nothing more, she was unsure why she had looked up. Then she saw him. Suddenly, she knew she had looked up because he had been looking at her, even though he was deep in conversation with her supervisor. Who was this guy? Beautiful and charming, that she could gather from clear across the room. Then he smiled and her supervisor laughed. Her supervisor never laughed. Was he witty to boot? Now, she must meet him!

She got up on the pretense of going to the break room to refill her coffee mug. (Oh god…why was she using the stupid “No coffee, no workie” mug?) She walked straight passed him, trying not to look at him, but their eyes met and he flashed her a devastating smile. His brown eyes were mesmerizing. How she made it to the break room, she’s not sure, but her tactic worked. Just a few seconds after she had entered the break room, he sauntered in. Heather’s lips curled in a smile, just remembering that moment.

“Hi, my name’s Hendrix,” he said, holding out his hand. “I’ll be working the national news desk.”

“Um, Heather, weather,” she giggled. “Your name’s really Hendrix?”

“Yup, my parents were…well…fans, Heather Weather,” he chuckled.

That was the moment that they “clicked.” They had talked about how they never “clicked” with anyone. That’s why Heather was still single at her age. 

Their friendship grew quickly and soon they were spending just about every waking moment with each other. After a few months, they decided to move in with each other. Heather’s brow furrowed at this last thought.

Then, one day, a few weeks before she was set to move into his house with him, Hendrix called her and said they needed to talk right away. The tone of his voice made her nervous. He sounded almost angry, but maybe it was nervous. She had never heard his voice sound that way. He was always so laid back, so calm.

When he rang her doorbell, she let him in. Without any preamble whatsoever, he burst out, “I have to leave now.” He paced the floor like a caged animal. Something was clearly wrong with him.

Scared and dumbfounded, she said, “But you just got here.”

“No, not your home. Here, this town. This state. I have to leave.” She spent the next hour trying to understand what he meant, but he just kept telling her he couldn’t explain any further. She pleaded for him to stay, but he said he couldn’t. Then, abruptly, he stood up, grabbed his jacket, and headed for the door.

“Wait!” she screamed, by now she was trembling from head to toe, “what if I come with you?”

With that, his face softened and his resolve melted. “You can’t,” he said softly, with tears in his eyes. “I can’t explain, but just know that I don’t want to leave you. I will be back as soon as I can, if I can.”

“Okay, I guess. I’ll wait for you, will you be long?”

“I don’t know how long I will be. Don’t wait for me. Live your life.” With that, he kissed her forehead gently and quietly stole out of the front door, out of her life.

Friday, November 23, 2012

In My Memory

Memories are tricky.
Sometimes they can be comforting.
Sometimes they can be tormenting.
Sometimes they are the most agonizing combination of both.

Memories are tricky.
Sometimes they prejudice our actions.
Sometimes they give heat to our emotions.
Sometimes they blind us from what is in front of us.

Memories are tricky.
Sometimes we hide from them.
Sometimes we hide in them.
Sometimes we are so mired in them we can't tell the difference.

Memories are tricky.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

At the Stoplight at the Pike and Lambs Gap Road...

Anthony stared at the stoplight, but he didn't see it. Another night stretched ahead of him. Another night alone. The wet, waning daylight seemed to feel his melancholy.

He found himself going over the events that ended in his loneliness for the millionth time. Why had he just let her walk out of the door that cold December morning? Why had he not told her how he felt? That he was proud of her for earning the promotion? That he would happily follow her to Philadelphia so she could take the job? That he would follow her anywhere? Would she ever forgive him for a moment of stupidity? What was she doing now? Was she missing him as much as he missed her? All thoughts he had had before, but he was no closer to the answers than he had been in the aftermath of the last day of his happiness...

The blaring horns and screeching brakes gave only a moment's notice of the oncoming Ford F-150 as it skidded through the intersection and plowed into Anthony's reliable, old Honda. Her face was the last thing he saw before he passed out.

"I'm so sorry. I meant to come back. I wanted to come back..." Her voice was so close. He could smell her strawberry-scented shampoo, feel the soft pressure of her head resting beside him on the hospital bed. Anthony could see her sitting beside him, her soft, red hair pulled up into her usual pony tail, her naturally pouty lips trembling with the tears she was trying not to shed, and her aqua blue eyes as bright as the sea and glistening with tears.

He wanted to reach out and comfort her. To tell her that he was okay; they were okay.

But he couldn't. He couldn't break through the blackness that pinned him to his hospital bed like an impossible weight.

Then the darkness took over completely again.

But he dreamed. And woke. The sounds of the hospital seeping into his brain. The beeping of machines, the scuffing sounds of shoes on impossibly shined floors, the haunted whispers of voices, all registered clearly in his mind. He reached out for the sound and feel of her.

He felt her there. Every day. Sometimes she spoke to him. She would talk about the times they had spent together. The time they had gotten stuck in the snow when they tried to push on through the night to get back to Harrisburg from her parents' house in Philadelphia and they spent the night in their car, thankful for the silly matching footed pajamas that her mom had given them for Christmas. She talked about their first glorious holiday spent in the south of France.

Every time he felt her, he tried to go to her, but he couldn't reach her.

Three weeks after the accident, Anthony woke to another wet, waning evening. After a moment of confusion, Anthony sat bolt upright and called her name.

His room door began to open. His heart started doing backflips and he couldn't breathe. He was suddenly reminded of the first night they made love.

But when the door opened, a short, grey-haired nurse with her glasses perched on her nose and a caring smile on her face came through the door.

"Mr. Greene, you're awake. We've been very worried about you. Your parents should be here shortly. They have been visiting every day at this time, and Nurse Wagner is calling them to let them know that you are awake. How do you feel?"

"And Emily? Where is she?" Anthony couldn't suppress the urgency in his voice.

"Emily?" the nurse, clearly concerned, peered down her nose at him.

"Yes, Emily. My gir-, ex-girlfriend." Embarrassed by the stumble, he suddenly couldn't meet the kind nurse's eyes. "The beautiful redhead. I know she visited me. I heard her. I felt her."

"I'm sorry, Mr. Greene, but your parents have been your only steady visitors while you've been here," the nurse said, a frown creasing her brow.

The next month of recovery was hell. The physical therapy was painful. The depression worse than it was before the accident. And the dreams, the dreams were nightly. Emily was so close he could touch her. They would talk all night. Then he would wake to his empty bed.

Then one night, during a particularly vivid nocturnal visit from Emily, Anthony was awakened abruptly by the shrill sound of his phone's ringtone.

Cursing the interruption, he gruffly answered the phone, "Yes?"

"Anthony?" It was Emily's mother. The distraught sound of her one-word question made Anthony sit bolt upright in his bed.

"Marilynn? What's wrong?"

"It's Emily. She was in an accident two months ago on the Turnpike. Her injuries were pretty severe. She is healing, but she hasn't regained consciousness since the accident."

"Is she in Philadelphia with you?"

"Yes. Will you come? She keeps saying your name." Her voice dropping to a whisper as she relayed the last bit of information.

"I'll be there. I'm leaving right now." And he did. He had started packing the minute he realized that Emily needed him.

The three hours to Philadelphia were the longest three hours of his life. The whole time all he could think about was how she was laying in a hospital bed the whole time he was recovering from his accident.

The sight of Emily's small, battered body lying near-lifeless in the cold hospital bed nearly brought him to his knees. Marilynn's outstretched arms were the welcome bolster that he needed. Looking down at her face, he could see the toll that the previous months had taken on her. Emily's father had died of a heart attack only six months prior. So Marilynn was bearing the pain all on her own.

After a warm hug, Anthony and Marilynn sat down and Anthony recounted his accident and the dreams of Emily.

"We think she was headed to see you when the accident happened," was all she said in response to his story.

"I was."

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Right in Front of Me...

I wish I could say something quirky like I used to have a blog on a French server because I thought it was hip or I have been writing blogs since before it was mainstream or tell you to check out my blog about the semester I spent in Germany. But I'm simply not that cool.

Despite the fact that i have been writing in journals and scribbling stories and poems on scraps of paper since I first understood the concept of a sentence (probably even before then), I have been reluctant to start a blog.



Simple as that. It's amazing how much of life is dictated by fear.

But Katherine, the observant person may say, you have another blog on this very server...yeah, I do. My beautiful husband tried to lovingly push me over the ledge from which I was scared to jump. But alas, as so many good intentions tend to do, it did not work. The furthest I fell was a title for the post ("Pedestals are for Porcelain Pots, not People") and sadly, I have no idea what I was planning on writing.

But today I decided it was time. It was time because I have not written much in the past three or four years. It was time because fear gets us nowhere, but looking fear straight in the face and telling it to bugger off, does. It was time because I have an idea and I'm itching to explore it...

My inspiration for To Think That I Saw it... is two-fold:

The first—and perhaps the most the obvious—is the children's book And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street. A book that I did not get to read until I was an adult, because Dr. Seuss wasn't read in my house (sounds tragic, I know. But, for me, my mother raising me without Dr. Seuss--or green peas--is just part of what makes my mother so endearing). Despite my ripe age when I first read it, it captured my imagination. I was as excited about the book as any six-year-old might be (more so, probably). The adventure of every day life seen through the prism of imagination is such a lovely adventure indeed.

The second—and most important—is my grandfather. He and I used to people watch and make up stories about the people we saw. Our stories were grand. Our stories were funny. Our stories were even sad and sometimes scary. But most importantly, our stories wove a bond between us that endures now, long after he has passed. There is nothing, as far as I can tell, better than that.

My goals for To Think That I Saw it... are simple:

(1) To write every day! But not just on scraps of paper or in notebooks that no one else reads.
(2) To have an adventure.
(3) To brave possible feedback (or worse...nobody reading my writing).

So, please, join me as I embark on an adventure to tell one story a day, every day, that I have imagined based on one thing I saw that day!