Never Merely a Dirty Window

His heart is big

But his soul is black

Like stained glass

In a forgotten church

After a fire and smoke

The past and time and memories

But what he thinks are cracks

Are actually beginnings

Or new facets

New colors

But in all the darkness

One cannot see

Despite it all

It still attracts

Those who need the beauty the most

Like moths to a flickering flame

Though feeble,

The light does shine.

Though dark and dirty,

The beauty shows through.

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a boy, and his bike

He pedals his feet with all his might

But he’s legs, they bend not quite right

He strains and he balances and he holds his breath

He reminds himself not to lean too far left

He tries and he falters, over the handle bars he flies

And his dreams are crushed and broken laying by his side

He forgets his bike

And learns to stand

Who needs a bike when you’re a man

But the other boys ride their bikes

Reminding him of his lost dreams

Which break his suffocated hopes out with a strangling scream

“We want that”

They gargle

“We want that”

They squeal

Stealing his voice

Grabbing the wheel

His body a puppet to his deepest desires

Holding to dreams he had forever aspired

At first he was free, at first he was flying,

until flying became falling, and his hopes began dying

Falling became crashing, every shred of exhilaration gone

He would forever blame himself,

and his body gone wrong.

Okay.

Can I say I’m okay one more time?

Will my words make it so?

Can I play pretend?

Hide in a blanket fort?

Forget the world?

Forget the honesty that is growing up?

I’m okay.

Life is exactly what I didn’t expect.

But.

I’m okay.

Ideas and dreams are good

Until they don’t meet your expectations.

I swear.

I am okay.

Happiness is paying bills.

Right?

Contentment is bearing with disappointment.

Are you sure?

Maybe.

Maybe the life they promise to the well behaved,

The honest,

The good hearted,

Is a lie?

Who knows?

All I know

Is

I’m okay?

L.T.

How many people talk about the fact that life sucks?

Life sucks.

In all tiers of the human existence.

Oh, my dad left for eight rotations around the sun.

In my formative years.

My brother was severely altered by a disease and when mom was working he was my responsibility.

Just so you know seizures are terrifying for a twelve year old.

He had a range of them.

But we shared a room because no matter what… I was awake right before it happened.

There was a moment of silence when my eyes opened in the darkness.

A yawn

A stretch

A sigh

I wondered why I was awake

And then it would happen

The noise from the next bed. Then the thrashing.

My body would fly to his bed without having to be told

The word “Mom” would echo through the house

Followed shortly by the sound of pounding feet down the hallway

His head was cradled in my lap

He gasped for air

He convulsed

He cried out in pain

My heart broke at a very young age

Rage at whoever was in charge rose

We were alone my mom and I

In the responsibility of my brother

His smiles rivaled the sun

Even if the sun was the thing that made him smile the most.

He was my treasure.

He was our treasure.

Someone who never felt the pressure of

Sadness.

Destitution

Bills.

Heartbreak.

Loss.

I would say hunger but he was always ready for a snack cake.

Life sucks.

But his life despite his physical trials is beautiful

Sunday’s in the Rain

It feels like morning, but it’s really afternoon. My lukewarm coffee settles on my tongue, and glides down my throat. The sky is a masterpiece of gray and white watercolor. The raindrops are small and sparse creating a pretty, hazy screen between myself and the trees, as the thunder trembles in the background, only growling a little louder occasionally. My back porch serves as my seat facing the Earth’s stage and the weather’s performance.

There is something relaxing about a thunderstorm on a Sunday afternoon. It rained pretty heavily last Sunday, and I couldn’t help myself. I stood out in the yard arms outstretched just absorbing it. Letting the rain wash away, well, everything. I went back inside drenched and smiling, my clothing and hair held the refreshing smell of it. There is something medicinal in the rain.

I am contemplating the upcoming, uninspiring, monotony of the work week ahead, dreading it and already looking forward to Friday. I worry sometimes I’m wishing my life away. We all look forward to the next thing that will bring us happiness, or some semblance of it, Friday’s, dinners with friends, parties, instead of living in and appreciating the present.

I frequently ask myself “What’s next?” Every moment can’t be laughter, freedom, or standing in the rain. When do we become content with where we are and what we have? Or is this the human condition?

I could wax on with lovely metaphors about life being a garden, and the toils and boredom of putting in work before flowers will bloom. (As someone who has inadvertently killed more plants than I would care to admit, this probably is not a good one.)

Maybe, if I found a little joy in the things like cleaning my home, or speaking with customers, I wouldn’t wish for Friday’s or holidays. Maybe finding a way to be content, or even thankful, in each moment is the true source of happiness.

It would be easier, I think, if most moments were like this one, with coffee, the rain, and my notebook.

The Grocery Store

Terry stood in the aisle of the grocery store where the cookies lived. Her eyes caressed each of the brightly colored packages.

“You don’t need cookies, fat ass. You need to have your mouth sewn shut so you don’t get any bigger.”

Terry attempted to clear the lump lodged in her throat, as her hand reached towards the cookies wrapped in blue plastic, her hand stopped inches from the package. She didn’t really need cookies. What was that ridiculous saying?
“A minute on the lips a lifetime on the hips.”

Yeah. That was the one.

“And you have enough on those hips as it is. Anymore, and those pants that are barely making it around that immense ass of yours will explode.”

Terry’s hand fell to her side. No cookies then. Robotically she jerked to face her cart and continued down the aisle.

Her head turned neither left nor right until she found herself in the produce aisle holding a bag of baby carrots. Did she even like baby carrots? Sure, they tasted fine coated in Ranch dressing, but could that really be considered healthy? Not to mention when all she wanted was a couple of cookies would she really be able to trick herself into eating carrots like a damn rabbit?

She dropped the bag back on the shelf knowing they would just end up rotten in a drawer in the bottom of her fridge.

“Fat ass.” They seemed to whisper at her back as she walked away.

She turned a corner and knocked into, and nearly toppled, a display of peanut butter, a single jar in the floor.

“Uncoordinated cow, maybe pay attention to what you’re doing next time.”

“Uncoordinated cow, Uncoordinated cow, Uncoordinated cow…” the peanut butter whispered to her as she stooped to pick up the jar.

A throat cleared behind her, “Um, excuse me, dear.”

Terry’s face flamed. She attempted to jump out of the way, and upset the tower or peanut butter again, thankfully it remained upright. “I am so sorry!”

A dainty elderly woman clutching her shopping basket with both hands glided past her with all the grace Terry knew she would never possess.

“It’s quite alright, dear.” The older woman smiled as she passed.

“You are such an inconvenience to others.”

“Inconvenience, inconvenience,” the woman’s heels snapped at her as she proceeded down the aisle.

Terry quickly escaped the aisle, and the presence of the woman, not even noticing she’d placed the peanut butter in her cart instead of back on the display.

The next aisle held trash bags, she remembered she needed those so she sought out her usual brand.

“That’s where you belong you know, in the trash. You useless piece of garbage.”

“Piece of garbage. Trash. Useless. Just throw yourself away.” The boxes chanted at her.

Terry hurled a box into her cart and tried to tune out the voices. What else did she need? She tried to distract herself. Milk! She needed milk, she thought. Damnit she should really start making lists.

“Can’t even grocery shop like an adult. Pathetic.”

“Yep, definitely need milk.” She whispered to herself, as she made her way to the dairy section.

“You had better get skim milk then, less calories to feed that protruding gut of yours.”

“The whole milk she’d been reaching for taunted her. “I’ll feed your protruding gut.” She yanked her hand away as if it had tried to bite her.

“Protruding gut…” the other gallons murmured.

“Shut up!” She hissed. The man looking at the eggs looked at her strangely.

Laughter echoed from the shelf in front of her.

“You’re insane. Psychotic! Talking to yourself. You should be committed.”

Yanking a gallon of skim milk from the shelf she barreled past the confused gentleman.She needed eggs, she remembered.

Screw the eggs.

“Bread. I’ll just get some bread. Bread is safe.” She whispered.

“Oh honey, like you need the carbohydrates.”

The wheels of her cart almost left marks on the floor she stopped so fast.

Lettuce! Lettuce made salads, salads were good. Lettuce. She almost sprinted back to the produce section.

“You look like an idiot. Wandering around the store, talking to yourself.”

Terry started to him to herself. Mary had a little lamb, little lamb, little lamb…

Laughter followed her down the aisles.

Finally she made it to the lettuce. Lettuce was safe.

“Honestly? You think you have the self restraint to only eat salads? Who are you kidding? Waste of money.”

“You’re just buying us to throw us away, Terry.” The lettuce cackled.

Oh God, she really was losing it.

“Could’ve told you that sweetheart. You’re batshit. Always have been.”

“Batshit, batshit, batshit.” This from the tomatoes behind her.

Terry’s knuckles whitened as she squeezed the handle to her cart.

“How about some dish detergent for that towering mass of dishes you have been to lazy to do anything about?”

Dish soap. Dish soap was good.
She circled back through the store until she found it.

“Now are you actually going to do the dishes or are you just going to plant that gigantic ass of yours in the crater it has created on your couch?”

Her hands crushed the box of dishwasher tabs she held.

“Just be honest with yourself Terry. You’re a disgusting mess, too lazy to do anything about it.”

She threw the box into the cart when it snickered at her. “Disgusting mess.” She hurried down the aisle when the other boxes began to chime in.

God help her. Nothing was safe.

A thought occurred to her. Ear plugs! That’s what she needed then she could shop in peace. She found some in the small hardware section. She opened them on the spot.

There, silence, much better. She turned to continue shopping.

A low laughter began. It grew in intensity until it was coming from all around her.

“Oh you stupid, stupid, silly girl. You can’t escape me. You can’t get rid of me. I’m a wound that will never heal. I am a scar that will never fade. No matter what you do, no matter where you go. There I will be.”

“Stupid, stupid, stupid, girl.” The aisles were alive with whispers.

Tears ran down her face as she stood completely frozen in place.

“Where are you going to go sweetheart? No matter what you do , you’ll always be you, an undesirable, clumsy, fool. Forever alone.”

“Alone and unwanted.” The voices hissed.

Terry began to shake her head. Whipping her hair from left to right. “No, no, no, no, no! Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!”

“Not going to happen Terry. No matter what combination of groceries or junk you put in your cart I’ll always be here to remind you of who you truly are.”

“Then screw it. I should have just grabbed the damn cookies in the beginning then.”

She abandoned her cart, marched to the cookie aisle, snatched two packages off the shelf, headed to the dairy section grabbed a gallon of whole milk, and when she passed the wine she grabbed a bottle on instinct. Finally she went to check out.

“Fat ass! Fat ass! Fat ass!” The store erupted around her.

“I’m a fat ass if I buy cookies. I’m a fat ass if I buy lettuce. So I am buying the damn cookies.” She handed cash to the very concerned looking cashier, and forced a smile, which did not seem to put the poor girl more at ease. Terry shrugged, grabbed her bags and left the store.

Cookies for dinner, things could be worse.

a toast… to the unmentionable

Here’s a letter to you asshole.

You made me feel laughter humor and intelligence.
You say what everyone is thinking. You lure people in with your wit and your charm.
And then you stab them.

Repeatedly.

You inject your venom into their self confidence and their peace of mind.
You make them doubt themselves while you laugh and feign ignorance.

You reach out and grab what you want and damn whoever it belongs to.

I’m sitting here. Nursing a beer. Trying not to think about it, and wishing someone would put a forceful fist in your jabbering mouth.

I hate you.

You make me feel small, dirty, and absurd.

How DARE you make me question myself, my sanity, and the image I present to the world.

How dare you make me feel as if I am to blame.
You made a decision and I am facing the consequences and choices.

I’m the one asking questions.

I’m the one faced with how to proceed, where to begin, and what the hell to do.

Cheers to you asshole. As I drink from my beer I thank you for making me feel like I have something to say sorry for.

 

For helping me feel even more insecure. For assuming that my body is just here for your hands to glide across.

For making me feel that somehow I am at fault.

Here’s news.

It’s.

Not.

My.

Fault.

YOU made a decision. All by yourself. You didn’t consult your wife. You didn’t consult your son. And you sure as hell didn’t consult me. Because I would’ve advised you to keep your Velcro hands to yourself. Not on my backside nor anywhere else.

You see I’m not a fan of physical contact unless I’m married to your physical body. And you took it upon yourself to ignore the fact that inside the body you took it upon yourself to grope, is a person. A breathing. Thinking. Feeling. Person. With a heart that you decided to ignore. With a soul you decided to injure. With thoughts you decided to taint with your actions.

Cheers asshole. Here’s to you.

Meredith

Meredith was a funny girl. Her vast collection of shoes nonchalantly decorated various areas of the floor of her home. Her closet often looked like the aftermath of a home invasion, or a hurricane.

Her physical appearance was generally out of sorts, but she tried, on occasion, to appear like a lady, and succeeded every so often, even if she didn’t behave as one.

Her feet often found the most minuscule of cracks on whatever surface she walked on. God help her if she were holding a beverage.

Chaos seemed to be her legacy. She couldn’t eat a meal without the remnants of it remaining with, or on, her for the rest of the day.

She was unintentionally careless with her belongings. She never knew where her keys were. If she set something down, you could be sure she wouldn’t remember where exactly it was two minutes later.

She had a swift biting temper, but she was quick to apologize, and she often put the needs and feelings of others above her own comfort.

She struggled with the word “no.”

In conversations involving more than two individuals she would find herself anxious and several topics behind, as her brain tried to formulate the correct thing to say. She struggled with what to say, how to say it, when to say it, or if she should say anything at all. It crippled her.

In one on one conversations she was often distracted and jumped from subject to subject like a child surrounded by bright colors, interactive toys, and distracting sounds. It could be hard to keep up with her when she got particularly excited about something.

Her mind was never quiet. Something was always ruminating behind those pretty brown eyes, but her expressive face could sometimes go quiet with her thoughts, and you could never quite tell where her mind was headed.

She could be quiet, and boisterous, clever and corny. She laughed at her own jokes, a loud braying laugh that, though it reminded her of a donkey, she loved.

She never took herself as seriously as she should, and she figured that others didn’t either.

She was indecisive and uncommitted to the decisions she did make. She couldn’t stick with a plan. She was the most determined when she would lie in bed at night, but the first rays of morning always caused her determination to evaporate.

She was clumsy, hard headed, soft hearted, and sarcastic.

As she aged cynicism bit her, and infected her with its venom. The truths, that held strong in her youth, were faltering decaying bricks in her adulthood. Smiling faces, to her, were often the masks of those who meant the most harm, or had the most hurt to hide

Her job was a monotonous chain of the same tasks rarely broken up by anything challenging. She often contemplated “the point of it all.” Maybe it was a cosmic joke, she often thought to herself in her most cynical moments. Could this be what she spent most of the rest of her life doing just to earn money to pay for the things she couldn’t use half of the time because she she was at work most of the time?

Mornings were not her cup of tea. She was much more alive when the night was. There was a quiet siren call in the lull of the darkness, and the whisper of the silhouetted trees brushing against each other with the familiarity of old lovers decades into their bliss.

Her imagination was wild. Every stranger was a potential psychopath that had perverse ideas of how to end her life and dispose of her body.

She could be quick to judge, but also quick to chastise herself for it. She knew you never truly knew someone’s circumstances.

She hoped she offered the world something more than her chaotic influence, that maybe the world had a little more beauty because she was in it.

She hoped.

 

 

 

 

 

Sleepless in Mississippi

When I sit down and my brain says WRITE, my pen pauses over paper, or my fingers hover over a keyboard. A blank page laughs at me. The winking cursor taunts me. Thoughts halt. Words fail. Inspiration escapes through the window with the last rays of the sun.

But when I lie in bed at night. Words assault my brain. Paragraphs fill the spaces in my mind that should be settling into sleep. I tell myself “I will remember” but I know this is a lie. So I grab a notebook and scribble them down, and then try to settle back in. But the words bombard me like assailants in the night. Assaulting my peace, and destroying any ideas I may have entertained of getting a good night’s rest.

Polly

Anne loved Polly, maybe more than she even loved her younger siblings, Lilly and Trevor, because they were little, and could be annoying. Polly was quiet. She didnt pull Anne’s hair. She didn’t steal Anne’s toys. Anne’s mom didnt have to tell her to keep an eye on Polly because Polly was always well behaved. Polly was her best friend, her confidant, the keeper of the secrets whispered under the blankets at night.

Anne also had three older cousins, Bill, Ty, and Phillip, all boys and mean as snakes. They liked to torture poor Anne, chasing her with bugs, running her down with their bicycles, and any other thing their cruel minds could imagine. Even when it seemed they were being nice, and let Anne in on one of their games, they always found a way to trick her.

One time, the boys let Anne play a game of tag with them and their friends. Anne was cautiously optimistic. When it was Phillip’s turn to be “It” he chased her onto the front stairs of the trailer, and pushed her off. She sliced her finger open on the siding as she fell. Her uncle had been babysitting them that day, and he was without a vehicle, so Anne had to sit for hours, bleeding, and crying into Polly’s hair, as she waited for her mom to get home to take her to the hospital. Six stitches, and a few hours later her cousin denied his part in the whole incident so vehemetely that no one believed her, and she began to doubt herself. The experience itself was so blurred by emotion and trauma, she began to wonder if perhaps she had jumped off the stairs after all.

Polly listened as she cried out her confusion and sadness, clutching her bandaged finger to herself.

One particular day, when the torrential rain kept them contained to the house, the adults had left them to their own devices while they were off doing some adult thing or other. Lilly was playing in their shared bedroom. Trevor had gone with their mother. Anne and Polly had the living room to themselves. Anne brushed Polly’s hair, and then they had a little tea party. Well, actually, they only had water from the bathroom sink, but they liked to pretend.

When Phillip unceremoniously deposited himself at the coffee table beside her, Anne should have been suspicious, but he asked if he could have some tea and she offered him some gladly.

“If you want to be really fancy Phillip, you can hold out your pinky like th-”
Phillip spat water across the table, his face the picture of disgust. “This is just water!”

“Oh!” Anne’s face went pink with embarassment. “I’m sorry! I thought you knew we were pretending.”

“You are such a stupid baby.” He threw down the teacup like it was garbage, and for the first time she was glad her tea set was plastic, instead of the glass one she stared at longingly every time they went to a particular local store.

“You spilled water every where! Why did you do that? We’re going to have to clean it up before my mom gets home, or she is going to be mad!”

By this time the commotion had drawn her other two cousins into the living room like the scent of blood attracts sharks.
“What is going on in here?” Bill, the oldest, demanded. His eyes shot accusations at Anne.

Phillip jumped to his feet. “Big, stupid, babyish Anne is in here having a ‘pretend tea party.'”

“I’m just playing with Polly, Phillip. We weren’t bothering anybody.”

Again, Phillip’s face was distored in disgust. “That’s not true, Anne. You always bother me. You, your stupid face, your dumb little game, and the fact that you are just a big pathetic baby.” Phillip kicked the table, causing the plastic tea cups to slosh water across the surface. “You’re in here taking up the living room with your stupid breath, and we want to hang out in here.”

“It wouldnt bother me if y’all came in here. I don’t mind.”

“Don’t you get it, Dummy? We dont want to look at your stupid face, or your pathetic Polly.” He spat Polly’s name like it tasted bitter on his tongue. His glaring gaze fell upon Polly, and Anne’s stomach dropped, but before she could even take a breath, he snatched her up by her arm.

“You do realized she is a doll right? Or are you really that stupid? Maybe the fact that you have no friends, and only have Polly to play with has turned you into a nutcase.” His brothers snickered. He spun Polly around by her arm.

“No! Please put her down! I’ll leave the living room, please give her back!”

Bill snatched Polly from Phillip, and dangled her over Anne’s head by her arm. Since Anne was rather short for her age, and Bill tall for his, and much older at that, the chance of Anne being able to reach her was slim. “Actually Anne, I think a little dose of reality might be good for you.” He threw Polly against the wall. Anne burst into tears and tried to run for her, but Ty, the middle and quietest cousin, grabbed her around her waist.
Bill walked over and picked Polly up by her hair. “She doesn’t feel anything Anne.” At this point Anne was feeling enough for them both. “She isn’t real.” He swung her by her hair in Phillip’s direction. “Show her, Phil.”

Phillip threw poor Polly down onto the couch. He then, viciously and with all of his strength, punched Polly in her smiling face. Once. Twice. Three times.
Anne sobbed and begged but Ty wouldn’t let her go. Phillip picked Polly up and threw her at Anne. Ty let her go, and Anne fell to her knees. Polly lay there face down, legs and arms splayed. Anne’s poor best friend looked a frazzled wreck, and when Anne finally tenderly flipped her over, she let out a blood curdling, and heart wrenching scream.

Polly’s beautiful face was sunken into her head, completely collapsed. Her eyes and mouth were distorted and stretched as she looked up at Anne from inside her own head. Anne scooped her up and cradled her in her arms and rocked her as she wailed.

A loud bang sounded through the house as the bedroom door Anne shared with Lilly bounced off the wall. Lilly came barrelling out of the room. She took in the aggressive atmosphere and fell to her knees in front of Anne. “Annie what happened? What’s wrong?”

Anne could barely catch her breath. “Th-they killed Polly.” Lilly’s young heart knew how important Polly was. When Anne showed Lilly Polly’s face, Lilly gasped. She jumped to her feet and placed her small fists on her hips and bravely faced her much larger cousins. “Why are y’all so mean?” She shrieked. “I’m telling my mom what you did to Polly! And your mom too!”

“She won’t believe you.” Phillip stuttered as he quickly glanced at his brothers.

“Yes, uh huh, she will.” Lilly took a step forward, anger and love caused her small chest to heave. “I will just show her Polly.”
The boys exchanged worried glances.
Lilly kneeled carefully next to Anne and placed her chubby dimpled hand on Anne’s knee. “It’s okay Annie, maybe Momma can fix her.”

Bill squated down beside Lilly. “We can fix her! We’ll be her doctors, and she’ll be good as new.” He reached a hand towards Polly who was currently wrapped tighthly in Anne’s arms.

Bills hand may as well have been a snake judging from Anne’s reaction. She yanked away from him and slammed her back into the coffee table. “Don’t touch her!” She snarled. “You’re just going to hurt her again.”

Bill’s jaw tightened, but he dropped his hand, and looked at his brothers.

“We promise, Anne. We will make her better, and thats it, and you wont be sad anymore.” Ty crouched next to Anne. He didnt reach for Polly, he just looked at her.

“Its okay, Annie. Maybe they can fix her up.” Lilly patted her knee. Anne looked at their faces, first Bill’s, then Ty’s, then Lilly’s, and finally Polly’s pathetic broken one. She lamely handed her over to Ty and the boys took her into the bathroom and closed the door.

Anne sat for a while, on the couch, waiting, but she began to worry about all of the awful things they could be doing to Polly. Images of them shaving her head, cutting off her arms and legs, or ripping off her head completely, bombared her mind. She shot to her feet and barged into the bathroom. A stunned silence enveloped her before she bellowed. “What are you doing to her?”

At that very moment, Polly lay on the counter with a plunger attached to her head. They’d been attempting to suck her face back out of her head.

Ty shoved her out of the room. “Get out Anne! We’re not finished yet.” He shut the door in her face, and she heard the click of the lock turning into place.

Her bracelets clincked against the door as she pummeled it with her small fists. Tears ran in rivers down her pink face. Her voice was garbled by sobs, the only word she could get out as a strangled “Polly!”

When the door reopened she almost fell through it. “Where is Polly?” She demanded.

Phillip pulled her from behind his back and handed her to Anne. Her beautiful face was back to normal. Anne crushed her to her chest.

“Thank you! Thank you!” She cried, as if she’d forgotten it was their fault Polly had been damaged in the first place.

That night, Polly was pampered and groomed. No doll had ever received as much love as Polly did. After that day, Polly only played with Anne, and that, according to Anne, was how Polly preferred it.