She was just a hole. Not like an ankle breaker, or a Florida sink, but just a hole. Warm and at times, lovely. Other times, just a hole. A hole to bury frustration. A hole to swallow hesitation. Or a hole of fleeting escape. She was just a hole...to some. But self-worth is worth more than tar pits and asphalt dumps. Worth more than sullen naps night caps or lunch in the corner of some off-beaten café. No window seat. Well. A deep subject. Like a hole. Beat street, fools, and let the door catch ya.
You don't know me. You sure don't know my worth. I've trudged and tried and worked and won and lost and cried till tears swallowed my soul and dried up there on the banks of a river that muddied my toes and meager existence. I've scraped pennies and cents to buy eggs and bread and keep the damned lights on over cold nights. You don't know me. You sure don't know my worth. How I've bent over backwards and shovelled literal shit out of stables wearing jeans that didn't quite fit and smiled while I did it. You don't know me. You sure as hell don't know my worth. How I've given birth twice, raised kids with nickels and dimes while both of my folks were not alive and kept striving for opportunity that passed me because a lifetime of experience does not equal a degree. You don't know me. I've sacrificed sleep and meals for college essays in my forties after a career wouldn't keep me because I had babies. I've been cheated, chewed up, re-heated more times than I can count on both hands and feet. I've been greeted with acumen and academia mansplaining diarrhea condescending cornucopia of pubescent ideals for what it means to be a woman. You don't know me. Yet, that won't stop me. My wheels keep turning. My brain keeps burning and forgetting more creativity than you'll ever know in this lifetime. I keep climbing with bruised knuckles clinging rungs still fresh from others' bootsteps. You don't know me.
Some days I don’t like you. The way you breathe oxygen into lungs that would just as soon spit me out. The way you step on backs that support all you have ever done. The way you side-eye innocent remarks “Get out of MY hair?” Yes, get out of YOUR hair…since your omnipresence triggers trauma from years of being told we’re a fucking nuisance. But you wouldn’t KNOW that, would you? Because you’ve never considered a view from across the fence. You’ve never noticed your own framework. So, yes, get out of YOUR hair. How dare you side-eye an apology. It was for courtesy…not curtsy. Like the drunken man bursting your bubble… Buckle up, buttercup, it’s not all about you. Even when that side-eye says it is. Have another whiskey to drown the noise that betroths you. Maybe we'll quiet down.
He grabbed me 'neath rolling thunder drum beat under tectonic plate. Heaven's gate swung fiercely welcoming souls all jelly-rolled 'till no more remained. "Ain't it great?" His bellow rained subwoofer in my brain. We shifted. We sifted through strata filled pain 'till lips curled. Yep.
While you're woke throwin' shade some bloke's throwin' stones at your glass house. Little louse lyin' ass friend pretendin' to help like you care a little.
Like your little ego gettin' bruised bein' used by a pseudo best friend when in the end envy spikes white lies just tryin' to fit in. While you're woke throwin' shade some bloke's throwin' stones at your glass house. Shards are sharp. Watch your lyin' ass step so you don't stain my sidewalk.
“She was raised by a pack of wild Irish wolfhounds, so what do you expect, really?”
“Wild Irish wolfhounds?”
“Yeah, man. She had to scratch and claw for everything she’s got. Everything she’s ever had, so that assertiveness? That’s just survival.”
“I guess that explains some things.”
“It really does. But she’s not all bad. Sure, she can be mouthy, and sometimes a little mean, but if she trusts you, she can be golden. She can be the best friend you ever had…loyal, man. To the core.”
“Like a man’s best friend?” “Yeah. Just like a man’s best friend.”
Long lay the wait. Frantic layers stripped, years in the making. She took the bait. Soul-starving, carving out her niche. He, with pretty boy bed dreams iconoclastic puritan screams juxtaposed in a soul twisted, broken. Long lay the wait. Ghosted. Unspoken. She with hopeful trust and a lust for connection wanted to hold the line. In good time. Blocked. Barricaded. No detour in sight. Ghost in the night. Baby cries, mental anguish. Other fish. What would Jesus do?
The chill had set in early; before the checks came, before the trees were chopped, drug inside and bedecked with paper maché memories. Food banks couldn't keep up. Struggle was growing as fast as demand.
Neighbors were dropping like flies amongst the heavy coughs, wheezing, and complaining lies about how the cloth coverings were killing us all. It wasn't Aunt Minnie's nimble-fingered stitchings that were to blame.
Some thought it was in the rain that trickled down from DC, but all wise knew nothing ever trickled down from there. Dry spigots don't do such things. Hoarders don't share, do they? Naw, man. The only thing trickling from absentia was pain.
Anyway, like I said, the cold set in. Christmas wasn't the same after the grid flipped, and we all took to burning the furniture. Evergreens don't flame as well as box springs and end tables...unless it's April, and they've been dead since Autumn. Just like the neighbors. But grandma's rocking chair? That kept us warm and fed...in the dead of winter.
Hey you, the torn one. The shredded one, glowing in your tattered form. Yes, you. The broken and bruised. I see you.
I want you to take your sad, bereaved heart, throbbing cadence with your soul, and I want you to grow. Grow it into an angry flame, burning, yearning and birth yourself anew.
I want you to rise from these unbalanced ashes like the badass, bitchin' she-devil, motherfuckin' Phoenix you are and take this life by its horns as though you own every damn corner of this town, state, and province of vicinity. Rise for me.
She just needed to do the dishes. And the laundry. And let the dogs out. And make sure everyone eats all of the meals. The breakfast. What's for breakfast? Eggs? Again? UGH! She hopes it's ok. Is it ok? She's sorry it's eggs again. She looks at the dishes. Now there's more dishes. The kids should wash the dishes, but the kids have school work, and YouTube, and games, and she's ok with that because the kids have been as resilient as possible in this Covid mess alternate world. Ok. What was she doing? Yes. The dishes. No. Letting dogs out. No. The breakfast. Eggs again. Yes, eggs again.
She just needed to do the dishes.
There they were; stacked like a wobbly, colorful, miniature, overcrowded Stonehenge of funk. She'll get there. But first she flicks the laptop open, and let's the dogs out, and checks all the emails, and permissions, and parameters, and tries to find some coffee. She finds the coffee and faces the dishes. She bumps into laundry, and sees the clock. Almost lunch time. What's for lunch? Mac and cheese? Again?? UGH! She hopes it's ok. Is it ok? She's sorry it's mac and cheese again.
Now there's more dishes. The kids should wash the dishes, but the kids are distracted in books and that was ok because they've given so much up in this Covid mess she wasn't about to take their mental vacation away. What was she going to say? She glances out the window and strays to the riverbank, the woods, and the beach.
She opens more emails and spreadsheets. More scrolling and flipping screens. More coffee. She finds more coffee and faces the dishes. She bumps into laundry, and sees the clock. Almost dinner time. What's for dinner? What's for dinner? Wait.
Plucking strings while the moon rings low colors by my bedside.
A pillar of strength skin side out while crumbled interior mess shouts dismembered tones unequal to her appearance. Chords drown out the clearance.
Just keep plucking. Just keep strumming.
A day will come to acclivity and her naivety will expire simultaneous to her desire of finding herself reflected in another face. Untidiness of life will dissipate like a friendless ghost exhaling. I just keep wailing lonesome strings while the moon rings muffled colors by my bedside.
Darkness was coming. Its travel bags were packed, readied. Families were informed of itinerary. Many swept notice into piles of junk mail to read after the weddings, road trips, birthdays, ballgames, conferences, and church. Some never read it. Shame. Forgetting can hurt. Forgetting did hurt. When Darkness arrived, it was not the restful stranger we knew at night. Darkness was a wisp of a sneeze in sunlight, landing in a child's hair. Darkness was aloft, a speck in the air. Some forgot. Darkness didn't care. It rooted in dads, cousins, sisters, brothers, babes, neighbors, the old. It grew like mold. Shooting out tendrils riding breaths of millenials picking out fruit in the produce aisle. Darkness had no style. No preference where to thrive. Darkness came for anyone alive.
“Look, I don’t need you dying of cancer when I’m an old man” he tapped out the text response and watched the Dorito powder streak across the screen of the phone his now ex-girlfriend had given him the year before. It was just an excuse, really, a gas light. He was already an old man, and battled high blood pressure with medication, cheeseburgers, and Pepsi. Plus, she was almost a decade younger than he, time was on her side. But he was upset and had been caught totally off-guard.
His concoction of lies hadn’t fermented exactly as planned. It was his hope that she would just swallow his excuses like cough syrup. Her ingestion would have bought him time to see if maybe the grass was greener elsewhere. He wasn’t expecting her to show up at his place for breakfast before he’d left Lé Hotel Michélle. She’d never been so brazen before. He had underestimated her. Oops.
She’d been a morning cigarette and coffee girl for more than twenty years at that point. There was no hiding that fact, and it was, indeed, a fact. She’d suffered enough loss to last a few lifetimes, paid her bills with well-earned money, and ran a household single-handedly. Morning caffeine laced nicotine helper her focus on the trillion things she tended to daily.
She knew it wasn’t an endearing habit, but there were far worse things to crutch, so she refused to beat herself up about it. Consequently, she refused anyone else to do so, either, including him. Who was he to judge, anyway? He had his addictions.
A smoke with her coffee every now and then was not about to equal a cancer diagnosis. They both knew that. Well, at least she knew that. She had studied the genetic and environmental factors known to promote cancer cell growth. Maybe he hadn’t had that opportunity.
He was just pissed that she busted him out. He’d been caught with his pants down, as it goes, and her morning habit was the only dig he could muster. He tried to slant the story and accuse her of lying about her ritual, which was laughable at best, since it was no secret. She held no secrets. She lived life in a way that disabled such a thing. Life was messy enough without the lies. He knew that about her, too.
She had shoveled her life story to the man from the word “go” and it was not all sunshine and roses. Nothing ever was at their age. Every divorcee and single parent past the age of thirty carried their fair share of baggage filled with individual histories of heartaches, scars, and damage. It just happens. Life is messy, after all. But this was a mess he had chosen to make. This was his choice.
The day before she caught him off guard, he had fed her full of bullshit. It was storming like crazy all day, but he was still to go hiking with his estranged teenaged son. The one kid that had been ignoring him for a full year. The one kid that refused to get to know his dad’s girlfriend, for reasons that seemed to change with his underwear. It was a not-so-perfect lie, but one certainly designed to keep her away while he investigated other opportunities that could make his life easier.
She had caught on to the subtle hints laid out by his adult children. He just wanted to ignore them, and wish for her to absorb such things, even if it meant looking a fool in front of her own children. His grown kids were crafty in their defiance, and mostly, she couldn’t even blame them. They were each a product of an unhealthy dynamic displayed by their now divorced parents. They were the kind of divorcees who weaponized their offspring; each one disparaging the other to each of their kids. They treated the affections of their children like property. Each parent wanting to steal those affections in any way they could, just to hurt the other parent. It was spiteful, and ugly.
His ex-wife had remarried to a man with money, and no children. That was ok with his kids, as it was the perfect mix of a possible inheritance with no one to contend with. No new people to accept, aside from mom’s new husband. That was tolerable. But dad had found a lady with two kids of her own. They didn’t care for that scenario. So, instead of opening their hearts out of respect for their father, they decided to lay inconspicuous traps meant to divide.
He grew tired of her discussions about how to bridge the gap. Bridging the gap meant that he would have to confront the situation and lay cards on the table. He didn’t want that. There were cards she didn’t know about. Hell, there were cards his kids didn’t know about. Like the card where he expressed how in love he was with her, and about how he envisioned building onto his house so everyone could live there, or how they might purchase their own home together; a home with room for them all.
A whole year into their relationship, and he hadn’t even tried to express those cards to his kids. Not to mention the cards that showed how he treated her children when his own weren’t around. It was all too terrifying for him. She understood all of this and had been quite patient. She had her own kids to look out for, too. She wasn’t in a terrible hurry anyway, but the dividing games needed some attention.
She held a point of view that if light was spread onto everything, then there would be no room for darkness, no room for confusion, and only room for growth. Light helped everything grow. Plus, who were the adults in the relationship? She never wanted to run his grown children away from him, rather it was quite the opposite. In fact, when his son decided to bugger off, it was she that would mention various ways for him to bridge that gap, too. She often encouraged him to set aside time for his son. But there was obviously something in those cards he didn’t want her to know, so he would shut her down with more bullshit. It was all very unfortunate.
What would make his life easier would be to find someone else. Now that his kids were recognizing him and wanting more of his time thanks to the jealousy brought on by dating someone with kids, it would just be easier to find another woman without kids. Or another woman whose kids were already grown. Hell, maybe a woman with more of a financial windfall. So, when an old friend messaged him that she was currently separated and coming to town for a visit, well, that provided an avenue worth investigating. But he didn’t want his girlfriend to know, just in case that avenue was a dead end. That’s when his concoction of lies began, along with the underestimation of her intelligence.
Instead of going hiking, he went out to the bar to meet his aspiring possibility. Of course, he had his eldest daughter come, too, to make it seem innocent enough, just in case things didn’t pan out. Or maybe it was just to get her opinion. Was the new lady/old friend worth pursuing? At any rate, the next morning was when he was busted out. He wasn’t home when his now ex-girlfriend showed up. She texted him, then went in to let their dog out, the dog she had helped raise from a pup. That poor dog hadn’t been out to do his business in quite some time, as he had his legs crossed. She had never seen a dog piss and shit simultaneously until that very day.
It took 30 minutes for him to respond with lies to her text that morning. By then, she already knew that she’d been betrayed, and that he apparently held no respect for her, or for her own children. If he had, she wouldn’t have been sitting at his kitchen table constructing a “What the fuck is this?” letter. His concoction had soured. It was ironic, though. His attempt at keeping her in the dark had helped to spread the light. He needn’t worry about her dying of cancer anymore.