You are a rising star and you radiate far above the toiled oceans. Your rays sparkle down to the darkest of trenches where the bottom-feeders call home. You may never see where your light leads; through the atmosphere, below the urchants; tickling tail fins, and guiding the Galapagos highway. And you may never know the origin of your illumination but you will shine without hesitation casting shadows from the crustacean that feed from within the toiled oceans. You. You are a rock star.
What is greed? Is it two kids, three cookies, and one crumby grin? Is it the amount of time it takes to snake out of a skin? Or is it shoving a loved one under a bus to fill a few coffers with coinage and stuff? Is it a mental illness that skews reality, distorting brain cells' anatomy and projecting frailty upon the inherently strong? Is it wrong? Or is it just a human flaw betrothed to us all, to suffer in a time of need? Greed.
Two little elves frolicked in green lush grass. Playful sprites loving life until the deluge of death ash. At first, it was unnoticed. Clothed in dress pants of a kind friend, a sister, a brother, a muggle wife who didn't like her elf loving another. Bit by itsy bit, sabotage was laid to rest in the lush green grass for the elemental folk to trip over. Single words whispered to breathe discontent around their clover. One elf could smell it, and signaled out a warning, but the other was aloof... until the ash had settled all snug and smiles under their earthen roof. Bit by itsy bit, friendly-tailored rot crept into their lot to spoil the spritely two. What were two little elves to do? They clasped each other's hands, retrieved some water and rags, and dusted off their brooms. They flitted about from room to room gathered up the fake, smiling, friendly-fire masks and tossed every one of them out on their ass.
It was not in the quiet moments that alone-ness snuck in on webbed feet creeping to swallow her whole. Oh no. It was in between boisterous bouts of crowded laughter, leg-slappin' and shared memories that never included her. That was when her solitary existence grew three-fold. She often felt old, withered and wasted when stories were served around her...just out of reach. If they only knew how much she had to offer. How much love was carried in her coffers. If they gave a minute to get to know her, maybe they'd see her wings. Maybe they'd hear the friendship of acceptance when she sings. But, her measly chips don't compare to the comfort of a shared history. And opening doors to an unknown future is far too scary. So, she just listens to the echoes of their laughter as they scatter down the hallway.
I see you not picking up after yourself. Leaving hearts and bodies in your selfish wake. You take and take until they weep themselves to sleep while you curl up in a bed you claim to have never made. Smoke and mirrors throw shade at the shame you should inherently carry. Oh, do be wary, for time has a method and a madness for empty souls like the one absent from your skull. Karma comes, and karma hulls the abhorrant when least expected. So, say your prayers before laying your empty-souled head in that rented bed you claim to have never made.
He was methodical in approach. Seemingly selfless encroachment entrenched in support. A pillow for the wounded until he too, was wounded in ways he did not foresee. A crutch for the penurious minds until there was no more time for the lucid intimacy left at home. Too far did he roam past the realm of what mattered most, that within his need to hero, to host, he became the selfless ghost, lost within a methodical approach.
Belly curves carve lines outside the waste of her jeans. A reflection distorts, hips much wider than they seem. Objects in mirror bigger than they appear. Wrinkles and skin tags bolster a hag who still feels so alive. How dare she? Don't she know she'll never be? Never live up to what he wants? Bodacious boobs and a little butt. A mouth that never speaks. Sunshine locks on shoulders. Freshly shorn legs that never quit. Good for a drink, or ten. He snagged himself a trophy, again. But trophies are for shelving. Trophies for display. No meat, no vigor, no depth. No layers, no fray. Trophies are for bragging, but then they're put away. Her belly curves laugh out loud, they belly-flop into the crowd with apologies unsent. Her lips a caricature for words with no audible repent. A hairline streaked with silver. A bust all a-quiver underneath the fabric of her being. She is layered. She is frayed. And absolutely no apologies are made.
This Burger King was just at the base of a heavy interstate exchange. Skirted with buzzing buttresses of concrete and asphalt, and flanked by a myriad of hotel chains; this joint screamed of irregular clientele and lazy staff. We didn't care. Five hours of grinding freeway traffic, construction zones, and fearless drivers had made us rather hangry. A pit stop refill was needed, and BK was the closest place.
The floor was sticky, and the counter tops even more so. There was a black sharpied "disinfectant" bucket filled with three-day old sludge, plopped by the napkin dispenser. I wondered which new employee had never cared to move it. My guess was all of them. Had I not been so highway frazzled, I may have chosen a different place to dine. Oh well.
We chose our filthy seats, unwrapped our questionable burgers, and dunked our saturated finger foods in stuff labeled "ketchup". We slurped at our plastic straws without caring about which landfill they would inevitably forever lay. Then, she walked in.
She was a lone, middle-aged stranger from the random realms of public domain, and wore deep sadness on her face. I watched her gather a beverage from the filmy dispensers, walk into the kid's playroom, and settle at a table that appeared all too familiar to herself.
I gnawed on my chunky chicken sandwich and viewed her hands stroke circles on the table top. At first, I thought she was attempting to clean the surface, but a far-off look in her eyes sang a different story. She was reflecting, remembering something, or someone.
My daughters poked fun at each other while I stared at our stranger, and pictured a history only a mother would notice. The play area sat empty, except for her. She never drank from her cup, while she laid heavy eyes on a small, vacant seat. How long had she been visiting? Weeks? I'd guessed years, at that point. It was an old Burger King, no question.
We dumped our discarded bits and pieces in the hardly emptied receptacle and mosied back to our car. Outside the window, I saw her run thin fingers through her tired hair, and I hugged my girls as they climbed into their travelling seats.
Time’s hands were hooded bandits. Robbers. Thieves. Ticking a time warp that stole precious would-be memories from a plate of what could-have-been.
At least there is a Now. Somehow, its hands haven’t taken the Present, the Today, the At This Moment.
Those have been left for the gray hairs, the achy muscles, and the scars. Today is all that we have. It is all that we are till the sun gives way to grace us. Someday, we will not be cheated. Someday, we will not be robbed. Someday, we will show the world exactly what we are made of, and our ingredients are glorious.
Until then, we remain current and constant for the ones we love. Like a time line that will never fade retrograde, or dissipate.
Taps plays out. Melancholy calling. A reverberation rattling my skin, most holy. I am flooded with memory, lapping up images like waves of the Mississippi. Fast upon my banks, the brassy tones invoke your every sacrifice, and I am lost again. But only for a moment. The calling lulls... it settles into the night of cricket chirp concertos, and tires rushing, breezy trees, cicadas buzzing. All is hushing Taps to sleep.
Sometimes, the hurts run deep. Sometimes, scars are too thick to keep inside the skin. A bubbling cesspool surfacing a grin. She never meant to let the storm boil over. He never meant to harm the four leaf clover with a mower of good intentions. Sometimes, signals get crossed in the breeze… and no amount of reprieve can wipe away the sour taste of a confused first impression. So, we learn our lessons, and apply our lotions, and pray our scars give way to a fluid motion that lets the love seep in. And we begin again.
Where had he been? Right where he was needed, I suppose. It's that simple, isn't it? Life is twisty, squiggly, and full of prose. Yeah, she never saw his story coming. But then, was he really aware? Where it was landing? Into a loving storm formed from thin air? In medias res? Even the alchemy of time couldn't stop it. Their chemistry was exquisite, undeniable, rare. Where had she been? Right where she was needed, I suppose. It's that simple, isn't it? Swirls of old souls, past lives, passion, scars and smiles are never simple. Oh no...but they are beautiful.
She wasn't dainty, like a bird. Possibly hollowed, and absurd.
Twas no man out there quite aligned with her. No muscle-bound white knight scouring the Great Divide searching for her soul.
No, no, nooo.
Surely not one as spirited as she.
Drumming up uncertainty in sure-footed fashion. Loosening up the buckles, to be wounded when they fasten. Cooing at the moon as though it mattered. Grooming thick-boned feathers, distant remnants in a bloodline of Celtic madhatters.
To think so, she would be remiss. Mistaken, and a fool.
She wasn't dainty like a bird. Possibly hollowed, and absurd. Holding on to hope that her creative soul had a match, in the wide blue yonder.
Twas an idea to ponder while she folded lonely socks and tucked her kids to bed. An idea to set on spin cycle in her not-so-dainty head.
He rocks the cock block like nobody’s business. Suit and tie. Crooked eye. Aloof and pervasive he dismisses with casual innuendo. Just the hook, not the sinker. Name in the book. A safe way to keep her. A lover with no intro, Segway friends so there’s no end. But she can’t be a girlfriend to anyone else. That would dampen the fire he stokes so solo, in his aloof and pervasive mind. So he cock blocks whatever he finds.
He told me it wouldn’t hurt, not one single bit. He told me I wouldn’t feel a thing, a quick in and out, and that’d be it. Simple. Easy-peasy lemon squeezy. No big deal, he said. Plus, I could make a quick buck, a fast fifty. I needed the money, God knows. I was fresh out of CDs to hock, and my folks had changed their locks again. What the hell? I said sure, I mean, when you’re at the bottom, what’ve ya got to lose? I asked all the needed questions, ya know. Can I take a shower? How ‘bout somethin’ to eat? Fresh clothes? How ‘bout some shoes? Got any tampons? Ya givin’ out condoms? How ‘bout clean needles? I mean, fifty bucks is great, but it wasn’t gonna score me a smacker AND clean shit. Jesus, I wasn’t stupid. Still ain’t. I could’ve hit 3rd street that night and walked away with at least SIXTY bucks in under 40 minutes. That was a last resort, but still, they didn’t know that. Anyway, he agreed to my terms, so why wouldn’t I have gone? He said it wouldn’t hurt. No pain is always a bonus in my book. Plus, he said I’d get a new tote bag. What a fuckin’ liar. Look, I’ve done some fucked up shit in my life, kid, and I’ve fucked over a LOT of people, but I’ve never lied to any of ‘em. Ever. That’s where I draw the line. I mean, even when my mom asked if I’d taken her pearls, I told her the truth. Of course I took her pearls. I took her diamonds, too. Smack’s never free, and it’s never grow’d on trees. Jesus. Well, I showed up. I didn’t think a few hours would matter to these people. Maybe I was wrong? I don’t know. I’ll probably never know. I had shit to do. I didn’t have money for the bus, so I had to hoof it. Shit. Walkin’ clear ‘cross downtown, then up and over to the hillside takes time. That place looked like a pole barn. There weren’t no signs outside or anything. I’d walked past it three times, lookin’ for the address before I knew. Smart folks, I guess. I mean, it wasn’t much of a building. It looked more like a machine shop. A chop shop. Heh. Go figure. I remember draggin’ my ass up to the side door, pressin’ a button and praying they had something to drink. My mouth was drier than a sunburnt cornflake, I remember that! Some big ass lady wearing pink and purple scrubs opened the door and let me in. Yeah, her nametag read “Connie” but she looked more like a Bertha to me. Maybe a Georgina. I remember thinkin’ she looked like a God damned Easter egg in those scrubs. That’s prolly sacrilegious or somethin’. Whatever, I’m sure I’m burnin’ in hell anyway. She wasn’t friendly, prolly on account of her serious spread of facial hair, and she made me fill out a gaggle of papers. I had to sign my name in so many places, I almost walked out, but I needed that fifty bucks. I guess I should’ve read those papers I signed. I don’t know what to say about that. I was thirsty, and in a bad way, kid. Sometimes life gets that way. Sometimes people do the damnedest things for a few bucks. I’m not the only one, ya know. Now I never really cared much what those folks were studyin’. That doctor guy I met, Dr. SoAndSo, he mentioned something about the effects of smack on the female reproductive system. Whatever, I didn’t care cause I wasn’t plannin’ on havin’ no babies. I wasn’t livin’ in a kind way for babies, kid. Dr. SoAndSo said all I’d need to do was let ‘em draw some blood, take an ultrasound, and I’d be on my way with my tote bag of stuff, and fifty cash. Well, Dr. SoAndSo was a lyin’ sack. Anyway, Nurse Connie, aka Bertha Georgina escorted me to the shower, handed me a plastic trash can, ya know, the kind ya see under desks, and told me to throw my shit in the skuzz bucket. That overgrown twat said I had five minutes to get my shit done. FIVE MINUTES?? Well, she may’ve been the only honest soul in the place, cause the hot water was gone in two! I might as well’d taken a whore bath in a water fountain. Jesus. The shower closet was tiny. Like one ass capacity small. Ya couldn’t bend over without hittin’ your head, or your ass, or both. It felt good to finally wash my hair, though. I remember that. They didn’t give me any razors to shave my yeti legs. I should’ve asked for some, but it wouldn’t uh mattered. I could barely wash my ass in that stall, let alone try to finagle shavin’. Oh well. I didn’t think about it then. I was just thinkin’ about that money, and gettin’ my next fix. That’s what happens, kid. I tried to dry off after washin’ myself, but that’s hard to do with a hand towel. Bertha Georgina apparently didn’t have a good grasp on wet body to towel size ratios. I bet she has a good grasp on that shit when she’s at home drying off her own girth! Jesus. I ‘member reachin’ for my dirty clothes to finish dryin’ off, and that fat bitch mustuh came in and took em, cause they was gone! I mean, gone! So I started hollerin’ for Nurse Connie to bring me another towel, and boy, maybe that just sent her over the edge, cause the next thing I know, that door flung open and that fat bitch grabbed me by my hair and started draggin’ my naked ass down the hall! I was kickin’ and screamin’ and punchin’ that bitch in her flab all the way down that hall, let me tell ya! I’ve never been one to go down without a fight, kid. I don’t know what room she threw me in, it was hard to tell with my head all yanked downward, but Bertha Georgina was wearin’ shit colored crocs. Yeah, I remember those damn crocs. The room was lit up like the Vegas strip, like super bright, and I remember seeing some table legs, and feelin’ a jab in my ass, then that was it. Lights out, kid. Lights out. When I came to, I was layin’ between a couple uh dumpsters in the 4th street alley. I was still wearin’ my grungy clothes I had showed up in, and the damn pain in my gut was awful. I remember barfin’ like crazy cause of the pain. It wasn’t till I tried to stand up that I noticed the blood. I’d been hacked, kid. Chopped up, er . . . into, I guess. I could show you the scar. It’s God damned ugly, and it caused me lots of downtime. So, I don’t know what more I can tell ya, kid. I ain’t yer momma. I’m nobody’s momma, and ya wouldn’t want me anyway, would ya? I mean, you may’ve been baked in my goods, but they done ripped those goods right outta me! I tried to go to the law, but the law never believe smackers, kid. Never. Hell, maybe you don’t believe me none, either. But, like I said, I never lie ‘bout nothin’! Whatever them folk did to me that day, and as much as it hurt, I should prolly thank ‘em. I haven’t craved a fix since. And that’s the truth.
“Hi! Hi! What’s your name?” Mare bubbled out at the top of her lungs as she bounded off of her porch. She hadn’t noticed any neighbor kids since she’d moved in a few weeks earlier, so when she spotted the boy in her backyard, twirling on the tire swing, she wasted no time flying out the back door. Mare was hoping to meet some girls in her neighborhood, but after weeks of no one to play with; her parents working, unpacking, and being cranky, she was happy to meet any kids at all.
Mare laid heavy eyes on the boy; soaking up his entire image. She figured he was around her own age, and no older than 11. Her cousin Jason was 11, and he was at least a head taller than this boy, so Mare reasoned her new acquaintance couldn’t be 11. This boy was thinner than her cousin, and she thought he looked a little sad. His clothes were sort of weird, too. Black dress slacks that may have been around the block, and a grey button-up shirt with odd straps that kept his pants up. She couldn’t remember what those things were called. Penders? Dependers? Pant straps! She settled on pant straps. That made the most sense to her. Mare wondered why he had to wear those fancy clothes, and whether he was gonna get in trouble for his pants being dirty.
“My name’s Mare. I’m 9 and we just moved in. What’s your name? You like my tire swing? It’s too heavy for me to spin it, but you can. Yeah, keep twirling, I don’t mind.” Mare kicked at the roots of the tire swing’s home; a humungous oak tree that her mom said would drop a “shit-ton” of nuts in the fall. Too bad it wasn’t fall, Mare thought with a giggle.
“I guess you don’t have a name?” Mare looked at the boy, who had come to a stop. He returned her glance and shook his head side to side, as if to say no. His eyes were dark, and Mare noticed how they looked like her black marbles from that Chinese checkers game her ole Aunt Jeanie had given her for Christmas. Chinese checkers my butt, Mare chuckled to herself, checkers don’t use marbles.
“You don’t have a name? How can you NOT have a name? I thought everyone had names. Even my bitty ole Aunt Jeanie has a name, and nobody likes that lady, let me tell ya!” Mare chuckled out loud at herself and kicked the roots again. “You live ‘round here?” She inquired a little further. The boy shook his head yes, shuffled his wiry frame over on the tire and patted his hand down, inviting Mare to have a seat. Mare’s eyes widened and smiled to save the world.
“Okay! I’ll swing with you!” Mare flung her legs over the tire and wriggled in next to her new friend. “Twirl, friend, twirl!”
Mare gripped the rusty chains of the swing as they picked up speed, twirling round and round like water down the bathtub drain. She didn’t think that old tire swing could even go THAT fast, but there she was, spinning like crazy with her hair flapping, and feeling like she was about to barf. She clenched her eyes shut, to stave off the need to puke, and darkness sucked her in.
Snippets of faces flashed through her mind like a movie. Big, angry eyes, even bigger hands grabbing at her arms, and a white-haired lady screaming, all empty-like. Mare suddenly felt all of the air get sucked from her lungs and she started to gasp. “Stop!” she tried to holler out, but felt her voice give way. Nothing. She struggled for grip on the chains and tried to open her eyes, but couldn’t. It was as though her eyes had been glued shut. She panicked, let go, felt her body go limp, then a stinging thud.
The next few days were a bit of a blur for Mare. She remembered spinning with the neighbor boy, but her momma said she didn’t see that kid. Her momma also said that Mare had given her quite a scare when she’d found Mare unconscious, under the tire swing. Mare didn’t remember going to the hospital, and she thought it was all just a bad dream, like the ones she’d been having for days. Her momma said the bad dreams were part of her “conk-cushion” whatever that was.
She couldn’t get the vision of big angry eyes out of her head, or that white haired lady, and every time she envisioned them, Mare felt angry. Like, so angry she wanted to throw things, anything. Her momma told her the dreams and angry feelings would go away once her conk-cushion healed. Stupidconk-cushions, Mare thought to herself.
One week after her fall, Mare finally felt like her usual, playful self. It was a wonderful, sunny day out, so Mare decided to keep a watch out for her new friend. She really wanted to know his name, and show him to her parents so they wouldn’t think she made him up.
“Mom, can I eat lunch on the back porch?” Mare shimmied up to her mother’s side in the kitchen. “Please, momma? It’s so nice out!”
Her momma wiped her hands on a towel, scooped up a plate and looked down at her daughter. “I think that sounds like a great idea, Mare. You could use some sunshine, couldn’t ya? I hope PB&J, potato chips, and yogurt is acceptable today.”
“Strawberry jelly?” Mare’s mouth started to water at the thought of strawberry jelly, and her tummy growled at her. Strawberry jelly was her all-time favorite.
“You bet, sugar-pie.” Her momma smiled and headed out the back door, with Mare in tow. “Would you like me to sit out here with you? I have one more load of laundry to fold, and then I can join you. Maybe we could go for a walk in a little bit?”
“Sounds great, ma. Maybe we can find my friend’s house!” Mare stomped her feet excitedly and clasped her hands together. “Yeah! Let’s go find his house!”
Her mother sat Mare’s lunch on a small weathered table, next to an equally small weathered chair that accompanied the house when they had moved in. “This table and chair is just your size, Mare! I guess I’d never noticed that before. Hmm. Well that’s just about perfect for porch lunches, isn’t it? Okay, I’m gonna run in and finish up the laundry real quick, and I’ll be right out. What would you like to drink, dear? Water? Lemonade?”
“Oh! Lemonade, please!” Mare smiled up at her mother as she swung the back door open. Once her mom was out of view Mare turned her attention to her quaint lunch location. She timidly shifted her frame into the small wooden chair and it dawned on her that she had never sat in it before. How long had they lived in this new house? She wondered, and began her attempt to count back the days on her fingers that lay in her lap. “There are seven days in a week, and four weeks in a month” she whispered to herself as she crunched her young brain with numbers.
Suddenly, a creaking sound caught her attention and she looked up to see that neighbor boy sitting on her tire swing, under that “shit-ton of nuts” of tree. Mare was shocked and delighted simultaneously. Where had he come from? He wasn’t there a second ago, she thought to herself.
“Hey!” she shouted without even thinking about it. Mare instantly jumped up and bounded off the porch towards her new friend. “Where’ve you been? I was hopin’ you’d come back, I want you to meet my mom!” Mare’s excitement reflected in her voice as she climbed onto the tire swing next to the boy, completely forgetting about the growl in her tummy.
******************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************** Mare’s parents had sought out a small town to live in when her father was transferred for work. They thought it would be better for Mare. Small towns at least felt safer than a big city neighborhood. They could get to know everyone in a little town, and not have to worry so much about their daughter playing outside. Had they realized that Everton’s population of children was next to none, they may had opted for the city. All of the research they had done never made it clear that most all of the kids in Mare’s new school district were bussed in from the outlaying ranch communities. They didn’t dawn on that until a week or two after moving in.
Mare’s father had taken a promotion at the solar factory, 25 miles away in the bustling city of Havery. The job was the opportunity of a lifetime, with a substantial pay raise that allowed Mare’s mom to stay home. This all worked out well since they moved during summer, and it gave the family a chance to get settled before transferring Mare into a new school.
But they both felt a twinge of sympathy for their only child, since the move meant leaving Mare’s friends over 300 miles away. She would have to start over. They felt even worse when they realized there were no young kids to speak of in their new town.
One Saturday, about a week after they had moved in, Mare’s mom took a walk around town and introduced herself to every person she came across. She had met the post master, the town clerk, every neighbor in a four-block radius, and the info hub of town; Pat Waylen, the Everton Corner Mart owner. She quickly realized that Pat knew everyone and anything in the little town, and had tucked that notation into her hat, just in case.
When Mare took that spill off the tire swing and began talking about the new friend she’d met, her mom made a trip to the Corner Mart. As she checked out with some milk and eggs, she quizzed Pat about possible neighbor boys. Pat told her he couldn’t think of any young boys living near their new house, but he’d keep his eyes and ears open. How strange, her mother thought. Mare’s mom and dad resided in the notion that her concussion gave her some strange dreams, and Mare was having difficulty realizing the boy wasn’t real. She’d grow past it soon enough, if they just let it go.
“I’m telling you, Rick, she wants to go find his house. It’s been a week, I was hoping she’d be past this already. She still thinks he’s gonna come back.” Mare’s mom propped the receiver of the phone with a shoulder while she haphazardly folded some jeans. “Well, I’ll take her for a walk in a bit, and who knows, maybe we get lucky and actually find this boy. Oh, God, Rick, what if this boy IS real? What if he pushed her off the swing? Okay, okay, I’ll try to calm down, but I’m a little concerned, Rick. Okay hon, see you when you get home. Yep. I love you, too.” She laid the phone down on the counter and glanced out the window. “Oh shit!” she screamed and ran out the back door.
“Hey, why you wearing the same clothes?” Mare looked her friend up and down. “Don’t you have other clothes?” She was blunt and to the point as she sat on the swing, jutting her chin out to get a closer look at his face. His eyes were mesmerizing, and Mare couldn’t stop staring into them. She waited for an answer, but he just kept looking at her.
“Aren’t you gonna say sompthin?” She quizzed harder. “What’s your name? My mom thinks you’re a figment of my imagination. When I fell the other day, I got a conk-cushion on my head…shook up my brains a little.” Mare studied the boy.
“Spin.” He whispered, barely audible, and Mare opened her eyes real big.
“You CAN talk!” she blurted out. “If we spin, will you tell me your name?” Mare took hold of the chains real tight; she didn’t want to fall off again and get another conk-cushion that gave her nightmares.
“Spin.” The boy whispered again, and without even pushing, the swing began to rotate. Mare kept her eyes locked on his, and as the swing picked up speed, she noticed his eyes began to change. At first, they were the size of black marbles, but then they grew a little, and a little more, and a little more, until all of a sudden, all Mare could see was black all around her. She felt the spinning all out-of-control like, and clenched her grip on the chains. Flashes of that white-haired lady came. Flash after flash after flash until the flashes all ran together like a projector. The lady was swinging her arms at Mare and yelling. “You’re a worthless boy! You’re a worthless boy!”
Mare tried to scream, but nothing came out. Stop! She screamed silently. Stop! I want to get off! Still nothing. She jammed her eyes shut, but it didn’t stop the visions. The white-haired lady came at her with fists a-flailing and punched the side of Mare’s head. She felt the thud, the sting, and then everything went dark. When Mare came to, she was still sitting on the tire swing, The sunlight hurt her eyes a bit as she opened them, and she heard her momma hollering all loud. “Mare! Mare! Oh my God, are you okay?”
“Yeah mom, I’m, I’m fine.” Mare stuttered back as she looked up to see her mom running toward her. But, her mom didn’t run to her. She ran to some other kid on the ground, and Mare stretched her legs over the tire swing to get a better look. There, on the ground, Mare’s mom scooped up a little girl that was wearing Mare’s clothes. “Who is that?” Mare asked. “Mom? Who is that?” she asked again, but was ignored. It was like her mom couldn’t even hear her.
Mare looked around, confused. Then she looked down at her legs, and at her arms, and her own chest. She was wearing strange clothes, clothes that didn’t belong to her. “Oh my God! I’m wearing pant straps!” she screamed and glanced up at her mother who was carrying a limp girl that looked an awful lot like herself. “MOMMA!” she screamed again, terrified of what was happening. The limp girl in her mother’s arms lifted her head to look back at Mare, and her eyes were as black as marbles.
We were explosive, once. We tore each other apart. I questioned your motives, and you defiled my heart. But we were just kids, clawing at the world. We knew nothing of degrees and eloquence. We bawked at forethought and gave two shits for consequence. We never saw the wrinkles set in like masonry on the walks, and we missed our landing among diluted point of views and arrogant, centric talks. Youth and ignorance abused our potential for greatness. So now here we are, where gravity has left us weighted.
I lift you up, as far as my arms will allow and when these old, time-capsule tendons have reached their breech readied to rip apart I stretch a little more and let go of my heart.
You land solid, confident, sure-footed. I watch you run. I watch you run so fast grabbing every taste as though it’d be your last and I am so fulfilled so thrilled to see you free.
You are already more than I could ever be and that is a fact-checked timesheet a testament and trophy I’ll take to the grave with me when my clock runs out.
I hope you’ve watched every move I have ever made in your shadow. I hope to have left a trail for the sunless days when life feels too long too shallow. Bread crumbs that the birds won’t eat so you may see where to place your feet and follow my steps back home or wherever you need to be.
I hope you stand tall full of zest and zeal for the Universe will test you mess with you make you crumble and fall. I hope I have shown you the best locale for your walls and where to keep your ladders. I lift you up, as far as my arms will allow and when these old, time-capsule tendons have reached their breech readied to rip apart I stretch a little more and let go of my heart.
Casey nestled himself into the wafty hillside; knees to chin, arms interlocked. He loved the hillside during twilight, when the windows opened. The tall wisp grass came alive then, and he liked the way each silver blade would bend and sway toward the windows; reaching for all of the lost souls.
It was an ethereal sight as the souls slipped in. One by one they would slide through the ports, shapeless as smoke, individual, and vibrant as rainbows. He always hoped that one of these twilights would be for him. Even then, crouched upon a tuft of wisp grass overlooking the Valley of Ports, he held out hope.
He had heard the stories in the elder halls, of course. All lost souls are ushered into the elder halls for the stories. Casey was no different. He and countless others were told to wait, if there was no one there to collect them. They could wander wherever they wanted, and watch for the openings if they were expecting anyone. Casey was expecting someone. So every twilight, he found his patch of wisp grass.
Many times it was painful, to see others being collected, reconnected, and sent out to the eternal realms. And he felt so guilty every time he wished she would slip through. He still remembered what it was like to be human; the colors, the tangibility of everything. As he sat on the hillside, with the wisp grass rustling, he strained to recall the feeling of green grass beneath his bare feet. The smell of sticky sweet earth flooded through him and he felt her spark light up his soul. He missed her, and this view from the hillside was his only touchstone.
“If my time comes first, I will wait for you.” Casey promised her. He remembered the promise, but he could no longer recall when his time came. Time didn’t matter anymore. He had memories, of course, but no death memories.
All of the memories from his human form revolved around his love. Their first meeting, just north of the tracks downtown, along the river. Their first kiss, under the harvest moon, behind his father’s barn. He remembered how her amber hair framed her face, like a fiery pixie. He remembered how she used to say his name, and if he tried hard enough, he could still hear her voice whisper “Casey” and shivers would rack right to his core. So many times as he sat on the hillside, he thought she was close to slipping through to him, because he had heard her whisper. Each time he was mistaken, and his soul would anguish. He didn’t try so hard to remember anymore. Casey now thought it best to leave the chances up to fate, if such a thing existed. He still hoped, though. Hoping for her was different than straining to recall.
As Casey meditated on the flowing blades of wisp grass, his gaze broke when the windows began to illuminate. This was his favorite part of twilight, and the only time the colors really came. He lifted his sight to soak in the swirling hues and he noticed something was missing. Normally, the windows would open with soft blues and greens, and the babies would gently sweep in. The elder guards were always in waiting for the babies, but not this time.
The colors were different, too. The wisp grass separated in front of him, all the way down the hillside, and Casey was immediately saturated in waves of orange, red, and yellow light. An odd warmth soaked up from his perch and he watched his own silver hue begin to morph into something more vivid. “What is this?” Casey whispered aloud.
“This is love” A familiar voice whispered back, “and I’m so glad you waited.”