The wonders of the world lay deep beneath her hair. The very essence of what there is to gain from a stressful day full of anguish and the sounds of beasts rapping at closed doors is nothing. I tell her to press forward and find her strength in the pulse of a tiger’s breath, but she is not interested in climbing up the optimistic ladder tonight. I smell safety around the corner. She runs for cover. I stand with my hands held high — raised above my head. I surrender to the depth of this defeat. She claims my trust.
beneath her red locks
is a star-spangled blue moon
a wondrous new world
Broken babies and haunted Mamas wield their way into our midst. We shield ourselves from their pressure. The room is ice. There is no fire for warmth. I rub my hands together and watch the steam sift in through the cracks. She takes two steps forward, purses her lips against the air, and lets out a sigh of relief. The floor is empty. Patients are packing up — discharged by their residents or attendings. We dance alone. A tango. A foxtrot. A waltz. I simmer in the darkness with her.
lonely in this place
of impatience and patients
dancing the foxtrot
Big Pharma called the shots on the drug saving his life — it’s no longer covered. He’s in room 213 of the ICU. Death is standing by his door. She pulls a mask on to her face, laces her hands with gloves, and walks in to oversee the cleanliness of his space. He is barely breathing. The sun skips on the open blinds — his hair never touches the pillow. There, in the silence of the room, she prays to a God who walks the halls but forgets to open the doors.
on-call patient care
fills up her nightly duties
death is still coming
Author’s Note: I wrote this piece as a reflection on the most recent book I read which was In Shock: My Journey from Death to Recovery and the Redemptive Power of Hope by Rana Adwish, MD. If you’ve not given it a read and you’re interested in knowing what a physician has to say about being the patient who dies, is brought back to life, and lives to see just how medicine needs transforming — this is a book I’d recommend for you. Peace.
She placed her cold hands on the blue of her fur coat — enraptured by the clouds’ sadness, she felt her heart move in and out of time. He was supposed to meet her there. They agreed. Time. Date. Place. She was there. He wasn’t. Where could he be? She thought to call him, maybe he needed a reminder — a nudge. The wind bit her cheeks with its presence — stuck in place, she dreaded the feeling coming over her. Is she being stood up again?
wrapped in stunning blue
her cold hands hugged her body
biting wind kissed her
The sun peeked in on her. It nodded in her direction, shone a powerful ray her way, and stepped back behind the clouds. She picked up her phone. She pressed 3, held down the number for three seconds, and watched his name appear on her screen. She’d call. He’d answer. They’d discuss things again. Time. Date. Place. He’d calmly explain how he was busy and seemingly forgot about their date. She’d hear someone in the background, a woman’s voice. She’d know — instantly, she’d know. There is no room for her.
the perks of speed dial
a convenience she needed
to find out the truth
An amusement park date. Just like during her teenage years . . . Danny Simpkins said to meet him there then. Bring a towel, your favorite sneakers, fireworks, and a flashlight, he said. She arrived fifteen minutes early. She had everything she needed and what he wanted. She waited. And waited. And waited. Danny Simpkins did show up, but with someone else — Tori Barksdale, the most popular girl in school. She watched him pepper the ground with his hot steps. Her eyes turning on her. Her heart, a sack of doomsday. She felt her world ending.
silly boys break hearts
unaware of life’s deep pain
girls pick up pieces
She thought back to those days and remembered how she vowed to never let her heart break into a million pieces again. She was older. She was stronger. She knew how to remove herself from a situation before it could shake her down and melt her into a puddle of pain. Around her, children cheered on the carousel. Their little voices loud enough to pop her eardrums. This was her place of renewal. She would be okay. She would go on. She would know another Danny Simpkins and Travis Calloway on sight.
a pact she had claimed —
to love herself so much more
and grow from the pain
Now, she watches the moon open its eyes. The night air creeps in coolly, nestled behind the sway of the trees. She pulls her coat tighter, presses the fur closest to her skin, and dreams of disappearing. “I hope she never feels the way I do. I hope he keeps his promises to her.” She thought this to herself — empathetic to the woman’s heart because she knows what pain feels like; what a broken heart needs in order to mend. Funny, she’s had to break herself down and build herself up over and over again. She was just like that amusement park.
each year, some new fun
gone again until the fall
amusement for all.
Originally published in P.S. I Love You via Medium. Shared is the “Friend Link” since this is a Medium paywall piece. Thank you for reading.
It was a warm summer’s day. The kind that begs you to stay inside, read a book, and sip iced-sweet tea. The girls had their morning walks and I basked in the silence that surrounded my home. Two beings who stole my heart slumbered throughout the afternoon. Their sleepy eyes showing nothing more than slits of white were closed off to my world. I flipped through the pages of my book, made notes in the margins, and listened to their breathing. Not only had I been serenaded by an endless drone of patterned breaths, but I was lulled too. In the comfort of a happy space, we lifted each other up without trying.
sweet, innocent girls asleep in summer’s bright light strong breaths like music
If I had to describe her, I’d say she’s an eclectic superwoman with the ability to weave words into wonderment. She is captivating without trying and has done nothing but share connection and heartwork pieces in A Cornered Gurl and I, for one, am very happy to have experienced her work. We also share a birthday. She is our Featured Writer for the month of June. The piece selected? Tightrope. Just one read, and you’ll see exactly why I shared the description above.
A flash of lightning may one day strike me down but in that half-second of illumination, I can see for miles. Some doctors call it temporal-lobe epilepsy others call it PTSD and years ago, they called it a Dissociative Disorder.
I don’t answer to those names, anymore.
Thunderstorms, even tornados don’t frighten me as much as the dark stillness that falls just seconds before they hit. For fifty years, I have continued to walk leaning forward into the wind. My journey is inward. My head spins — I close my eyes — and after all of this time, my sleepwalking feet are steady. There is no tightrope too thin for me.
At fifteen, living with my mother had become unbearable. My father was residing in Moore, Oklahoma. I had not seen him in years. After the divorce, my brother and I were never truly wanted by either parent but we were used like weapons that could be withheld or inflicted. Child support went unpaid and visits were scheduled and missed in this monopoly. We had no other value outside of the game. Resentments festered. When I asked my father if I could stay with him, he saw it as a chance to strike back at my mother.
My brother remained in Los Angeles. He barely attended school anymore and spent most of his time with the boys we grew up with; friends who had turned mean under pressure.Despite their hand-hammered armor, they knew how to ease his pain. They shared a brotherhood through glass pipes and punches. My brother didn’t need me anymore.
Still, I was used as bait to lure him back to my father but my brother refused to play the prodigal son to the man who had abandoned him.
My father said that he went back to Nicaragua to fight in the war but I never really knew what side he was on. I don’t even know how long he was actually there but for four years, we waited for letters that never came. When our dad finally called from Nicaragua, he said we had a new sister and that he was coming back with his family to the U.S.
My father’s smooth-skinned wife had never scrubbed a toilet, washed dishes or done laundry. She showed me a rash on her hands and handed me some cleaning rags. She was reluctant to immigrate to the United States but soldiers had seized her family’s ranch. They tied her brother to his prized horse and sent him out to the desert to die. In her mid-twenties, she had no choice but to flee with the help of my father but she could never fully leave her memories of the cook, the maids, the gardeners, and good silver. She had nothing left of her former life but a depressive aunt and a nursing infant.
The hidden casualties in the Contra War were often apolitical citizens like her. She watched me from the corner of her eye. I was a terrible maid. She and her aunt hissed my name from a distance and hid their secrets in deep pockets of whispered Spanish.
Within two weeks, I was sent back to California — without warning or explanation. On the flight back, looking down through clouds, I watched the barren landscape shrink back. I wondered what it would feel like to be forced to leave one’s country, to lose an estate, complete with an equestrian center, in exchange for the small and charmless home of a factory worker. I thought about my stepmother serving my father his dinner and I remembered her weak smile. Without him, she may not have escaped but when my father boasted of her previous wealth, she seemed like a souvenir pressed under his thumb.
Sometimes, I can’t look at my face or hands without thinking of my father. He had a way of owning those around him. Few of us broke free — none of us entirely.
I don’t remember very much about that stay at his home but I remember looking out of a bedroom window. It was early summer and the sun was reluctant to leave me alone. I had never experienced such oppressive humidity. My hands rested under my chin on the window sill … my nose touched the glass but I could not see any sign of my breath. I scanned the red and gold field, it was flat and as dry as a well-ironed sheet. Then, suddenly, at the very edge of the horizon, I could see dust spinning upward. It twisted and gained strength like a dark and furious shadow. At that moment, I felt a fist strike my head, out of nowhere. It cleared everything in its path with a final blackout.
This memory became a recurring nightmare until six years ago when Moore, Oklahoma was finally destroyed by a horrific tornado. I watched the news on the television as I rode a stationary bike at the gym. I could no longer feel my feet and my ears hummed as bad as 80’s rock thundered over the sound system. I leaned forward and looked up at the screen. Sometimes, it is hard to believe my eyes but this time I recognized what I saw as a true memory.
a red and gold field is torn away through thin glass an angry sky twists
You fear a connection–the two of us, prone to falling before we should. It’s inevitable. In time, there will be wishes made to make us something we cannot become. I see it in your eyes, a glimmer of hope; a piece of understanding that things will probably turn out the way that they are meant to and not how we would like them to be. How odd, is it not? How love can stand in a pool of want and drain into a sea of forgetfulness… It is the manifestation of the elder mothers, wanting what is best for the girls who came after them, for their lineage to remain steadfast and strong enough not to break. But, we are cracking at the seams, splitting in two–two women yearning for affection when love stands in the air waiting for us to breathe it in. If only we had the strength to grab it and hold on. If only we could move out of the way, disappear to a place where minds remain open. If only we could…
I won’t deny it– I am attracted to you In time, love will win.