Memories : “When Did I Become Such A Girl?”

There we were.
At the Walmart store.
My lady was looking for
A new top or two
That she could wear.

That’s when she held up
A t-shirt for me to see.
“Oh, look at this.”
It was a deep dark grey.
With three white wolves
Right there on its front.

We both knew
It was a t-shirt
That was made
By the same company
That makes the fairy t-shirts
That I wear.

So she looked through
The rest of the t-shirts
That were there.
And sure enough
We found several copies of
One of my t-shirts.

We both had to laugh
That one of my favorite shirts
Was there
In the women’s department
Of the local Walmart store.

“Well, you did say
That the shirts were listed
As being for women.”

I own 13 of them.
13 fairy t-shirts.
Listed as designed
For women.

When we got home from shopping,
I remembered what I’d said
A year ago.

I’d been at work
And taken a walk
To the lab downstairs.
Where I had a talk
With a couple of the people
I worked with then.

“I’ve noticed something
About me.
And it’s very surprising.
See.
I wear fairy t-shirts.”
I could say that
Since it was a Friday
And I was wearing one.

“I have fairy figurings
Sitting on the desk
That I work at.”

By this point
The two people I was talking with
Were sitting down.
And listening to me.

“My favorite movie
Is Walt Disney’s
Enchanted.
Which I’ve watched
About a million times.”

“The books I read right now
Are by Anne Bishop.
And my favorite music
Is all by bands
That have lead female vocalists.”

“I’m the person
That washes dishes.
And the laundry.
And that cleans the house.”

And when I’d said all that,
I looked at both of them.
And then I continued on.

“So I thought about that
For a little while.
And then I had to ask myself.
When did I become
Such a girl?”

You should have seen
The two of them laugh.
They both laughed so hard
That it hurt for them to breathe.

When they caught their breaths
They both declared
They were glad
They were sitting down.
And that they were actually happy
That I’d said what I had.

“At least you didn’t say
What we thought you might.
At least you didn’t ask
When you had turned gay.”

Oh, the memories I have
Of times in my past.
I have so many stories
Of such funny things.

Dreams : Darlene

I closed my eyes last night.
And dreamed.
I know that what I saw
Was just a dream
And wasn’t real at all.

In this dream
I saw so many things.
And they took place
To the words
Of a song
That I know
So very well.

The song is by Leaves’ Eyes.
It’s name is Elegy.
And I heard that song
So many times last night.
As the dream played out
Within my mind.

I was talking on the phone
With someone that I know.
Her name was Darlene.
She has these hazel colored eyes
That I could so easily
Get completely lost within.
And forget all about time.

She has fiery red hair
That reaches half way
Down her back.
Wow, but her hair
Looks good to me.

And I love to see her smile.

But on this day
I could tell
That she was very hurt.
And very much alone.

Darlene doesn’t work.
And hasn’t worked
In many years.
Because she can’t.
Her body won’t let her.

16 years ago
There was an accident.
She was on her way to lunch
With three of her friends
From work.
Tom drove.
Frank sat in the front.
And Jim sat in the back
Next to her.

It was on that drive to work
That her world
Was forever changed.
When the front left tire
On the car that they were in
Blew out.
And Tom couldn’t stop it
From making a bad swerve.

Right into the path
Of that 18 wheeled truck.
Tom and Jim had died
In a single heartbeat
On that day.
Their side of that car
Was just suddenly
Gone.

Frank suffered fractured ribs.
A broken hip.
A collapsed lung.
Two compound fractures
To his left arm.
A concussion.
And a broken neck.

Frank had never walked
Again.
And had lost
All movement
In his arms.

He’d died a few years later.
His joy for life
Long gone.

Darlene lost both her legs
Right at her knees.
And she’d had back injuries.
So that she lived
In constant pain.

She hadn’t worked a single day
Since then.

As I saw these things
Within my dream
I heard Liv Kristine’s voice.

“Teardrop on a fragile eyelash
She’s looking like a dream
Hoping for some understanding
An answer or at least”

Her husband
Had left her.
Said the accident
Had taken her from him.
That she was no longer
The woman that he loved.
And he could’t wake up
Every day
To look at her.
And see her
The way she now was.

I called her
Every week.
Just to talk with her.
Because it’s something
I could do.
Something I know
She loved.
For I knew
That she spent
Almost all her days
In her tiny home,
Almost totally alone.

And Liv Kristine’s voice
Continued on.

“Cunning word a single sentence
To restore her heart
Aching since the day I left her
Crossing lonely seas”

I loved to call her.
And talk with her.
Just to do my best
To hear her laugh.
To feel like
I had brought a smile
Into her lonely life.
If only for a little while.

I had been so angry
When I learned
All the things
That she’d been through.
And how he’d left her.
Just because
She’d gotten hurt.

Every time I called her
I’d let her talk
About anything at all.
Anything she wanted to.
And I made sure
That she knew
She could talk just as long
As she wanted to.

I knew all too well
That her heart ached
Within her chest.
I knew all too well
About the tears
That her soul cried.
And I prayed to God above
That he would teach me
To care for Darlene.
Just like I knew
Jesus would.

“Silent tears of a woman
Make a warrior cry
Heaven, I beg you
Please release hopes from fears”

The people that I knew
That knew Darlene very well.
And there were so very few.
All behaved so sadly
When they thought of her.
And they always spoke
Of what an awful thing it was
That had happened to her.

They all acted like
Things might have been better
If Darlene had died
In that car accident.

How can people
Be so very cruel.
And so blind
To how they are.
I don’t think
I’ll ever understand
People and their stone cold hearts.

She was still Darlene!
She was still alive!
With a heart.
And with a soul.
She was there!
Right before their eyes!

Ever weekend that I could
I got in my car.
And I drove to Darlene’s house.
To visit her.
We’d watch TV sometimes.
Sometimes a movie
Of some kind.

While I was there
I’d take care
Of her.
Make sure she took
Her medications,
To manage her pain.

We’d play simple card games.
Board games too.
And we’d draw.
Just to see
Who could draw
The prettiest picture
On that day.

Sometimes,
I’d help her
Sit on her sofa.
And I’d sit there with her.
And hold her hand.

Sometimes
She would fall asleep
With her head
On my shoulder.

Sometimes
I’d just hold her
For a while.

I wanted her to know
That I still cared for her.
That she was my friend.
As she had always been.
And always would be.

“This is my elegy
Do you know what I feel?
This is my elegy
Do you believe it’s real?
Will I hold you in my arms again?”

And I would always
Hold her close
Whenever she cried.
Whenever tears would fall
From her hazel eyes.

For my heart,
It spoke to me,
Of how beautiful
She truly was.

And my soul
It knew
That all a person had to do
Was get past their fear
That they felt so very much
When they saw her,
And remembered
How hurt she really was.

That if they could get past
The fear that filled their lives.
They too would find
How beautiful
She truly was.

I knew
That I would always
Be her friend.
I would always
Make the time I could
To spend with her.
For I could see
The beauty
Of her heart
And soul.

And I knew the truth
Of the words
Liv Kristine sang.

“Silent tears of a woman
Make her warrior cry
Heaven, I beg you
Please release hopes from fears”

I would give anything
To be able to
Sooth the aching
Of her heart.
And dry the tears
That her soul cries.

This was the dream I had
Of a friend
Named Darlene.

I should remind you
That in real life
I don’t know anyone at all
That’s named Darlene.
Or anyone at all
That’s been hurt by life
The way the Darlene
From my dream
Has been.

I had other dreams last night.
With the words
Of other songs
And the stories
Of other friends
That I’ve never had.
It’s time I captured them
And brought them to life
Upon the words
Of the pages
That I write.

And if you know someone
In this life that we all live
That’s been hurt
Like the Darlene
In my dream.

Don’t let your fears
Control you.
Or the way that you behave.

For she needs very much to know
That she is not alone.
And that you care for her.

That in your eyes,
And to your heart
And soul.

She is still
Very beautiful.

Dawn

[Author’s Note: I wrote these words on Monday, 25 October 2010. These words have turned out to be prophetic, as if I knew then how things would turn out.]

I stand here.
In the middle of nowhere.
No one is around.
Nothing is around.
The ground is bare.
No trees.
No clouds.
No grass.
No animals.
No plants.

There is nothing here.
Nothing at all.

Everyone I knew.
Everything I knew.
Is all gone.

I stand here.
Alone.

As I have always been.

I have done
What I could
To protect
My princess.
And the heirs
We have raised.
And I know
As I stand here
In this desolate
Forbidding
Place.

My princess
Is safe.
And I would kill
To keep her
That way.

The darkness
Broke.
With the coming
Of the dawn.
Today.

And I walk
Once again.
In the light.

Into a new world.
Into a new future.
One I get to build.
From nothing.

Always.
The first dawn
Is the harshest.
The one
Where I don’t know
What to do.
And don’t know
What I want.
Or who I am.
Any more.

I have been here.
In such a desolate place.
Many times before.
And always,
I have found a way
To build a new life.
For me.
And my family.
And my princess.

One thing I have learned.
One thing I will change
In this new place.
In this new world.
In this new life.

The White Knight
Is dead.
It is his rules
And his ways
That have lead me
Here.

And now that he
Is gone.
I have to face
Once more
The same question
I have always faced.
When I stand here
In such a place.
Where my new life
In a new world
Starts.

Who am I?

It is the answer
To this single question
That will determine
Everything I build
In this new land
I now walk in.

Every one
And everything
That was
Is gone.

But I have protected
My princess.
And my family.

And one other.
For I gave that one
My word.

And I know
As I walk
In this new land.
In this new place.

My word has always been
All I am.
And all I ever shall be.

And in time,
As I build
A new home.
In this new landscape.
I will bring them here.
From where I have put them.
From where they are safe.
And they can see
Just who it is
That I will have
Become.

Until then
I will know
That they are safe
And sound.
And whole.
From the destruction
That has been wrought
To everything
That was.

And now
I must start
Once more
To find an answer
To that single
Question.

Who am I?

Fiction : Raymon The Christian

There are times
When I just don’t understand
People,
And the way they are.

Like this guy I know
That goes to church
Every single Sunday morning.
His name is Raymon.
And he’s one of those guys
That’s a Sunday Morning Christian,
And the rest of his time,
He’s an American.

When he’s at home,
He fights with his wife.
They argue all the time.
About the money that they make.
About the bills they have to pay.
About the car he wants to buy.
About the trip she wants to take.
About how he never
Takes care of their son,
Or their daughter,
Either one.

He never listens to his kids.
It’s like he doesn’t care at all
What they are doing.
In school.
At home.
Or at church.
A lot of days
When he comes home
He yells at them,
“Leave me alone!”

Raymon goes to lunch
With this lady he works with.
They go to lunch
Five days a week.
But they don’t go to lunch
To eat.
They go somewhere
They’ve picked out.
Where they spend time
Getting naked together.

She’s a lot more fun
Than his wife is
Any more.
Hell,
He can’t remember
The last time
He and his wife had sex.
And it’s not like
He hasn’t hinted
What he wants.
It’s like she’s
Just not interested
Any more.

On Monday nights,
During football season,
He goes out with the guys.
They go watch the game
At the local Irish bar.
Where the have a good time
Watching the game,
Having lots to drink,
And flirting endlessly
With the bartender.
Her name is Jane.

On Saturday,
Off and on,
He goes on-line
With his Playstation.
And plays the latest version
Of the “Call of Duty” game
With his buddies.
They take great pride
In shooting each other
Dead.
All day long.

His wife cries at night.
As she sleeps in bed.
All alone.
While he sleeps downstairs
On the sofa.
With the TV on.

His wife’s talking with a lawyer.
She’s filing for a divorce.
To get out of
The dead relationship
She’s trapped in
With him.

She feels at times
Like it’s all her fault.
Like she did something wrong.

Her son and daughter both
Agree with her decision.
They want her
To stay their Mom.
But they want Raymon
Gone.
It’s like he’s just plain quit
Being a Dad to them.
They told their Mom,
And her lawyer both
That they just want
Raymon to go away.

But Raymon thinks
Everything’s OK.
And knows
He’s going to heaven.
That God’s forgiven him
For everything.
Because he’s professed his faith.
And he goes to church
Every last Sunday.
And prays
To be forgiven.

Like a good Christian does.

He doesn’t have a clue,
And doesn’t care
That his family
Now hates him.
That the way he lives,
And the things he’s done
Have caused their hearts
To ache.
That their souls
Cry tears of pain,
At the way he lives,
And the things he’s done

It will be many years
Before the tears
That their souls cry
Begin to dry.
And their hearts
Begin to heal.

But Raymon
Doesn’t care at all.
Because,
Thank God.
He’s saved.

Knight : One Day In September

When people remember
The 11th of September,
They usually remember
The terrorist attacks
On the World Trade Center
In New York.
And the Pentagon.
And they remember
The plane that went down
In Pennsylvania.

I remember that day
Very well.
I understand why people
Remember it.
The emotions
That it brings to them.
The anger
And the rage
They feel.

But that’s not at all
What disturbs me
About September 11th.
For one year ago.
09/11/2010,
The life I had
Was virtually destroyed.

And the Knight,
Chevalier Blanc,
Had all but reached
His end.

It was a Saturday.
And the Lenten Rose,
And her family
Had an end of summer part
At their house
Along the river
Nottoway.

And I went to that.
Because I knew
What the Lenten Rose
Was living through.
And it seemed
Appropriate to me
To just show up.
As a way to show her,
And her family,
That I supported them.
And would be there
To help them.
If they should ever ask
For any help from me.

I didn’t know at all
How much I was wounded
At that time.
I didn’t know
That in less than 30 days
The life that I was leading
Would have reached its end.
And I’d be isolated.
And alone.

I remember very much
How much I did not fit in
On that Saturday.
How the way that I behaved
Was being observed.
And monitored.
By people that I worked with
At that time.

Everyone there
Had tried
To be nice to me.
To at least take the time
To say, “Hi.”

I felt like there was nothing
That I did that day
That worked.
Not one single thing.

I even got my camera
And went out on the boat
When they took that out.
And her spouse had skied.
A guy from work
Had torn a hamstring
In his leg.
And her son
Had done his thing
On his wake board that day.

I took pictures
From the boat
Of all three of them.
Even got pictures
Of her son
Hanging in the air
On his wake board.

I had to take those pictures.
No one else there
Could have taken
The pictures that I took
To give to her.
I knew that she would like them
Very much.

Through the rest of the time
That I was there
That day,
I pretty much
Kept to myself.
And said almost nothing
To anyone.
And I’m certain
That everyone there
Noticed how I behaved.
And that my behavior
On that day
Played a major roll
In bringing to an end
Chevalier Blanc.

When it was time
For me to leave
On that Saturday.
I found the Lenten Rose
To say good-bye to her.
But as I spoke with her
I could tell
Something was wrong.
I could not tell what.
I only knew
That her behavior
Wasn’t what I expected.

I would begin to learn
In the days that followed
That the Lenten Rose
Was concerned for me.
That she already knew
That I was hurt.
Even though I didn’t.
And it would take
Almost one whole year
Before I began to understand
How hurt I had been
Back then.

This is what I remember
When I think
Of the 11th
Of September.

That it was
One of the last days
Of the White Knight.
Of Chevalier Blanc.

Fairies : He Took Care Of Fauna

He came into his room one day.
And looked at the top
Of his computer.
Where Dream and Fauna were.
And suddenly looked very sad.

He reached out, and picked Fauna up.
And then he picked up
The crystal ball
That Fauna sits upon.
The glue that held her to that ball
Had failed.
And Fauna had fallen.
Off her seat.
And was resting on her back.
Supported by her wings.

“Oh, my,” he said,
As he held Fauna in one hand
And her crystal ball in the other.
“The glue failed.”
Then he looked at Fauna
Carefully.
He examined every bit of her.
“But you don’t seem to be damaged.
Anywhere at all.
That’s good.
That’s very good indeed.”

He took Fauna
And her Crystal Ball
Downstairs to the garage.
Where he pulled out
His hot glue gun.
“This should do the trick.
So that you can stick real well
To your crystal ball.”

Then he carefully
Used hot glue
To glue Fauna
To her seat once more.
And he held her in place
For a little while,
So that the glue could set.

When he was done,
He took her
Back up stairs,
To his room.
And placed her
Once again
On his computer.
Right behind Dream.

That evening,
While he checked his e-mail,
And the networks
He was on,
He took Fauna off his computer.
And he set her
On his desk.
Right next to his left hand.

And every now and then,
He stopped what he was doing,
And just looked at her
For a little while.
And every time he did,
He smiled.

He spoke with Fauna
As she rested there
Upon his desk.
As if she were his friend.
As if she were alive.
And she could hear him.
And understand him.

But he knew
That she was just
A fairy figurine.

“I’m glad you are OK.
That you didn’t break anything
When that glue let go today.”

And then he sighed,
Before continuing on.

“You know,
Sometimes I wish there was a way
That I could go back in time
And undo all the things
That I did in the past year.
The things that hurt so many people
So very much.

I used to think
That no one cared at all
What was happening to me.
That I’d been singled out
And was being punished
For being different
From everyone.

That wasn’t it at all,
Was it.
Not at all.

They weren’t afraid of me.
They weren’t afraid I’d hurt
One of them.
They were afraid
For me.
That I’d hurt myself.
Maybe very badly.”

His eyes looked very sad.
And Fauna wished that she could cry.
That she could spread her wings,
And fly.
Then land upon his shoulder,
Put her hand upon his cheek,
And whisper in his ear,
“It’s OK.
It’s all OK.
You’ve come through it.
You’re getting better
Every day.”
Then she’d kiss his cheek,
And try her best
To hug his neck.

But she could not.
After all,
She was a fairy figurine.
So all that she could do
Was rest there
On her crystal ball.
And listen
As he spoke with her again.

“I wish that I could tell them
That I understand what happened now.
But I know I can’t.
That they won’t listen to me
Any more.
That this time
They are really,
Truly
Gone.
They have moved on
To other things.
To other friends.
And left me behind.”

He sighed once more.
And then he picked her up.
And gently ran his finger tips
Across her hair.
And then across the tops
Of both her wings.

“Hell,
I didn’t even understand
How badly I was hurt.
And I’m not sure that I do
Even now.
But at least now
I understand
That I was hurt
Far worse
That I knew I was.

They really were concerned for me,
Weren’t they.
They really did care.
And they all knew
And understood
How very hurt I was.

They really did wish,
Didn’t they,
For me to be OK.
For me to find my way
Through the darkness
I was living in.
They all knew
That depression
Is an awful thing.
And they were very much afraid
That I would not be OK.
Maybe ever again.”

He closed his eyes.
And Fauna could tell
How sad he was
At the way that things had ended
With the life he’d had.

“Now, it’s too late.
I can’t even talk with them.
Can’t tell them
I’m OK.
And that I’m sorry
For the things I said,
And the things I did,
While I was in such pain
That had to have hurt them.
And disturbed them.

They don’t even speak to me.
And somehow I know
They won’t ever speak to me
Again.

That’s a sad thing.
For I wish that they could see
How this is coming to an end.
And how I’m changing.
And growing.
And becoming better
Every day.”

He smiled.
An honest happy smile.

“Some things
It seems,
Just can’t be undone.”

And his smile grew stronger
As he held Fauna
In his hands,
And looked at her
For a little while.

Until he spoke again,
“I’m starting over,
You know.
Starting life again.
It’s very much
Like everything that was
Has been destroyed.
And I’m have to start
From nothing
Once again.

I’m working to find a job,
You know.
Almost any job at all.
I don’t have to do
The kind I thing
I used to do
At all.
I don’t have to make
The money I once made.

I have to be happy.
I know that now.
I have to be able
To smile.
Every day of life.

I didn’t know that then.

I’m taking things right now,
One step at a time.
That’s all that I can do.
As I start my life
From this new beginning
That I’m having
To live through.”

Flora saw the sadness
In his eyes once more.

“I just wish I had a way
To let them know
I am OK.

And that everything that happened
Was my fault.
That I don’t blame
Any of them
For anything.
And I never will.

That I only wish
The best
For all of them.”

He placed Fauna in his lap.
Then he continued
All the things that he was doing
On the Internet right then.
Writing notes
To some of his friends.

And every now and then
He’d stop.
And gently run his fingertips
Across the surface
Of her wings.

And gently wrap
One of his hands
Completely around her.
As if he truly cared for her.
Even though he knew
That all she was,
All she would ever be,
Was a fairy figurine.

When he was
All finished for the night.
He picked Fauna up.
And gently kissed her
Right on top her head.
And then he gently placed her
Back on his computer
Right there
Behind Dream.

“Good night, Fauna.
Sleep tight.”

Then he got his sleep ware on.
But before he turned out the light
And went to bed,
He looked at all the fairies
On his desk.
And he said goodnight
To all of them.
Then turned out the bedroom light,
And went to bed.

For Him There Are No Shades Of Grey

He’s always know
About yes and no.
About true and false.
About on and off.

He’s always know
About opposites.
Like yin and yang.
Black and white.
Fast and slow.

Things like tall and short,
Heavy and light,
Skinny and fat.
Pretty and ugly.

These are all familiar to him.
He knows about them.
And understands them.
They’re clean.
And they make sense
To him.

He knows about shades of grey.
He knows how to make them.
He knows to mix
Varying amounts
Of black and white.
And by varying the mix
You get a different
Shade of grey.

But there’s something
That he doesn’t know.
He doesn’t know about
The shades of grey between
Helping and not helping.
Between caring and not caring.
Between a friend
And someone you just know.
And an enemy.

To him,
It’s all like
True and false.
Like yes and no.
Like on and off.

To him
You are a friend.
Or you are not.
There is no in between.

To him
You help someone
Or you don’t.
There is no such thing
As a little bit
Of help.

To him
There is no such thing
As different groups of people.
People that you work with.
People that you see at church.
People in your neighborhood.
All the different groups
Of people that you know.

To him,
They are all the same.
They are all people.
You either care for them.
Or you don’t.
There is nothing
In between.

To him
There is no such thing
As prejudice.
No such thing
As homophobia.
For he can’t group people
In that way.

Just like with people
That you know.
Where you have all kinds of groups.
And how much you care
For someone just depends
On what group their in.

To him,
Gays and lesbians,
Jews, and Muslims,
Christian and Buddhist.
Everyone’s the same.
Everyone’s a human being.

Where you see people
As African American,
Or European,
Oriental,
Hispanic and Latino,
He sees no such boundaries.
To him,
Those things are just words.
For in the end he knows
That a human being
Is a human being.
And that’s all there is
To that.

He’s been told
All his life
That he can’t live life
The way he does.
That everyone just knows
That the way he is
Is wrong.

But after knowing him a while.
And learning how he sees
The same things that I see.
But he sees them
So very differently.

I sometimes find myself wishing
I knew more people like him.
I sometimes find myself wondering
What this world
That we live in
Would be like
If more people
Didn’t have
The shades of grey
That we all have.

I sometimes cannot help
But believe
That our shades of grey
Sometimes get in our way.
And make things
Hard for use to figure out,
Or do.

For I have seen him do things
May times
That no one else
Could do.
And I’ve seen too
That he couldn’t understand at all
Why we thought
It was so very hard
To do the things he did.

I’ve seen him work
So very hard.
Pushing himself
All the time
To get better
At his job.
It’s like for him
There’s no such thing
As good enough.
There is only better
That before.

And knowing how he feels
About such things,
I have to wonder
If his way of never settling
For good enough
Is what makes him
So very good
At the work he does.

I’ve come to know him better
In the time I’ve worked with him.
And I’ve come to understand
That in very many ways
The way he looks at things,
The way that he behaves,
Since it lacks all those layers
In the color grey,
His ways are much simpler
And much less complex
That mine
And yours.

All because he lacks
All those shades of grey.
And for him
So many things
Either are,
Or they are not.

All because for him,
There are no shades of grey.

Heartless, Ruthless Me

I went to church last night.
And I learned something
That I’ve never known
About myself.
Something that disturbed me
Very greatly.

I sat there,
On the pew in church.
And listened to
All the praises that were made
To God.
Thanking him
For all kinds of things.

I looked around,
And observed,
Ever person that was there.
And the way each one of them
Behaved.

I watched the emotions
Displayed upon their faces,
And in their body language.
And couldn’t help but notice
How they all behaved the same.
Almost as if somehow
They all felt
The same way.

I watched them
As they bowed their heads
And prayed.
Some of them
Almost on their knees.
Some of them
Leaning up against
The church pew
In front of them.

And all of them were moved.
All of them listened
To the words of those
That lead the prayers
Last night in the church.

And I sat there,
Coldly, and methodically
Watching everything.
Studying it all.
And as I did I thought
About what I could learn
From my observations.
About how I could better mimic
The behavior of them all.
So that I would blend in
That much better.

It was like I was enhancing
A computer program.
Adding new features
And new details
To the functions
It performed.

That’s when I realized
How very different I am
From each of them.
That’s when I began
To understand the words
I heard so long ago.

“You can’t live like that!”

I lost count,
Very long ago,
Of the number of times
That I’ve been told that.
By people of all kinds.
That I can’t live
Like I do.

You can imagine
How very hard it was
For me to figure out
What they were trying
To say to me.

Because I wasn’t like them.
Not at all.
I didn’t experiment at all
With drugs.
Or sex.
Or anything like them.

Compared to everyone my age,
Back in those days
So very long ago.
I was very well behaved.
Given that,
How could anyone say
That I couldn’t live
The way I did?

And every time I asked
Any of my friends
Why they said those words
To me
Time and time again.
I got the same response.
The looked at me
As if I were nuts.
“You just can’t!”

It was as if
They had no way
To explain to me
What they meant.
And they always looked at me
In a way that seemed to say
“Everyone knows why!
And so do you!”

Now,
35 years later,
What they said,
And how they behaved
Makes some sense
To me.

They were trying to tell me
That I was not behaving
In an appropriate way.
According to the social rules
That they all knew,
And all observed,
And lived by and within.

But me?
Back then I didn’t know.
Back then I was not aware
Of my own condition.
I didn’t know at all
That I have an
Autism Spectrum Disorder.
And now I do.

And my ASD
Left me almost totally
Unable to observe and see
The social rules,
And social ways
That they all followed.
That they all understood.
That they all knew were there.

I never saw those rules.
Never understood them
In any way.
And I still don’t today.
And I know I don’t.
All because of the way
That I behaved just yesterday
In the church that I go to.

Since last night,
I’ve spent a lot of time
Thinking about this.
And I’ve realized,
Much to my dismay,
And shock.

That there are times
When how I am,
And how that leads me
To behave.
Makes me appear
To the people
Around me.

Like I’m a heartless,
Ruthless
Me.

I’ve never understood that
At all.

Until today.

Grocery Shopping On Weekday Mornings

I went grocery shopping this morning.
At the Super Walmart store
A few miles from my home.
This is something that I’ve done
3 or 4 times a week
For the past 11 months.

Have you ever shopped
At a Super Walmart store
At 0830 hours
On a weekday morning?
If you haven’t
Then you just don’t know
What it feels like
To walk into that place.

It’s a feeling
That I’m still trying
To get used to.
Even after 11 solid months.
And I just can’t do it.
I just can’t get used to
Being in
The Super Walmart store
At that time of day.

The first time I walked in
At 0830 hours
On a Tuesday morning
Was on October 26th
Of 2010.
Back when I was in the middle
Of a panic attack
That lasted
Several days.

And it really didn’t help me
To be walking there
That morning.

I was the only guy
My age
In the whole damn place.

There were old retired guys.
Buying odds and ends.
You know the type.
They looked like they used to wear
A suit to work,
And a tie too,
Every day
I swear.

There they were.
In slacks.
And short sleeve shirts.
That were tucked in.
In brown or black shoes.
Some slipped on.
Some laced.
And they even had
Colored socks
That matched their shoes,
Or pants.
Or both.
And they all had on
Great big giant
Wrist watches.
On most of them
Their hair was white.
All the color faded
Long ago.

I am not retired.
And they could tell that
With a glance.
And I felt
So very out of place.
As if I just did not belong.

Some of them
Had their wives with them.
They made such cute couples.
Him pushing the cart,
Following along
Behind her.
Stopping when she stopped.
With this look on his face
That screamed out loud,
“Save me! Save me! Please!
I don’t want to spend
The rest of my days
Doing this with her
Over and over again!”

Then there were the older women.
The ones that shopped alone.
Whose families were all grown up
And gone.
Pushing their carts
Up and down
Every aisle of groceries
They could find.
Looking at every thing.
As if to just kill time.

They looked to me
As if they were
So very much alone.
As if they didn’t know
How to cope
With all the time they had
Every single day.
Hours and hours
Of silence.

I couldn’t help but feel
The way my heart began to ache
Every time I saw one of them.

What does it mean,
I wonder,
When the high point of your day
Is when you wander through
The Super Walmart store.
And don’t buy anything.

Sometimes, I’ve learned
That they say, “Hi.”
To other people that they see
That are alone.
It’s almost like
They just want to hear
Another human voice.
As if that proves to them
That there’s still hope.
That they’re still
Alive.

Then there are the the mothers.
They come in two kinds.
The ones whose kids are in school.
And the ones whose kids are not.
And you can sure tell them apart.

The ones with kids in school
Look like they are relieved.
Walking around the Walmart store.
Free from their offspring.
At least for a few hours.

A few hours
Where they can do
Anything they want.
Where they don’t have to make dinner.
Or pack lunches.
Or push their kids
Through homework for a while.

A few hours
Of relative peace.

They usually come in alone.
And they almost always
Meet with other mothers
That they know.
And they talk.
A lot.

Sometimes,
They show up in groups.
Two, or three,
Or even more.
Like a pack of sharks.
God help you
If you’re in their way.

They never say a word
To a guy like me.
But they sometimes have a look
That says it all.
“You shouldn’t be here
At this time of day.
Invading our space.
You’re supposed to be
At work.”

I like to give that type of group
A wide berth.
Maybe even go the other way.

The ones with kids
That are too young
To be in school just yet
Always show up
With the kids.
No matter how many there are.

I have had more than one chuckle
As I walked my Walmart store,
Watching those mothers
And their children.
“Shut up!”
“Don’t touch anything!”
“No! We’re not getting that!”

The best one’s when both kids
Are sitting in the basket
Of the grocery cart,
And they can’t help
But bump each other
Every now and then.

“Don’t touch your sister!”
“Don’t bother your brother!”

As if that were possible.

Sometimes
These mothers
Have two grocery carts.
One for the kids,
One for the groceries.
And they push one
While they drag the other.

They should do what my lady did.
Drag him shopping with them.
He could take care of the kids,
And she could shop.
It’s what I did.

Those moms with kids,
They never look at me.
They’re to busy shopping,
And trying to control
The chaos of their lives
To care about the other people
In the store.

And that’s OK.
I remember
What it was like
When my kids
Were young.

The cashiers notice
When you’re a guy,
In the Walmart store
At 0830 hours.
They know that you
Should be at work.
But there you are.

Eventually,
They get used to seeing you.
I suppose that they conclude
That you’re one of those guys
That works a later shift somewhere.
And that you haven’t got a choice
But to buy your groceries
In the morning.
While so many other guys
Are at work.

I’ve taken such a trip
Through my Walmart store
Hundreds of times now,
Since October 26th
Of 2010.

And I still can’t get used to
Being one of the very few
Guys my age
That I see there
At 0830 hours
On a weekday morning.

When I stop
And think
About such things
For too very long.
I can’t help but begin to feel
Like things in my life
Are just all wrong.

I know they’re not.
And that with time,
And patience on my part.
The problems
That my family and I
Are dealing with right now
Will get worked out.

And everything will be OK.

I know that me not having
A job to go to every day
Right now
Does not feel right to me.
If just feels so very wrong.

But I’m learning
It takes time to change.
And sometimes
Change is hard.

But already,
Even though I’m unemployed,
And searching for a job.
I’m better than I was
Just two short months ago.

And I’ve got a plan
That I’ve put in place,
That I’m working my way through.
That will get me
And my family
Through the changes
That I’m going through.

All I have to do
Is be patient.
And persevere.
And stick with my plan.

And everything
Will be OK.
Even though I still just may
Go grocery shopping
At the Super Walmart store
At 0830 hours
On weekday mornings.

Knight : Shattered

There are many dates
I shall never forget.
Here are two more of them.
The first is Tuesday,
13 July 2010.

That’s the day
That she returned
To work.
And the day my world
Changed.

I remember very clearly
How she showed up that day,
And went straight to the meeting.
That happened every Tuesday morning
At exactly 0900 hours.

As if nothing was wrong.

I remember everyone had smiled.
And welcomed her.
And then the meeting
Had gone on.
As if nothing was wrong.

I went to the lab downstairs.
And I hid there
For quite a while.
For I couldn’t figure out
What the heck
Was going on.

That morning was also
The first time that I met
Her spouse.
The Navy let him return
From his duty station
To be with her
During her medical crisis.

I’m certain that he believed
After he and I had spoken
That there was something
Very wrong with me.
For the truth was
I had nothing positive to say
About the place
That I worked in.

And I let it out that day.

Being who I am,
Living with my ASD,
My brain sometimes acts
Like a recorder.
And I remember everything.
Facial expressions.
Body movements.
Posture.
Everything.

I was so confused by everything
That was going on that day
That I wasn’t able
To figure out
What his actions said to me.
The way that he behaved.

I don’t pick up on such things.
I never have.
I have to watch a person
Closely.
To the point they think
I’m staring right at them
To have a decent chance
Of figuring out
What they’re trying to say
In that social language
I’m all but deaf to.

And when I’m stressed
As I was that day,
My ability to process things
Collapses.
And my autistic nature
Shines right through.

But now,
As I play back the recording
That I have inside my head
Of the things I saw that day
When I spoke with him
I can’t help but see
That he thought I should shut up
And go away.

And I can’t help but believe
That what I did that day,
And the things I said
To him
Contributed a lot
To the events that were to come
In the weeks that followed.

To this day
I don’t know how
I made it
Through that day at work.
And I never will.

My doctors have told me
That it’s surprising to them
How stubborn,
And how strong
I am.
And that it’s hard
For them to believe
How long I stayed there
In that place of work
That I called
The Land of Grey.

All I know
Is that some how
I made it through that day.

Then came Wednesday,
The 14th of July,
In 2010.
A day that I cannot forget
No matter how I try.
A day that is forever burned
Into my memories.

That was the day
I fell.
The day I shattered.
The day my free-fall
From so high
Reached its end.
And everything that I believed,
And knew,
And understood,
Was completely gone.
Destroyed.
Before my very eyes.

And I never understood
A single thing that happened
In the Land of Grey
After that day.

Not one single thing.

I’ve had more than 13 months
To tear apart
And analyze
The events of that day.
And the days that followed it.
And all that’s done
Is show me
There are things in life
I’ll never understands.
No matter how I try.

For once again
On that Wednesday
Everyone behaved
As if everything was OK.
And nothing anywhere
Had changed.

And even I could see
How very wrong
That was.
As blind as I am
To the ways of people
In this world I never made,
Even I could see
That everything was wrong.
And everything was broken
In that place.

And my behavior
Came apart.
The image that I’d crafted
So very carefully.
So that everyone would think
I was like them.
So that for once
In my whole life
I felt like I fit in.

That image was destroyed.
Shattered
Like Humpty Dumpty
When he fell
Off of that wall.

And I was terrified.
More than mere words can explain.
A fear of being there
In that room
Where I’d worked
For so very long.
With the people that I’d known
For years and years.

For I couldn’t understand at all
The way that they behaved.
As if nothing was wrong.
And she wasn’t hurt
At all.

On that day
The Land of Grey
Became to me a place
Where the hearts of everyone
Were frozen hard as stone.
And their souls
Were trapped inside.

It felt to me
Like everyone
In the Land of Gray
Had become
Just another part
Of a heartless machine.

That no one
Really cared
For anyone
At all.

And everyone I saw
In that place that day,
And in the weeks after,
Behaved exactly the same way.
To the point
Where I could not
Tell them apart,
Except by looking
At their faces.

As I sat there
In that Land of Gray
On that awful day,
My fear overwhelmed me.
And I panicked.
For the first time
In my entire life.

I panicked.
And I ran.
All that I could think
Was that I had to get away.
That I had to escape.
From that awful place.

And that’s just what I did.
I didn’t run,
But I did walk
Very fast indeed.
Out to my car
In the parking lot.
And then I got in it
And drove away.

Hell,
I didn’t even know
Where I was going.
I only knew
I have to leave that place.
Right then.
And that I didn’t know at all
If I could find a way
To return to work
That day.

I remember making phone calls
Using my cell phone.
From a parking lot somewhere.
I remember that there was
A Stone Cold Creamery there.

I remember parking
In the parking lot
Of the offices
For the company
That I worked for.

I remember talking
With my boss.

And I remember,
And can never forget,
What he said to me
That day.

“You need to not let
What’s going on with her
Have any effect at all
On you.”

And I remember
That my heart and soul
Both screamed in agony
When they heard his words.

How could anyone
That had a heart and soul
Not care about
What was happening
To her?

I did return
To the Land of Grey
On that afternoon.
And when I did
I found three people
That I had to speak with.

The Princess of Laughter
Was at the summer picnic.
And I spoke with her there.
And let her know
That what was going on.
And how depressed I was.

The Castle Guardian
Was hard at work.
But took a time out
To speak with me.
And I let her know also
What was going on.
That I was not OK.

And then I visited
The Lenten Rose.
She who was so hurt.
And somehow,
Someway,
With all that she was facing,
She could still see
The hurt in me.

A hurt I had endured
Right there in that room.
In the Land of Grey.

And from that day
Nothing
Would ever be the same.