Wide Awake

IMG_6307I walked through a special rose garden I know of today.

As I did, I remembered. I remembered three years ago, when this journey I am on started. I remembered all the people who are gone. All the people who have given up on me, for there is no other way to say it.

Given up on me, concluding I’m broken, and can never be well, and can never be who I once was, and can never be normal again.

To which I say thank God. For I know what really happened three years ago. I know the truth of what I did, the actions I took, and the path I started down in those days. I know the loss I endured, the agony of watching everyone I knew, everyone I called friend, outside my family, turn and walk away.

I say thank God, for what happened. Because what happened is I woke up. It’s that simple. I woke up. I came back to life, doing everything I had to do, taking every action I had to take, enduring the agony of change, to change the direction of my life.

I watched myself die. I watched myself be reborn.

Three years ago, I was normal. I had a career. A reasonably well-paying job. The respect of everyone that knew me, and my technical abilities in the job I held. I worked in a safe, secure, unchanging environment. Where every day was predictable. Where every day was the same. Where I followed the rules laid out by others. Management. Corporate boards. The directors of the US Navy. The protectors of national security.

I behaved.

And I lived in a world without color. A world where everyone was the same. Everyone believed the same things. Made the same decisions. Had the same definitions of success. Of normal. Of appropriate and inappropriate. A world where differences equated to which model of what brand of car you drove. How big your house was. Where you shopped for groceries. Where your children went to college. What church you attended on Sundays. How much of a pay raise you got every year. The color of your skin. How well you dressed. If you were male, or female. If you were US Navy, Civil Service, or Contractor. Where you ranked in the chain of command.

A world of order.

A cold, dead, heartless world, where how I felt, what I believed, what I wanted, what I dreamed, what I hoped, didn’t matter. Where all that mattered was staying in my place, and behaving appropriately.

A world where nothing ever changed. Where, after 13 years, I was still no body. Expendable. Contractor slime. Untrustable. A world where my opinion was sought, then ignored. Because it was “appropriate” to ask for it, in an effort to make me believe I was part of the team. Part of the organization.

A world where everything was check boxes, and lists. Where you read the list, and examined the check boxes, and said, “We’re diverse. So say the statistics.” A world where the rules said, “No discrimination,” and hence, there was no discrimination in the workplace.

Unless you listened to the whispers in the halls. The gossip between office cubes. The stories shared at lunch, and during the mandatory celebrations of birthdays, contract awards, and other noteworthy occasions.

“I’ll never set foot in that bathroom again. It’s been in there.”

“Stay away from me. You’re trouble. And I’m not going down with you.”

“That prima-donna will get what he deserves someday.”

“Who pissed on his feet this morning?”

“He’s out to celebrate some stupid religious holiday.”

“Did you know he voted for the Democratic Party?”

“Her daughter came out. Yeah. Declared she’s gay.”

“He’s a little odd, isn’t he.”

“There’s something not quite right about her.”

Always, it was the same. You are just like us, or your are not. Because we are not diverse, even though the statistics say we are.

It was when someone confided in me, letting me know she had breast cancer. We spoke of her terror of what was to come, and what she and her family would have to endure in the months ahead, when I’d had enough.

I stopped playing by the rules. I could not place the job, the workplace, the career, or anything associated with it, ahead of the well-being of a friend. I took down the façade I’d hidden behind for decades, and declared I cared what happened to my friend. I let myself feel. I cried. I had nights I couldn’t sleep. I wrote every day. For her. As I’d promised I would. And my work suffered.

And I didn’t care at all. I met every deadline. I answered every technical question. I provided help every time someone asked for help. But, I’d stopped playing. I stopped writing that weekly report that said the same thing, week after week after week. I stopped going to birthday celebrations. I stopped attending meetings I didn’t have to attend. I stopped going to lunch when someone left for another job, or to welcome someone to the job.

I stopped blending in.

Of course, this terrified people. It scared them. It made them uncomfortable. And inevitably, they got rid of me. Isn’t that how things are in this world? If someone makes you uncomfortable, scares you, is someone you don’t agree with, don’t understand, don’t approve of, comes along, you block them out, and send them away? Right?

That’s what happened. And in the three years since I woke up, none of the people I worked with has spoken to me. One day, they declared I could not talk to them any more. And I have not heard from them since.

But, in that same three years, I’ve been on an amazing journey. Taking one step at a time. Sometimes, stopping, and sitting on the ground, to catch my breath, to let myself breathe, to let myself come to grips with everything that’s happening in my life.

Of course, I couldn’t be allowed to return. For countless reasons. Would you let someone you cared about return to the place they were injured? Especially if their injuries were non-physical, and resulted in them being sent out on medical leave for 13 weeks? Would you let someone who declared you, and the people you worked with, were all the same, return to work? Would you let someone who declared you and the people you worked with, cared more about the work than they did for each other, return to work?

And why would I want to return to that place anyway? Why would I return to the land of gray. Where every day was the same, and nothing ever changed, and everyone feigned happiness, because to admit you weren’t happy meant you were miserable. Why would I return to a land where I had no hope. Where I was expendable. Where what I wanted, what I felt, what I believed, and what I knew, didn’t matter.

Now, three years later, I find I sometimes wonder about the people trapped within that world. Sometimes, as I walk through the roses of a garden I know of, my heart aches, and my soul sheds tears of sorrow, for the people I once knew.

For I know not one of them has ever walked through that rose garden. Not one of them has ever sat on the ground, and watched the butterflies as they flit from one flower to the next, flying haphazard patterns through the air. Not one of them has sought the colors of the Camellias in full bloom in the dead of winter.

I’ve seen them walk along the sand, on the beach that runs right past the building they work in. They walk there when its appropriate. During lunch. In the spring, or fall. When it’s not too hot. And not too cold. And they only spend a little time on their walks, because they are on their lunch breaks after all. And they can’t be late getting back to work.

And I wonder if even a single one of them has sat on the sand of that beach, and watched the sand crabs peaking out of their holes, and skittering across the sand. I wonder if they’ve watched the dolphins swimming past. The way they form such perfect arches, nose to tail, as they move along, just beneath the surface of the waves. If they’ve ever watch the osprey, diving from the sky into the ocean, rising once again, carrying aloft their prey.

Of if they only see postcards. Glimpses of a world they don’t have time to explore.

And as I walk among the roses, in that garden I know of, three years after I woke up, I find myself fighting off real tears as my heart breaks, knowing not one of them knows the truths of life I have learned in the past three years. Knowing it will be a miracle if even one of them wakes up.

I cry for the lost.

And then I breathe, feeling my lungs fill with air, feeling the sun shine down on me, feeling the breeze flow through my fingers, across the palms and backs of my hands. And I know I can never go back.

I woke up.

There is no place for me in the land of those who sleep.

#ThursThreads Week #77 – Find A Warm Body

Stephanie met her girlfriends outside the movie theater. They all bought tickets to the same movie and sat as a group in the same row. I followed, knowing I had to watch, and wait, until I saw the yearning in her body, the ache of loneliness written in her eyes. I waited, and watched.

After the movie, Stephanie and her group went out for drinks, taking up several of the small tables near the bar, ignoring the baseball game on the TV over the bar. I watched as Stephanie expression changed. I could taste the ache in her, the wish to not have to spend another night alone. It was time. I introduced myself, “I couldn’t help but notice you all having fun. Your laughter and smiles have made my evening much happier, and I was wondering if you would allow me to buy you a round of drinks, as a thank you.”

They accepted, of course, and I joined them, pulling a chair up next to Stephanie. One by one, her girlfriends departed, going home to their families, their husbands. Until only Stephanie was left.

We both knew she would not spend that night alone, or any other night alone, unless she wished to. She’d found a willing lover in me. That night, I relished every taste of her body heat I could consume. She had lots of heat to spare.

That’s the first rule of a body heat vampire’s world. Find a warm body.

Stephanie was certainly that.

250 Words
@LurchMunster


I wrote this for Siobhan Muir‘s #ThursThreads, Week 77. Please go read all the entries in this week’s #ThursThreads. They are good reading.

I Close My Eyes

It is night.
I turn out the lights.
Pull the covers aside.
Climb into bed.
Lay down my head.

But no sleep comes.

A flood of thoughts
Won’t let me sleep.
Waves of my fears
Wash over me.
Haunting me.
Taunting me.

And no sleep comes.

I lie there
On the bed.
Wishing.
Wishing I could find a way
To ease the ache
Within my heart.
To dry the tears
My soul cries.

How can people live
In this world
They never made?

There was a time
Not long ago
When sleep would have
Eluded me
All night long.

But I’ve learned.
I’ve changed.
Now.
I know
What I have to do.
I know
How to care
For me.
To south the aching
Of my heart.
To dry the tears
My soul cries.

While I lie there
In my bed.
I close my eyes.
And then.

I breathe.
I breathe in slowly.
I breathe out slowly too.
And I remember.

Fear is just a feeling.
Nothing more.
Just like anger.
Just like joy.
And feelings come
And go.

And I decide
As I breathe in
To breathe in all my fears.
And then
As I breathe out,
I exhale tenderness.
Concern,
And caring.

And I decide
To remember
Fears are like the monsters
In the dark.

They’re not really there.

As I breathe,
With my eyes closed.
I extend my hand
To my side.
And there, I find
Her.
Sleeping next to me.

And I know.
I know.
I’m not alone.
And never will be.
So long as she’s alive.
She’s a part of me.

Then I remember
Each friend I have.
And as I breathe in
I inhale
The things I know hurt them.
The fears I know they have.

Then I exhale once again.
The caring.
The compassion,
The tenderness
That lies at the very heart
Of me.

I breathe.
And I remember.
Who I am.

And before long
Sleep comes to me
Again.

But before I close my eyes
And drift off to sleep
There’s always one last thing
For me to do.

I remember you,
My friends.
And the problems you have had.
The fears that you face.
And I breathe all of them in.
And then
I breathe out the truth
That you are not alone.
And even though
I may be far away from you.
So that I can’t hold you,
Or touch you.
Or show you
That I care.

I breathe out that same
Kindness.
Tenderness.
And compassion
That soothed the aching of my heart
And dried the tears
My soul cried.
And breathe them out
For you.

Good night
Wounded hearts and souls
Of so many people
That I know.

Oh how I wish
There was so much more
I could do
For you.

A Clip From Chapter 16 Of JuNoWriMo 2012

Verdant Green was in her room in the castle. Alone. Her father, and her mother, gone. All at once. She tried to understand what happened. But, it’s hard for a four-year old girl to understand death. It’s easier to understand that someone’s gone.

She spoke with Eyela about her father. “Why is my Daddy gone?”

“He died in the fire in the village to the north.”

“So he can’t come home?”

“No, child. He can’t come home?”

“Does he hate me now?”

It was hard to hear Verdant Green ask such questions. But how do you explain to a child that her father died a hero, but is dead. And could not return no matter how much he loves you. But how Eyela tried. “You know your father loved you very much.”

“Then why can’t he come home?”

As hard as it was to talk with Verdant Green about her father, it was even more difficult to talk with her about Gentle Breeze. “Where did Mommy go?”

“Mommy is with daddy.”

“She went to be with daddy in the village in the north?”

“No, dear one. She is gone. No more. Dead. Just like Daddy.”

“So she’s not coming home either?”

Then the words that always brought an ache to Eyela’s heart. “Mommy hates me too, doesn’t she?”