Miranda Kate’s Mid Week Challenge : 2020/05/19 (Week 157)

“It’s a book,” she pointed at the book I was reading. “A purple one, with gold letters, and this candle thing on the front.”

I nodded, and kept reading.

“Why do you waste your time reading so many books?” She plunked down on the sofa next to me. “There’s so much to do in the world. So many places to go. So much to see.”

I nodded, and kept reading.

“And you sit here, reading books all day.”

Carefully, I placed my folded sheet of paper I used as a bookmark between the pages, and closed the book. “Yes, I do.”

“Why?” She grabbed my book, and put it on the far end of the sofa from me. “There’s so much to life, and you read books? Why not do something fun?”

There are times when words are useless, and I knew this was one of those times. There were no words to explain my fascination with books to her. She would not understand any words I said. Which is why I started saying them anyway.

“They change me.”

“What?”

“The books. They change me.”

“Oh, really.” She gave me a good look over, “You look just like you did this morning. Nothing changed about you.”

“They change me anyway.”

“How can books change you?”

“I learn from them.”

At first, she didn’t answer. Then, all at once, “You learn from books, but you don’t learn from life?”

“Of course I learn from life.”

“Then why do you read so many books?”

“To learn more than I can from life.”

“What more is there to learn?”

There it was. The reason she would never understand a word I said. Her mind was closed, she’d already determined books were a waste of time. “OK. Tactic change.” I made certain I didn’t look at her eyes, I knew, if I did that, I’d give up instantly, and do whatever she wanted. “Why do you watch movies?”

“The same reason everyone watches movies, silly. To escape reality.”

So much for that idea. I could hear her thinking, “You read to escape reality? Seriously?”

“OK. That’s not going to get anywhere either is it?” Any discussion I could have had with her was already over, and I knew it. “You already know all the answers to everything, don’t you.”

“No, silly. No one does.” I thought she was going to laugh for a moment, “I know what I need to know, and that’s more than enough.”

I wanted to ask her about all the religions of the world. Then about the languages, and why there were so many, and why different languages allowed people to say things they couldn’t say at all in other languages. I wanted to ask her about politics, and Conservatives, and Liberals, and Socialists, and Marxists, and a thousand others.

I didn’t.

I already knew. Her mind was closed. She’d picked one religion, one language, one political viewpoint. And she’d closed everything else down.

“That’s not enough for me.” I reached past her, and picked up my book. “It never will be.”

“Idiot.” She stood up, and walked off. I didn’t know where. I thought about following her, maybe apologizing. Maybe doing something like taking her to dinner, and a movie, and spending time with her.

But she was so small. So limited. So set in her ways.

The thought occurred to me, perhaps I should be sad because I’d grown apart from her, and she from me. I was still sitting there, thinking, when I heard the door to the apartment slam.

“This can’t be fixed, can it.”

I swear I heard the walls of the room answer me, with a quiet, “No.”

614 words
@mysoulstears


Written in response to the prompt for week 157 of Miranda Kate‘s Mid-Week Challenge. You can learn about Miranda’s challenge here. The stories people share for the weekly challenge are always little works of art, crafted with words, meant to be shared, and enjoyed. Please go read them all.

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That Wasn’t Really The Worst Of It

“You’re still finding your way, aren’t you?”

I laughed. That question was all Shelly.

“Tom, I’m serious.”

I made a point of looking into her soft, green eyes, so she’d understand I was paying attention to her. Of course, I liked looking into her eyes. I sometimes wished I could just stare into them. I knew I’d get lost in them, forgetting everything, including time. And just stare. But I didn’t want to disturb her, so I quickly looked away. “Yes.”

Shelly shook her head, and ran a hand through her long, brunette hair. I found myself wishing it was my hand, so I could feel the texture of her hair, so I put my hands down on the table. As I did, I realized my eyes were studying her. The way her hair fell across one shoulder. The line of her neck, and the way it curved so gently into her shoulder. Her lips. For the thousandth time I wondered how they tasted. How it would feel to press my lips to hers. I forced myself to look at my hands.

“Tom, another person would have gone back to work by now.”

I shook my head. It was my turn to smile, so I put the best smile I knew how to make on my face, “I’m not normal. You know that.”

I dared to glance at her eyes again, and wished I hadn’t. I could see the confusion, and the sorrow there. “But you had a good job. You were successful. You had a career.” Shelly put her hands on top of mine.

Gods, what a feeling. I wanted to close my eyes, and listen to everything my hands were telling me. I wanted to memorize the feel of her hands, on top of mine. Her graceful fingers on top my hands, her palms resting on my fingers. I knew I’d remember the feel of her touch, of her hands on mine, for weeks, every time I closed my eyes and thought of her.

“Tom,” her eyes locked on to mine, “It’s been three years since this all started.”

Gods, how I knew that! Three years since I came apart. Three years since my life burned to the ground. My career ended then. I’d worked a part-time job since then. I’d stopped looking for another job.

I tried to look away from her eyes. I couldn’t. I wanted to talk, I did. But all I could see was the concern, and the sadness leaking from those pools of green. I fought desperately to say anything, and I managed to whisper, “I can’t go back.” I tried so hard to smile then. And I failed. “I can’t go back.”

I wanted to tell her I knew she felt I’d come apart. Collapsed. Fallen to pieces. I knew what had happened to me made her sad. And I knew she didn’t understand anything that I’d been through. I knew she didn’t understand the life journey I was on. I knew she never would.

All I could do was smile.

She pulled her hair back over her shoulders. She did that when she tried to think through something.

“I can’t return to the world that nearly killed me.”

“Then find a different job. Don’t let your skills go to waste. Don’t let life pass you by.” Her eyes had that look people give each other when they know what they’re talking about. I know those looks exist. But I don’t know what they mean. I didn’t understand what she was saying at all. It was like she asking me to go back in time, three years. And become the person I’d been.

I couldn’t go back. I couldn’t become that empty shell again. I couldn’t become what she wanted me to. I couldn’t be bound, or defined, by a career, by a job. I couldn’t be how people wanted. I couldn’t be what they wanted.

“It’s like you’ve given up.”

I wished then, she could see my soul. See the tears my soul shed then. I wanted to explain everything to her. Tell her I hadn’t given up. I’d awakened. Come alive. Stepped beyond the walls of the life she lived in. Walls she couldn’t even see. And that wasn’t really the worst of it. The worst was she believed I no longer cared. All I could do was stare into her green eyes and try not to drown in them. All I could do was feel her hands on mine, and try not to cry tears of joy at the exquisite feelings coming from my hands.

All I could do was whisper, “I haven’t. I’ll find something.”

“When?”

“When I find what I’m looking for.”

I knew I’d never get to taste her lips. I knew I’d never get to run my fingers through her hair. I knew I’d never get to lose myself in her eyes. I knew she’d do what everyone else had done.

She’d walk away. And never look back, believing I would never recover from what had happened.

She’d never understand.

I was outside the world she lived within.


Author’s Note : Sometimes, the constraints of a flash fiction challenge just get in the way. Sometimes, I have to cut away too much of a story to fit into the straitjacket of a word limit. This is one of those times. I wrote the original version of this story, and then cut it to ribbons, to fit it into the 250 word limit for #ThursThreads. (That version is here.)

This time, I had to go back, and rework the story, adding in things I’d had to cut away, filling in the missing parts of the tale. Hope you like the extended version.

Mark.

Our Warriors

I have seen the stories
On the TV.
In the newspapers.
I have watched
The documentaries.
Of the warriors.

The young men
That we sent
To war.
In Iraq.
And Afghanistan.

I’ve seen the stories
Of how they changed.
And they weren’t the same
When they returned
To their homes.
To their families.

Of course they changed.
How could anyone
See the things
They saw.
Live through the things
They lived through.
And be the same?

They’ve been shot at.
They’ve been hated.
They’ve seen others warriors
Around them.
Some even their friends.
Their comrades.

Die.

They’ve done their job
Every day
They were deployed.
Never knowing
If they’d be alive
To see the sun rise
Of another day.

And people say,
“You’ve changed!”

Of course they’ve changed!

I have an ASD.
I don’t fit in.
I’m not exactly like
The people around me.
And I don’t understand
Why people have
Such a hard time
Talking with me.
And just being my friend.

And I see the warriors
In the documentaries.
And I read their stories.
And I know.

They’re different people now.
They’re not like
The people they protect.
The people they fight for.
They’re different.
They’ve changed.

They know the true value
Of life.
How very fragile it is.
How easily
Someone can take it away.
How easily
An accident can happen.

They’ve lived with that
Every single day
They were deployed.

My own uniqueness tells me
That they see the world
Differently
Than they used to.
That being deployed
Exposed them to so many things.

And when they returned home,
To their families
And friends.
Those families
And friends
Expect them to be the same?

People are sometimes
Just flat stupid,
Aren’t they.

Like you,
I’ve heard the stories
Of the families
Now gone.
Of the warriors
That now live alone.

How they seek out
Each other.
Not so much because
They became friends
In the places they have been.
But because
They understand
Each other.

My soul cries tears for them.
For I can not help but know
That they are different
From the people around them.

And I know
All too well
How our society,
Our culture,
Our way of life,
Treats those
That are different.

It gets rid of them.

These are our warriors.
These are our heroes.
These are the men
And women
That did our fighting
For us.

And when we bring them home
We reward them
By avoiding them.

Just because they’re different.
And they behave
In ways that we
Don’t understand.

When will people learn
The true meaning of the word
Diversity?

When will people learn
How to accept others
As they are?
And not expect them
To become someone
That’s just like them?

The warriors
Are heroes.
I don’t pretend to understand
The nightmares
That they have
Every night of life.

I don’t pretend to know
The things they feel
In their hearts and souls.

But I wish.
Oh, how I wish.
That the people of this world
Would accept them
As they are.

They’re not broken.
They’re not violent.
They’re different.
They’ve been changed
By the things
That they’ve been through.

Grow up
Americans!
And treat them
As the heroes
That they are!

Help them to come home.
Help them to feel welcome.
Help them to feel safe.
Find a way
To show them
That we know
They’ve changed.

And that even through they have
They’re still welcome here.
That they don’t have to be
Just like
You and me.

They’re our warriors.
Don’t throw them away.
Don’t forget them.

They’re OUR warriors.

We should take care of them.