Two Headlights In A Sea Of Black

It happens every time
I drive home from work.
In the dark.
I can’t stop it.
I can’t escape it.
It’s everywhere I look.
Everywhere.

Two headlights
In a sea of black.

I see that.
Over and over.
Endlessly.
Night after night.
And I remember.

That’s the last thing I saw.
Two headlights.
In a sea of black.
Too close.
Moving too quickly.
And I hear my voice.
In my head.
Again and again.
“That ain’t good.”

I remember two crunches.
I heard them.
One deafening, overwhelming.
One quiet.
An aftershock.

And me with eight fractures,
And two days in the hospital.
And I’m still healing.

And every time I come home from work.
Every time.
In the dark.
Always.
Everywhere I look.

Two headlights.
In a sea of black.

I know I’ll adjust.
I know it’ll take time.
I know I’ll be OK.
And I know.
On my trip home.
That’s not going to happen.
I won’t let it.

But I still remember.
And may never forget.

Two headlights.
In a sea of black.

#AtoZ2016 : K Is For Keys

It started on 13 July 2010, and I will never forget the experience. That was the first day I walked out of work, got in my car, and left. The first day I reached in my pocket, and felt the presence of my keys.

I can never explain what I felt that day. Most would call it panic, others would call it anxiety. I don’t really know what the people I worked with at that time called it, although my memories of how they treated certain people I’d worked with suggests they called it deliberate bad behavior.

I’m not certain many of them believed in mental illness then, and I doubt they have changed.

That day was the first uncontrolled panic attack I had as I spiraled into Major Depressive Disorder. I had no ability to think, no ability to question, no ability to pause. I knew of one thing, and one thing only. I had keys in my pocket. Keys to my car. Keys to my escape.

And I desperately needed to escape. I didn’t need to walk on the beach. I didn’t need to hide in the secured lab. I didn’t need to talk to someone.

I needed to escape. To run. To flee. To save my life. My sanity. My soul.

The moment my fingers found the keys in my pocket, I stood, I walked, I left. I unlocked my car, got in, and drove.

I remember I stopped in the parking lot of the closest Walmart store to the base. I don’t know how long I was there. It may have been a couple of minutes. It may have been half an hour. I don’t know. Time didn’t exist.

I listened to my music, the doors shut, the windows rolled up, the volume turned up. I listened until I couldn’t think, couldn’t feel. Until the only thing left in life was the music I loved.

And that’s when I found myself. That’s when I realized I was in the car, in the parking lot at Walmart. That’s when I remembered I’d fled work, the office, the people, the environment.

I’d escaped.

And in doing so, I’d found a way to breathe.

I called the office I’d fled, and let someone know where I was, and I didn’t know when I’d get back. I called my boss, at the home office, and told him I needed to talk.

You know. I don’t even remember that talk. Not one word of it.

I went home, ate something, and when I could breathe, I went back to work. I knew I wouldn’t get anything done that day. By that point, I’m fairly certain everyone knew I wouldn’t get anything done.

I spoke with her. One of the three voices in that place, in that office, that environment, I could breathe around. One of the three voices I didn’t need to run from, didn’t need to escape, didn’t need to fear.

I can’t explain that. In the months that followed I learned, in the presence of any of those three voices, my hands didn’t shake. In the presence of anyone else in that place, my hands shook.

I spoke with her about the trip I was making to the doctor’s office a few days later, to discuss my depression, and start getting the help I knew I needed, but didn’t know how to get. Then, I went home. It was a lost day at work. The first of many in 2010.

That day when I touched the keys in my pocket, and all I could do was run.

I can’t explain it. I won’t try. I know this simple truth. As an individual, you either understand what I’ve written here, the story of the keys in my pocket, and how I ran. Or you don’t.

For some things, there are no words.

 

Mark.


It’s April 15th, and I’m a two days behind on the A to Z Challenge for 2016. Only 15 more letters to write stories for this month.

Please, go explore the A to Z Challenge, and the sites of others who are participating in this adventure.

#AtoZ2016 : G Is For Ghosts

The ghosts haunt me tonight.
As they have all day.
I see them in the mirror
As I wash my hands,
Or brush my teeth.
I hear their whispers
In my ears,
Any time there’s silence.

People tell me there’s no such thing
As ghosts.

They lie.

Every time I stop,
Every time I pause,
Every time there’s silence,
The ghosts are there.

They’re not what you think,
You know.
The ghosts, that is.
Not what you think at all.
Not what this world tells you
They are.

You have them too.
We all have them.
I can see them in you.
When I look in your eyes.
I hear their voices
When you speak.

You’re like me.
Haunted.
By ghosts.

They live in my memories.
In each word I heard
When I was the victim.
When I was the target.
Of words spoken in anger.
Or in fear.
Or in honesty.
Words I heard
When I didn’t fit in.
When I was different.
When I was me.

You’ve heard them.
I know you have.

But the ghosts don’t keep you awake,
In the dark,
In the night,
When life pauses.
And then noise ends.
Replaced by

Silence.

Some of us can’t close our ears.
Can’t cover them.
You think we can.
Because you can.
Because it’s something normal.
Because everyone can.

But I can’t.
And I’m not alone.

And I hear the ghosts each night.
Their voices echo in my mind.
Their words are painted on the walls
Of everything I see,
When I close my eyes.

You can’t be that way.
You can’t believe that.
You can’t think that.
That’s not normal.
You need help.
You failed.
You let me down.
You hurt me.
You’re hurting me now.

The ghosts are there.
They’re real.
They live in my life.
My experiences.
My memories.

And I can never be rid of them.

They live in you too.
If you look.
I know.
I’ve seen them.
I’ve heard them.
They color everything you do.
Everything you say.
They define
What you believe.
How you live.
Who you are.

And you can’t see them.

You can’t see them at all.

But I do.

The ghosts are real.
This much I know.
I hear them now.
In the silence.
In the dark.
In the night.

In all the memories I have.
Of life.


It’s April 8th, the 7th day of the A to Z Challenge for 2016. Only 19 more letters to write stories for this month.

Please, go explore the A to Z Challenge, and the sites of others who are participating in this adventure.

#AtoZ2016 : E Is For Echo

When I got home from work Wednesday night, six year old Tommy was in his family’s backyard, screaming as loudly as he could, “HELLO!”

“Well, hello, Tommy!” I answered back.

He glared at me, put a finger over his lips, and as loudly as he could ordered, “SHHHH!”

I stood beside the fence to his backyard, looking shocked, I’m certain. Not every day a six year old demands a grown up shut up. But Tommy certainly had.

“I can’t hear anything when you talk to me!”

He noticed my befuddled look, sighed, put his hands on his hips, and marched to the fence. “I’m listening to me.”

“By screaming?”

“No, silly.” He put his fingertips to his temples, and rubbed them. I’d learned that meant he was thinking hard. “I’m listening to…” I could feel the frustration in him as he tried to figure out what to say, “What did Dad call it?”

And it clicked in my brain cells. “Echos?”

“YES!” Tommy leaped with excitement. “Echos!” He grinned, “I’m seeing which way I have to scream to hear myself.” He pointed to the back yard. “I stand in the middle, I look in a direction, and I scream hello. And if I hear myself scream hello again, that way echos.”

“Any luck so far?”

“Not really.” Tommy frowned. “I think I found one echo, but I’m having to test it again, to make sure.” He waved at me, “Now, I’m going to go back to hunting echos.” He headed back to the middle of his backyard, “Goodnight, Mr. William!”

I watched for a minute as Little Tommy stood in the middle of his back yard, looked in a direction and screamed, “HELLO!” as loudly as he could, then listened for an echo. Then he looked in another direction, and screamed again.

And I remembered a time, so very long ago, when I stood in a park one day, and screamed, “Hello!” myself, to hear my own echo.


It’s April 6th, the fifth day of the A to Z Challenge for 2016. Only 21 more letters to write stories for this month.

Please, go explore the A to Z Challenge, and the sites of others who are participating in this adventure.

#FinishThatThought Week 2-5 : Slipping Away

She whispered, “I forgive you,” as her hand slipped out of mine.

It was a lie. We both knew that. She remembered everything I’d done. Whatever it was I’d done. It was funny how I never knew what I’d done. I always said something, did something, wrote something, that brought an end to a friendship, or job. Something that forced me to leave another club, another church, another gym, another whatever.

With me, everything ended.

I never knew why.

But I knew people. I knew what they were going to do. What they were thinking. What they were feeling. I had to. It was what kept me alive.

I looked squarely in her eyes and studied their color. I saw the bottled rage hidden behind the façade of tenderness and caring. I saw the tension at the back of her jaw line. Subtle, covered over, disguised, so most would never see it. The nearly invisible lines to the sides of her eyes, caused by stress.

She was putting on her best face. Acting polite, caring, and forgiving.

I replayed what happened in my memory. I heard every word I’d said. I watched her listen. I watched her stand once more. I watched her stomp her left foot, one time. I heard her say, “Really?” And I watched her walk out of the room.

I knew every word I’d said. “They’re all like. Inside. Beneath the surface. Like cars. Pull off the decorations, the bumpers, the paint, the fenders, the seats, and all the cars become an engine with a drivetrain. That’s how they’re all alike.”

“They think the same. They laugh at the same things. They eat at the same places, and they eat the same things. They vote the same every election.” I’d looked into her hazel eyes, “I can tell you who they voted for. Every last one of them. And none of them told me.”

“You don’t mean that.” Her words echoed in my memory. “You don’t mean that.”

“Yes. Yes, I do. Because it’s true. And you know it.”

That’s when she’d stood up, and left. “Really?” It had been an accusation. Not a threat, not a question. An accusation. I’d never seen it coming. Her reaction was a surprise. I’d stood, unmoving, like a statue, for ten minutes. I’m not sure I’d even breathed. I didn’t move, as I wrestled with myself, in my head, trying to grasp what had happened. What I’d done, what I’d said, how I’d said it, that elicited such an angry, harsh response from her.

I had no clue.

The only option I’d had was to apologize for the words I’d said, and bury what I felt, what I thought, what I believed, inside, where no one could see it again, and hope she accepted my apology.

She hadn’t. Everything I saw when I looked at her told me that.

Another friend. Slipping away again. Soon, she would be gone. And I would be like always.

Alone.

497  Words
@LurchMunster


I wrote this for Week 2-5 (Year 2, week 5) of Alissa Leonard‘s Finish That Thought. Please, go read all the creatively shared stories in this week’s challenge.

#RaceTheDate Week 11 : Reunion

Timothy read the e-mail message again.

Dear Timothy,

This is Gina. I know you remember me. I am writing to ask you to come to the company’s thirtieth reunion party on April Fourth. I know you have received Dawn’s invitation, and I know you have not responded.

Please. Come to the reunion.

Please.

Gina.

Gina. A name he hadn’t heard in a decade. A name he remembered too well.

“I considered you my friend, once.” He looked at the e-mail message, torn between deleting it, or keeping it. “After what you did.” He almost pressed the delete button on his keyboard, but something inside him stopped him. He himself whisper, “Listen to your heart. It won’t lie to you.”

He knew she’d told the company management he was wrestling with depression, taking an antidepressant, and had started counseling. Beyond that, he knew nothing.

He’d used to wonder if she’d defended him. “Don’t fire him! He’s ill. He needs help.” Or if she’d played a role in what happened. “Force him to take leave. He needs to work things out.” He’d never found an answer. All he’d been told was, “The decision to ask you not return was unanimous.”

She’d never contacted him. He’d sent a friend request on Facebook. Her profile vanished the next day. He’d known it would.

She told him once, “You’ll be a writer one day. Published. I’ll tell people I knew you when you started.” But she’d never learned of the books he’d written. Never read the stories of people finding their way in life. He called the stories, “Heartsongs”. He knew she’d never seen them.

He’d ceased to exist, and had to start his life over. And his heart knew what to do. “No. I won’t.” Timothy deleted the message. “You don’t exist.”

300 words
@LurchMunster


A little story I wrote for Cara Michaels‘s Race The Date flash fiction challenge. Hope you enjoy it. Please, go read the other entries in the challenge this week. I find it amazing the stories people can create in 300 words or less.

Memories : Look At Me When I’m Talking To You!

It was a lesson I learned
A long time ago.
Before so many
Of the people I know now
Existed.

A lesson I learned
In seventh grade.
When my father was
The Protestant Chaplain
For the US Naval Support Activity
Across the Severn River
From the Naval Academy.

I learned it on a Sunday morning.
After the church service.
While I was experimenting with sound
On a piano
In the church activities building.

That’s when a full-grown male
Of the human species
Sat down in a chair
To my right.

He started talking with me.
Or perhaps it would be more accurate
To say he talked to me.
Whatever.
It doesn’t matter.
And it never did.

I heard every word he said.
Clean down to the times he asked
“Are you listening to me?”

I told him what he’d said.
Told him every word.

“I can’t tell you’re listening to me!”
I could tell he was angry.
“You’re not listening to me!”
And getting angrier.

That’s when I learned
What to do.
When I learned
What humans expect.
What humans demand.
As a signal of some kind.
That makes them think
Makes them believe
You are paying proper attention,
Expected attention,
Required attention
To them.

“Look at me when I’m talking to you!”

Have you ever had that screamed at you?
I have.
I had then too.
More times than I can count.
More times than I can remember.

But that time.
That Sunday.
It was different.
That time I realized
What humans expected.

So, I looked at him.
Straight into his eyes.
Dude.
He was angry.

I wanted to look at the wall behind him.
To look at the ceiling tiles.
To look at the floor.
The piano keys.

I didn’t.

I looked that human in the eyes.
I watched his mouth move
As he spoke.
I observed his facial expressions.
All of them.
I watched how he behaved.
I watched how he moved.
I watched everything he did.

His tie was perfectly tied.
Perfectly.
The collar of his shirt
Looked like it hid a noose
Around his neck.
The jacket of his suit
Was still buttoned up.
Hell,
It even had that fake tie
Stuffed in one pocket.

I saw every detail.

And I learned.
I learned how to shut him up.
How to keep him quiet.
How to make him happy.

A lesson I remembered.
A lesson I mastered.
In those few moments of time.

Pretend you’re looking at someone
While they talk to you.

That way.
They’ll shut up.
And leave you alone.
Because they’ll believe
You’re a good one.
Well behaved.

They’ll think you heard
Every last word.
And understood
Everything they said.

That human never knew
What I learned that day.
No one ever knew.
No one could ever figure out
What I’d learned to do.

It’s a memory
I can’t forget.
I never have.
I never will.

It was the day I learned.
Everybody lies.