#MWBB 31 : LA Song

I helped her pack her suitcase. I helped her fold all her clothes, carefully picking the ones she wanted to take with her, leaving the ones she no longer wanted neatly folded, placed in boxes on the closet floor. We put a small makeup kit together for her, with her favorite nail polishes, lipsticks, eye shadow, blush. We put her favorite jewelry in little boxes, and stacked them neatly between her clothes and the side of the suitcase.

We talked. About where she was going. She had so much to say. She told me of all her heart breaks, all the men she’d loved and lost. How she’d cried countless tears each time, and wondered if her heart would ever heal.

She told me again, all the stories of the girls at work. The way they treated her. The way they tortured her. Always talking about how they were all engaged, or married, or had a baby on the way. How she wasn’t one of them. I calmly wiped the tears of anger from her eyes, wishing I could find a way to stitch her cut and bleeding soul back together. Wishing God would give me a way to take those wounds from her, make them mine, so she didn’t have to endure the way her heart ached, or the tears I knew her soul cried every night.

She told me how the men of LA were heartless. Soulless. Colder than any ice. Harder than any stone. How all they wanted was another bitch they could lay. Another trophy on the mantle. Another name in their black books. She told me no one slept with her because they loved her. But because she had boobs, and an ass, and her vagina. And that’s all they wanted. To get into her vagina. And I held her again, as she cried more tears of rage, and tears of pain.

The tears of a child. A little girl. Whose world got destroyed before her eyes. Whose dreams got crushed beneath the boots of a world that wasn’t at all like it she’d hoped it would be.

I carried her suitcase, and makeup kit to my car. Put them in the trunk. I opened the door, and let her in. Knowing it wouldn’t do for me to cry. It wouldn’t do for me to say anything. Knowing she trusted me to help her.

Knowing she was walking out of my life. And I might never see her again.

I wanted to kiss her. To beg her, “Don’t leave me!” I wanted to tell her how much I loved her. How I wanted to make her happy. Make her smile. Do everything I could to bring her dreams to life. But I couldn’t. Not because I didn’t have the courage, or the heart. Because I knew, my heart knew, she needed to go. She needed to escape.

I knew. I had to let her go.
I drove to the bus station. I paid for her ticket. “I promise not to follow you.”

She handed me her phone. “I can’t take this with me.”

“I know.”

I wanted to tell her she was leaving for all the wrong reasons. Because she was hurt. Because she was afraid. Because she was running from herself. From her life here, in LA. Trying to escape herself. Trying to blame LA, work, the men she’d known, for her inability to live with herself. That it wouldn’t work. She was taking what she was afraid of with her. She couldn’t escape herself.

I didn’t. It wouldn’t have worked.

Instead, I let her go. I watched the bus disappear into the traffic of LA.

I let her go.

And I prayed, one day, she’d find herself. And remember me.

627 words
@LurchMunster


This is my entry for week 31 of Jeff Tsuruoka‘s Mid-Week Blues-Buster flash fiction challenge. Please, go read the other entries in the challenge.

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.

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.

#VisDare 22 : Flight Of Fancy

That night as Alice and I sat on the sofa, she asked me once again, “Do you really think I’m pretty?”

I let my fingers gently trace the line of her cheek, feeling her soft, brunette hair. “You are the prettiest woman I’ve ever seen.” Alice smiled, and briefly kissed me.

She pulled her feet up on the sofa, and put her head in my lap. We slept on the sofa that night. And I had a dream. I saw Alice, dressed in black, on her knees, her arms wrapped around herself. Ghostly figures flitted in and out of existence above her. And I knew she was sad. Her heart in pain, her soul in tears.

I’d never felt anything like that. Never had a dream like that. We both woke before the dawn. I held her close. “So many memories,” she whispered. “So many lost.”

146 Words
@LurchMunster


This is the 18th piece in a continuing story I’m working through for Angela Goff’s Visual Dare. Please read the other entries in this week’s Visual Dare challenge.

#FlashFriday 22 : Dawn

I stood next to my best friend. We stood, side-by-side, holding hands, as we watched the clouds roll in, coming from the East, toward the shore, with the rising of the sun. I looked up at him, towering above me. He looked to the East, watching the clouds and sun. As he watched, I saw him smile, his eyes gleaming, like a childs, filled with joy and awe.

He didn’t speak. He kept his eyes open, watching every detail, taking it all in. He picked me up, like a father would lift his daughter. He set me on his shoulder, so I could get a better view. I knew him, how he was.

I wondered as I always did, why no one befriended him. Why everyone stayed away, shunned him, ostracized him. He was a giant, standing well over seven feet tall. His size made him ugly, his features being enlarged, his arms and legs lanky, his hands and feet huge. No one knew him. No one knew the gentle, kind, intelligent, loving, human man he was.

I knew. I found him. I talked with him. At first, I was afraid of him. Until the day he protected me from the men in the alley. The men had trapped me. I had no doubt what they would do to me. Leave me broken, bleeding, naked, in the alley.

He stopped them. He picked me up, so gently. Carried me to his home, made sure I was unharmed. Let me stay. I have stayed since that night. He is the friend I’ve always needed. As I am the friend he always longed for.

We stood on the shore that day. Watching the sun rise, and the clouds roll in. Enjoying the beauty of the world, as we wished the ugliness we saw, and endured every day, would vanish, as the darkness faded from the sky, and was replaced by the light of day.

We stood on the shore that day. And never spoke a single word. No words were needed. Each knew what the other felt, what the other thought. We embraced each moment, each breath, each heartbeat, standing there, wanting to remember the feelings of joy, excitement, and hope, the sunrise brought with it.

We both knew the light would be replace by darkness soon enough. When the sunrise was just a memory of the past, and the ugliness of the world woke from it’s nightly sleep, and ruled everything once more.

As he stood there, with me on his shoulder, I knew he cried. I knew tears fell from his eyes. I knew he prayed each day, each night, for the world to wake up and realize how cruel, how cold, how heartless it had become. I knew he understood it never would.

As I sat there, on his shoulder, knowing of so many hearts long frozen colder than any ice, harder than any stone, I cried too. And I wondered how life had gone so very wrong.

501 Disqualified Words
@LurchMunster


I wrote this for Rebekah Postupak‘s #FlashFriday, Week 22. It’s totally disqualified, as it laughs at the 150 word limit being used this week. Please go read all the entries in this week’s #Flash Friday. They are good reading.

#FiveSentenceFiction : Vision

Dream sat on the grass by the lake, in the middle of the night, watching the surface of the lake reflect the image of the star filled sky. Whisper, as always, sat on her shoulder where he watched tears fall from her eyes, “Dear friend, I am not young, I am not new, and I can’t help but see how your heart aches, and your soul longs for someone you have not yet met, to hold you in the darkness of the night, and fill your dreams with light.”

Dream said nothing, not one word, but Whisper knew, as he looked into her eyes of blue, why those tears fell from her eyes, and why her heart ached on that night. He whispered in her ear, “Follow the vision of your heart, dear one, for it knows what to do, and it won’t lie to you,” then he spread his wings, and lifted from her shoulder.

With those words, Dream spread her wings and took to the sky, to follow the vision of her heart, to find the one to fill her dreams with light, and chase away the nightmares she dreamed on so many nights.


I’m trying something different. Each week, Lillie McFerrin hosts a Flash Fiction Challenge called Five Sentence Fiction. This is my first attempt at the challenge. There are some great five sentence works out there, from some great writing souls. Please, go read them all.

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.