#FSF : Open

open_window-t2

I watched the curtains flutter in the breeze that came through the open window. “I’m too old to move,” I whispered as I looked at the empty yard beyond the window. Everything in the house reminded me of her. Of the truth she was dead and buried, and I was alone. “You weren’t supposed to die first, you know.”


One for Lillie McFerrin‘s flash fiction challenge, Five Sentence Fiction. This week, the prompt is Open. Please, go read all the other entries to this week’s Five Sentence Fiction. It’s amazing what creative people can do with just five sentences.

#FSF : Abandon

 

I should never have visited that ghost town. There, I couldn’t hide from the truth. I couldn’t escape my own emptiness. Among the empty streets, abandoned houses, and emptiness, I screamed, panicked, ran. Until I found myself in an empty hotel, staring out empty windows ask I asked myself,  “When did I abandon life?”


One for Lillie McFerrin‘s flash fiction challenge, Five Sentence Fiction. This week, the prompt is Abandon. Please, go read all the other entries to this week’s Five Sentence Fiction. It’s amazing what creative people can do with just five sentences.

Commentary : I Hide

It’s Wednesday. The day I have my weekly session with my doctor. There are several things we agreed about today. Several things I finally said. I’ve avoided saying them for nearly four years.

“This winter tore me up.”

“This winter was hard on a lot of people.”

I felt like saying, “Yeah, doc. I know.” I didn’t. I did what I always do. I thought first. I searched through my scripts. My databases. My knowledge. For the right thing to say. There wasn’t any right thing to say. I was in psychotherapy. And my doc knows how my mind works. He knows what I’m thinking.

“This winter tore me up bad.”

“I know, Mark.”

I thought of her. My spouse. My best friend. She whom I’d willingly die to protect. She without whom I’d be hopelessly lost. “She doesn’t know.”

My doctor nodded. “No. She doesn’t,” he put his papers down. “No one knows.”

“Yeah.”

“You hide.”

“Yeah. I hide.” I’d never admitted that. Never.

“And you’re damn good at it.” He doesn’t smile much, when we’re talking. He didn’t smile then. “You’ve had a lot of practice.”

“Yeah. I hide.” I knew there was no sense in hiding that truth from him. He already knew it. “I always have. I learned to. I had to learn to. I learned to hide. To keep what I feel, what I think, what I believe, hidden. I learned to observe. To tear apart. To analyze. To study. To build programs. Scripts. How to appear normal. How to blend in. Because I learned, if I did that, if I followed the scripts, and blended in, everyone shut the fuck up, and left me the hell alone.”

“I know.”

I wasn’t finished. “They stopped saying, ‘You can’t be like that. You can’t live like that. You can’t be that way.’ They shut up. And left me alone.”

We were silent for a bit. Only a minute. Maybe a hair more. Until I spoke again. “I’m going to take a walk in the morning.”

“Good! You need it.”

“Yeah. I need it.” I sat there, on the sofa in his office, as I have far more times than I can count, and I finally spoke the truth. “I don’t walk 5 and 6 miles because it doesn’t hurt.”

“I know.”

“I walk because I have to walk.”

He sat there, waiting for me to continue. We both knew he’d do that. We both knew why. “I have to walk. It’s how I cope.” I could have stopped there, but it was time to bring the truth out. “It’s how I cope with the anger. The frustration. The stress. Of living in this world.”

“I know. And it’s good. You need to walk.”

“She doesn’t understand. No one understands.”

“I know.”

Yeah. These aren’t the exact words we spoke today. But they’re close. I told him of the time I posted a message on Facebook. “I said no one knows. No one understands. How hard it is for me to keep going. To keep dealing with this.”

It’s true.

No one understands. Oh, people think they do. You have no idea how many people think they do. But, unless you’ve lived through this. Unless you face this in your life. You have no idea.

I the past few years I’ve found a few special people. They understand. They live with this same nightmare, or another nightmare like it.

I hide. Because the truth still stands. If I hide. If I put up a façade. If I blend in, and appear close to normal. People shut up. And leave me alone. They talk to me. They spend time with me. They don’t understand the person they think I am is a lie. Isn’t real. Isn’t me.

She knows I need to walk. She knows there are times I have to walk. She’s even said, “Walk. I’ll be here when you get back.” She knows. And I know it disturbs her. Especially when I’m wounded so visibly she says, “Go for a walk.”

I wish there were words, magic, miracles, anything at all, that would let me explain why I walk to her. Let me show her that I HAVE to walk. And I have to walk for miles. I have to walk, even if it hurts.

Do you know what it’s like to walk seven miles, or more, in August, when the sun is burning the grass, and it hasn’t rained in weeks, and you can see the heat coming off the asphalt streets, and the humidity is so high you feel like you could cut the air with a knife.

Yeah.

It hurts.

But I have to walk.

It’s walk. Or go insane.

You have no idea. You really have no idea. The price I pay. Every day. To live in a world I never made.

How Can I Explain?

I sit here, on this Sunday night, barely noticing the closing ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Olympics, my mind filled with endless questions, endless ideas, and a single, staggering truth.

I’ve wanted to jump for joy, laugh, run around like a little boy, and tell everyone what I’ve figured out. But I haven’t. And I won’t. For I have learned other truths. One of which prevents me from telling what I’ve learned. “No matter how many times I explain it. No matter how many words I use. No matter how many pictures I draw. No one that does not already know will ever understand.”

People believe what they decide to believe. It’s a harsh truth. Not a universal truth. I’m not sure any longer there is such a thing as a universal truth. Except perhaps for one. All things end. But I digress. People do, in fact, decide what they believe.

I find it disturbing how many people have decided, and believe, that the things of the world they do not like, do not understand, or fear, are the things that are wrong. Are the things that are sins. Are the things that are evil. It disturbs me to have learned this. It disturbs me to know I struggle with this truth in my life, my existence.

Perhaps it is natural to fear, distrust, and perhaps even hate, that which is unknown. Perhaps it is the unknown that reminds of us things in the corners of a room, in the dark, waiting to pounce on us. Perhaps these are the monsters under the bed. The demons in the closet. The devils in the dark.

I sit here tonight, wishing there were words I could say, words I could write, to capture the truth I’ve come to grasp today. I struggle with this, knowing I will never find a way. And even if I could, it would not matter. For the people I would share this with. The people most in need of hearing it. Of learning it. Would never understand.

They would, instead, relegate me to the ranks of the evil ones. The demons. The nightmares. The eradicated. The forgotten. The ignored. From that day forward, I would be the sad memory of the one that fell from grace.

I know this. For there are people I knew just a few short years ago, who view me this way. The sad story of the successful person, with the great career, that crashed and burned, and destroyed it all. It was such a sad thing for them to see.

The gulf between how I see things, how I believe, how I feel, and them, has grown with each day that has passed, until now, it exceeds the vastness of the space between the stars, and galaxies. I could no more talk with them than they could talk with me. Our words, worlds, and ways have fallen into parallel universes. Right next to each other. Unable to detect the others presence at all.

It saddens me to think of this. I would say to them, “It is only pain. It is only fear. It is only change. What are you afraid of? Why do you hide? Why do you run?” If there were some way I could.

There is not.

I write. You’ve doubtless noticed I write. It’s one of those things I’ve learned I must do. It’s part of me. Part of who I am. As a body breathes. As blood flows. As hearts beat. As children are born, grow old, and pass beyond the veil. I write. I can’t be any other way. The stories are endless. In my thoughts. My dreams. More than I can ever put on paper.

The stories never end.

I sit here tonight. Knowing I can never find a way to share the truth I’ve learned today. Knowing it would be pointless to even try. Knowing instead, all I can do is write. Stories. And perhaps. Maybe. Someone. Somewhere. Will be drawn by those words, by those tales, into a world they never knew was there.

And start their own journey to find the truths I seek. Knowing they could never explain them to anyone. For a very few would understand already. And the rest exist in a parallel universe. Right there. You can see them. They are real. But they rest an entire universe away.

How can I ever explain what can’t be explained? How can anyone?

Will Any Of Them Ever Wake Up?

I sat in a chair at the table in the corner of the room, and watched everyone else. Every now and then, I watched my hands. Sometimes, they shook, telling me, “Breathe, stupid. Just breathe.” I had a way of sometimes forgetting to breath properly. Started taking little, short, shallow breaths. One of the first steps along the path to a panic attack. At least I’d finally learned to recognize what was going on, and for the most part, I’d learned to respond appropriately. I seldom had an attack. Maybe one or two a year. Much better than the one or two a week I had at my worst.

After a few deep breaths, I found myself again, and smiled. Seems I was always right there. Just a breath or two away.

Once more, I watched everyone else.

It was sad, really. To watch them. Oh, I didn’t cry about it. There was a time I did. But that’s behind me now. I’ve faced the truth I found. I’ve accepted it. I know there’s nothing I can do about it. Except watch. At one time, I would have tried to intervene. And I would have been psychologically assaulted for having tried. I had been. What does it mean when you can’t count the number of times something’s happened? Hope springs eternal my ass. Hope keeps you beating your head against a concrete lined, cinder block wall in the mistaken belief you can eventually punch through it, as you slowly pound your noggin into a bloody pulp.

I’d learned. I could stop the oceans tides before I could stop them. So, I went into my observation mode. Like a scientist. Observing the behavior of others, and cold bloodedly recording it for future generations. I watched.

The group ten feet away. Mary, Helen, Wendy, Doug, Fred, Scott and Ted. Always friends. Always socializing as a group. Always telling stories about their kids, their work, their church. And always, at these holiday parties, acting like sponges trying to sop up all the alcoholic beverages they could get their hands on. I knew. If you asked them why, they’d all say the same thing. “Because we’re just blowing off steam, and having some fun!”

It was a lie. Every one of them knew it. They weren’t blowing off steam. They weren’t having fun. They were escaping. Running as fast, and as hard as they could to escape the traps their lives had turned into. Anyone could figure that out.

If you asked any of them how they felt at work, they’d tell you the same thing. “Fine.”

“How are you, this Monday morning, Mary?”

“Fine.” Then she’d smile, “And you?”

Fred’s son totaled the car one Sunday night. Fred showed up at work the next day. “How are you, Fred?”

“Fine.”

“How’s your son?”

“I haven’t killed him yet.”

“He didn’t get hurt, did he?”

“No. He’s fine. They checked him out at the hospital. He came home last night, a few hours after the wreck. He’s fine.”

And all the while, you know what he wanted to say. “I’m gonna turn that idiot’s butt black and blue, and he ain’t gonna be able to sit down for a month!”

Lies. Lies, and more lies. It’s what people did. They lied. About everything. To everyone. Even to themselves.

I looked at the dance floor. The usual couples were there. Mike and his wife. Jill and her husband. Tommy and his fiancé. Dancing their legs off. Ever watch people do that? “Play another song! Play another song!” They’d dance until they couldn’t breathe, and sweat was pouring off them. Then, they’d go sit down, have a drink (usually wine, or beer, sometimes something with a little more kick to it), and after a few minutes, they’d march back out there. “Play another song!” And the cycle would repeat endlessly.

Ask, “Why do you dance so much?”

They all answer the same. “We’re just having some fun! It’s fun! We’re blowing off steam. We’re relaxing. Try it!”

It’s the same lie. Again. I sat there, in the corner, at the table, watching them dance themselves to exhaustion. Knowing they couldn’t dance themselves to oblivion. Knowing they’d wake up the next day, and tell themselves how stupid they’d been.

Hell, Tommy would be so dead on his feet, even if he wanted to he wouldn’t be able to screw his girl. They’d probably pass out fully dressed, and wake up the next morning, and go, “Oh, God! Why did you turn on the sun!”

Because they never faced the truth. They all knew the truth. But they never spoke of it.

Every one of them hated their jobs. Hated their lives. Hated the same schedule every week. The same work every day. Ted said it once, trying to explain things to me. “I hate it. I’d rather be anywhere else. But, it’s got to be done.”

No, Ted. It doesn’t. The world will not end if you don’t edit that fucking document. You might get fired. You might have to look for another job. But the world will not end. So, it does NOT have to be done.

He never spoke the truth. “If I don’t edit the document. If I don’t do the work. I’ll lose my job. And I don’t want to lose my job. It would be a bitch of a problem for me. It would cause my family a lot of problems. The wife would be angry with me. We’d have to eat in a lot while I hunted another job. I’d lose my medical benefits. My insurance. Everything.”

That was the truth.

“I’m an economic slave. An indentured servant. I’ll do what I’m told to do, so the world doesn’t beat me senseless, and make my life a living hell.”

That was the truth.

And that was why they were all at the party that night. And why they were drinking everything in sight. And dancing until they collapsed. And telling stories about their kids. They were escaping. Running. Fleeing the truth.

That not one of them was happy.

I sat. In the corner. At the table. And watched.

It was sad. Really. There was a time it would have broken my heart. But, after seeing it happen every day. After living with that truth, every day. My heart’s gone numb. And I don’t care any more. I just watch. And shake my head. And wonder.

Will any of them ever wake up?

#5SF : Flame

The old man explained why so many people stop growing, never becoming who they truly are, who they are to become. “They see the flame ahead of them, consuming everything. They turn, and walk away, afraid of any hurt, any pain. They don’t understand what every artist, writer, painter, and creator knows. To see the truth of life, you must first walk through the fire, where the lies you’ve learned turn to ash, and your heart and soul become purified, and tempered, by the flame.”


Here’s my weekly attempt at Lillie McFerrin‘s flash fiction challenge, Five Sentence Fiction. This week, the prompt is Flame.

Please, go read all the other entries to this week’s Five Sentence Fiction. It’s amazing what creative people can do with just five sentences.

How Can I Trust You?

I took a walk today.
Through the flowers.
And the trees.
Through the garden
Filled with roses.
By the side of the canal.
Through the Camellia trees.
By the duck pond
With the fountain in it.

As I walked
I remembered.
Lies.
Oh, so many lies.
That I’ve heard
All my life.

Things no one talks about.
Because no one doubts.
No one questions.
No one wants to.

I remember all the years
I stayed indoors
In December.
Because it was cold.
And everybody knows
Nothing grows this time of year.
Nothing at all.

The leaves have fallen
Off the trees.
The flowers have all died off.
Bulbs hiding
Underground.
Beneath the frost.
Safe from the cold.
The birds are gone.
They all flew south.
In their annual migration.

All that’s left are evergreens.
Pine trees.
Holly trees.
Juniper bushes.
The other trees are bare.
No leaves of any kind.
They look like skeletons.
Or those line drawings
We all made as children.

And all the grass is dormant.
Or dead.
Unchanging,
Or shades of brown.

It’s the time of year
When nothing’s outside.
That’s what I was always told.
That’s what the behavior
Of everyone I knew
Taught me was the truth.

Now…

Now I know
It was a lie.
Because for the third December
In a row.
I’ve got pictures.
Of flowers.
In bloom.

Strawberry trees.
Camellias.
Pansies.
Even daisies.
And roses.

I took a walk today.
Through the gardens.
And I saw.
With my own eyes.
The truth.

Just one of many truths
I’ve come across
In the past 2 years
And 2 months.

I’ve learned success
Is not what you do.
How much you make.
The things you have.
The trinkets,
And the toys.

It’s not how you dress.
How you cut your hair.
That you shave your face
Every day.
Even on vacation.

It’s not what you drive.
Not an Audi.
Not a Porsche.
A Benze or BMW.
It’s not a truck.
Or an SUV.
Or that hybrid
You’re so proud of.
“I’m doing my part
To save the environment,
I’m being green!”

Yeah, right.

It’s not that house you live in.
With the two car garage.
And more bedrooms
That there are people
Living there.

It’s not all the things
You have in your kitchen.
So that you can push a button
And make dinner.

It’s none of those things.
None of them at all.

It’s friends.
People you can trust.
That in turn
Trust you.

People you care about.
People you love.
People that matter
More than all the things
There are on this Earth.
People that feel that way
About you.

I know this the truth.
I used to have a job like that.
One where people said,
“I want a job
Like you’ve got.”

If only they knew.
If only they knew.

I lost that job.
Until that job
Got rid of me.
And the funny thing is
I’m happier today
That I’ve been in 3 decades.
All the years I held that job.
That slowly,
Painfully
Ate my life away.

I have more people
I can talk with.
That I ever had before.
When I was the definition
Of success.
In the corporate world.

So many things I thought I knew.
Things I’d learned
From years of watching
How people behave.

I’ve learned they were flat wrong.
I’ve learned so many things
People accept as true
Are lies.
Are false.
They don’t exist at all.

But most of all
I’ve learned
So many of the people
I once knew.
So many of the people
I encounter ever day
Even now.

Don’t know.
They quietly live
Within the framework
Of the truths
I’ve learned are lies.

And never once
Dare question
If those lies are true.

For the grandest lie of all
Is the one I keep running into.
Time and time again.
The one they follow
Without knowing they do.

That is safer
To stay within the rules.
That to question anything
At all.

And after all the things I’ve learned
Are lies.
That your social world
Your corporate world,
Your material world,
Wants me to believe are true.

How can I trust you.
When you never question
Anything
At
All.

What are you afraid of?
No.
Really.
What are you afraid of?

The truth?