#VisDare 131 : Insight

I learned she hadn’t told me everything the first time I visited a dome. It had take me so long to squeeze through the crack in the wall of the dome I’d left, but the wall of the dome I visited was paper thin. In one step, I was inside.

The inside was filled with neat houses, arranged along streets. Well kept lawns, flowerbeds, big cars and trucks in all the driveways. All the people dressed similarly, had similar haircuts, and similar behavior. It was like where I’d come from.

But the dome’s wall was covered with black, painted letters. The way the people in that dome felt about everything they hated, or didn’t understand, or were afraid of, was painted on the wall of the dome.

It was an insight I didn’t want.

I went back outside, where it was safe, beautiful, and those hatreds and fears were gone.

150 Words
@LurchMunster


Part 11 of a story I’m writing for Angela Goff’s Visual Dare. Please read the other entries in this week’s Visual Dare challenge. Be amazed at the magic people can put into 150 words or less.

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.

Angels And Demons : Shoot It!

Mitchell pulled his gun, pointed it at Greg, and shot him. He pulled the trigger twice, and Greg fell. Then, Mitchell walked up to Greg, where he laid, bleeding on the asphalt parking lot, pointed his gun at Greg’s head, and pulled the trigger eight more times, emptying his G26’s cartridge.

Greg was dead.

Mitchell pulled the spent clip from his gun, shoved it in one of his big pants pockets, reached into another pocket, and pulled out another clip, fully loaded with another ten rounds. He didn’t behave like he’d killed another human being. He behaved like he’d made the world a safer place.

Fear and Hatred lurked in the shadows cast by parked cars to either side of Mitchell. Both smiled, delighted with the progress they’d made with Mitchell. Such strong emotions. Fear spoke to Hatred, “We could use many more like him.”

“Indeed.” Hatred relished every drop of hatred pouring off Mitchell. “I like the way he never questions what he’s done.”

“Indeed.” Fear laughed. “He’s so afraid of anything he doesn’t understand.”

“Living in a little box of life.” Hatred took another moment to drink in more of Mitchell’s rage. More of his raw hatred. “It’s so easy to get them to kill each other, isn’t it?”

“That’s what makes it so fun.” Fear poked Hatred in the ribs. “Whisper the things they want to hear in their ears, and they’ll do anything you want them too.”

Mitchell held his gun at the ready, and waited. The other one would be arriving soon. He’d kill it too. Making the world another touch safer. Another step cleaner. Another step more Holy. Bringing everyone another step closer to God.

He didn’t like being in the parking lot at Wal-Mart. But, that’s where these evil creatures were. And as long as they existed, no one was safe.

Fear inhaled the fear and hatred filling the air. “Can’t wait to see him off the other one.”

Hatred stepped behind Mitchell’s ear, “It’ll be here any minute now. Another homo. Another fag. Another of those creatures contaminating the human race.”

Mitchell paced in little circles, always watching the door, waiting for the other half of the evil couple to appear, so he could kill it too. Shoot it, and then go up to it, and make sure it was dead.

With the two homos gone, the world would be a better place.

“To think,” Fear took his place behind Mitchell, “All it took was a little whisper in his ear.” Fear leaned forward and whispered in Mitchell’s ear, “Perhaps you should shoot this ones balls off. I mean. it’s not like it needs them.”

Mitchell nodded his head, slowly. “I know. I’ll shot this ones nuts off. It’s doesn’t deserve to have them.”

Greg’s partner came out of the store, carrying a bag of groceries in each hand. He had eggs, pancake mix, sausage, and milk in one bag. Breakfast for the next few days for the two of them. The other bag had sliced ham, turkey, cheese (two kinds), and a loaf of wheat bread. Sandwiches for lunch. He always packed a lunch for Greg. A sandwich, a diet soda, and a bag of chips.

Greg loved ham and swiss.

As he got closer to the car, he noticed a strange man standing beside it. He wondered who the man could be. He’d left Greg in the car, so it was likely the man was talking with Greg. He picked up his pace, to go rescue his love from the stranger.

He didn’t see Greg until he got to the car. He dropped his groceries. Greg was dead. His head all but destroyed. His blood all over the pavement. He gasped, his hands pressing against his cheeks, “Greg!” he cried out.

Mitchell shot him. Twice. In the chest. When he fell, Mitchell walked up to him, stood over him, and shot him two more time, in the head. Then, he for the man’s crotch, and emptied the last six rounds of the cartridge into it.

Hatred gleefully bounced up and down, “Oh, that was a good twist!”

“Yes, it was! Yes it was!”

The demons bathed in the hatred and fear gushing from Mitchells heart and soul. The man hated things like those two had been. He hated them passionately. “We should just kill them all.”

He never batted an eye as he walked away. And that night, he slept peacefully, and soundly. Without a worry in the world.

Fear whispered in his ear all night, “There are more things like them out there. Perhaps you should hunt them all down.”

Hatred whispered in his other ear. “Faggots. Homos. They’ll destroy us all. Unless we kill them first.”

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.

#ThursThreads Week 82 : That Wasn’t Really The Worst Part

“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. “Yes.”

“A normal person would have gone back to work by now.”

I shook my head. “I’m not normal. You know that.”

“But you had a good job. You were successful. You were part of society.”

I knew she felt I’d come apart. Collapsed. Fallen to pieces. What happened to me made her sad. 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 another job. Don’t let your skills go to waste.” 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. “It’s like you’ve given up.”

I wanted to 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.

“I will.”

“When?”

“When I find what I’m looking for.”

240 Words
@LurchMunster


I wrote this for Siobhan Muir‘s #ThursThreads, Week 82. Please go read all the entries in this week’s #ThursThreads. They are good reading.

#MWBB 24 : You Know I’m No Good

She was just one of an endless string of people in my life who never understood why I did what I did. Another in an endless string of people I wounded, disturbed, and left in confusion, tears and pain. That’s who I am. I’m no good.

She asked me on that Sunday in November, “Why? Why did you un-friend everyone from the church?” I’d expected her to ask. And I knew she’d never understand, never figure it out. Just like I knew I could explain what I’d done a million times, and she still wouldn’t understand.

But I tried to explain anyway. I’m stupid that way. Or, perhaps, I’m optimistic that way. Yeah. I’m a stupid optimist. That works.

“I didn’t leave because I don’t like them.”

“Then why did you leave?”

“To protect them.”

“To protect them? Protect them from what?”

“Me.”

I knew what was coming. I knew what would happen. The same thing that always happened. I’d learn to live a lie, behaving as expected in the group, so no one would be disturbed, or upset, by me. That’s how I cope with people. I figure out what they want me to become, how they want me to behave, and I become that. Because that makes them happy. That shuts them up. That gets them to leave me alone, and not say to me, endlessly, “But, you can’t be that way!” I would rip my heart and soul to ribbons to blend in, and keep them safe.

And if I decided to not blend in, behaved as me, who I really am, to say what I believe, live like I believe, well. That would leave everyone in her church asking, “What’s wrong with him?” and “Doesn’t he know he can’t be like that?” and “Doesn’t he know that’s wrong?”

They’d have never accepted my writing, especially when I wrote anything explicit. Men and women having sex is something church people don’t write about. Especially when they’re exploring different aspects of sex, trying things out. That’s disturbing and disruptive to them. Besides, that’s something church people just don’t do, and don’t condone, or accept in others. So, just by exploring things to write, I’d have wound up at odds with every person in her church.

I’d shut down my writing before. I gave my word to God, to life, I wouldn’t shut it down again.

Then there were the people I talked to, associated with, on the Internet. Gay rights supporters. Openly homosexual people, bisexual people, transsexual people. People of different races, colors, creeds, religions. Even self-proclaimed witches, pagans, and atheists. I could certainly talk to such people and not hear about it in church, not be criticized in church, not be told, “We’ll pray for you.”

I tried. I did. I tried to explain everything. Why I left. Why I put myself out of the reach of the people of her church. But she never understood. All she said was what I knew she would say.

“You can’t be that way.”

She never understood I am that way, and can’t be any other way. She never understood I’m broken, and no good. And now, she’s one of the endless list of people I’ve hurt, and left wounded, in my life. A list that grows, endlessly. Because no matter how I try, I can’t explain to anyone why I do what I do, why I am how I am. No one ever understands.

And I can’t live that lie of blending in any more. I can’t tear my heart to ribbons, or crucify my soul. I tried that for three decades. That blending in, and being safe, nearly killed me. Oh, I know. People tell me, “There was nothing wrong with you. You just had your through processes screwed up, that’s all.” They literally can’t understand, my thought processes aren’t screwed up. They’re different.

I’m different.

And in their world, I’m broken. And no good.

660 Words
@LurchMunster


My entry, in all its unedited glory, for week 24 of Jeff Tsuruoka‘s Mid-Week Blues-Buster flash fiction challenge. Please, go read the other entries in the challenge.

#VisDare 30 : Basking

“Have you learned?” Alice’s voice drifted up to me.

I shook my head. She went back to the old man’s home to wait.

The old man said I had to strip everything away to learn, then ordered me to sit on the head of the lion, until I learned.

He told Alice, “He gets nothing. No food. No water. Nothing.”

The old man had said, “Sit”. So I sat. Through two sunsets, and two sunrises. At first, sitting on that giant bronze head hurt. But after a few hours everything went numb.

At moonrise on the third night, I learned. I heard the cats. I saw what they saw. The same for the birds, dogs, mice, rats, foxes, wolves and squirrels. I heard, and saw, everything.

At sunrise, an eagle landed on my shoulder. “Now, you understand,” It was my brothers, the eagles who helped me down.

147 Words
@LurchMunster


This is part 22 in the continuing story I’m working on for Angela Goff’s Visual Dare. Please read the other entries in this week’s Visual Dare challenge.

Boston Joins The List

It’s Monday night. 15 April 2013. A day that will be recorded in history. At least until people forget about it. Which they will. Time seems to do that. It makes people forget. And more time makes them forget more.

Remember these?

Sandy Hook Elementary School – 14 December 2012
Clackamas Town Center, Oregon – 11 December 2012
Accent Signage Systems in Minneapolis, Minnesota – 27 September 2012
Oak Creek, Wisconsin – 05 August 2012
Aurora, Colorado – 20 July 2012
Cafe Racer Espresso in Seattle, Washington – 29 May 2012
Tulsa, Oklahoma – 06 April 2012

These all made national headlines in the past 12 months. Do you remember them all? Really? Honestly? Do you? I know I didn’t. I had to look them up. As I read about them, I remembered them.

People tell me I’m cold hearted. Heartless. I’m not. I named my blog “My Soul’s Tears” for a reason. I’ve learned, the more awake I become. The more aware I become. The more I learn. The more I grow. The more sorrow, sadness, and pain I see all around me.

What happens when you get up in the morning and get ready for work? Do you look forward to going to work? Or is work something you put up with, something you endure, to get the paycheck, so you can survive in the world? Do you like your work? Or do you wish you could be anywhere else, doing anything else?

I take walks. Several a week. Sometimes, I walk at the Botanical Gardens. I love to walk through the flowers, and the trees, when they are blooming. Have you seen an ocean of Camellia trees in full bloom? Reds, pinks, whites, and variegated? Did you know they bloom as early as December? I know these things. I’ve learned them. And sometimes, as I walk through the Camellias, I cry. I can’t help it. I cry for the people I have known in life. The people I have met in life, that never took the time to walk through the Camellia trees in January, and marvel at their beauty. That never looked at a thousand different Camellia blossoms, and found them all perfect. That never spent three hours outside, in freezing weather, taking pictures of those blooms. Hundreds of pictures.

My soul cries tears for them. For I know they do not understand the priceless gift those Camellia trees and their blooms are. They’ve forgotten. They have other priorities. They have their work. Their families. Their houses. Their social lives. Their churches. Their nights out. Their workouts. The list is endless. And when they do look, they’re on a schedule. “I’ve got half an hour to walk through here. Then I have other things to do.”

Sometimes, I walk down the East or the West dike at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. It’s 4.6 miles from the Back Bay Visitors Center to the False Cape State Park Visitor’s Center. The only way to False Cape is through Back Bay, or down Back Bay’s beach. To walk the False Cape, and back, is just over 9 miles. I make that walk several times a year.

And sometimes, on that walk, I cry. And my heart aches. Because I remember people I know, people I’ve known, that will never make that walk. That learn the walk is miles and miles long, and they think I’m crazy for even trying to make that walk.

These people will never see the cottonmouth snakes crossing the trail at the end of the West Dike. They’ll never see the ospreys flying over the waters of the sound, searching for fish in the water. They’ll never see the banded Kingfishers zipping along just over the water, suddenly plunging in. They’ll never see the turtles, baking in the sun on the shores of the dike. They’ll never see the Blue Teals feeding in the waterways of the refuge. They’ll never see the deer walk right across the trail, so close you can see their whiskers, and the little spots on their sides. So close you could almost reach out and touch them. They’ll never sit on the ground, scant feet from wild rabbits, and watch those rabbits eating the wild grasses, and flowers.

They’ll never take the time. And if they ever do, they’ll make the trip inside the tourist tram, with a guy on a speaker saying, “And to your left, if we’re lucky, we might see some Blue Teals.”

I know how priceless these gifts from life are. I have taken the time to see the wildflowers bloom. To see the bare branches and limbs of Magnolia trees fill with pink, white, or gold blossoms. I’ve seen baren cherry trees fill with pink and white, then turn green as the pink and white blooms fall away. I’ve seen Rhododendron trees covered with oceans of flowers, in blue, purple, pink, red, and white.

I’ve watched squirrels eating nuts, and pine cones. I’ve watched robins probing the ground in search of food. I’ve seen cormorants diving underwater to chase fish. I’ve seen fish spawning. I’ve seen ducklings, all solid fluffy yellow, and watched them grow, becoming full grown Mallards.

And as I’ve watched these things, I’ve sometimes cried, my heart aching in my chest, and my soul screaming at God, “Why? Why can’t they see these things?”

I wonder why no one’s afraid of getting in their car, and driving to work, or the the store, or to school. I wonder why no one’s afraid of walking through the shopping mall. Why no one ever fears walking around at a big event, like the Neptune Festival, or the Azalea Festival, or Harbor Fest, where there are oceans of people, and no one knows if someone in that crowd is going to pull out a gun and start shooting, or pull out a knife and start hacking and slashing.

And I wonder why these same people can’t ever be alone. Can’t ever be somewhere quiet. Can’t sit on the sand by the ocean, and watch the sun come up, unless someone is with them. Unless they have a hand to hold.

And I wonder why so many people scream, or cry, or become outraged, or become afraid and seal themselves in their homes for a while, when something like today happens. When the news shows explosions on crowded city streets, where people get hurt, and even die.

And I don’t understand at all why something that happens every day gets ignored, while something that’s rare becomes terrifying. Do they even understand how many people die behind the wheel of a car every day? How many people collapse of exhaustion, or heart attack, or stroke, at work, every day? How many people go to bed at night, wondering if they’ll wake up tomorrow? How many people go to bed at night, wondering if they’ll find something to eat tomorrow?

I don’t understand people.

I just don’t understand people at all.

And every time something like today happens, I realize just how much I don’t understand the way the people around me are.

And my heart aches.

And my soul cries tears of pain.

For I know it won’t be long before everyone forgets. And I know it won’t be long before something like this happens again. And I’ll wonder, just as I do know, how long it will take for this world to change.

And I am afraid, sometimes, that it never will.

So on this Monday night, 15 April 2013, I try not to say anything. And let the world be the way it is. Knowing the hurt I feel, the tears my soul cries, are temporary things. And with time, they will fade away, just like the memory of today.

Isn’t that how life is anyway?

#5SF : Conquer

You Americans. Don’t you know life is not a conquest? You do not conquer your emotions, anger, fear, rage, hatred. You do not subdue them without crushing your own heart and soul. Instead, you learn to understand them, to live with them, to accept they are part of life, to used them appropriately, correctly, and to never be afraid of them.


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

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.

I Don’t Know At All If I Can

The card came in the mail yesterday.
A sympathy card.
From her.
One of my favorite cousins.
Expressing her sympathy
For me, and my family,
With the passing of my Mother.

It was a beautiful gesture.
Totally unexpected.
There was a picture inside.
Of her and her spouse.
Never met him.
But he looked OK
In the picture.

I found myself looking
Up at God.
“She better be happy with him.
He better be taking care of her.
He better not be
Like that first guy was.
You got that, Lord.
She deserves to be happy.”

And then I saw
The handwritten words
Addressed just to me.

“It has been a long time.
If you can give your cousin a call.”
And then she wrote her number down.

And I don’t have a clue at all
What to do.
Not one clue.

I hear so many voices
They could fill the Roman Coliseum,
Screaming at me,
“Pick up the phone,
You ding-bat!
Give her a call!”

And I want to.
Oh, God,
Do I want to.

But…

How?
What do I say?
How do I say it?
Whatever it is?

I called a friend in February
Of 2011.
Wound up calling her a lot.
She was wounded.
And lonely.
And so very ill.

I’d call her up,
And I’d listen to her voice.
I’d listen for as long
As she wished to talk.
And I’d almost never say a word
Myself.

People just don’t realize
How hard it is
For me to talk.
They just don’t know at all.

Hell,
I’ve known my lady 35 years.
And there are still times
I just can’t say a thing.
Times no words come out.
When I talk with her.

It’s another way I’m wired
A little differently.

I remember meeting Deb.
Face to face on Mother’s Day
In 2001.

The only time I’ve seen her
In real life.
I’ve seen her picture many times.
But we’ve only met
That one time.

You know what she said to me
When she got home
From the trip her and Scott were on?

“I was sitting right there,
At the table.
Just across from you.
And you didn’t say a word.
You didn’t say anything.
Anything at all.”

She told me how disappointed
She had been.
That I hadn’t spoken with her.
Hadn’t talked.
And she was right there.
Right there.
She could have held my hand.
We could have shared stories.
We could have talked.
Like people talk.
Like friends.

And I sat there.
Damn near silent.

I would have loved to talk with her.
Tell her how beautiful she was.
Tell her how the pictures I’d seen
Were pale imitations of her.

Tell her stories of the kids.
Listen to stories of her kids.

And I couldn’t.
I couldn’t find the words.
I couldn’t find a way.
I couldn’t.

I just sat there.
And listened.

And now,
My cousin has asked me
To give her a call.

And oh, how much I want to.
You will never know.
You will never understand.

And I don’t know at all
If I can.

I don’t know at all
If I can.