Glass Orb

If you gaze into a solid glass orb, you’ll notice that the whole world appears upside down.  It’s disorienting, confusing, and in the palm of your hand it’s even sort of fun. But if you wake one day and everything appears to be that way, as though instead of gazing into that glass orb you are trapped inside staring out at everything you knew, only it’s all upside down, turned around and backwards. All the things you thought to be true and real are now all wrong, something changed and what once was is now no longer.

You ever feel like you go to the kitchen and everything you try and pick up spills or tips and you can’t seem to hold onto anything right. Or maybe nothing is where you normally set it, your keys aren’t on the table by the door, or on the hook in the hall but instead are in the dining room, or your shoes are in the living room and not by the door to the garage, as though you suddenly forgot where everything is?

Maybe you begin to doubt your reality, maybe everyone else’s reality seems different than yours, when did things change, how did they change? Why? The very words you use are no longer appropriate, relationships change and you feel like you must have been asleep for months or years or you woke up in some reflection of your own life accept that everything is just the opposite of what it was. It makes no sense and you can’t quite wrap your head round it, one day you knew how things worked and the next it’s like you totally forgot and all you can do is stand there like you don’t speak the language and nothing makes any sense and everyone else looks at you with different eyes, you run to the bathroom to look in the mirror to check and you see the same person you’ve seen all along.

It feels like a nightmare that never ends, it just keeps rolling on and tortures your mind, wrenches at your soul and tears at your heart, day after day, week after week, year after year and it’s no longer your keys that are missing, but it’s your children, one by one they suddenly look at you as though you’re the devil and they just disappear without a word, they walk away and you can’t seem to catch up to them as though your legs don’t work any longer and eventually you lose sight of them and they’re just gone.

Its like a scar or a tattoo in the end, one you didn’t want, and you can’t shake it because it’s always there, when you wake up, when you go to bed. When every holiday comes round, or you smell a smell that reminds you of the days when you sat on the couch with your young child propped up on your lap, and you’d lean in and close your eyes and breathe in the aroma of innocence and trust, with your lips pressed against their soft, silky hair.

It’s like the absence of light on a sunny day, it doesn’t make sense, and its always cold, a cold that’s forever there, just under the surface.

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The Pain in His Eyes

I could see it in his eyes, there was a deep seeded pain there, one that was planted under fire, when the world had gone dark and thoughts of home and green grass and Sunday dinner had faded from faint memories to fantasy.

His hands were calloused and so was his gaze. If he looked at you it was circumstantial, he wasn’t really focused on you but something far off in the distance behind you. There was a darkness shrouding him, he seemed uncomfortable in his skin, like a tag on a shirt that wouldn’t stop itching your neck, something bothered him, something that continued to hurt and wouldn’t go away.

Sometimes as we talked, he would disappear, I don’t mean from sight, physically, but he would drift off, into the shadows of a place only he understands, a place the hurt welcomes him, comforts him. It’s a place he has grown to feel more comfortable than in the lighter places where people expect things from him, where they want to know what it’s like and how he feels.

What would you know, how could he explain? You stand there wanting him to speak, wanting to punish him for things he’s done, as though he hasn’t been punished enough.

Just when you think you understand him, he says something that makes no sense and you laugh, and he laughs, and you both stand there looking at each other like you’ve lost your way and don’t know where to go. In that silence you can feel his anxiety, it’s palpable, it’s tainted with shame and mistrust.

So, as you stand there, the silence quickly becomes awkward, uncomfortable, and as you peer out of the corner of your eyes at him his gaze has turned downward, his scarred and tangled fingers move against each other, rubbing, searching for something in his hands and he closes his eyes tightly. For a moment you can almost hear the wretched screams inside his head.

You want to touch him, hold him, comfort him, but you can’t hold a reflection, that’s when you clear away the fog and realize its you in the mirror you’ve been talking to, and it scares you.

You attempt to take a deep breath and then get dressed, and think about those fantasies, thoughts of home, green grass and Sunday dinners.

Caden

Her laughter is genuine, not faked or pretentious. It echoes throughout the hospital room, bouncing off the sterile walls and tiled floor.  I imagine she would too if not for the IV or the wires and cords hanging from her as if to hold her down.

Her hair is matted and stuck to the side of her temples, shaved just above her brow, despite this a smile stretches across her young tender face when I see her, she pulls the thin hospital blanket up over her chest, sorta snuggles in a little, her small sock feet tapping against each other out the other end of the blanket.

A brain tumor they said. I suppose it explains a few things in her overly whimsical behavior. My mind races to understand the misfortune, which resonates in the pained faces of her parents and her older sister. She is my niece, she is funny, she is smart, she is beautiful and she is struggling for control against a dark and looming force, one that threatens to rob her of her, of her strength and that light in her eye that shines and sparkles like an early morning sun on the ripples of a lake.

It is unfair, it is unfortunate and it is hurtful to all those around her as well, it is a war only she can fight, from the inside. The rest of us can only attempt to comfort her and do what we can from behind enemy lines. We can see only the fragments of the pain through the growing darkness in her eyes.

That was twelve months ago, the doctors did what they could with what they knew, and now the beast is back, it showed itself in the scans of her brain, in sterile black and white images, new growth where it had once been erased, echoes of the pain felt the first time run through our minds and seem to pierce through the walls of our hearts as we try to reel in the madness and portray a strong front against the uninvited beast.

And as she smiles her unpretentious smile, we fear the thoughts running through her delicate mind, wanting to hold snugly her small, young frame to protect it, to protect her, to ward off the darkness from her heart, from her undeserved burden.

The Rain

He looked out over the parking lot through the windshield in his car. All was silent but for the heavy rain drops that pelted the sunroof above his head. He could hear his breathing, shallow, quick, stuttered. He kept trying to count the rain drops as a way of attempting to derail his thoughts, thoughts that took him down a path he knew well but didn’t want to go. In the middle of the lot there was a light, a tall, rusty steel lamp post atop a large round concrete footing. He watched as some guy walked across the lot to the lamp post, he stopped facing the post, and  just stood there looking at it, he couldn’t see the guys face, just him from behind as his jacket turned a much darker shade of its natural color as it became saturated from the freezing rain.

He sat in his car watching this person, his windshield wipers squeaked across the glass, leaving a small streak at eye level so he had to hunch to see this figure that just stood there. He couldn’t see his face but he could see plumes of the figures breath waft away and get broken up by the now driving rain. He opened his car window a crack and tried to yell at the person standing there, tried to get his attention to no avail. As he sat there in his warm car he thought, he thought about the woman he loves, about how he can’t have her, how he can’t give her what she wants, how he feels like such an idiot for taking things so far with her, knowing deep down inside there no finish line there.

He’s embarrassed and begins to cry. His stomach hurts, his mind seems tortured, his heart aches, imagines himself tearing open his chest just to pull out his heart and throwing it out the car window into the puddle there to keep it from hurting, he imagines watching it as it tries to beat but without a blood supply its color and movement begin to wane and the puddle grows deeper and swallows it. Now he feels nothing, the pain is gone and he is so lonely, in some attempt to reach out and feel he yells out again at the person in the rain. But the person doesn’t seem to hear him.

He got out of his car, looked around the lot, it was cloudy dark, he glanced down at his Bush Nuns which were soaked, half submerged in the puddle next to his still, faded heart. He pulled his collar up close to his chin and walked forward towards this figure in the rain, what would he say to this person, why is this person standing there and what is he or she doing? As he approached the person he began to feel afraid, something was telling him to stop, to turn back but he couldn’t just walk away, what if this person needed help. So he continued, the rain was driving sideways now and his face was dripping and he had to turn his head slightly to keep the rain out of his eyes.

Something about this person was recognizable, he paused just behind them, then spoke softly…”heh are you ok, do you need help, are you lost…did you love her too?” and suddenly the person turned, he knew this person, it was unmistakable, the black framed glasses, the empty look in his eyes staring back at him, all of sudden the rain just stopped, drops hung in the air all around them, there was no other noise but one of them breathing heavily, then abruptly he could hear what sounded like a roaring fire, he couldn’t see anything but the sound was unmistakable, the crackling of burning timber, the low rumble of billowing  smoke.

He looked down at his pants and saw they were completely soaked, he was shivering, he could hear his own teeth clattering against themselves, and when he turned round again to see the figure he was gone, and he facing the lamp post, alone, then something from deep inside of him, controlled him and before he realized what had happened he’d flung out his fisted hand and struck the lamp post hard. Pain shot through his hand, travelled up his arm and into his chest, it felt so good, so warm and real. He breathed deeply, closed his eyes and tilted his head back and allowed the rain to fall upon his face, blood dripped from his knuckles onto the flooded pavement and washed away.

He opened his mouth and let out a yell, a carnal, desperate yell, until the water filled his throat and his mouth drowning out his voice, it spilled from the corners of his lips and down over his ears. Then he fell backwards, all the sound came rushing back and when he hit the ground there was no pain, only water, spilling over his entire body, enveloping him as he sank below the surface of the icy water, when he opened his eyes he could see a light above him, maybe the sun, far above him, he floated just under the surface, he remained there for a long time.  He felt void of pain, desire, need and hope and he felt naked, free from the binds that usually restrain him, so he opened his mouth again to take a deep breath and found himself choking and gagging as he thrust himself upwards and vomited bath water over the side of his tub. He struggled to breathe as he pulled his body from the tub and onto the tile floor. He lay there as the shower continued to run, water rushing across the bathroom and out underneath the door. He lay exposed, cold, and vulnerable and began to weep.

Open Wounds

Open wounds

The drive home is a long one, slow goin’ and frustrating stuck in heavy traffic barely edging along. His eyes began to wander to trees along the side of the highway, there was a squirrel running the branches from tree to tree, making better time than he was in his old truck. It began to seem as though every time he stepped on the gas the car in front of him hit their brakes and gal in the car next to him was applying lipstick as though she was tracing a Rembrandt. Since his move he made this trek every day, lately just to get to a Park n Ride so he could wait around to catch a shuttle to his work. It was a study in stress management and futility.

Today however he kept thinking of his sweet little girl and his son lying on the couch when he got home. He’d get there, fix a snack and take his girl to softball practice, and then they might go home and play cards or have a fire in the back yard. It wouldn’t exactly be like old times, before the divorce but it’d suit him just fine; in fact he looked forward to it. There’s something special about a man hugging his son, hugs are beautiful anyway but there’s certain fragility about a shared hug between father and son. Ever since the divorce he’s felt like he was lost, like he was driving in a thick fog, everything was different now and he’d have to figure out new ways to operate, to make things work between his kids and him. It wouldn’t be easy and he knew it. But he had the most wonderful gal he’d met and fell in love with since the end of his marriage; some say it might have been too soon, some outright stated as much but what can you do when your heart begins to keep time with someone else’s, between the two of them they were right. They both needed mending and they shared some of the same scars and injuries’ from previous lives, they understood each other and knew they didn’t want to be apart.

How much hurt can one heart take, how many times can it be stopped before it fails to start again?

As he pulled around the corner in the rain he saw his son’s car idling in the street, he was just pulling away. He pulled up next to his car and rolled down the window, his son rolled his down and sheepishly looked away. “Hey where are you going bud?” he asked him. His son looked up through the rain and said that his mom told him and his sister to go home since their dad had to work and no one would be home all day with them. His sister had been picked up earlier and his son said that he was supposed to call his mom; he said he was sorry and that he had to go. He rolled up the window and pulled away as the rain poured in over his door. He sat there in the street, the rain seemed heavier and the clouds appeared to grow darker. It felt as though his heart just stopped. This was supposed to be the beginning of a full week with his kids, sure he had to work during the day, the kids were out of school for the summer and he just couldn’t take the vacation. But he planned on eating dinners with them, maybe some ice cream before bed, play a little Ping Pong or Rummy Five Hundred. Then he’d see his daughter to bed and kiss her goodnight. Back in the day he used to have breakfast with her before he’d leave for work, it was a special time for him and one he used to cherish.

But today he sat in his truck, and watched the tail lights of his son’s car fade away in the falling rain. Today there would be no hugs, no kisses. No snuggles. He tried to breathe but it felt as though his heart just laid there in the bottom of his chest. And loneliness crept in closely and took his hands, they began to feel swollen and warm as he spread mortar on the bricks at his feet, the bricks seem to get heavier every time this wall gets built he thought. And he struggled to get it done quickly, his mind was awash in a heavy dose of pity and when he heard his ex-wife’s voice on the phone telling him the kids needed a parent, not an empty house, that they needed someone to care for them and love them he reached for a big swig of rage, he swallowed it and it built inside of him like a blustery fall wind and exploded from his mouth, he threw the phone down, and cleared the counter of something else before storming out the house. He’d walk I the rain, letting it soak his clothes, and his face, he’d walk it off, pushing it back down where it belongs.

How much hurt can one heart take, how many times can it be stopped before it fails to start again? Before it finally just lays there at the bottom of the cage, feeling sorry for itself, bleeding from its re-opened wounds

 

 

Lost

How could she say no, he loved her and that’s why he gave her the pills, like he told her, if he didn’t care he wouldn’t spend his own hard earned money to buy her what she needs to get through her day. Now all she has to do is cook him and his kids, their kids’ dinner. He works so hard ya know, he was dealt a bad hand so he didn’t get a job making what he’s worth, but he found other ways to make money, and he couldn’t go to school because he wouldn’t be able to work and buy her pills. So when he came home from the bar and she questioned him about where he’d been and he lost his temper again and hit her, well it was her fault for being unfair and making him mad. That’s what she told the police anyway when they questioned her, and that’s when she turned to go to her room and ran into the edge of the door cutting her cheek.

So each day she washed his clothes, the kids clothes, cleaned the house, tried to study but after a while she knew it was unfair for her to take so much time away from his kids to study for some class he said she’d never be able to pass anyway, she wasn’t smart enough but he would take care of her…and like he said, he loved her.

There were parts of her day when she started to crash that she questioned whether or not she doing the right thing, there was a part of her that was struggling, a part somewhere inside of her that opposed him but that scared her and she kept it tucked away. That was dangerous thinking. And after a few years her relationship became one more recognizable as a caretaker than as a mother, she couldn’t play with them because she had to make them dinner, what kind of mother would deny her man and his kids dinner?

When the kids were fed and she’d washed the dishes he gave her what she needed, she swallowed them with some warm Pepsi and went off to her bedroom and sat, she waited with her eyes closed as her body began to slump and feel warmer, then her mind drifted off and she lay back on her bed and floated away to some place better. Some place where the sun shone upon her face, where the wind was sweet and she was free. Some place she could wander off to as he came in and stripped her clothes from her, used her, took advantage of her and then left her by herself afterwards to curl up in the corner and hold herself against the torment that came like a slow burning fire day after day. Night after night, and so on, and so on.

Eventually she was lost touch with the outside world, her support structure had been severed, she was manipulated and abused and her soul was in dire straits. When she saw or interacted with others it was through a sort of mask or body suit she wore that no one could see through to feel sorry for her. They didn’t know what was happening inside the dark, dangerous walls of her home, they didn’t know the rot that had infiltrated her body, her mind. Soon no one saw her and she knew it, she became lonely, not lonely like most people feel when they everyone leaves after the party but lonely like there is no one that knows how you feel, like no one understands the pain you feel, like when you find yourself inside of a nightmare and you try to scream aloud but nothing comes out, you have regressed inside of your own mind and lost your way.

On a sunny Sunday afternoon an aunt and uncle leaving the family cabin happened to pass her as she rolled up the driveway, they saw her, she looked into their eyes and smiled and they smiled back and waved as they drove on, they had someplace to be and couldn’t really stop to visit just then. They thought how she didn’t have the kids with her and she was alone but they’d get hold of her later on and check in with her then. So they continued on their way.

Three days later they called her husband because she wasn’t answering her cellphone. He told them how he was upset with her for just up and leaving her kids at home alone with no dinner, how he’d not heard from her either. They didn’t say anything then, not to him but they wondered about the cabin, maybe she finally ran away, no one in the family liked him, they all suspected that he wasn’t a good man. That was all, they were adults and could handle their own affairs.

So they drove to the cabin, there in the driveway was her car. It was cold and the keys were still in the ignition. They checked the cabin but it was empty, in fact the door was still locked from when they’d left, nothing had been disturbed, it appeared as though no one had even stepped inside. He stepped outside and called out to her, she stayed inside and made a few sandwiches, she probably went for a walk, and she’d be hungry when she came back. He began wandering around the cabin, there were a few trails off from the driveway and he thought he’d just wander a bit and see if he found any trace of her.

In a small clearing underneath a tall Poplar, he saw her from behind, she sat in the leaves, and he called to her. He stated that they’d been looking for her, that people were worried. He paused a few yards behind her because he felt sick in his stomach, he didn’t know why but he knew something was wrong. Then he saw her left hand, it lay palm up on the ground next to her hip, he didn’t need to go any further, next to her hand, in the grass, on top of some leaves was a gun. He saw the other side of her head and her hair was matted and darkened with blood.

What happens to a person when they get so lost, so lonely that there is no way out, that their lifeline cannot reach beyond the place within themselves, that dark place that becomes their only safe place? In what world does God allow a mother to go so adrift so as to go missing within themselves, to drown in such sadness that there is absolutely no other way out. And how do those around them not see her?

To my cousin, may she rest free.

Her Broken Cocoon

The sun, try as it may couldn’t get through the clouds on Saturday morning, so she lay in med, tucked under the covers, pulled up to her ear and tried to dream of warmer, sunnier days but the imagery was washed away by the pelting rain hitting the windows’ at the foot of her bed. The past week was dreary to say the least, no sun and too many clouds.

Leaving the house meant getting wet; normally this isn’t a huge issue, but day after day with no direct sunlight, no reprieve from the cold, barrage of precipitation makes it difficult to swallow. So she lay under her comforter attempting to fill her mind with thoughts of anything but negativity and her reach for any sort of respite was met with frustration and a growing darkness.

Eventually she slid from her broken cocoon, opened the shades and watched as rain drops rolled down the glass like unending tears.  Against the heaviness she tried to breathe in deeply but her lungs felt shallow. She stripped the bed and attempted to push back the impending sadness.

She opened the bedroom door and the house felt empty, lonely and quiet, the floors cold and walls a little too close. Even a glass of water couldn’t rinse away the feelings of melancholy.

She brushed her teeth and searched her reflection in the mirror for comfort but in her dark eyes she saw only gloom. She brushed her hair and even that felt annoying, she was losing the battle, the weight of so many things began to bury her from the floor up, impeding her step, slowing her climb from this wretched valley no light seemed to reach. And her only companions, hiding in the shadows beside her are all the things that scare her, that threaten her well-being, her strength and the warmth of her soul.

Now with her sight skewed, the fog of depression manipulating all around her, making it difficult to see a way out, she swallows hard, reaches in and pulls out from behind her a rope, a heavy, old rope and throws it as far as she can. Hoping for someone to see it, to pull back and find her before its too late. Before her tears make it too difficult to hang on and she loses her grip.

 

Falling Away

For years he walked against the wind, struggled against life’s gales, fighting for each step. He would turn his head from side to side straining to draw breath at times as he shielded his face from the stinging reach of his mistakes, and when the wind turned to a lesser breeze he’d look skyward for a light to show him the way, but all he found was reflections of shame.

He would sit down then, hunker in and wait for the storm to pass. Then when it did and he could stand and see around him all he saw was nothing, he couldn’t see into the future and he couldn’t see into his past, all there was, was nothing. He failed, failed to progress, failed to attain, he failed to be anything but present.

Like so many the present is unaccounted for, they wander between what came before and what happens next. Never knowing their fate, always looking for the solid, steady ground below their feet, which always seems to be there…until it isn’t.

When that moment comes and it always does, you have choices to make; you can surrender and fall away or reach out desperately and grab hold of the very edge and hang on. Then you fight, you fight with everything that’s left, you fight and claw and battle against gravity. You pull and struggle, and you as your fingers bleed and become cold and frozen and the feeling in your legs dissipates quickly you get angry and you spit as you cry out for a chance, just a little opportunity to show you have something left to give.

When you dig deep enough and you find that small flame buried somewhere in your soul you suck it in, and use it and crawl from that hole and roll over onto your back, exhausted, and weep. For you just learned that there is fight in you yet, that there is something worth saving and you love it and caress it and as you lay there contemplating the present, you realize that the clouds that kept your world dark and empty have begun to thin. You see blue sky and know there is something in your future if only you strive to put it there, there is something and you will find it.

Can’t See the Happiness through the Pain

It rained today as I walked along the shoreline of a pond; I stopped to watch the drops sink below the surface of the water strewn with dark red leaves, and studied the shallow ripples as they rolled together, slowly dying out.

The air was quiet, dull, thick and moist and as I walked the fallen leaves made no sound below my feet.

I didn’t mind the rain, it was light and the drops seemed to float to the ground in no big hurry.

I wasn’t really cold nor was I warm, and the rain on my neck didn’t bother me much.

I didn’t care that I had to go back to work soon and I didn’t care that the trees were bare and the sun was away.

In fact the only thing that seemed to matter was the lack of everything; I felt no connection to the Earth, the trees or the sky.

But pain is always there to welcome me, there is a sense of sadness, a feeling hidden somewhere beyond the colors of the fall and the reflections of me in the raindrops.

It’s there always, rising from the ground like humidity in the desert brilliantly reflecting everything back at me, making everything appear real, but I know it’s just a vision, a transparent image that hides the hurt until I need it again.

Sometimes though, the reflection hides even the good, the happiness, and then I can’t see it through the pain.