Tag Archives: death

Taking In the Night

I couldn’t quite figure out what had brought me to the moment – a road less traveled, a flip of a switch, fate? Yes, good old reliable fate. It was the only explanation, anyway, that managed to place a roadblock in my racing mind while I lifted the last shovelfuls of soil into the ditch.

I’d rolled him in face down – or he happened to land that way – and I was grateful for only having to look at the back of his head. My arms and back throbbed from hours of digging into the earth so I planted the shovel into a patch of grass and sat down for a cigarette. I fumbled for a lighter in the pocket of my jeans and ignited a tiny flame that brought one last spark to the dying afternoon.

I scanned the area, breathing in images of reds and oranges and the hard scent of early autumn that always reminded me of highways at night and the coming of snow. Memories washed over me as I assumed they always do when you lose a loved one, of holidays and one of kissing Charlie in our driveway. I blew them away with the smoke and flicked the butt into the ditch. It landed on his pant leg; I used the shovel to get it off.

Another hour’s worth of packing dirt and he was gone, and I stood looking for my own hands in the dark. I took out the lighter again and gave one last look at where I’d left him.

“Thanks for nothing,” I whispered to no one, and let the flame go out again.

We’d married young, as most did in those days, living off of whims instead of income. Soon after we’d already checked “home” and “baby” off of the list, and I’d grown bored. He worked in a factory, taking in sweat and metal and the whirring of giant machines, telling dirty jokes at lunch; I made batches of iced tea and looked forward to afternoon naps.

Our whims were quickly sealed in concrete. My hair had not yet grayed, but I had already lost the energy to break them free. “Yes dear” “No dear” were the only things that parted my lips with the exception of lullabies and a bottle of vodka in a stray kitchen cabinet. Wake up, feed child, feed husband, clean house, rinse and repeat.

I hadn’t thought much about what would happen after the sun went down, and now I’d found myself in the thick dark of the woods, ten miles from home but much further in the night. The lighter illuminated only my face and the hanging tips of tree branches, so I shoved it back in my pocket and resorted to finding my way as a zombie, arms straight out and stiff, rows of cool bark at my fingertips. I staggered through brush and remnants of a bonfire that crushed aluminum cans and paper plates beneath my feet. I smiled through pitch black. Charlie was packed in deep, the barricade of silence he’d always tried to build finally on his side.

Things got less boring as we grew older; I added heavy layers of powder to my daily makeup routine, and Charlie had become the one wielding a bottle of vodka. He didn’t bother with a cabinet to hide it in, and instead had it by his side as he enjoyed his morning paper. It doubled as mouthwash at night. I made an effort only to stay out of his way, tiptoeing through corners of my own home, cooking dinner and trying hard to disappear into the walls.

My breathing grew shallow as time passed. The darkness grew closer to me and every direction soon looked the same. Mentally I scolded myself for my lack of preparation. Finally I’d had the nerve, finally I’d freed myself, and there I was trapped in the very place I was trying so desperately to rid myself of.

He’d complained loudly about the red sauce I’d used. I told him it was the same brand I always bought – the truth. He hadn’t asked if I’d added something new.

Eventually I gave up on finding direction. I could feel my face grow hot with embarrassment although there was no one there to witness my failure as a first-time criminal. I felt below me for a patch of ground and lowered myself to my knees. I sat still, taking in the night, calm in my new-found glory and the serenity of the unknown draped at my feet.

“At least I’m finally alone,” I whispered.

I had time for one last panicked inhale before his hands were wrapped like vines around my neck and I was flailing like a rag-doll in a dying sliver of moonlight. He smelled like earth, that sweet must after a rainstorm. I thought of the grit on my skin and how my entire life had been a series of exciting beginnings and disappointing ends. I think I smiled as the moon disappeared. I think I thanked him.

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Shaking Your Face From My Fingertips

A coffee cup on a kitchen counter makes quite a different melody when no quiet breathing from behind some wall works to fill the space between the snapping of my lighter and the static from the radio. Where do I set my plate when your elbows aren’t spread like wings so rude across the breakfast table? The last thing I remember, when your voice was still fresh in my head, I was cross-legged on a snow pile in a mall parking lot; pay no mind to the crazy woman with her head between her knees, melting the ice with her eyes. No one looked at me. I knew even though I never looked back.

Somehow I was back in our home – my home now – feet curled to one side like I should have been reading the latest romance novel with a cup of earl grey in one hand. Instead I curled fingers around a paisley printed box of tissues while distant family cooked dinner in our kitchen, not knowing where we kept the silverware. They roamed like tourists. When someone handed me a plate I abandoned my fork and wrote your name in strands of spaghetti.

“Eat,” a voice said. An uncle? A cousin, maybe. My chin rarely stopped kissing my chest. I moved in increments of someone twice my age and continued to trace your name in entrees and desserts. Eventually everyone held their plates above bent arms, an ethereal beauty about the living room in splashes of marinara red and apple pie tan calling for me to forge your signature. A hand on my shoulder begged get some rest but my artist’s mind was twisting through a snow storm.

Like a cinematic fast-forward I am having lunch years later but it was yesterday you died, and quietly I am ordering another glass of red, shaking your face from my fingertips.

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Something I’m Afraid Of

 

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My grandfather died just before I was to be married. He was sick, very, very sick. I didn’t see him just before he went, but when my mother told me he looked like a different person then, I was glad I only had the memory of a big, burly man to hold on to.

I love(d) my grandfather, as I love the rest of my immediate family; but the truth is, we rarely see each other. As a child, there were more gatherings, more visits, even dinner at someone’s home. Then things faded to holidays, and when I moved out, to nothing. Phone calls are rare now, except to say “Happy Birthday” or “I’m so sorry”; the “necessities”. And then, there’s barely that. At my grandfather’s funeral, the photo collage by the front door included a picture of me on his lap, young and plump. Nothing within the past…ten years or so.

We headed to a cigar bar after, for food and drinks and cigarettes. I’ve quit smoking, but I bummed one from my mother. It felt okay to indulge after the stiffness of the morning. As our shoulders loosened we shared stories. I smiled, laughed, and then I considered how each story I played a part in happened before I ever knew who I was. I was just a child. A silly, moody child that said all the wrong things, still scolded for making mistakes. Every scenario my aunt recounted involved a time she’d been babysitting while my parents were out with friends. She was still calling me “kiddo”. If I saw more of these people in the present, would they realize I hadn’t been frozen in time as a forever-twelve-year-old? The Jack Daniels in my hand and cigarette in my lips wasn’t enough to break the image.

Maybe I’m digging too far into things. Or maybe, just maybe I’m onto something. Now that I am twenty-five, a full-fledged adult with a husband and a house, I realize my part in it all. Communication needs two  outlets to work, and I’ve come to realize mine needs some rewiring. But then, so does the other side’s.

Life is too short; taking nothing for granted; cherish your loved ones; etc., etc. All of this is true. But who takes the initiative? Me, perhaps, since I’m the one considering it all, here. But when you’ve been hurt, do you bother? I’m good at holding grudges. (Not a specialty I am necessarily proud of.) While there is a lot of love in my family, there is also a lot of hurt. Every family can relate to this.

My grandfather died just before I was married. Death happened, mourning happened, recovery began. Several people once close to me – still closest to him – were invited. None came. Fine. This is the hardest of times.

None acknowledged. Not then, not now, will not, likely, ever. I am hurt. Am I selfish? I don’t know. But I will not feel bad for feeling hurt. The time of calling for the “necessities” has come to a solid, grim end. Death happens, we hurt, we heal, life never stops.

So now I slink backward into my hole and think, every day, about whether or not I am right, about what it all means. I don’t even wish to be right, I just want to know why things are how they are. Is this love? If we don’t celebrate our milestones, then how do we define this dynamic? I want reason. I shimmy back and forth between anger and sadness, all the while not doing a damn thing about it. Not speaking out, not making an effort to yell, to ask “how are you?”. For me, now, it’s pointless.

Some who may get a hold of these words may be upset by them. But then, if they are, they’ll only feel that way if they were the ones who ignored the most important day of my life. I’ve never posted something I was afraid of. I didn’t need an audience – a man died, an important man, death shadowed everything, how can one celebrate a new life when one had only just come to an end? But words – so important. One word makes all the difference. Congratulations. Instead, nothing.

There may be some form of love there, but still, we go on in damaged silence.

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she’ll stay

Margarita Georgiadis (Artist)

Margarita Georgiadis (Artist)

 

she reached in and pulled smoke

from where her heart should have been.

 

she blew rings of

transparent

laughter

that went down,

down,

down

and disappeared behind her knees.

 

she is always

wondering

what                      holds it all together

when                     there is nothing there to hold anymore.

 

a half empty cavity of star dust

existing only to

exist

colors aren’t colors when

her

 

head

 

has gone gray as

a

television screen.

 

if Death is just as dull

she’ll stay

 

counting the tiles on the kitchen

floor.

 

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exhale and night comes.

(Dreaming Tree by Christian Schloe)

(Dreaming Tree by Christian Schloe)

When I died I twisted and turned deep into the earth where I belonged,

a topsy-turvy dance of the dead among rubble and missing bottle caps.

It was nothing like I’d dreamt, that slide ride into glistening depths,

feet first not face first like I’d seen behind eyelids.

I learned we jump into these things, not belly flop like children in summer.

It’s easy, no matter the circumstances.

Breathe once,

breathe deep,

exhale and night comes.

It’s the most beautiful solar eclipse; it’s numbing, cleansing silence.

It’s the ocean floor, the high-pitched ringing of nothingness,

the deepest sleep, cleansed palate,

only stars.

I writhed when I reached the end,

reached out a hand,

pleaded for a push.

I’d grown tired of watching the world turn

when I was already halfway to the other side.

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Her Breath Pushes Out Like Bad Weather

tumblr_lejiq87UA81qbil4eo1_500She grasps at the edges of sheets in Royal Blue before the wind in a stale room pulls them from the sailboat mattress, bare feet and underwear just won’t do at high tide she thinks, but there’s no time to go back, we don’t have any more time, the gusts are only traveling in one direction today. Don’t relax, no deep breaths, no sighs of comfort before she dangles a limb overboard and a sock piranha leaves her with one less pink polished toe. She will use the lamp on the nightstand when it gets too dark, cast oval comfort on the sea green walls, careful not to let the cord kiss the water below. There are sharks down there, she thinks, sharks made of bobby pins and hair combs and last night’s Chinese food. And through that eggshell door with the brass knob and crooked family photo there is absolute death; unpredictable, glowing, warm, death. It waits on cobblestone streets, in busy coffee shops, at bus stops, theaters, bars, in sunlight, in strings of gold hung from trees and lampposts that light up his eyes when he kisses her on the cheek on a park bench.

She tries to roll herself up in the sailboat mattress but it won’t bend so she tries to get enough air to make it from boat to doorway, high over an octopus made of three strewn sweaters, far above a school of exotic high heeled fish. She makes it, her breath pushing out like bad weather as she grips the doorknob and pulls in, first stop the kitchen to talk to the throb knocking on her ankle.

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Pessimistic Predictions

fearofdeath

wikiHow

When Joe and I were planning our Disney World vacation/honeymoon (finally!), obviously I was excited. We booked the flight, the hotel, the whole shebang just three weeks before we were to embark on our magical journey to The Happiest Place On Earth. So while most people, immersed in such a scenario, are fidgeting with excitement at their work desks, planning every vacation day out in their minds…what was I doing?

I was picturing a shoelace caught in an escalator and me suddenly legless, four-car pileups on the way to work, a freak explosion erupting in my face while cooking dinner, murdered while fumbling for keys outside a dark house….

bad news,

bad news,

bad.

news.

Disney and death don’t exactly mesh together.

I held my breath as we boarded our flight from Philadelphia to Orlando, right by the airplane wing.

“Can you assist in an emergency?” the flight attendant asked the few of us seated in this area. Each one of us was required to call out an individual “yes”.

Then I was asked if I was at least fifteen, since that is how old you have to be to assist.

I stared while she demonstrated how to make use of the oxygen mask, the life vest, the seatbelt. When all was said and done I ordered a Jack and Coke.

Once we’d landed and made it out and to the resort, I breathed a sigh of relief and let Joe in on how crazy I was being. He laughed and told me not to worry. We had an amazing time.

But it isn’t just vacation, you see. At any given moment my brain will shoot out the sunlight and bring on the darkness, only it most enjoys playing target practice when I’m looking forward to something.

The only comfort I find when the scary kicks in is in thinking: how likely would it be that I am predicting my own death, right before it happens? Then surely I have some sort of powers!

Perhaps it’s just all that time I spend watching the ID channel, and writing about the macabre. Either way, one of these days my prediction will be right, but that’s okay. We all gotta go some time, so let’s make the most of this crazy life.

Does anyone else find their brains churning out such unwanted scenarios?

Oh, and check this out.

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Daily Prompt: Inside You Were Sinking

Today’s Prompt:

Create a short story, piece of memoir, or epic poem that is 26 sentences long, in which the first sentence begins with “A” and each sentence thereafter begins with the next letter of the alphabet.

through-a-foggy-window

Ashes were all that I found, swimming through the corners of our house.

But you were there – bones never make music beneath our feet.

Crawling down the hallways I counted the nails in the floorboards.

Did you hear me, all breath and skin from above?

Exhaling formed a crop-circle of dust just above your head.

From below you called to me, like a siren under water.

Growing up the walls, it shook our foundation.

Heart pounding, I felt for you, eyes shut.

Inside you were sinking.

Jewels of light squeezed in.

Kings and Queens watched us, loose on the mantel.

Loaded with dreams I curled into myself.

Myself, what I’d known, was leaving.

Notches I’d left for you, I remember with shaking hands.

Opening my eyes I watched your words arch over me.

Pressing the walls I felt every syllable.

Quaint as our home, our hearts were quiet with love.

Reaching for you now has never lessened the emptiness.

Silence stays but in this moment I am wrapped in the nothingness of you.

Tracing our past pulls you to the surface, if only for a moment.

Unity, movement upon movement.

Variety is all we have now, a carousel of aging memories.

White is all I can stand, no color to rip me from the view of us.

X-rays of rainstorm lit up our hallway as night fell, and you faded.

Yelling out won’t bring you back to me.

Zig-zags of breeze bring morning in.

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Maybe He’d Found His Wings

 

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I was on my second glass of wine when I heard Joe pull up. The dog did her usual tap-dance across the kitchen floor while I headed outside. We both noticed it at just about the same moment, small and squat in the middle of the warm driveway, right on the crack in the concrete where tiny weeds sprout. It was in the shade, at least. I expected it to take off when it saw Joe; I ran when I saw it was still unmoving as he approached.

“Is it hurt?” I asked.

“Not sure.”

I lowered myself to the bird’s level. Its head was round, its body equal in shape but larger. It was the same shade of gray everything turns when the sky goes dark; the only color was a bright yellow feather that stuck out sideways far beneath all the gray.

“I think its neck is broken,” Joe said.

The bird kept its small eyes closed, rolling its head from side to side like Ray Charles playing a beat. I stared, helpless, my hands limp between my knees. What do you do when there’s nothing to be done? Stomping it out of its misery was never an option. When you have nothing to offer, do you stick around for the suffering? Hiding inside until the rain stops is just as torturous.

I wanted to pick it up, to hold it even if it didn’t know what I was doing. “Use these,” Joe said, handing me a pair of work gloves. They smelled of old leather and were rough at the fingertips. I scooped the bird up, cupping him between both of my palms. He struggled a bit then stopped, calm in my hands. My eyes swelled.

“What do we do?” I asked.

“There’s nothing we can do,” Joe said. “I don’t have a BB gun to kill it.”

“We have to do something,” I said, frantic now. This creature, this lost thing in my driveway had somehow become my responsibility. Was it the wine or my heart that kept him in my hands even when we were hidden beside the garage, behind the fence, where the dog wouldn’t get to the poor thing as it slowly passed? My eyes burned. The wind started to pick up.

“What if it’s cold?”

Joe rolled his eyes.

“Can we put it on something? An old rag? Anything?” I grabbed at him.

Appeasing me he took off for the house and came back with a wrinkled piece of paper towel. I placed it in a wheelbarrow and lay our friend on top. He immediately hopped into the shallow rain water that had collected in one corner.

“Somewhere else,” I said, scooping him up again and placing him on a patch of earth cushioned with leaves and other things the trees had shed. I watched him, his eyes still shut, cozied up against old chain-link fence and concrete and forgotten piles of dirt. The burning got worse. My eyes, my throat, my lungs. Joe’s hand on my shoulder weighed like a stone.

When my grandfather died, I faltered. I didn’t see him, this man I’d known all my life. I worked, I lived, I busied myself with the future while he lay with none. One state over the world had stopped turning, but for me it had not.

I stayed crouched beside the shed for minutes that felt like years, in between the dirt and concrete, while inside dinner cooked and the wine sat uncorked. If I gave myself away for just a short time, would I gain or lose? Gain, I thought.

Eventually I was forced away, Joe holding my shoulders as I wiped my cheeks. “Nothing else you can do,” he said. I wasn’t sure I’d done anything at all, but as I escaped back inside my shoulders loosened.

The hours appeared and escaped, the drinks were poured and disappeared. My mind wandered elsewhere for the night, and when the sun showed up again I was somewhere else, until I stepped into the backyard and remembered. He’d checked, Joe told me, and the bird had moved a few feet, hidden elsewhere now among the hardened scenery. I forgot again.

A day later I put the dog inside and made my way to that back gate, to the space beside the shed, and searched. Among the leaves, the plastic, the wheelbarrow, I found nothing. Maybe he’d found his wings, maybe he’d went off to die alone; maybe his pride had been too strong to let him fade away in our backyard.

We all leave the same: alone, shallow, flesh and bone we can’t pack up and take with us. We can’t go together, but we can take the walk side by side, until the fog dissipates and you are still here, and they are there. What if they remember? It might help, it might not. Some final brush with life makes for a better escape than lonesome, unforgiving darkness.

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A Small Lesson In Gratefulness

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“I’m really a nice person,” he said. “I’m just nervous.” I wrinkled my forehead. “Nervous about what?” I asked. “I’m on my way back home to Florida and they’re on a hurricane watch.” I threw him a smile. “If things aren’t looking good, they won’t allow your flight to leave,” I said. I honestly didn’t know much, but I was just hoping to make him feel better. It made me feel a little warm inside when I saw genuine relief come over his face. “I guess you’re right.”

“And I haven’t felt like myself lately,” he went on. “I just recently lost my wife of 34 years to cancer.” He looked up at me and I saw a nothingness in his eyes. Pure helplessness, complete loss. “I – I’m so sorry.” That was all I could muster. What does one say in situations like these? “I understand”? Because we don’t. We don’t understand. Not at all.

His soup came and awkwardly I continued to make drinks as he took small spoonfuls. After he’d finished he asked for the bill, and it’d left my tongue before I could stop it; “Don’t worry about it,” I said.

“No.” It was a stern no, like my father used to say when I was small and misbehaving, or the no I tell the dog when she’s begging at dinner time. I put my elbows on the bar. “I don’t pity you,” I said. “No one wants that. I’m not doing that here. I just want to do something for you. It’s measly, but it’s something. Because I am so sorry about what you went through.” And that’s when my eyeballs almost dropped a few extra ingredients into the Long Islands I was mixing.

When I put his drink on the bar I thought he had the typical attitude problem, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. My eyes opened wide on a Thursday morning, and I hugged my blessings a little tighter that day because of it.

xoxo

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