The books on my shelf are my tattoos. The covers are comforts and windows to my mind. They are a display of my thoughts. Thoughts that run rampant in a dizzying spiral suddenly have points in space and time. My thoughts have buckets in these books. My questions have answers and the answers create more questions.
The shelf in my mind is messy indeed. The ideas and memories and ambitions are scattered like papers shoved into random spaces. One day I retrieve a piece of paper with a verse in my curse. I don’t remember writing it, but it’s honest and true. Sometimes, it’s just a to-do.
These walls. These walls confine. These white walls box me in. I’m trapped. I can’t breathe. I can’t get out a sentence. One single line.
Oh! How easy art would be if time I could not see!
How beautiful it is to follow dreams without the sting of death within.
How hard it is to work towards a goal so hidden, if indeed it exists at all.
Pay the bills, flush it down, eat your lunch and it’s dinner now. The night is quiet, but not my mind.
I pace and pace and cannot find.
I can’t decide.
Throw art away to survive, or kill the thought and slowly die.
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Ayn’s feet sunk further below the freezing water by the weight placed on her heart. Thoughts emanated after every beat and stung her mind like harsh sand-filled winds upon bare skin. With each wave that rolled out, she sunk deeper. The water washed through her ankles as if Ayn had always been there, removed from the flow of time.
A thought was making its way through the maze in her mind. A maze of ever-changing pathways where whispers echo around every corner. As her feelings pushed this thought to the surface, it grabbed at other thoughts and feelings and memories on its way up. It dressed in doubt and denial and pain and fear until it eventually formed into a coherent sentence she could articulate, yet not truly believe.
“If I can survive, Jordan can too.”
She opened her eyes to the empty night that surrounded her, not recognizing where she was standing. The sunset beach she had stood in was now distorted in darkness. Ayn didn’t see the sunset or the moon rise. For her, it was as if she blinked and the light was no more.
A cargo ship slowly made its way over the horizon, approaching the halfway point between the two cliffs where the moon reflected off the waters.
Yet, Ayn was very far from the beach. She was in counseling sessions, she was in mother’s meetings, she was accounting for Edward’s business, she was anywhere but in the present moment. She sank deeper.
She was up all night worrying about the kids, her husband, and her marriage. Her marriage meant more to her than she allowed anyone to see, especially her husband. When eagerness is met with apathy, apathy wins. Growing up, Ayn would tell herself, “I’m in pain, but I’m eager.” Now, after fifteen years of marriage, her mantra doesn’t include the latter.
“Don’t worry, I’ll pick you up,” Edward said with an expression of exaggerated seriousness. Ayn looked at him without any control over her unveiled smile.
They first noticed each other in the parking lot earlier that day. Edward’s Toyota Corolla ticked and cracked around him as it cooled down from the long drive. Edward loved that moment of silence before opening the door to the outside world when the sudden stop of the engine creates an artificial silence he couldn’t experience anywhere else in his life.
When Ayn first noticed Edward, he was sitting behind the wheel of his car with his eyes closed, as if meditating. As she walked past his little bomb of a car, she took a side glance at him. She glanced at him the moment he opened his eyes. She saw a depth in Edward’s blue eyes where joy and sorrow weren’t opposite ends of a spectrum, but melted into each other. As calm and nonchalant as she tried to make herself appear, Ayn tripped over herself and almost fell flat on the pavement.
This was the first time Edward met the gaze of mystery. Of course, he had talked to girls before, but as a wet eared seventeen-year-old, he had never noticed one so beautiful, especially one that looked at him as though he were more. In Edward’s heart, which now beat with what he could only describe as excitement, her tumble was the most attractive thing he had ever seen.
“How are you going to run fourteen kilometers if you can’t even walk fourteen meters, Ayn?” She thought, shaking her head in embarrassment. She walked a little faster, imagining a scenario in her head where he jumped out of the car and shouted out to her. Maybe she should have dropped something. It could have been a Cinderella story with a glass running shoe.
She heard the door to his Toyota creek open and his feet scuff the concrete. She imagined his eyes on her the whole time. Finally, she reached the car park stairwell where she maneuvered through the open door, determined not to touch anything. Her feet sped down the stairs as quickly as possible to leave the boy far behind her without him noticing that she was hurrying away
“I didn’t fall,” Ayn explained, “I just, tripped a little…”
“Well, like I said, I’ll pick you up.”
Ayn smiled at him not knowing what else to say, so she knelt down to re-tie her shoelace while praying to God that her face wasn’t red.
Back on the beach, Ayn pulled her feet out of the water and walked back onto dry sand. She was wrapped in a white bath towel that had a small tear down the side. The wind blew in from the ocean and gently stroked Ayn’s hair on it’s way past. She threw up her towel, like so many sheets before, and it caught the wind perfectly as she lay it down flat on the sand. She dropped her keys down on the towel and turned back towards the sea.
She got to her feet.
The beach was empty and though Ayn was only walking, she felt all the muscles in her face twitching. She could feel her cheeks pull and ache as they tried desperately to contain the pain beneath. She recalled how she felt finishing that first race and how Edward’s face wore the same expression as hers; the exhausted face that’s revealed only on runners who have passed their physical limit and can no longer hide why they are running.
Memories and feelings from that day entered her mind as a light mist inevitably leaving her drenched.
Her gait began to betray her now, partnering with the muscles in her face to destroy the composure that Ayn held so highly. Her steps became smaller as she hunched over her tightening abdomen. Yet further into the sea she went.
Ice cold waters shocked her body. She pushed forward, or rather, was drawn further into the water. She reached the point where she could hardly stand without her head submerging and her whole body lifted from the foundations of the earth. Strong currents pushed her body in all directions bar the one she desired to go.
It only took five seconds.
Five seconds for her to realize that the current was too strong. Worry grasped her body. Panic beat through her mind. As a child looks to her parents the moment before pain manifests in a helpless cry, Ayn thought “I need some help.”
The beach became hidden in the night as the moon pulled dark clouds over her eyes. Ayn desperately kicked and paddled against the current, but she had no idea which way to go. She kept straightening her body to see if she could touch the ground, but she had been pulled much further out than she thought.
After choking and coughing up the saltwater, Ayn calmed herself down. She stopped fighting the current and only used her arms to stay afloat as her eyes searched all around her for some way out.
But all was darkness.
She was inside the eye of her inner storm. The tornado of all her worries and fears. Inside this temporary calm was one desire; to wrap her broken soul around her family. To shield and protect them.
Hours later, As her body dipped beneath the waves, she didn’t feel cold.
She could feel the warmth of her first child, Jordan, taking his first shallow breaths upon her naked chest.
I know I haven’t posted in a while, but I miss you guys.
I’m trying to write longer content. The above was the first (discarded) chapter of a book I’m planning to write. The ideas and characters are much different now, so it’ll be interesting to look back on this post to see how it has evolved.
A dead tree alone in a dessert. Burnt, it’s branches claw at the sky. Slowly, the scene tilts. The sky now below, the dessert above. The tree hangs like a gothic chandelier.
The man holds tight, but his grip is failing. White knuckled on the branches as he slides closer and closer to the sky below. Just let go!
The tree begins to bleed. The dark blood rains down on the man. He has no hope. He has nothing.
A soft surface. Yet, not a landing… He slides gracefully down for miles on a deep red satin dress. The satin wraps him up. It belongs to a beautiful woman. She cradles the man and hums a lullaby.
A nice lullaby.
A haunting lullaby.
A grotesque song.
Nobody wants you!
The satin melts away into an ocean. A rough sea that throws the man under the surface. The liquid fills his lungs. He can’t breathe.
He falls out from tears that flow from his wife’s eyes as she stares at a tree. A tree that’s been in their yard since they first moved in. Everything is silent. Everything except the tight sound of a rope.
He stands and looks up at the lifeless body. It’s him.
His tortured soul watches his painless body being carried down by his broken wife.
His eyes open and he wakes up in a pool of sweat.
He rolls over and places a soft kiss on back of his wife’s shoulder.
I hate it when guests linger around. They can’t take a hint. Normally, I’d stand up slowly and take our coffee mugs to the sink, or I’d stretch out my arms and say, “Well, it was so good seeing you!” But, this time I can’t. My guest is still here.
My guest keeps saying the same thing, but I can’t here it’s voice. It whispers, “Remember.” My uninvited guest is the byproduct my life circumstances that I, clearly, couldn’t handle the way my brain wanted me to.
My logical mind talked calmly to me (‘me’ being somewhere other than in the physical realm). He told me it was going to be fine. “These things happen”, “It’ll all make sense one day” and “You just have to get on with it”, all sound like terrific little phrases to repeat. Yet, my guest remains inside ‘me’.
I purge my room. Everything that reminds me is stored away, but it’s voice grows louder still.
I clean my entire house and delete every photo from my phone.
I break. My guest forces my hand. It kicks my legs out from under me and I fall to my hands and knees. Tears burst out to the sound of a broken cry. How warm they are leaking through eyes clenched shut.
Hollow and alone, my guest finally leaves. I finally feel relief! They are gone!
Feeling better, I take a bath. It’s just what I needed. There is nothing more relaxing than drinking the cold tap water while lying in a boiling hot bath. As the water drains I wipe the fog from the mirror. A small smile curves. It’s been a long time since I felt the muscles around my mouth go through so much work.
As I walk downstairs to get a glass of water, I feel something in the corner of my being whisper. Now I know.