Once again I awake early, taunted by dream and awake and the hazy in-between. Up the stairs I travel and scrub plastic bristles back and forth to preserve the pearly whites my father bought for me in an orthodontist chair. I see that my friend’s family has swivelled their way out the front door, dressed in their Sunday best, leather bibles tucked into their winter coats. Morning silence.
Thud. It hits me like a ton of bricks. Everything that should have been left unsaid, all that should have been left to linger in the invisible folder of what ifs – those things cannot be taken back. Words once spoken cannot be unheard so simply. And their ramifications are permanent, at-least semi-permanent, because weighty words knife themselves deep into the memory. Panic.
I see that my beloved murky brown liquid sits already-brewed in the mini Mr. Coffee maker. I pour its contents into a ivory green mug that has You make a difference in this world scribbled in gold lettering upon its surface. My friend is not yet awake, his wooden door shut tightly at the end of the hallway.
My mind refuses to quiet itself. And my thoughts are many, twirling, swirling about in this tiny head. I have long since discovered that I either think too much or not at all. This morning I think too much. I long for the quietening of torturous voices. I urge them to be silent long enough to hear the soft promise of strength, whispering that my wounds will one day become blessings, and that beauty waits just around the corner.
Out of the kitchen window I hear the winter breeze and I hear the songs of birds and the distant engines of trucks swooping by. Tugging on my too-large black coat and zippered black boats, I leave the inspirational coffee mug on the counter top.
Scuffling amidst fallen autumn leaves and wispy oak branches, I wander deep into the forest of his backyard. I move past the wooden porch steps. I move past the tall oak tree, the one with decaying, crinkled leaves still fighting to hang on- the one in which yesterday he shot a squirrel and offered to barbecue it for me and his mom’s face lit up in horror, shooing her son and his aberrant tactics out the porch door. I move past the spot where he taught me how to shoot, a shotgun and a 22 rifle, and I understood just a little bit of his love for the 2nd amendment and why this, right here, is his happy place. I move past the tiny pond he says will freeze over solid come winter time. I duck under the twigs of forest trees, untangle them from my frenzied hair rousing to and fro with the breeze. My boots sink into the muddied floor of pond water colliding with forest dirt. I emerge into a wide open space of corn stock and forest debris and a sea of barren oaks mingled with vibrantly red bushes. The colours are simple, dull, but beautiful. The empty greyed trees stand tall amidst the pale yellow-white of corn stock and the bright apple-red of the brush.
Finally. Alone. Silent. These are the moments I have been running from all year. The space in which pain demands to be felt.
I inhale cold air, allow it to fill my lung cavities, breathe out, see the white wisps of my heaved oxygen collide with the outdoor molecules of the cold air. This means I am still breathing. I am alive. I am okay.
As life would have it, I cannot run forever. And so I allow the ache to pound in my head and press against my chest and weave in and out with the breaths of my stomach and flow from the blood of my legs down to my toes. Physically I feel it. I allow tears to slip down my cheeks and dribble atop the forest floor. The salt-liquid blurs my vision, mashing the blue-sky with the grey-tree and the yellow-corn with the red-brush.
In this moment, I realize I must be kind to myself. All this bitterness is much to ugly. Masochistic even. So, through clenched teeth I declare that strength is walking away and courage is putting your heart on the table and worth is not through the eyes of other people and beauty is in learning to forgive self.
And here, I identify something new in my chest cavity- a feeling that has grown dim and strangely unfamiliar over these months. I want to live. I want to be alive. Life can be beautiful. And I whisper this to this sting of rejection and the hating of self and the wishes of it all to be over: I want to be apart of this life.
My eyes flutter like butterfly wings, blinking fast to unblur my vision. Now I am able to see clearly. More clearly than before. There is a new crispness to this forest picture before me. In fact, it is rather beautiful.
I never take pictures, but today I pull my iphone from my jacket pocket and click the button to remember. To remind myself that it is okay and I am okay and it is going to be okay. Breath in deep, pinch the skin of my arm, absorb the sting. The ache whispers your alive, its okay.