*The following piece is my first attempt of Flash-Fiction. This is a creative piece that is not factual. I hope you enjoy the unique format of this form of writing – a merging of both traditional narrative and poetry.*
In and out of trees I walk, beside the quiet river and through the green grass paths. Autumn leaves move in whirl winds around me. Red of gala apples, orange of sunsets, yellow of the sunflowers all surround me, the richness of their hues captivating me in this October afternoon.
She would be plucking branches off the oak trees, pulling up her sky blue dress and wading waist up into the gentle current, inviting herself into nature. Whispering words into the wind, speaking in her Socratic way, her tongue lined with the questions of aesthetics and ultimate existence. Forever filled with wonder.
But today I am alone in the forest.
Birds chirp noon day melodies and crickets sound the air with their mating call, but there is a deep silence bouncing off trees and echoing into the blue sky.
It is the sort of silence that begs you to remember: the way her icy blue eyes crinkled when she laughed or how her voice increased 10 decibels and her hands gestured wildly as she began talking about vanilla lattes or dancing or C.S. Lewis’ theory of punishment.
“I hate my own story.” Six months ago we had talked by the icy winter river. Her voice broke through the hum of the current, carrying the sort of tone people use to confess cheating on their husbands or unplanned pregnancies or stealing money from a relative. The heavy and shameful sort of things.
Because those five words had been calculated over months of ink-black, starless nights. They were her confession. And now with hindsight I do believe, a tiny cry for help.
She had always been a lover of stories, soaking up books and conversation, chasing after the sorts of people that teach you to dream with the mountains and the clouds. Absorbing other people’s tragedy as it was her own: books of grieving fathers, movies of mass killings and weeping lovers, or conversation with friends who hid a dark past or an aching self-worth.
The darkness fascinated her in a way I think she was afraid to admit.
When I asked, she assured me that she only loved the redemption stories, the way ugly transformed into beautiful and the pain morphed into joy.
Her story began in a chocolate-brown house, white paneled with a black shingled roof. Sunday morning church, private high school, after school basketball practice – she lived between the blissful mechanics of desks, basketball courts and church pews. Two happily married parents, 3 siblings, a five-acre backyard, star athlete, honor roll student, more than enough food in the cupboards: her life void of the hard and painful most come to experience.
How desperately she wanted her story to be more, scarred by darkness and tragedy, the tale of a young soul marred by the ugly of the world. Instead she felt like a prisoner in her cookie cutter life, bound between walls of perfection and unmerited blessing. No excuse to fall apart. No alibi for a broken heart.
Shadows rimmed the blue of her eyes as we spoke along the shore and I identified anger, the resentment of her blissful life. What a strange, strange thing to be angry about, I thought.
From the outside, she had no reason to be anything but happy.
Yet sadness seeped into the corners of her days, at first subtly like tiny embers crackling on wooden logs, and then all at once, the bursting of flames high and blue and orange streaked.
Grief: Stage Three
I cradle her spiralled notebook in hand, keeling underneath a small oak tree. It is filled with the scrawl of a black-ink ball point pen, each page containing the tales of unscripted feelings and ideas. I am afraid of what I will read.
The purity of pain, the deep emotions hidden in the heart, the fierce pulse of ache and grief and remorse, I yearn to understand it…she etched across the first whitewashed page of the journal. I ached with each word I read.
Like the fiery summer sun, she has come and gone,
a young soul stolen in a dark October wind.
How could I not have seen this? She had always had an affinity for pain.
The propensity to somehow see it as good and beautiful.
The Shadows Beckon
Darkness did not frighten her, it captivated her.
And I saw how her story became one of taking the paint brush into her own hand and splotching black and grey masochistically across her ivory white canvas.
She absorbed all the pain she could find. Favorite teacher and mentor was imprisoned for child molestation. Sister was raped by a boy she called a friend. Best friend lost her father to a midnight heart attack. She loaded the pain upon her shoulders, wore it as if it were own, trying desperately to feel its gravity.
When the dark thoughts visited, she greeted them with the affection of a dear friend, inviting them into her, giving them a place to belong.
Our wooded walks grew distant and silent. I asked more questions, I begged her to let me in.
And slowly she disappeared from my life,
like wax dripping off a candle flame.
Ignoring my phone calls
avoiding me in the hallways,
leaving me haunted by images
of her charcoaled heart
and knife-carved wrists.
It was upon an ordinary Saturday morning of coffee and scones that I finally saw her again. I bumped into her in my favorite coffee shop on Oak Street. She was sitting close to a man, their fingers intertwined and a possessive arm tucked around her waist. I was introduced to Jason; he must have been least 5 years her senior, broad, bearded and handsome, speaking with an air of superiority and arrogance.
Two months passed,
and he was gone,
clutching pieces of her innocence in his hands
and leaving her at the steps of South Avenue’s medical clinic.
A butterfly takes flight to my right, I read, so this is what a broken heart feels like… I have opened the journal again: The world looks different now, the aching is no longer outside, but it is inside me, he is inside me. I finally have a story, I feel pain, I know loss, I have seen ugly.
The Sky Wept Too
It was raining the day I went to see her. I walked through the front door of the house that had always been my second home. There was no need to knock. Spiral up the stairs, circle through the hallway, cross left to get to her bedroom.
When I found her she was weeping
Ruby red flowed from her wrists
Razor blade tossed carelessly on the floor
I offered my arms as a sanctuary. Her tiny body trembled and I wept too.
Through the window, I saw the skies had opened themselves up, the clouds a charcoal grey, and water pouring in acorn sized droplets. Nature understood. It wept with her too.
Eight days later, the sun shone its rays through church windows, and a women sang “Look for me in rainbows” by vicky brown.
On this bright, sundrenched October morning, nature sings warm temperatures and olive green leaves, but it is I alone who wept.