She stood out. It seems reasonable to conclude that a woman like her would stand out in a town like this, but she would have stood out in the middle of Manhattan, strolling down Fifth Avenue, in a sea of Park Avenue princesses.
It wasn’t her beauty, stature or her fine attire either. There was an air about her, a confidence that radiated from her very soul. It was grit. You knew she had been put in front of a blazing fire and walked right through it with the same reaction one would give to a sprinkle of rain.
Whatever It May Take
I stood there, able to go in any direction of my choosing
My path only began when I chose my first step
I knew not which way to take
Where it led
What I needed
What I lacked
I just knew to go
I started in a direction that looked less treacherous than the others
A path of deceit
As I lost more of my hope on that path than I gained
But I carried on, trying to forget where I had just been
I continued down a trail of denial
A forced amnesia
And then, the path presented itself again
Every pain came flooding back to the forefront of my mind
So I turned my back
In a rebellion to the pain, I faced the darkest path yet
I convinced myself I had been through the worst
I decided that this path, though dark, cold, and dangerous, was the path to take
I had survived this much
How much worse could it be
Because I had felt pain, I deserved to endure more of it
And endure I did
It exerted its power over me
Whipping me lash after lash
I felt exhaust and defeat
All of it
Even that which I had pushed back on my prior path
And I fell to my knees
A slow crawl was all I could muster
Until that fork in the road brought change
Things could be different
It was all I needed to stand again
The fork changed my course
And led me to happier trails
Full of beautiful sights
But the treacherous tracks and valleys still appeared
And even though pain remained a part of my journey
It did not overpower
For I had overcome
I had learned to navigate
I had learned to trust
To let go
I am in a constant state of becoming
Whatever it may take
Examining the Hurts
Finding comfort in the toxicity
I searched for what I knew
One thing slowly led to another
Another led me to you
A sea of yous, really
A cookie cutter conformity
Reflecting my low self worth
In my desperate attempt to find more
I gave away the deepest parts of myself
In hopes of receiving the equivalent
Only to come up short
And fall deeper into the search
Of a treasure
Whose existence only came
When I stopped looking externally
The World Today
I went out into the world today with so much motivation to see all the people and do all the things. I sat alone among a sea of beautiful people who looked as if they had all walked off of my Pinterest page, so perfectly polished. Not only am I intimidated by their appearance, they are all seemingly successful. Corporate jobs, saving lives, knee deep in important projects. And I’m just there watching it all, intrigued by it all. But how do I fit in here? Never one to shy away from getting to know anyone, I’m always quick to engage. Yet, somehow, I don’t feel quite accepted. I feel as if my presence is merely being tolerated. After all, they all have places to go and things to do that are far more important than talking to me. Who am I anyway? I have no real position, no color of collar the world can use to further determine my worth. I have no real niche in life. As I wrap up another conversation where I’m honest and forthcoming about my true self, I can see it is not well-received. So, I bottle it up.
I stayed home from the world today.
Fear and Folly
It was the perfect Spring day. I could feel the warmth of the sun covering my back as I sank my knees into the cool, moist soil and began to dig. Gardening had always been one of my favorite ways to pass the time. As I ran my fingers through the dirt, the most pleasant breeze brushed against my face and rolled through my hair. Just as I thought the day couldn't get any better, I looked over and saw his handsome smile.
Even though time had passed and the world seemed to be improving, at least where we lived, I still breathed a sigh of relief with every glimpse I caught of my husband. The drought had a cataclysmic domino effect that encompassed the globe. So many lost their livelihood and the rest, their lives. I never really knew what it was to be thankful before surviving such turmoil. He and I both had faced certain death, but one day, the climate started changing, much to our benefit. As quickly as things fell apart, they began to recover. Now, here we are, alive and well, together.
The population of the world had diminished quite drastically. All of the well to do families that "survived" the events (thanks in large part to their wealth and very little to their resiliency) had recently gotten together to decipher a plan on how to increase the population once more. I, for one, could care less of the world's future, only our future. There was still a part deep down inside of me that longed to have children. My fertility issues kept us from having any before the drought and I'm thankful we didn't, the chances of survival would have been grim. My fertility problems were still an issue. The state of the world's population and people's desperate desire to replenish it had given the medical community the exact motive they needed to increase their price. It was sick, but they easily got away with it. Even still, if it was just him and I until the end, that's all I could ever desire.
After we finished in the garden, I cooked dinner. Oh the lovely aromas that danced around the kitchen. Fresh herbs and spices sweetly stung my nostrils as I whisked ingredients together. The sound of the burner clicking on and the butter sizzling in the pan were sounds I longed for as I laid in bed awaiting my death. I used to view cooking as a chore and now it is one of my greatest joys. I perfectly plated every meal now and this one was no different. Being that it was the perfect Spring day, we decided to eat out on the back patio.
My husband, ever the pessimist, watched the nightly news every night without fail. Sometimes it felt as if he didn't believe things had truly improved, like he was "waiting for the other shoe to drop", as the saying goes. As I set the table, I heard an abrupt interruption come over the television. The words"BREAKING NEWS" scrolled across the screen. The news anchor began speaking, "Government officials have reached a decision to help increase the world's population. After months of deliberating, they have decided on something they are calling 'Optimal Procreation'. Please go to the city nearest you as soon as possible to attend a meeting for further explanation. All city halls will be open for the next twenty-four hours straight and your representative will explain this new and exciting plan".
We locked eyes, both fearful and hopeful. I don't remember how we even made our way to the car, just the getting in and locking eyes. "What do you think this plan is all about? I mean, with my fertility issues, what do you...how do...do you think we...is there a way for us?".
"I-I-I, I don't know. I feel all of this nervous energy though. Can you imagine if there is? If we can finally have the family we've been longing for since we married? I'm trying not to be too hopeful and chances are this is just some grand idea that will only benefit the incredibly wealthy, as usual! But I just can't help but feel hopeful."
"Me, too", I say, trying desperately to conceal how nervous I truly felt. This was the first time I had seen him optimistic in over ten years. I didn't want to crush it with sound logic. It was difficult enough reliving the pain of the failed attempts in our past, but to add my age to the already established problem left me feeling hopeless. I had a suspicion in our younger years, one that haunts me, that his desire for children was far greater than mine. I love children and the thought of having my own brings me joy, though I don't think I would live a life of regret if it didn't happen for us. I fear that he would, which is why I wish to conceal my anxiety.
We pull up to the city hall at the same time as about twenty others. This city used to be much busier and brighter. Now it is a ghost town. Once the dust had settled, most surviving people chose to live outside of the city limits, maybe because of the crippling sense of inferiority to the rich who owned and ran the cities now. As we walk closer to the entrance, I see a mixture of anxiety and hopefulness, the same emotions filling our faces. We made our way through and into the central meeting area.
After a deafening ten minutes of silence, our areas representative, Richard Boysenberry, sauntered to the podium. It was almost as if he could sense our anxiousness and wanted to torture us a few minutes more. He turned to face us and smiled a cheesy smile. Representative Boysenberry was very robotic in nature, as if his words were previously recorded and every last movement was rehearsed. His voice reminded me of the announcers at boxing matches. He had a permanent grin, slicked back salt and peppered hair, and a blank stare. As he began to speak, I felt as if I had been drop-kicked right in the gut by someone wearing steel-toed boots.
"Good evening ladies and gentleman, I am here tonight to explain the details of the governments plan for Optimal Procreation. Not only will this plan increase our nations population, but, we are hoping, this plan also creates a better human race."
What? He sounds as if he is trying to sell me a brand new, state-of-the-art car. Optimal Procreation? A better human race? These words had my stomach in knots. How could I, someone who struggles with fertility, now nearing fifty, be a part of creating this better human race? And what exactly is wrong with the humans we are right now? I slowed my thoughts to a still, collecting myself so that I could try to comprehend what else Representative Boysenberry had to say.
"Tomorrow morning, each of you will be paired off with your Optimal Mate. These Optimal Mates have been preselected. We have taken height, weight, hair color, eye color, overall health and intelligence into account for every individual in our nation that is of good health. You will be living with them for the next month in order to determine compatibility. If, at the end of the month, both members determine they are compatible with one another, they can then choose to enter into our Procreation plan. If either one of you determines that you are not compatible, then you are free to return to your prior spouse, if you already have one".
"Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa!!!," I yell emphatically, "first of all, why does it sound like you are giving me orders and not an option? Second of all, what do you mean, 'then you are free to return to your prior spouse'?". Why was I the only one asking questions? Why was everyone else quiet? It must be shock! It must be.
"It sounds like I'm giving you orders instead of an option because I am", Boysenberry is looking at me like a principle looks at a disruptive student, "this isn't the free America you remember from before, dear. Our nation has no other option. This is how it will be. And if any of you disagrees to the terms, there will be a nice, warm bed for you available in the nearest prison". He had gone from a cheesy car salesman with a pitch to an authoritative and wicked man with too much power. "Now, if everyone could please make their way upstairs, we have cots laid out for you all. Please find your name on the cots along with clothes. Dinner will be served momentarily."
The small crowd of people who all looked anxious and hopeful now looked confused and sad. We went upstairs and the panic set in, for me and many others. I couldn't imagine being separated from my husband for a month and the deep-rooted insecurities of my incapabilities further reinforced my previous state of hopelessness. I collapsed into my husband's arms, weeping.
"Did you see the armed guards at the door?", he asked me in a hushed voice, sweat beading off his forehead and his body trembling.
"No!!!", I wailed ever so painfully, "what are we going to do?". I could not help but to sob uncontrollably.
"Babe, babe! It's going to be fine, right? We just have to give it a month with these people they are forcing on us. That's it. We can do one month apart, right? After all we've been through??? One month is a cake walk. Thirty days, just thirty days and we'll be back together".
I tried to pull myself back together, "you're right, you're right. It was all very overwhelming to hear. We'll be okay, we'll be okay", I try and convince myself.
The next morning was grim. It looked just as perfect as the previous perfect Spring day, but it felt grim. The armed guards came in, separated the men from the women. I hadn't even paid attention to anyone else's reaction. I was too caught up in my own dread to care. I wasn't even permitted a final kiss with my beloved husband. The women fell in line and awaited medical examinations. We were lined up right against the second floor windows and we all watched as our husband's loaded buses to some unknown location, hoping to return to this city hall and their wives in thirty days. There was an ache in the room that was indescribable. I entered the room for my examination, one other woman entered with me.
We tried to make small talk, she more chipper than I. She told me how she had lost her husband and was looking forward to the possibility of companionship. I told her my story and she offered her sympathy. Sympathy, who needs it? Still, she was kind and it was nice having a sounding board. The doctor came in and told us both to lay down. He punctured our arms and gave us intravenous fluids because we are both "showing signs of dehydration" so he says. As I lay there, my new found friend and I began singing, "don't worry about a thing, every little thing's gonna be alright." I started feeling quite sleepy, maybe emotionally exhausted, my eyes got heavier and heavier and heavier....
More On Earth’s Future
The dawn was breaking just as the darkness was setting in. Kate couldn't believe what she had seen. She never really asked questions about how Jeff and the others like him took on an earthly form. She had assumed they somehow created the human being form themselves. After what she witnessed last night, her assumption seemed adolescent. The scene kept playing on repeat in her mind. It was late and Kate was out walking through the woods, far past where she knew she should be. Something was pulling her down this path, maybe it was her desire to know more. In the dark forest, Kate could barely see in front of her face. She could hear rapid movements and so she slowed to a still, hoping to catch a glimpse of what Jeff's true form might look like. She sat, crouched behind the trunk of a tree, watching in horror as an alien siphoned the life from a human, one Kate did not know personally, but knew to be human without a doubt. The alien began to split the lifeless body and gut it like a hunter would a deer. After cleaning out the carcass, it wrapped itself in the human skin as if it was covering itself with a blanket. "How can this be?", Kate thought. This was nothing like what Jeff had led her to believe. These things were not at all peaceful, they were wicked. Jeff said they had no plans on killing humans, but Kate had just witnessed it firsthand. She had to make her way back to her room without being noticed by the monsters lurking in the forest. Just as her replay of the evening was coming to an end, Jeff burst through the door, grabbed her and said, "You're not safe here. You have to leave with me, NOW!".
Crappy Words Are Greater Than None
"Two hundred crappy words a day!". This quote keeps playing on repeat in my mind. I read a book quoting an author who wrote over 70 novels in his lifetime. When asked how he managed to do it, he said, "Two hundred crappy words a day".
These words are haunting and annoying. The truth of the matter is, I don't want to write two hundred crappy words a day. I want to write two hundred inspiring, thought-provoking, life-changing words a day. Guess how many of these inspiring, thought-provoking, life-changing words I have written in the last month? None! Not only have I not written any of THOSE types of words, I haven't written ANY words. That is why this author's quote haunts me.
How many words could I have written by now if I had applied this principle to my life when it originally presented itself? Well, if I stuck to only two hundred words and accounted for 30 days in a month, I could have written at least six thousand words.It doesn't take a mathematician to figure that six thousand words is far greater than no words at all. But, to actually sit down and write these crappy words and read these crappy words annoys me.
Now that I've broke through the haunting and annoying feelings and set my entitled attitude aside, I've decided two hundred crappy words is exactly what I need to not only get over myself, but push myself into a realm of creativity I've only dreamed of being a part of for far too long.
When the Truth Bloomed
April showers bring May flowers, at least that's what my mom used to tell me. Unlike the rain, which was ever so present in our part of the world during the month of April, my mother was rather absent. Her physical absence never bothered me much because she had never been emotionally available to me. When she disappeared for a bit, I always assumed she was searching for more flowers to plant on our family's endless acres. Her beautiful blooms were as endless as those acres come May and they were also the envy of the little old ladies in our town and surrounding area. No one knew mom's secret, not even me. Ladies would stop by for tea and try to sneak peeks at mom's gardening tools, the soil she used, and what was in her compost bucket. Still, nobody's blooms could measure up.
Those lovely flowers were a pleasant distraction from the unpleasant occurrences happening in town. The disappearance of well-to-do men in our small area of the world had me terrified. Ever since I could remember, men had been disappearing. Maybe one or two over the course of a few years and never enough to make people curious. They would just chalk it up to, "he musta got sick of his wife and left" ,or, "maybe he found him another woman". There was no real concern and never an investigation.
These disappearances had always bothered me seeing as my dad was the first to disappear. My dad wasn't the kind of man to run out on his family. My mom might argue, but I knew my dad and if he did plan on leaving, I know he would have taken me with him. I still search for him and long for him. I don't think the void he left will ever be filled. One day he was there and the next he was gone with no explanation, no answers, no closure. In moments like these, all I have are his pictures and I lose myself in every memory. As I sit, staring at an old picture of the two of us at the park, I hear my mom's tires screech to a halt. The sound is more distant than usual, but I put the picture away to avoid having an awkward, emotionally detached moment with my mom about the only person with whom I've ever been emotionally attached.
I look over at the clock and notice it is two in the morning! What in the world is she doing out so late? Especially in this heavy of a downpour. I peek through the blinds and see her hovered over the trunk of her car, parked on the other side of the cattle guard. Suddenly, the passenger side door swings open and I can make out the shadow of a tall, slender man. It is too dark and raining too hard for me to know who it is, but I have a feeling it is the local pharmacist, Mr. Jenkins. He walks over to help my mom lift bags of soil and what appears to be large gardening shears out of the trunk. The next thing I know, they are passionately embracing one another and then....yuck! They are making love. For the life me I don't understand why I am still peering through the blinds at this disgusting moment and then....I see my mom reach for the gardening shears and drive them straight into the chest of Mr. Jenkins. I fall to my knees and began retching uncontrollably when it hits me as hard as the cold, backhand of reality only can....my father! This is what happened to my father!!! And all the other men in town who had disappeared! Anger and confusion consume me. All I see is red. In a rush, I make my way to my father's gun closet. I feel robotic in movement as I am not thinking or processing my next move, just doing. Then, there she is, standing before me, the cold-hearted murderer who I know killed my father. Without a thought, without a question, without a care, I fire my dad's twelve gauge at close range. My mother is killed on impact, her blood is coating the wooden, rickety, farmhouse floors, and I am feverishly shaking from shock. I make my way to the kitchen, dial the sheriff and wait.
As I await Sheriff Smith, contemplating my inevitable arrest and stint in prison, I sip on bourbon, the same my dad used to drink. Was this out of vengeance or do I suffer from the same psychotic desire to kill that my mother had? Sheriff Smith arrives. I reiterate the night. I tell him, "she was responsible for the men disappearing in this town, including my father. And that, officer, is why I had to murder my mother".