A young man
wearing a construction hardhat,
flourescent yellow vest,
mud-caked jeans and boots,
sat next to me on the bus,
cradling in his hands a
in a small green plastic cube
filled with black soil.
The buds had not opened
but the leaves were bright,
I could tell from his face,
from his posture,
that he was exhausted,
but he held the plant
gently in his hands
like it was an injured bird.
What kind of flower is it, I asked,
and he grinned sheepishly
and said, I don't know, Someone
just gave it to me.
And I thought back to the last time
I bought someone flowers,
and how, in the end, it had been
useless, and how
I should have known that giving
something that has been cut off
from its roots and severed from its soil
can only commemorate decay;
and if I really had desired to say
something about the life I wanted,
I should have, like this stranger's someone,
given a living thing
still closed up to the light,
but waiting to unfold,
embedded in rich earth.
The temptation is to call Heather childish. Perhaps I should call her clever because she got exactly what she wanted. She got to forget me.
It wasn't a dare. When I told her she wouldn't do it, I thought she would threaten, but not follow through just like all the other times.
"Watch me," she said
That's the worst part. She made me watch. I tried to shake my head dismissively and walk away only to have her grab my wrist and pull me back into the fray.
She sputtered and twitched. I reached for her puffed out cheeks to deflate them. A scorpion sting would've hurt less than the slap she landed on my face.
She didn't turn blue like people do in cartoons. Her face was a dark shade of red. A darker shade of red pooled around her head after she hit the floor.
The police and doctors were skeptical about the story at first. The neighbors heard screaming. Her handprint was still on my cheek when they arrived.
It was an accident. That's what everyone keeps telling me. I've heard "it's not your fault" more times than I count.
I contemplated it being my fault. Maybe I called her too much. Or loved her too much. Maybe I smothered her figuratively and caused her to suffocate literally.
Her sister met me in the waiting room. She told me about their slumber party games and how they would hold their breath until they passed out.
"We thought it was hilarious. We'd only be out for like a minute then wake up and have no idea where we were," her sister said.
"But," she began, her voice catching.
"But, we'd always wake up," she sobbed.
The test results confirmed her brain was deprived of oxygen for too long. Her vegetative state would be permanent.
I visit her daily. I talk about us. I've bent our photo album pages from flipping through them so many times. I have hope something will stimulate a response.
Sometimes a tear will trickle down her face. Part of me wants it to be remorse, but I'd settle for remembrance. The doctors dispelled me of that notion. They told me it's just an involuntary reaction likening it to gases moving around in a decedent giving the impression the body is still breathing.
I latched onto that.
"If a body is breathing, it's alive. If it's alive it has thoughts and feelings. And memories," I protested.
"No one would blame you if you walked away. Our family appreciates all you've done for her," her sister said.
I shook my head. I knelt at Heather's bedside.
"If you want me to leave, just say so," I said.
"That's what I thought," I said.
I picked up our wedding album. I sat on the bed beside Heather.
My fingertips traced the gilded letters on the cover.
"A day to remember," I said reading the album cover.
I opened it to page one.
I put my driver's license away
and blinked my eyes hard
to keep the tears at bay.
I felt caught in a web,
because the truth was told.
I'd been transformed from
mighty youth to mighty old.
I paid for the wine,
and made a fast escape.
I couldn't wait to drown
in fermented grape.
For this had been
a horrible day for me.
The clerk didn't ask,
'May I see your I-D?'
Life Isn’t Fair
I am neither clever, nor sophisticated.
Some might argue that my views are antiquated.
Still, the older I grow the more I am aware
of the harsh reality that life isn't fair.
One can whine about it, or kick and scream and cry.
Me? I saw that all I had to do was just try.
I could read every self-help book on the shelf,
but no superhero would save me from myself.
While Fate composed my chapters mysteriously,
I resolved not to take life so seriously.
I have learned to surrender to the pain of truth,
and shun the humorless attitude of my youth.
In my thoughts and words, I find that I'm transcending
the tawdry cruelness of being condescending.
Because, my pal, I've seen how the past works out fine.
It's there that I've found evidence of the divine.
When I see my herd,
I don't always see me.
Not all of them are quite
what I like to be.
Three of us hobble
on legs that are strange.
Many are struck with
a horrible mange.
Some are so thin
they seem sick and shabby,
while two have skin
that is loose and flabby.
One old timer is
missing an eye,
as well as an ear -
and that's no lie.
It's tough to view
so much homeliness.
I find it the cause
of much distress.
As for me, I'm the
spitting image of another.
I happen to have
an identical twin brother.
it's like looking in a mirror.
Damn, I am
an extremely handsome deer!