Am I afraid to jump?
But do you know what’s really wonderful about fear?
It forces you to swim.
Am I afraid to jump?
But do you know what’s really wonderful about fear?
It forces you to swim.
Broken glass. Stale Eggs. Cigarette smoke.
Glass lies everywhere. The egg-smoke climbs upwards towards the ceiling fan and spreads out across the room.
In the inside of nowhere, I can see them.
But, do you see me?
Green hills overlook the North Atlantic Ocean. In the water, rocks protrude from the watery abyss. The sharp edged natural swords have sent many ships to their graves with those who travelled on them.
On top of the hill is where I stand. A white light blinks at me. Thunderous electric lightening crashes above the historical watchtower that helps to guide ships into port. Briefly, the light illuminates the dark sky.
Thunder crackles again.
In the window of the lighthouse I see a small, pale, angelic singular face peer back at me. I’m too far away though and I don’t trust my eyes. In these conditions, I know my mind will play tricks on me.
Somewhere in the distance I hear a screeching sound of a baby’s cry.
Instinctively, I turn, searching for the location of the noise. But I know the infant isn’t real. It might be a phantom baby that’s come to haunt me.
Glancing towards the lighthouse, I search for the child. He’s no longer there though. Ghost child and a phantom baby are working together today playing with my subconscious.
I inhale the cold sharp air that surrounds me.
The baby’s wail begins again—louder—and with a fiercer intensity this time. In that moment, I’m hit and I’m lifted high into the air, before I fall backwards on the emerald fields.
I can’t move.
My eyes flutter at the four-year-old boy who stands above me with soft curly hair and green eyes who holds a small infant. He gently moves my arms together to form a cradle and places the crying baby there who’s wrapped in a pink blanket. Tears roll down the sides of my cheeks when the little girl’s crying slips into a contented gurgle. She rolls closer to me and then drifts off to sleep.
White light illuminates the boy who smiles down at me and my sleeping baby.
“I wish I could.”
These are the slithering, hissing sounds of absolute words that protect me—from me.
Conformity is a harness that holds me up, preventing me from falling off roofs, off buildings, or down cliffs and is my life preserver that keeps me alive. But a harness is weighty: my feet drag along the roof as I fumble to manipulate the line while scouring for the tools I need to place the next shingle down. After some time, physical fatigue sets in and I misjudge where I’m placing my feet and hands; I slip and start sliding down off the roof only to brace myself lace minute before going over the edge. The harness provides protection, but is not absolute. I’ve heard stories of people who’ve died while wearing such a device.
When I finally unstrap the harness from my waist it’s a release and I glide down sidewalks as if Tinker Bell has given me fairy dust to move. Once my body is able to move freely, the fairy leans in and sings-whispers Shakespeare’s words from Hamlet into my ear to unclog the gutters of my mind:
“To Thine Own Self Be True.”
My playground was one hundred acres of overgrown fields that consisted of dandelions and various other types of weeds. I don’t know the names of them and would be remiss if I tried to name them in this blog post because at the time, I had no idea what they were called. But they were a splendid array of colours and many of them were long enough that when I wore shorts, the long yellow weeds scratched at my legs. Another issue is that I would clumsily trip over them. With these impediments in mind, I would most of the time, slowly move across the fields. On the outskirts of the property line, green forests could be seen.
If the fields were not bad enough, on occasion, I would attempt to enter the forest. Very few memories are of the woods because the rare times I did try, I would be blooded from thorns that tore at my bare legs and arms. The woods were gated by hand-holding trees, vines, and shrubs that conspired together and were so tightly intertwined it was difficult to see where one plant ended and another began. I was forbidden from entering by nature. Trespassers would be punished. If there was a secret code or pathway, that would grant me access to enter the hidden realm, no one ever told me.
I daydreamed a lot as a child, and as a writer now, I guess I still do. I would daydream that I was the third person on my favorite show, Voyagers, and would help with the task of setting time right with Phineas Bogg and Jeffrey Jones. (Full disclosure: I had to Google the show for the names of the characters.) I was smart too, just like Jeffrey, and the three of us worked as a team to correct historical timelines.
Penny! Get me a spoon! Grandma said from the garage where she cooked.
I craned my neck and turned to the sound. My finger reached over and flipped the switch of the vacuum cleaner and it hummed to quietness as the motor turned off.
I walked to the drawer that contained over a dozen glistening spoons. I grabbed one. Then I placed it back in the drawer. I doubted myself. Did she want a normal spoon? Or maybe it was a ladle?
Something grandma said to me when I was in the middle of washing her stairs one day, early on in my life, stayed with me forever. The words she said were these: You have to keep a clean house and cook, in order to keep a husband.
I tried to argue and retorted: If I get married, he’ll love me anyways.
I remember her lips turned downwards. She grunted and dismissed my argument.
Penny! Grandma’s impatient voice came again from the kitchen.
I reached into several drawers and scooped up different types of spoons in the hopes that one of them was the right one. I ran in the direction of the garage and Grandma’s impatient voice.
Post-tip from Grandma of: “Keep a clean house and keep a husband”, I decided early on that I would work for myself. I would work hard at school and have a career. If I was able to support myself, there would be no need for a husband.
I disagreed with Grandma on her viewpoint regarding women, and the main role females should play in the world. But my Grandma was born around 1920 (she never knew with absolute certainty her date of birth) lost her mother at two-years-old to tuberculosis, and her father left her with an aunt to be raised. She never saw her father again. At seven years old, my grandmother told me she started to do chores. (It was around seven years old, that I also started to help my grandmother clean her house.) Grandma had old world ideas from, well, the old world.
But she taught me this: WORK HARD.
As for the husband thing, I am married AND I am a VERY delinquent meal-maker. Yet for some reason, my husband sticks around. Grandma and I are different people. While the lesson she hoped to teach me fell on deaf ears, she played a different role in shaping me to become the person I am today.
I’m waiting. Patiently.
Then again, perhaps not so patiently because if I were, that would mean my shoulders would be rolled back and I would be happily staring at a wall.
But I can’t seem to do that. Ever. While seated in the waiting room area of the doctor’s office I’ve already read about shootings, stabbings and earthquakes. I click on another article about an elderly couple who were victims of fraud and lost over $100,000 of their retirement savings. My mood begins to trudge dangerously close to despair. I realize I need to change gears. I rummage through my purse and pull out my paperback book and a few moments later, I giggle a little.
Tina Fey’s, Bossypants, is a good distraction from the world’s misery but it still can’t hold my attention completely. When the door chimes, my eyes bounce up to see a woman who’s pulled the front door open and carries an infant slung to one side of her hip. Behind her, two small hand-holding girls follow them. One of the girls is probably five or six-years-old and she continues to hold her sister’s hand. The little one wobbles in her boots: obviously, new to the walking thing.
The six-year-old is Deputy Mom. I smile.
Mom switches sides with the infant while she simultaneously fumbles to get her wallet out in search of her Health Card. The woman glances over at the older child, wearily sighs, and says, “Mandy, can you take Julie and sit down over there?” Her head bobs in the direction of the clustered chairs.
I glance up briefly to see the older sister slowly guide her unsteady little sister to a chair. A second later, I notice the older girl unzips her sister’s coat, tugs her hat off, and places them on the chair next to her now seated sibling.
I stare down at my book. Deputy Mom clearly takes her roll very seriously. I continue to smile at the beauty of it all. Big Sister takes care of Little Sister. After all, Mom’s hands are full. Big Sis is ever watchful, always guiding – forever there.
I continue to force a smile. It’s hard though. Something is tugging at me and is bubbling its way to the surface. I push the emotion back down by taking big breaths in and try my best to focus on Bossypants. I can’t sob in the middle of the doctor’s office. There’s no clear reason. People will wonder about me.
I miss him, a voice quietly whispers in my head.
Dear Mr. Winterman,
We’ve had a blast when you dusted my world with white fluffy snowballs and drenched the trees with snow capes. You’ve brightened a dark world in the longest and coldest days of the year. During this time, I’ve considered engaging in winter time festivities such as skating on the canal or snowshoeing. I did not do that. Instead, I chose to sit by the fireplace with a post-activity drink to those considered fun events that consisted of hot chocolate laced with booze.
But now at last, I am done with you.
It may seem an abrupt departure from what was a fairly cordial friendship up till now. But I am tired of your ways: you offer truckloads of snow (I’m not joking, there have been tons of trucks moving snow! But you knew that.) and when you are done, I must shovel my driveway for a minimum of one hour. Post removal of snow from my laneway, I then work to clear the car off. And then, I must shovel again.
Your cold ways give me nose bleeds, burn my lungs, chafe my legs, and I frequently lose the feeling in my face, fingers and toes. I do not want to go outside. I am trapped in my house dreaming of the days when -10 degrees Celsius will be a reprieve when I can walk around outdoors and it will take 30 minutes before I get cold.
You are cruel, Mr. Winterman, because we both know that when the temperature goes up you’ll hurtle icy spears at us causing hour-long congestion on roads and leaving me trapped again: but this time in my car because of ice-caked roads. When I’m finally given the chance to exit the car, I’ll slip and smack my head on my vehicle because roads and sidewalks have become skating rinks.
You think you are funny. But you are not. I am done with you. Leave now, or we will be forever done.
They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder. It’s probably true. So if you leave now, I’m sure I’ll welcome you with open arms again on December 24th, 2019.
Your friend (but soon to be enemy),
“Grandma, Grandma? When are we going to bake those chocolate chip cookies?” five-year-old Jessica says.
“Come on, Grandma!” the little girl shouts. “You’ve slept enough!” with that she reaches over to shake nana’s arm. Instinctively, she pulls away with a sudden snap of her hand as if she’s touched a hot stove. But, it’s the opposite of that. Instead it’s as if Jesse, as her grandmother liked to call her, has placed her hand on ice that cuts.
“Grandma?” Jessica whispers.
“What the hell, man? Just cut me off like that!” Brian’s hand makes a fist at the driver now ahead of him.
Shaking his head, he says, “Jesus. People are driving like we’re in the middle of a heat wave here! Look at the roads people: that’s black ice on the road, mixed in with a whole lotta snow!”
Brian’s eyes flick up to his rear view mirror. He’s not certain the reason at first. But then he catches sight of the Nissan Pathfinder that’s barreling down behind him as it pushes snow off the road and onto the sidewalk. The driver still isn’t slowing down.
There’s nothing he can do. There’s a crunching sound as the SUV hits the breaks. The truck’s wheels lock on the brown, salted, icy, snow-covered road as it begins to slide slowly at first, and then swings around and charges into the driver’s side of Brian’s car.
The SUV doesn’t stop. Medal twists. Glass smashes.
“Hey, you!” Carmen shouts at the red coat-wearing woman she hasn’t spoken to in almost six months. It’s not because the ladies had a fight. The reason is a simple and a common explanation: lack of time because of too many other obligations; and because at the end of the week they’re too damn knackered.
“Hey! Oh my goodness! I haven’t seen you in ages! How’s everything?” Dana enquires.
“Good, good. Jobs great. Kids, are getting big. Oh, Brent and I are celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary on Saturday!”
“Has it been that long?”
“Yup,” Carmen says with her chin raised proudly.
“Geez, that’s fantastic! Congratulations. Are you guys doing anything special?”
“Yeah, we’re having a party with friends and family. You should come!”
“When is it again?”
“Are you guys still living at 185 Wimbledon Lane?”
“Yeah, still there,” Carmen says chuckling. “Now, you have no excuse NOT to come! Okay, well, I’ve got to dash as I need to pick the kids up from their music lessons. Shit. Didn’t even ask though, how are things with you?”
“Good, good,” Dana says. “We’ll catch up on Saturday. Go!”
“You’ll come then?”
“Great. See you on Saturday!” Carmen says as she turns and continues to jog in the direction of her car.
(Later that day)
“We admitted her into the hospital today. She was complaining of indigestion: felt some nausea coupled with chest pain. We gave her some aspirin as a precautionary measure. She was in her mid-40’s and on observation, was well within her normal weight range. Unfortunately….”
It always seems darkest before you descend into the abyss.
Once inside the void, there’s darkness, you’ve never experienced before.
When things begin to deteriorate it sometimes strikes swiftly and with a fierceness of a single white dazzling electric thunderstorm bolt. But sometimes it also moves like red lava that slowly seeps down from the mountain, creeping towards everything you love devouring grass and trees in its path until it swallows your home. And there’s nothing you can do to stop it. Miles away with hands clasped over your mouth, and tears in your eyes, you watch as everything that belonged to you is swallowed up by the lava.