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A Conversation between Two Atheists

Written with help of discussion from Neil deGrasse Tyson, Richard Feynman, Carl Sagan, and Bill Nye.

A Conversation between Two Atheists

“Excuse me, master.”

“Yes?”

“Are you busy? I don’t want to interrupt.”

“No, I’m not busy at the moment. Please come in. What is it you need to discuss?”

“Race.”

“Race?”

“What is it? Does it truly exist?”

“Of course it does. Not that it should truly hold a stake in so many people’s beliefs like it does. Why do you ask?”

“I was discussing gender with a middle easterner and this would-be Christian interrupted us to discuss race. He says chemically we’re all the same. Race doesn’t exist. That we all evolved from the same species, and race is merely a figment of human consciousness.”

“Doesn’t sound very Christian.”

“That’s what I tried to tell him, yet he still preaches Catholicism.”

“And what else did . . . he?”

“Yes, it was a man.”

“Alright, what else did he tell you?”

“That nothing disappears and that I’ll always be in existence, which by the way, was his definition for God.”

“Existence?”

“Yeah. He defined ‘God’ as ‘existence.'”

“So …”

“So he described himself as God, me as God, his pack of cigarettes as God … pretty much everything is God. I asked him to give me a concise, accurate definition of the word ‘God,’ and he said that God is all, nothing, and in between.”

“And he is a church-goer?”

“Actually, no.”

“Well, I would hope not. With as strong of pagan beliefs as that, I’d think he’d be excommunicated.”

“He said that I would always be in existence.”

“You will?”

“My anatomy, the atoms that make up my body will always be in existence. Those atoms are what I call me, hence I’ll always be in existence.”

“But is that really you?”

“Of course. I look in the mirror, and I see me.”

“You can’t see yourself in a mirror.”

“I can’t?”

“Well, you can see your physical representation, but that’s not you. You’re not your body.”

“Well, he didn’t believe in human consciousness either.”

“He didn’t believe in race or human consciousness?”

“Yes, he only believes in what’s physical.”

“Which I suppose explains his ideology of what God is, but race is certainly physical. We can see physical differences between races.”

“But we can’t see it under a microscope, so how do we know it’s real?”

“Well …”

“I mean, here we are refuting Christian beliefs because they cannot be proven in science. How can we say race is real when we can’t see it with a scientific eye?”

“A decade or so ago, emotions was relegated to the fringes of science because scientific researchers lacked the necessary instruments, and what’s more, most scientists didn’t recognize the far-ranging and long-lasting effects emotions can have on peoples’ health. Just because we can’t prove something to be true doesn’t mean it’s not real.”

“What? This idea is the basis of my beliefs. What is proven in science is real, what is not is not real.”

“But you see, just because we can’t see it now, doesn’t mean there won’t be scientific advances in the future that will enable us to see what we can’t now.”

“More reason for theists to continue believing what they do.”

“Well, the same can be said about a teapot orbiting Saturn. It’s impossible to prove it untrue, so, we use both science and logic in scrutinizing between what is real and what isn’t.”

“Right.”

“There is still much to be learned. Nature’s imagination is so much greater than man’s. She’s never going to let us stop learning and just relax because we know it’s all connected. We are all connected to each other biologically, to the earth chemically, and to the rest of the universe atomically.  So, to know nature in its entirety is to know ourselves.”

“I know that the molecules in my body are traceable to phenomena in the cosmos, which makes me want to grab people in the street and say, ‘have you heard this?!'”

“The cosmos is definitely within us, we’re made of star stuff, afterall! We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.”

“Going back to emotions, I wonder if most people realize its uselessness.”

“Uselessness?”

“Why feel sadness? Why feel any emotional pain at all? There is no sense in feeling sadness. Why feel anything? It doesn’t really matter in the scheme of things. Why does sadness truly matter? It’ll end and then I won’t feel anything. I won’t have sadness-”

“But you won’t have happiness either.”

“I won’t have anything because I’ll be nothing. My feelings don’t truly matter to how I end up. Loneliness is permanent. I will go out of life the same way I came in, alone, and it won’t truly matter that I’m alone then, nothing will. Why struggle to find happiness and succeed when the day you leave this earth, it all disappears as if we hadn’t battled and strived our entire life to get it. The stress and the pain of actually living won’t pay off in the end because our end leaves us with nothing.”

“But our striving and battling does pay off. We work hard to leave our mark on this world, to leave a lasting impression through our children, our friends, and our work. If we so much as touch one individual’s life then our life-”

“Short-lived life.”

“Our short-lived life, as short as it may be, is somehow meaningful. We don’t have to leave a mark through material possessions. It can be through the gift of compassion to the human race.”

“I’m this guy standing on a planet, but really I’m just a speck. Compared with a star, the planet is just another speck. To think about all of this … to think about the vast emptiness of space … these billions and billions of stars, billions and billions of specks. If I compare my short-lived life to the earth’s lifespan, or even the universe’s, I find that I’m a small, miniscule, insignificant part of it. We all are. How tiny we all truly are terrifies me to no end. Think about just how tiny the human race is in comparison to just our solar system-”

“I’d have to say the Human race is a pretty big thing in our solar system. We have satellites and space shuttles all over our solar system. I’d say that the Human Race is quite a big deal in our solar system.”

“But what kind of impression is that on the entire universe? If the universe is infinite, doesn’t that make our impression on one solar system of hundreds of solar systems in one galaxy of millions of galaxies throughout the entire universe so unbelievably insignificant?”

“But you can’t think of it like that.”

“How can I not? This is the truth. This is what’s real. Not their iconic, controversial God who is sometimes blood thirsty and sadistic, while other times, He’s a compassionate forgiving God. It’s so contradictory.”

“But you don’t see the point of religion.”

“I do. It is a mind control game. It was birthed by a people that wished to seize control of the entire Human Race. To make people do what they want them to. To make people believe what they want them to believe.”

“No, these questions you have about the link between nature and human beings are not present in the Christian mindset because, to them, it’s already been answered. Religion was to keep our focus on what’s important: Life here and now.”

“I think you’re giving them too much credit. They’re rather fixated with this whole rapture and heaven and hell thing. That’s certainly not what’s right here, right now.”

“People who are religious don’t have the self-battles that you and I do. They believe in one thing, and it works for them, and in some ways that’s better. Perhaps they’re wrong, but who cares? They are doing what should be done.”

“What? Preaching hatred, breeding hostility, and loathing all those who do not agree with their outrageous claims? Religion is nothing more than ignorant naivté in a seemingly meaningless universe.”

“We can bring meaning to it though.”

“How?”

“Like I said before. Through our kin, our friends, and our hard work.”

“But what does that matter if we leave it all behind?”

“We don’t really leave it behind. If we leave a mark on the world, we can in a sense, live on forever.”

“Not when the person on whom we left an impression dies. We die then too.”

“No, that individual will have passed on knowledge that we had instilled in him or her to another person. Don’t you see? It lives on. Our morals live on.”

“But that’s common throughout all of mankind. Most morals are the same. Who’s to say that it was my morality that was passed on?”

“I don’t think I understand what you mean.”

“My morality is similar to yours, yes?”

“Huh?”

“We both value hard work, believe in love; we both consider theft, vandalism, and murder crimes. We both do not claim religious beliefs …”

“Right …”

“Well, who’s to say that those values are mine if they’re instilled through my compassion.

“If they’re instilled into others through your compassion, then those are your morals.”

“Okay, that’s not what I meant to say, then. I mean there’s no way of telling if common morals between another person and I are because of my instillation.”

“Well, I know there is one value or moral that I have that you don’t.”

“Uh, what’s that?”

“The perspective that life is productive. I mean whoever said that this life was about you?

“It’s my life, so I say it.”

“That’s why it’s wrong.”

“Because I believe that my life should be my own?”

“But you don’t really believe that it is since you loose it after you die.”

“Everyone does.”

“So, in a sense, everyone’s life is not their own.”

“Well, if you want to put logic into it. Alright, if they are not our own lives, whose lives are they?”

“The race’s. The only reason you or I are here is to further the human race. If that weren’t true, you and I wouldn’t be here. Think about it. Other animals, other species, plants, viruses, bacteria … any one individual’s goal is to continue living. Why? To buy more time to reproduce. Every hour longer gives more time to conceive and reproduce.”

“Furthering your species …”

“Exactly.”

“I think I get it now.”

“Good. Now, go home and rest well. You have a big day ahead of you tomorrow.”

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Vermillion Sky

Vermillion Sky

Karissa had always felt dwarfed by her sister, Katy Beth. She was three years her junior, yet their parents always compared her to Katy Beth’s outstanding achievements, head cheerleader, varsity tennis team, leads in the school musicals, Head Editor of the journalism club, and even valedictorian of her high school graduating class. Her good fortune continued with her into college, receiving a full ride to New York University where she received her bachelors and masters degrees in Medical Anthropology.

Katy Beth had an abundance of self motivation, actually an overabundance so she was always encouraged to give some motivation to Karissa by their parents. Katy Beth was a good big sister. She looked out for Karissa and always tried to involve her in activities so she could make new friends. Karissa wasn’t the best at meeting new people and befriending them and her parents were always quick to point this out.

One time in an argument with her parents about her new punk boyfriend, her mother said, “Why can’t you date boys like Michael?”

“Michael is Katy’s type, not mine!” Karissa screamed back.

“Well maybe you need to be more like your sister then. She never has any problem with boys.”

“I don’t have any problem it’s you who has the problem,” Karissa yelled, angry tears beginning to accumulate in her blood shot eyes.

“No, I think we know exactly what the problem is here, Karissa. James, look at this. Look at your daughter’s arms!” Her mother screamed, pulling back the long sleeves of Karissa’s forest green sweater.

“No, stop it! Get off!” Karissa cried out, pushing her sleeves back down.

Her father stepped in, grabbed her arm violently and pushed back her sleeve.

“Ow, Dad you’re hurting me.”

“Do you see that James? Your daughter has been cutting herself,” her mother said, a bit calmer.

“Dad … ow, Dad. Dad, that hurts. Daddy!”

Her father pulled her sleeve back down, threw her arm from his hand and left the room. “No dad, stop.” Karissa started to run after her father, but her mother pulled her back.

“No you don’t, we’re not done here, Karissa,” her mother said.

Calmly and rationally, Karissa spoke, “Let me go.”

“No. We’re going to talk about this.”

With a little more anger, “Let me go, now.”

“Karissa …”

Through gritted teeth, “I said, let me go.”

“Jesus, Karissa, why can’t you be more like your sister?”

The tears started streaming down her face and when she looked her mother dead in the face, it was to say, “You bitch.”

“Excuse me? What’d you say?”

“Oh you heard me,” Karissa said, nodding matter of factly. And then her mother did something that she’d regret till the day she’d die. She hit her daughter hard across the face.

So, to say the least, Karissa was shadowed by her parents all approving love for her sister. It never failed. Whenever Karissa ever did anything to please their parents, Katy Beth always trumped her ace and did something so great that it made her parents overlook Karissa’s valiant efforts.

Now, twenty-one years old, Karissa looked at Katy Beth’s Wedding invitation in her hand. Her engagement to Michael had been abrupt and surprising to everyone. Her mother stated it simply when she said, “It just doesn’t seem like Katy Beth to rush through an engagement.” And rightly so, Katy Beth was never one to rush things. For her graduation party, Katy took over two weeks to decide which dress she wanted to wear. Katy was all about preciseness and perfection of face, figure and wardrobe.

“Why am I even debating it?” Karissa asked herself. “Just write your damn name and be done with it.” Reluctantly, she took a blue ballpoint pen and signed her name on the line marked M. Under Persons Attending she marked one, upsetting her even more that it brought a sudden rush of tears to her eyes. Not only was she being forced to celebrate in her sister’s triumph over her, but she had to attend it alone. Katy Beth had won and Karissa knew it.

Breathing a loud sigh, she tucked the invitation back into its pretty, off white envelope, sealed it, and placed it on the counter. She took her rolodex down from its shelf and thumbed through it. Maybe there was someone, a guy that she could take with her to Katy Beth’s Wedding. But what guy in his right mind would be willing to accompany her as a date? Scanning through the small cards, she found Willis’ card. Willis, a thoughtful guy, had dated Karissa a good two years ago, but decided to just be friends when he couldn’t take Karissa constant self deprecation. To Willis, it just always seemed like she was fishing for compliments, so he broke it off and decided to just be friends.

She’d call him, even though she hadn’t talked to him in over five months. He had always been so kind to her and stroked her ego when she needed it most and as the phone rang on the other line, Karissa began to smile thinking about him. “Hello.”

“Hello, Willis? It’s Karissa.”

“Oh hey there. It’s been awhile.”

“It has. Listen, I wanted to know if you could do me a favor.”

“Depends what it is.”

“Would you like to accompany me to my sister’s wedding next Saturday?” Karissa asked, rejection gleaming in her eyes.

“Katy Beth?”

“Yes.”

“O gosh, Karissa. I was invited as well and I’m already bringing someone.”

“Oh. Damn. Who?”

“My fiancé. You remember Jennifer Preston?”

“You’re engaged?” Karissa was a bit shocked.

“It’s actually a funny story. Jennifer and Katy Beth have become really good friends. She asked me to double date with her and Michael a few months ago and she would bring a blind date for me.”

“And it was Jennifer?”

“Yeah, yeah. We all laughed about it later.”

“I see …”

“Well listen, I gotta get ready for work.”

“This late?”

“I got a new job. Well I hope to see you at the wedding.” Click. And he was gone.

“She can’t stand to have her own friends so she has to take mine?” Karissa said aloud walking from her tiny kitchen into her even tinier living room. Throwing herself into a recliner, she turned on the television, seething with anger. She was so heated she couldn’t even see the television through the tears in her eyes. Tossing her head back, trying to wipe away tears, Karissa reclined and curled into a ball. Her legs pulled up to her breast, she wrapped her arms around her knees. And slowly fell into a rageful trance, drifting into a deep sleep.

When she awoke, dusk had fallen outside. She sat up, blinking away tears still lingering in her eyes. She walked into the kitchen and saw the RSVP in its prefect, little envelope lying where she had left it. She thought she’d mail it before she did something she’d regret. So she put on her coat, grabbed the invitation, and headed outside into brisk evening air.

The post office was only three blocks away; she’d walk the distance to mail it. She needed to clear her head in the cool sunset air anyway. At a leisurely pace, she walked toward the sidewalk. She tucked the envelope into her coat pocket for fear that she may just end up ripping it to shreds on her walk over.

She had moved into The Beaches apartment complex the day she turned eighteen and was legal to sign a lease. Her apartment was small, but it was cheap and Karissa liked that. She usually walked on foot to places in the area because the complex was in the center of town. On the sidewalk, she closed her eyes, took her hands out of her coat pockets, and dreamed she was someone else, a prettier, smarter girl in a different life, one that was worth living. Karissa lost count of how many times she woke up in her single and lacked the motivation to get up, let alone shower and get dressed to start the day. There would be long days where she’d sit at her lonely desk job at Smith Auto and just think that life wasn’t worth living.

She spread her arms and picked up her pace as she imagined she was flying high, defying gravity, flying over her parents’ heads, over Katy Beth’s head when suddenly she bumped into someone. She opened her eyes and saw a rather handsome man. His hair was dark and wavy. His face was muscular and he had a very well defined jaw line.

“Oh excuse me. I’m sorry,” Karissa said, wondering how she could have been so clumsy.

“Were you practicing incase you were to go blind?” He asked, his voice a deep musk.

“What?”

“Back there. You had your eyes closed.”

“That’s less embarrassing,” Karissa said under her breath, “Yes. Yes I was. How’d you guess?

“My mom used to do it. She’s kind of an old kook like that.” He took notice to Karissa’s sudden change in facial expression. “Not that you’re a kook or anything. She just was. Actually, you’re remarkably beautiful.”

“Excuse me?”

“You. You’re very stunning. I’m Tony Knox.”

“Uh hi, I’m Karissa. Good to know you Tony.”

“No, no. You can call me by my last name. Call me Knox.”

“Alright Knox. Now if you don’t mind I need to take this RSVP to the Post Office,” Karissa said trying to get around him and away from the abrupt awkwardness.

“Would you mind if I accompanied you?” Knox asked.

“Weren’t you on your way to somewhere?”

“No, no, Just out for a stroll. Lovely, crisp autumn air. Just taking a walk to clear my head.”

“No kidding. I was doing that too. Well, on the way to mail my sister’s wedding invitation.”

“Wedding? Oh I see. I suppose you are already bringing a date to that, pretty a girl as you.”

“Actually, I was planning to attend it alone.”

“But why?”

“I really don’t know. I couldn’t find anyone to go with.”

“Hell I’ll go with you, then. One should never attend a wedding alone.”

“Oh. I won’t be alone. I’ll be sitting with my parents.”

“Still alone as far as I’m concerned,” Knox stated matter of factly.

“No kidding,” Karissa spoke, slightly under her breath, “I mean-”

“No, no. No need to explain. I’ve got those kind of parents too.”

Karissa smiled and nodded. After walking nearly half a block without even noticing, she said, “Well I guess we’ve decided you can accompany me to the post office.”

Chuckling a little, Knox responded back, “I guess we have.”

Karissa smiled and continued a steady stroll toward the Post office, Knox beside her. To Karissa, it was a bit odd to have a random stranger walk a whole three blocks with her, yet she found a strong sense of comfort in it to believe all the universe wasn’t entirely against her. Knox continued on with Karissa the entire way and never strayed once. Karissa slowed her pace to a nice, steady walk so she could have more time with Knox’s kind character.

By the time they had made it to the Post Office, Karissa had decided she wasn’t going to attend the Wedding alone. She would take Knox as her date. After Knox agreed to accompany Karissa as her date, she muttered, “Well shoot. I don’t have a pen to change it.” Conveniently, Knox pulled out a blue pen from his coat pocket. The same blue ballpoint pen she had used earlier to sign the RSVP. Karissa chuckled slightly as she changed the RSVP.

As she dropped the invitation into the blue mail slot, Knox spoke, “Well that’s that. Now what?”

“Oh it’s getting pretty late now. I think I may just head home,” Karissa responded back.

“Well then I shall walk you home.”

“No, no. That’s not at all necessary, Knox. I’m a grown woman I can make it on my own.”

“Come now. Don’t be silly, Kara. I have no-“

“Kara. That’s what my best friend in grade school used to call me,” Karissa interrupted. “When I told my mother at dinner that Anthony called me Kara, she said ‘Nonsense. Your name is Karissa, not Kara.’ And thus it never caught on. I always liked Kara. Thank you Knox.”

“Just glad I could make you smile.”

“Oh you have.”

Knox walked Karissa to her door and kissed her hand as he took his leave. She blushed, redder than a ripe June apple, and opened her door and stepped into her apartment’s lonely darkness. Tonight, however, Karissa didn’t feel quite as alone as she had many times before. Her first encounter with Knox was abrupt and awkward, but it couldn’t have come at a better time.

Karissa awoke the next morning to a brilliant morning sunlight pouring onto her bed. Just as she sat up in her single, the telephone rang. Rubbing the sleep out her eyes, she reached over and grabbed the cordless on her night post. “Hello,” she said groggily into the phone.

“Ah. I’m glad I caught you.”

“Knox? What are you calling me so early for?”

“Early? It’s nearly eleven thirty,” Knox responded back.

“Eleven thirty? God I must have been so out of it last night, I forgot to set my alarm,” she said looking around her small bedroom to her alarm clock.

“Yes, well, love can do that to you,” Knox said, matter of factly.

“I beg your pardon-”

“So … what shall we do today?”

“We? I have to go to work, Knox.”

“Nonsense. It’s Saturday.”

Karissa cocked her head to the side and looked at her calendar on the wall. It was Saturday. “So it is.” She didn’t understand. She could have sworn she received her sister’s invitation on Thursday and she had mailed it out that same day.

“So what shall we do?”

“Did I give you my phone number?”

“Well obviously. How else could I have called you?” Knox said, a bit of laughter in his voice.

“I guess, I just don’t remember giving it to you.” Karissa didn’t think much of it though, as she pulled her covers off and stumbled out of bed. “Well I still need to shower.”

“So do I.”

“There’s this lovely little café on Walnut and fifth that I’ve wanted to try since I moved in, but never had anyone to go with. Let’s go there.”

“Splendid. I know exactly where you’re talking about. I’ll meet you there around two?”

“See you then.”

“Goodbye, Kara.”

It was a quaint, picturesque café that Karissa entered on Walnut Boulevard and Fifth Street. As she walked in, she passed by round tables with steel chairs padded with red cushioning on the seat and wire back support. There were quite a few people around, catching up with old friends and chatting about recent events in their lives. The café was a sure place to meet up with friends and loved ones and have a nice brunch or afternoon snack.

The customers watched Karissa conspicuously as she sat down at a steel table alone. She grew paranoid and watched the other women as they glanced over at her and leaned in to gossip about the poor, lonely girl. Karissa closed her eyes and made them disappear. In her mind they weren’t there. In her mind she was somewhere else, far away from the gossip and ridicule of others. When she reopened them Knox stood before her.

“Oh I was afraid you stood me up,” she said.

“Stand you up? Never.”

Karissa blushed slightly. “Shall we order?”

“I think we have to go to the counter,” Knox said already making his way there. “Come with me.” He reached out his hand for Karissa to grab and when she did she smiled. They held hands as they walked to the counter and Karissa looked at the menu board behind the cashier. “What looks good?”

“I don’t know, but pick out anything. My treat,” Knox told her.

“Alright. A crepe sounds good.”

“Fruit or chocolate?” Knox asked her.

“Hmmm … What do you like?” Karissa asked Knox, gazing into his bright hazel blue eyes.

“Strawberries sound good to me.”

“Yeah, yeah me too.”

“Want to share one? Crepes are a decent size,” Knox said cutting out the approximate size of a crepe with his hands.

“Yea let’s share one.” Karissa looked to the cashier who had a half startled half interested look on his face. Uh … we are going to order a strawberry crepe,” she said to the cashier. “Any coffee?”

“All kinds,” the cashier responded.

“No, no. Not you. I’m sorry,” Karissa said to him. To Knox she said, “Any coffee, Knox?”

“Of course.”

“Alright and two coffees. Will you bring out the crème and sugar with the order?”

A little out of it, the cashier responded back with an offhand, “Oh yea … err no, here it is.” Obviously his attention was else where, but Karissa couldn’t quite tell on what.

Back at the table, Knox charismatically smiled and said, “I’m so lucky to be having coffee with you.”

Flattered, Karissa giggled, “Why?”

Knox gently took Karissa’s hand in his. “When was the last time someone told you just how beautiful you are?”

Karissa let out a small sigh and smiled. “Wow.”

“Wow what?”

“I can’t believe I’m finally meeting you.”

“Meeting me?”

“Yes, you. Why don’t you tell me a little more about yourself?”

“Me? No, no, dear Kara. This is all about you.”

A little puzzled, Karissa asked, “About me?”

“Yes. Tell me more about this wedding we’ll be attending.”

“Oh it’s for my sister Katy Beth.”

“Is she younger or older?”

Clearing her throat and sipping her coffee, Karissa said “Older.”

“Are you on good terms with her? Knox asked, interested.

“Well she thinks everything’s just fine –“

“When really it’s not,” Knox quickly observed. “Otherwise, you wouldn’t have so much apparent animosity toward her.”

Blinking several times, Karissa responded, “Uh, right. She always acted like she was so fantastic, when really, she was a blatant phony.

“How do you figure?”

“She is so fake, Knox, it isn’t even funny. Mom and dad catered to her every need. Or at least mom did. Dad tried his best to treat us equally, in spite of mom’s aggression. Dad was always the passive one.”

“It’s too bad your mother couldn’t see passed your sister’s façade.”

“Exactly. She comes off as sweet, but let me tell you she isn’t.” Karissa’s voice began to raise and her face turned a light blush. “She was always out to get me, that bitch.”

Suddenly, she noticed  an employee walk out from behind the counter and toward the table. “Do you have a crepe ready?” Karissa asked when he got near.

“Mam, I’ve been asked by my managers to kindly ask you to leave,” said the young clerk.

“Why? We haven’t gotten our crepe yet.”

“We’ve had some complaints that you are disturbing the other guests. My manager is putting the crepe in a to-go box for you.”

“This is absurd! I wasn’t even loud. I want to talk to these- to these guests.” And with that Karissa rose to her feet.

“Mam, I’m going to have to ask you to take your seat until we have your crepe ready,” the clerk demanded.

“C’mon Knox. Let’s get the hell outta hear. I don’t think we’ll be back.” And with that Knox stood and the two left the café.

“Could you believe that guy? Telling us to leave! You weren’t even loud and we were paying customers just like the rest of them!” Knox cried outside in the sunlight.

“I can’t believe I just did that.”

“Did what?”

“Stood up to that guy like that. That’s not like me.”

“Well maybe this is the dawning of a new era, one where Kara is no longer afraid of her own shadow.”

“No I think it’s just you. I only met you yesterday, but I-I feel like I can- I feel like I can tell you anything. I feel like when I’m with you, I can stand up against the world. Thank you, Knox.”

“You’re welcome.” Knox romantically slid his arm to her side and held her hand in his. “This feels good. Like it was meant to be”

“I agree. I totally agree. I’m not one to rush into anything without looking at it from every angle, but this just feels right.”

And so they walked, hand and hand, back to Karissa’s apartment, Knox listening as Karissa poured out all the regret she had in life, all her pessimistic views on the world, all her melodramatic sibling rivalry stories, when she would get a little sad or angry, Knox would always tell a funny story or joke that related to keep her smiling.

At her door, Knox kissed her hand and bid her good night once more. “Hey Knox! Thanks again so much for today.”

“No ‘thank you’s are necessary. I’ll be in touch,” he replied back as he walked off into the foggy darkness of the night.

Sliding her key into the keyhole of her front door, she heard her house telephone begin to ring. She rushed through the door, closing it behind her, and ran to her tiny kitchen and picking up the receiver, she said, “Hello.”

“You sound out of breath, Karissa,” Her mother said.

“Oh I was just rushing in the door to catch the phone before the machine picked up.”

“I don’t know why you have a receiver anyway. Why do you even have a phone line when you have a cell phone? It’s a waste of money, I tell you.”

“Because I still have people like you and Katy Beth calling my landline.”

“That’s because your cell has caller ID and you won’t pick up our calls. Hell, I’m surprised you picked up this one.”

“That’s because I thought it might be …”

“Who?” Her mother asked, more interested than ever. There was silence on Karissa’s end. Annoyed with it, her mother quickly spoke, “I don’t know why you just don’t get caller ID for your landline as well, so then you won’t have to talk to us at all.”

Used to her mother’s nagging, Karissa knew how to cut the conversation short, so in response, she said, “Yes, mom.”

“Good.”

“Did you call for any certain reason, or just to torment me?”

“Oh please, Karissa. We received your R.S.V.P.”

“Already?”

“We had it sent express,” her mother replied, a sense of superiority about it.

“Of course you did.”

“Well, of course. We needed your answer as soon as possible since the wedding is less than a week away.”

“Well you wouldn’t have had to do that had your daughter not forgotten to invite me.”

“Katy Beth didn’t forget to invite you. We told you it got lost in the mail. That’s why we used express to get it here, to ensure it wouldn’t be lost coming back. You should be grateful that your sister’s paying the extra money to have it shipped express.”

“Oh, yes, ever so grateful.”

Irritated, her mother ignored her comment and moved in for the kill, “Who are you bringing to your sister’s wedding? I thought you said you would be attending alone.”

“Yea, change of plans.”

“Who is it?”

“Why?”

“It isn’t that one biker with the tattoos all over his arm, is it?”

Frustrated, Karissa quickly said, “No, mom. His name is Tony Knox.”

“Well he better be well kept and groomed. We can’t have a thug showing up to your sister’s wedding with you. Your father and I would be so embarrassed.”

“Don’t you mean just you, mother?”

“Go ahead, embarrass this family. See what happens, Karissa.”

“Yes, mom. G’bye.”

“Don’t you hang up on me. I’m not through,” her mother screamed into the phone and with that Karissa hung up the receiver. Putting her arm against the wall, she rested her head on her arm and slowly shook her head.

Suddenly she felt a hand on her shoulder. She quickly turned and saw Knox. “Oh my God, Knox. You scared the hell out of me.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to.”

“How’d you get in?”

“The door was open.”

“What are you doing here?”

“I just had to see you one last time and kiss you for real this time, but you seem upset.”

“Oh … gosh. You’re so sweet,” Karissa said, rolling her eyes a bit.

“What’s wrong?

“What? Oh just my mom.”

“Your mom called you? What’d she want?”

“She wanted to bitch. That’s all.”

“Really? That’s it?” Knox asked suspiciously.

“Well she wanted to know who it was that I was bringing to the wedding.”

“And did you tell her?”

“Of course, but not before she – but not before she-”

Seeing that Karissa was getting worked up as tears started to form in her eyes, Knox quickly put his arm around her head and pulled her to his chest. “Shhhh. Calm down. It’s alright. Everything is gonna be alright.”

Putting her arms around his waist, she sobbed into him. “I wish I could just melt. I want to just fall into you. Disappear.”

“So fall into me,” Knox said, running his fingers through her dark brown hair.

Pulling away a little, Karissa stared into Knox’s eyes. “How? How does one just fall into someone else?”

“Like this.” With that Knox kissed Karissa’s lips. It was soft yet romantic, shallow and warm. He pulled away just slightly to gaze into her brown eyes. Placing her hands to the back of his head she pulled him into a deep passionate kiss.

“Do you want to stay the night?”

Smiling, Knox kissed her again and nodded his head. And so he did. Knox stayed at her house for the whole entire week and Karissa called in sick all week to spend time with him.

Friday evening had found her faster than she realized it and she was getting ready for her sister’s rehearsal dinner.

“I was right. You and Jason are the exact same size,” Karissa said, pulling the black jacket onto Knox’s shoulders.

“We’re pretty lucky he left it here, Knox replied brushing off his shoulders.

“Actually, Jason never lived with me. We dated for a few months and he broke up with me so I stole this Merle Norman suit from his closet,” Karissa laughed.

“That is pretty funny. Well are you ready?”

“Yes. Yes I am. Let’s see … hair’s slicked back, suit is wrinkle free, and-” She stopped to smell near his neck, “yup, you smell great.”

“So do you. Spectacular!”

“It’s called Oui. It’s French.”

“So, I’ll drive since my parents’ know my car and they are doing this whole valet parking thing.

“Well, they’re just going all out,” Knox said sarcastically, chuckling.

Chuckling as well, Karissa grabbed Knox’s hand and said, “I just can’t wait for you to meet them. Well, rather, them meet you.”

“They’ll like me, right?”

“Oh God, I don’t even care. I just want my sister to see you. Michael is nothing compared to you.”

They departed from her complex and got into Karissa’s blue Pento. Soon arriving at the Country Club, Karissa braked and put the car into park. Leaving the car running, she and Knox stepped out of the car, Karissa leaving the car door open for the valet.

Walking up to the club doors, Karissa said to Knox, “Hold my hand.” As they stepped into the lobby, Karissa saw her father, “Dad!”

“Ah! Karissa. I’m so glad you decided to come,” Karissa’s father said, kissing her cheek.

“When was I ever not gonna come?”

“Your mother said it wasn’t a definite possibility that you’d show.”

“What?”

“She said that you were bringing a date. Well where is he?”

“Right here. Dad, this is Tony Knox. Knox, this is my father, Edward.”

A little puzzled, her father laughed a little and shook his finger at her. “Karissa … you’ve still got it. You’ve still got it.” As he walked off, Karissa apologized to Knox, “I don’t know what that was all about.”

“Probably told to act cold towards me by your mother,” Knox quickly said.

“My thoughts exactly. Oh, don’t even mind them. We only have to make an appearance. I don’t even think we’ll stay for the whole dinner.”

“I think that’s a good -” Knox was interrupted by Karissa’s sister steadily approaching, her dark green eyes hypnotically coming closer.

“So good to see you’re here. I’m so sorry about the invitation getting lost in the mail,” Katy Beth said.

“Yeah, sorry enough that you had mom call and apologize for you.”

“Oh please, Karissa. Not today. Mom said you were bringing a date. Where is he? Or perhaps a she if there’s something you aren’t telling us.” She gave her a little wink and a nudge with her elbow.

“Knox, this is my sister, Katy Beth. Katy Beth, this is Tony Knox.”

“Funny Karissa. Seriously. Where is he?”

“Right here. Shake her hand Knox.”

“I don’t think she wants to shake it,” Knox said.

“Oh c’mon. She’s just jealous of how great looking you are.”

“Just what are you trying to pull?” Katy Beth said, taking a step back.

“Excuse me?”

“There’s no one there.”

“What? Knox. Say something,” Karissa demanded.

“She doesn’t want to listen,” Knox spoke.

“Say “Hello” and prove to her you are not a robot.”

“Karissa, stop it. There’s no one there. There’s no one there.”

Their mother, in a sage green dress quickly walked to oversee the matter that had arisen between her daughters. “What’s going on here? Karissa, where is your date.”

“Right -”

Katy Beth quickly interrupted. “She has no date, mom. She made the whole thing up.”

“What? No I didn’t. Mom, this is Kn- where’d he go?”

“Karissa are you okay? Maybe you should sit down,” Katy Beth said, taking her by the arm.

“What? No! Where is Knox. He was just here.”

“Karissa, there was never anyone here. Don’t you see what she’s trying to do? She’s trying to ruin my big day.”

“Where is he?” Karissa said, looking around the lobby.

“Karissa, I think you better come with me.”

“What? No. Where is Knox?”

“I saw you with no one, Karissa,” her mother said. “So cut your crap.”

“But he – I don’t understand. He was – he was just -”

“Whoever he is. He’s not here. I don’t think you know who you’re even talking about.”

Stuttering uncontrollably, Karissa began to spin around, becoming dizzy.

“Karissa! Quiet. You’re making a scene.”

“But I don’t unersta- I don’t understand,” her eyes beginning to well with tears.

“He isn’t real, Karissa, He isn’t real,” Katy Beth softly said, touching her shoulder. “You don’t look well. I think you should just go on home and just join us for the wedding tomorrow. Get some sleep. You look really tired. I’ll have daddy take you home.

The girls’ father helped a red faced and trembling Karissa into his SUV. Taking his place in the driver’s seat, her father looked over at Karissa, leaning against the passenger door, softly whispering, “Knox. Knox where are you?”

When they arrived at her complex, he helped her out of the car up to her door. “I’m going to go back to the dinner. Are you going to be alright?”

Without saying a word, Karissa unlocked her door and walked into the darkness of her apartment. “Knox! Where are you?!” She screamed into smokey blackness. As she entered her bedroom, she saw Jason’s suit laid out on her bed. She stumbled out into the hallway and into the bathroom. Kneeling at the toilet and lifting the lid, she got sick in the white, porcelain bowl. She staggered up to the sink, rinsed her mouth, and left the bathroom. She walked to her kitchen, leaning on the counter for stability, she whispered to herself, “He was dressed in all of me, stretched across my pain. I’d do anything to myself, just to have him for myself. Now I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to do. He is everything to me, but the unattainable. He’s like a myth that I tried to make real, but he- he isn’t real. I can’t make him real.” She slowly sank into a kitchen table chair, as the sun slowly sank beneath a vermillion sky.

The Two Beds

The Two Beds

Their faces used to be of a supreme joy. Their eyes were of a sparkling warmth. Their hearts of an intense and everlasting love. A love for their children, grandchildren, and most of all, each other. She had become ill a little earlier than he had. Her fragile bones got too weak to even stand, so she made a sofa her new home. Her children and her grandchildren visited her upon it. She began to lack in motivation to live as she began to eat little and her body grew small. He stood idly by and watched his wife deteriorate right before his eyes. Her warmth was the only morsel of her not to be shadowed. Her kindness and generosity to her family remained still. He looked down upon her not with pity, but a devotion. A true testament that he knew stood to pass the test of time.

His own fate came to a crashing halt as he was diagnosed with cancer. His life, and hers, flashed before his eyes. He wanted so badly to pull her from the darkness of the sofa and teach her to walk once again. To regain strength and pursue life with him. He wasn’t going to become a hermit because of the diagnosis. He was going to live life as he always had, as if no cancer was poisoning his body.

Soon after his diagnosis, her health worsened so badly that a hospital bed had to be wheeled into their home, replacing the sofa as her new chamber. She was placed on an oxygen machine and an at – home nurse was assigned to take care of her. Her children were there by her side. But even closer to the bedside was him. He was with her day in and day out as more and more life was drained from her frail body. He hated the thought of climbing the narrow stairs to their bedroom, to the bed where they both had once slept together in joyous slumber. He hated the thought of leaving her downstairs alone.

Slowly, as he watched her become even more of a skeleton, he saw the light extinguish in himself. He became weak and it became hard for him to breathe. She could do absolutely nothing to help him regain strength. All she could do was command her family to do it for her. To take her beloved with them on their pursuits in life. So their children took him to church, to breakfast and out to his favorite past time, fishing. He still weakened from the treatment of the cancer, though. It became hard enough to climb the stairs each night. He was always so tired and his muscles found it difficult to mount the steps and grasp the rail.

So to help him treat his wife’s suffering, and his own, he rallied his sons and their sons to take the bed apart. He helped them haul it down the stairs and into the adjoining room so that he could be near his wife. If he heard her stir in the night, he could tend to her every need, where her eyes would fill with tears, for she loved seeing his face. He loved her so.

Even though he was just in the next room, he felt her drift further and further from him. His eyes would swell each and every night when he thought about how it used to be. Him and her in love, his courting of her until their abrupt marriage and the birth of their six beautiful children. Who, down the road, would have their own children. He smiled on a wet pillow, through the tears on his face. They had been great together, became the high beings in a grand family. He couldn’t stand to see her like this, in the state that she was in. His heart hurt him so, to perform his tedious acts of care toward her, only to have her give up. He was angry with her for her resignation of life.

But little did he know that she was holding onto life with both hands gripped tightly. She was going to watch her family blossom into a full four generations of strong-willed Catholics. Her strength was great and her mind was strong, even if her little body didn’t show it lying in the hospital bed. She was going to live, not for herself, not for him, but for her grandchildren, to see their smiling faces each time they visited.

Lying in bed, listening to the sounds of the street outside, he began to slowly let go. He hated being apart from her. He hated the fact that they now had to sleep in separate beds. His eyes swelled even more as he heard her meek coughs and the exhaust of the oxygen machine in the next room. He hated the sound of that machine’s motor. It only reminded him of her poor condition. But as fate would have it, his health worsened and he had to be attached to one of the oxygen machines. His was portable so he could still be mobile and not be condemned to an eternity of lying in bed like the misfortune she had encountered.

Their children saw how difficult it was for the both of them to live together. It was so tiring for him to care for her. The thought of a nursing home was put on the table, but he pleaded against that, telling them to do anything other than put her in a home. They granted his wish and made trivial efforts to help keep the glue that held the family together. They cooked dinners, helped care for her, and visited with their families often. Yet he was dissatisfied. His sorrow built up and it worsened his health. At times he would just stand near the steps and watch her small chest move up and down taking in all the air her meek lungs could.

They began to talk nonsense together. They contemplated suicide, telling their children to fetch the shotgun from the attic. The family knew this to be nothing but talk, for they were both hardcore believers of Catholicism and if they committed suicide, they would go to hell. They couldn’t have that. They wanted nothing more than to live together in the warm light of the Lord’s rays.

Even though the family didn’t think it possible, her health worsened even more. She was on her last leg and the hospice nurse was called in to help with her suffering. He cried even harder at this as he stayed in the dining room away from the horrifying scene in the hospital bed. All the members of their large family came to the house, where the celebrations of Christmas and Easter as well as many other family gatherings had taken place, to see her. The priest had come at last to give her her last respects and to open the gate to God’s kingdom. Their last words to her were words of love.

Knowing that her family was taken care of and that they would be fine without her, she finally let go. Her body became limp and she ceased to breathe another breath. He again, stayed away from it all as the family looked upon her body with eyes of love. Their children began to plan the ceremony that would be her funeral, giving into his every want for her burial. She was gone and he couldn’t believe it. Her passing was but only a shock to him.

His sons and daughters stayed with him there the nights following her death. In the vast, empty darkness of the night after her death, he put new sheets upon the hospital bed and laid upon it. He could still feel the warmth of her body lying upon the mattress, so it felt like she was there with him. Their children were both sorrowful of their mother’s death and for the build up of guilt and sadness of their father.

Three days following her death in the hospital bed, he began to cough up blood. The color of absolute and complete sorrow poured from him. He went to get up, tripped, and hit his head. More blood seeped. He was dying. His face was masked with the sorrow of her death. She was gone, she had entered the Lord’s embrace. Her soul was safe and he heard her calling him to her side. He had to be with her. To be by her side and enter the Lord’s kingdom as they had talked about.  So he let go of life and all his achievements in the same bed his wife had. His death came as a total shock to the entire family and sadness reigned over all of them.

The only thing that kept them all from self-destruction was the thought that this was what they both wanted. They had entered the Lord’s kingdom together. They held hands as they walked passed the shiny gates of heaven, where they could again live together in love forever.

 

Night of the Heron

Night of the Heron

Violent fires of the night had come and set the tribal statues ablaze. The Frenchmen had come to the small Native American village an hour before, when they began to set fire to the houses and trees there. Their plan was to destroy the villa and push them further west.

As she silently watched from the low brush outside where she was hiding, Dartha, a young tribeswomen, began to weep at the destruction of her home. She heard her brother’s screams and her friends tears smothered by the rebel yells of the French. She saw and heard them converse back and forth, but the words were lost on her. She quietly wept as she saw more of the evil Frenchmen run by with guns at hand. She lowered herself even closer to the ground.

A young Frenchman stopped near her place of invisibility, as he thought he heard something. Dartha quickly held her breath and when he walked away, she breathed a sigh of relief. Inhaling in through her nose, she smelled a pungent smell. A ranking. As she felt hot breath upon her neck, the smell became even stronger. She couldn’t turn quick enough as she felt the sting of her hair being pulled.

She was whipped around as she stared into the eyes of a mad man. The pungent smell of alcohol was almost enough to make her vomit. Instead she spat in his face and tried to scurry away. He grabbed her arm and pushed her to the ground. Punching her stomach and her chest, he quickly undressed himself. When he got to his pants, he pulled out a silver blade and mumbled something in French. Dartha became still as she felt the blade against her neck.

She saw the reflection of the fires upon the blade as he lowered it to her pelvis

He pulled her clothing down and pushed the knife back up to her neck. When she felt the pain of his invasion she knew it was too late. She struggled even with the knife at her throat, but she couldn’t shake him. The pain was so extreme that she felt she had to be bleeding.

After his small grunts, he quickly got off top of her. Her face was wet with tears and she didn’t even bother to hide anymore. She stood and saw nothing but a blurry canvas of orange and yellow. She heard terror screams but couldn’t place them to anyone. She was alone in a blaze of fire, no one to rescue her from the flames of war. Dartha fell to the ground as she waited for the flames to consume her.

But they never did. Dartha awoke in a sweat. She sat straight up and saw herself in the alley that she had been sleeping in for the passed two nights. She was lucky to have find an actual safe haven that Lun and herself could actually stay in for more than just a night.

Having just relived the worst terror of her life, she heard Lun begin to stir. Before he could start to cry, she quickly picked him up and put him to her breast. Plopping her nipple into his mouth, Dartha quickly covered her nudity with a blanket she had been given that same day by an old English women as she was passing through a small English town with Lun in her arms. As Lun finished his midnight snack, Dartha wrapped him in the warm, fuzzy blanket, covering up in an old tattered trench coat. The sound of the nearby crickets helped her fall back to sleep. At least the crickets were content with their lives upon the earth. This thought sat upon her mind as she slowly closed her eyes to fall into slumber again, At least the crickets were

Her outcast from her tribe when they found she was pregnant was horrendous. She tried so desperately to reason with the camp elders, telling them that she had been forcibly raped the night their camp burned to the ground. With stern upper lips, they turned her away. Denying her any food or shelter. A week after her exile she came back to camp with hopeful eyes. She asked forgiveness for any wrong they believe she had done. They granted her peace and let her seek shelter in a cabin, but only until her baby was born, then she’d have to leave.

She stayed with them for six months and was treated unfairly. She was but only a slave to the older women of the tribe. She was spit upon and hit constantly. Even children younger than her showed every last bit of disrespect they had toward her. She couldn’t stay there for another three months until the baby was born, she had to escape. So in the stillness of night, she crept from her place of rest and escaped the torment of her peers. She was a lost refugee just looking for a place to rest and prepare for her baby’s birth in peace.

Two and half months later, in the darkness of a summer’s eve, Dartha gave birth to a healthy, vibrant baby boy. She had given birth to a sickless infant all on her own. She needed no one else’s help but her own. As she cradled her blood covered child in her crimson stained blankets, she looked to the night sky, she felt more alone than she ever had. More alone than her tribe ever made her feel, more alone than when she was by herself. The moon was her destiny, her only friend in the nine months since her outcast. She looked at her crying, squirming infant in her arms, there naming him Lun.

As Dartha awoke on the morning of Lun turning two weeks old, she smiled as she simultaneously yawned with Lun. The memories that had come the night prior in dreams, had haunted her ever since that life altering night. The night that clenched her fate, making her realize the only one she could count on was herself.

Her  mind was in disarray as she looked to the blue of the morning sky. What truly happened that night as the French attacked, she would never fully know. Who was the man who raped her? Why did he commit  such a torturous offence against her?  And why had he decided to prey upon her, and her alone? Questions went in and out of her mind, in and out of the blue. In her mind’s eye she would never forget the heat of his body pressed to her, the pungent smell of his breath, and the pain he had decided to bestow upon her. Not just physical pain, but an emotional anguish of being pushed away from her closest circle and being forced to support and raise an infant all on her own. It was there in the dewy still of the morning of Lun’s turning two weeks old that she decided to seek revenge. Revenge against this most evil of man who brought her destiny to a crashing halt. She would seek revenge upon him at any cost.

The next six mornings following her decision to execute justice for herself, she found a small cove created by a thick brush where Lun and herself could seek refuge. It was not ten feet away where a creek and a small pond made a perfect right angle. Everyone of the six mornings, she awoke to the call of the blue heron. She would open her eyes to see the heron fly along the pond’s surface, walk upon the pond’s shore or call out to other close blue herons close by.

It was the seventh morning that she awoke to no heron near the pond. Instead, it was Lun that woke her. She missed the heron that morning. It was like he was her one and only thing to look forward to every night as she fell asleep with Lun in her arms.

That very same day, Dartha walked into the nearest civilized town where she met and saw a number of English and  French men and women as they strolled through the dust covered streets, when she came to an area where music was being played. It didn’t sound like anything she ever heard before. It was both sad and mournful. Nevertheless, it was the most beautiful thing she had ever heard. So with Lun in her arms she followed the sorrowful music.

It led her to a nearby cemetery where many women were dressed in black dresses and men in black suits. She saw a small clan of men playing the music she so desperately tried to hear. She entered the yard and saw a man in robes with a book at hand talking to all those dressed in black. As she looked upon the body lying in the casket, she came to realize it was him. It was the man who had raped her and brought her to the most tremendous hardship she had ever encountered. When she looked upon the chilling face in the coffin, she could again smell the heavy use of alcohol upon his breath and feel the pain in her lower abdomen.

She began to cry as she ran from the small group surrounding him. They were all shocked by the Indian women’s sudden outburst. They had wondered why she was there to begin with.

As she ran from the graveyard in total anguish she tripped and dropped Lun on the cold ground. She fumbled to pick her now crying son up off the ground. She found it difficult to do so for she was trembling with so much anger. She quickly gathered Lun and his blanket up off the ground and scurried back to her cove near the pond. As she set Lun down, she noticed a bleeding upon his head. She had dropped him and he cut the skin of his scalp which was now bleeding profusely.

She began to cry, desperately trying to find something to stop the bleeding. She took the blanket out from underneath him and pushed it against the deep cut. Lun cried agony, but she didn’t give in. He cried harder which made Dartha cry all the more hard. She couldn’t take his bleeding. It was turning the blanket a dark shade of crimson. She hated hearing his screaming so she took the blanket and, without thinking, covered his face to muffle the screams. As he cried out louder, she pushed harder upon the blanket on his mouth.

Soon the crying stopped and all Dartha could hear were her own sympathetic tears. She pulled the blanket from Lun’s face only to see that his chest ceased to move. He had stopped breathing and Dartha quickly pulled him to her chest and she let out a long, loud moan. An unearthly scream that made the heron’s feathers stand up. Dartha glanced up from her dead son’s lips to see the heron again near the pond’s edge. She was entranced by its cloudy, shallow beauty.

She looked at its gray as if in another world, she set the dead Lun down upon the hazel dirt of the ground. By that time dusk had settled upon Lun’s dead body. She stood and walked to the water’s edge. On the exact opposite side was the blue heron she cared for so tenderly. She didn’t even think to walk around the pond, she waded into the pond’s deep, murky water and walked as if she was still on dry land. She believed it to be her destiny.  Upon the Heron’s gray feathers, Dartha felt alive . In its black eyes, she felt accepted. Within the heron’s fluffy embrace, she was at home. When the water soon covered her fully and the surface of the pond was feet above her head, she was finally in a place, a state where both her and Lun would finally be welcomed with open arms.

A Cold Tuesday Morning in September

A Cold Tuesday Morning in September

The weather was abnormally cold on a bleak morning in late September as a shiver slowly crept vertebrae by vertebrae up my spine. I looked down to fold my hands in my lap, straighten my wedding ring, and acknowledge the two large paper sacks that I had lugged to the bus from Wal-Mart. Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, check. 2% milk, check. Eggs, check. Rigatoni, check. Lunchables, check. Two pounds of ground chuck, check. Apples, check. It was all there. I guess it was going to be hamburger helper for supper tonight. Oh damnit! Did I tell Brian that Erin wasn’t going to be able to pick Jamie up from practice tonight? As the bus slowed to stop at Alzas Laren, I reached into my pocket, felt my mobile, and pulled it out. Just as I was about to dial Brian, there she walked in. It was by far the most stunning thing I had seen all morning.

A woman in her late twenties stepped on and with elegance and made her way to a seat diagonally facing mine. First her three inch high heel silently touched the floor, then the tip point of the shoe. Heel, toe, heel, toe like she was on a runway.  She was stunning. Her hair pulled back in a strong, tight, professional bun, she looked down to the white collar that stuck out of her all black pantsuit, must have saw a speck of lint upon it, and nonchalantly brushed it off; the only thing keeping her from immaculacy. Her eyes were a light blue like the sky, rimmed with a pair of black framed spectacles. She showed very little expression, but who would on such a raw Tuesday morning?

She graciously wrapped her left leg behind her right and slanted both knees slightly to the right, sitting just as the queen would. The black briefcase on the floor on her left lightly rocked a bit as the bus hit a manhole. She noticed, arched her brow slightly, and picked up the case, setting it in her lap. Her head turned to peer out the window on my side of the bus. Her complexion was utterly flawless. She glanced over, noticed me staring, and charismatically smiled, revealing a full, gorgeously white set of teeth. I contently smiled back. She turned her head to my window as her smile slowly faded back. There were no lines left by the smile. The dimples slowly faded back into creamy, flawless, delicate skin.

The perfectly manicured hands that loosely tightened their grip on the briefcase, showed no signs of age. No liver spots, no cracks, no scars, no blemishes. Those hands had never done a hard day’s work in their life. Her left ring finger wore no diamond, no gold band. She was battling this racist, sexist world alone. What a courageous, intelligent, young girl. And in those few moments, I was overcome with jealousy.

I was on the phone with Charles discussing that morning’s board meeting, when a brisk, bitter wind swept steadily across Eighteenth Avenue as I stood waiting for the bus at Alzas Laren. It blew upward from the cement pavement and pushed my black pantsuit against my legs, letting me feel every bit of chill. I was just saying goodbye to Charles and that I’d see him when I got to the firm when, at last, the large bus arrived. I quickly slipped my phone into a pocket in my briefcase and stepped on. The bus was abnormally empty for a Tuesday morning. So I sat down in one of the many vacant seats. Why was it so cold? And in September? I slowly pulled my gaze to stare out the window opposite me, pulling my briefcase up to my lap when my gaze was pulled to a beautifully wholesome woman wearing a pair of faded blue Levi jeans, a white shirt with an adorable red wool shall pulled over it that looked like she had knitted herself.

I gazed into her strong, hazel brown eyes as they passively met mine. She smiled at me. Her face lit up with a joy that I’d never seen before. She was so abstinently flawless. Her hair was so carelessly strewn back into a wet, out-of-the-shower pony tail. The beginnings of wrinkles stenciled her deep, intelligent eyes and lines of age passionately graced the rest of her face. She liked to laugh a lot. I could tell because there were deeper wrinkles around the corners of her mouth. She had a lot of happiness in her life. She was probably more than twice my age, but her graceful nature conveyed such a youthful glow.

I looked down to the two large, brown paper bags at her feet. They were full to the top where I could see Lunchable packs, a box of rigatoni pasta, and a bag of apples sticking out of the top. My eyes drifted from the bags, up her leg to her lap where her hands were intently folded. A medium stoned wedding ring was just visible underneath the middle finger of her right hand. Her hands were tired and rough. Her fingertips were a bit softer and I could see specks of dirt underneath her yellowing nails. She worked hard.

Her stomach stuck outward a bit. She was neither fat nor thin. She was pleasantly plump, probably from going through multiple births. She was a good mother. I saw it in her affectionate smile. What an accomplished, worthy woman. And in those few moments, I was overcome with jealousy.

 

Make Believe

My attempt at stream of consciousness …

Make Believe

I felt so close to him there, my body pressed against him. I could feel the warmth and his strong steady heartbeat I slightly tightened my grip around his broad neck and shoulders. Love was prominent in his strong grip around my waist, I felt it. I glanced up at his face his strong jaw line and his dimpled chin were all I could see well. His neck and jaw line were covered in small dark stubble. He was so beautiful so beautiful lying there, eyes closed, softly breathing in and out, through his nose drifting in and out of sleep. I wanted to squeeze him so tight that I could somehow fall into him, sinking underneath his skin, where we could somehow be one        forever. His eyes were a beautiful hazel blue that shimmered in the low light of my dark bedroom as if pools of shallow azure. I took one of his hands in mine and held it on his chest. Slowly running my fingertips over his rough, dry fingers, I brought his ring finger to my lips and kissed it. I ran his finger down my bottom lip which tugged on it a little bit so that my inner lip was running along his ring finger until I got to the tip and I just kissed it, bringing the top between my lips and slightly into my mouth and pulling it out again. I felt his body shake and shiver with delight – he loved it, I know he did. He ran his fingers through my soft, blonde hair with his other hand, caressing my scalp. I wanted him to know that I was holding onto him, holding on for dear life. I believed I loved him. I was going to make him believe it too.

I felt so far from her there my body pressed against another. Would she know? Could she ever know the grief I felt having another girl lie against me in her bed. The light was dark and it was difficult to make out her face. I couldn’t see her, there was no way she could see me. So I let the first tear slide out of the corner of my eye, crawl across my temple and into my ear. My eardrum heard the drop of the tear into my lobe and it rang a loud warning, sending chills throughout my body. Who was this girl? Did I even know her? Her face was soft, but it wasn’t my girl. No, she had left me – no, I had left her … we had left each other just six short weeks ago. I wanted to squeeze this girl so tight – so tight that I could sink into her, be one with her for a split second pass through her and be out on the other side where I could somehow be happy again, still hearing her voice call to me, in my ear, where my dry, somber tears were now falling. My body kept shivering. Stop it. Stop, pull it together, man, she’s going to know something’s wrong I don’t want to hear her voice … Let’s pretend. I’m going to pretend. Close my eyes and think it’s mine kissing my finger where there ought to be a ring, sliding her fingertips between my fingers. Not this girl, not tonight. So I ran my fingers through my beloved’s silky black hair and made love to her that night even though I knew … It was already over. I had to pretend to make myself believe that it was her …

Cold Steel

Cold Steel

Undoubtedly, she’d appreciate it. Surely, she’d thank him for it later. His eyes were a tragic symphony waiting to pronounce a melancholy medley to the dark, silent night that was his car. His knuckles turned white as his hands gripped the steering wheel like a vice. His body felt numb and he didn’t even feel the first stream of tears quickly slide down his cold, steel cheek. He felt like a robot. A mere machine, like the vibrator she kept under their bed that she used to abstain from sex with him. His heart had been ripped from his hollow, tin chest and been held in her fake nailed fingers. Her nails had been painted blue that night. An ice cold blue, his heart was undoubtedly frozen.

With each passing light post, he wanted to steer his car into its cold steel. Undoubtedly, she’d appreciate it. Surely, she’d thank him for it. This way she could receive his life insurance instead of a divorce court finding her guilty and leaving her with nothing. He didn’t want to leave her with nothing. He wanted to give her everything. Everything she had ever desired, he put into motion. He loved her more than he ever loved anything, more than his children, more than himself.

He envisioned his SUV topping out at 110 and running straight into the shimmering beacon of light, the warm flame that had been extinguished months before. In the white strobe lights, he heard her laughter. They had found each other in the stroboscope, searchlights bringing two lost souls together, forming an everlasting bond, or so he thought.

Now the lingering image of strobe lights wasn’t the night two young hearts set out on a great journey of lust and love. It was her laughter, her high pitched squeal, the one he had fallen in love with, but he wasn’t on the receiving end. He wasn’t supposed to be hearing these squeals. They were more intense and much more inebriated than the squeals he heard when he had first found her among the strobe lights. The strobe lights he found her in tonight were painted in light blue, shaded in a dark chill. The air was cold, but her clear complexion unfroze the solid, raw tunes.

The sight of her inebriation and the man holding her with a drink in his other hand, made him feel nauseous. Shock began to set in and he became idle. He couldn’t move, he couldn’t speak, all he felt was a sudden cold rush over his skin causing outstanding goosebumps. Standing on the dance floor, idly watching them near the bar, he was nothing more than a mere trophy. A gold plated metal trophy, a man she had conquered, readily pursuing her next quest.

Her dark hair slowly falling over her face, she puckered her lips seductively just as she used to do before they made love, now over a month and a half ago. He couldn’t stand to watch her in the dim light any longer. He quickly walked from the bar and climbed into his SUV. In no time he was speeding on the highway back toward home, back to their two sleeping children.

Their boys whined a little as they hugged their mother good bye, asking where she was going so late at night. She lied and said she was going to her office to pick up a file. This was a good enough excuse for them and they were able to sleep afterwards. He couldn’t look past her lies and followed her to the bar where he conclusively found that she had been lying to him for weeks.

He began to fear nothing, not even death, as he pushed down harder on the accelerator. Actually, he prayed that he would soon hit something, feeling the cold, hard steel of the car crush into him, paralyzing his body. Then she’d be sorry. She’d feel the guilt that she had coming. But he was never any good at revenge, especially to her. He could never rebel against her for it was she that wore the pants; it was she that had made him a eunuch. Even so, he had a devotion for the pity she had for him.

Still, he pulled into their long, curving driveway and parked his blue SUV in the place where her convertible usually sat, now sitting in VIP parking at the bar on Fifth and Main. Checking upon their two silently sleeping boys, he walked down the hallway, a castle corridor paved and lined in cold hard stone. Slipping under the chilling sheets of calignosity and infidelity, he felt like he was lying on the cold, steal of an operating table. He silently cried into his already wet pillow, rolled over, reached for her, only to grasp nothing.

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