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Posts Tagged ‘regret’

Thank you to Indigo Spider for the picture prompts this week. It is difficult to choose. I am looking forward to reading all the stories. I have chosen to write for Sunday Picture Press visual prompt #3.

Visual Prompt 3 — A Window on the Past by Marilyn Elmore Bragg (from chessiesphotos.wordpress.com/)
Window To My Soul
A replica of the long ago window was etched in Elizabeth’s mind. Every aspect of it was alive, a vivid capture, imprinted and engraved with indelible brain cells. This wasn’t a mere snapshot of a window, taken in haste, but a full album, which, when pulled from the mind’s memory shelves allowed for  different perspectives, lighting and composition. Often, when an especially hard decision had to be made, the window was a light to her soul, helping her see all angles, to better analyze and debate. The outcome was always a decision made from the vantage point of a balanced view.

Elizabeth sucked in deeply, eager to see her inanimate guide again, this window that had given her a view into her soul twenty-nine years ago. That decision had set her course in life. Now, she was in need of such help again.

Her mind flashed back to what once was. She had never lacked in the dating department. Men were naturally drawn to her. Her curves talked to them. When she walked, her bounce teased the eye. Her long, thick, soft brown hair followed the tilt of her head. Men, and women, too, couldn’t help notice her face, sensuous yet innocent. She never gave much weight to her outer appearance, though. She was what she was. After all, she had nothing to do with it. Genes, passed down through the generations, decided who this part of her was. She just happened to get some of the best from both sides.

What mattered most was the person she was inside, what her heart was, and her accomplishments. She worked hard at being fair and kind, respecting others, and helping when there was a need. Yet she needed to be her own person, one who could take care of herself, independent enough to always survive.This followed her throughout life, and in her career she was known for her fairness and good decision-making skills.

She thought back to the summer of her inner turmoil. Her closest college friend was spending a couple of months at an exclusive resort in the Catskills and had begged her to come. It would be a gift. Money was no object to her friend’s family. She had finally said yes and packed.

Then she thought of Don. She wouldn’t see him for two months. Don, who had her heart, loved her and gave all of himself to her. He could be described as everyone’s best friend, happy-go-lucky, and average in everything. He definitely was not a mover and shaker. She knew they would never be rich but felt she could live a comfortable middle class life with him.

Elizabeth still remembered the first time she had seen Thomas that long-ago summer. Her heart quickened. He was a looker, aristocratic nose, angular chin, easy-going, confident in every move he made. She knew his type. Whatever he wanted, he got. He could make anything happen. She saw him watching her. It excited her, an excitement she had never felt with Don. Such a pull. This was not part of her plan, not part of her being-fair code. But things happened. And they happened to Thomas, too. There were two full months of living the good life, fun, laughter, sunny days and sultry moon-filled nights with beach sand stuck to everything.

The road curved and Elizabeth turned when she saw the Catskill Resort sign. She was so close. She pulled in and saw ahead the dirt road that led to the old fort and her window. She parked. The knots in her stomach grew.

Half running  through the woods, she stopped short. There it was, in front of her, thick scored cement block walls. She had to stop. The memories were too powerful, overwhelming her. She needed to catch her breath. She bent over, with a hand on each knee and waited. Finally, able to look up, she saw, there, in front of her, her window, still faded gray wood, parched from the sun with peeling paint. Shivers ran the length of her spine. She walked up to it, slowly put her arm out and let her fingers gently caress the wood and glass, those same ones she had once touched and now were in her memory from all those years ago.

She remembered that last night long ago,  sitting alone, near the window letting it reflect back to her. She had cried and reasoned, said everything to justify letting go of Don. But she couldn’t. Don was in her soul. Her heart felt sick at the thought of saying goodby to Thomas, of letting go of how he made her feel, of the endless possibilities and easy life she could lead. But, let go she did.

Sometimes she would read in the newspaper about a new business Thomas was starting up, or the new cottage he and his wife were renovating in Newport. Once, many years later, he had called her. It was probably the Lagavulin scotch talking. He told her she had been the only one to break his heart. But he had moved on as she had.

Elizabeth knew she had made the right decision. Don was good to her, a hard worker and a great father to their three grown children. With her career, they had been able to make it work. Things had been going great until last year.

Her computer broke down and she had logged on to Don’s laptop. There, in front of her were messages from someone named Lisa, explicit reminders of many rendezvous. After sitting there frozen for hours, Elizabeth copied them, emailed them to herself and then printed each of them.

That night when Dan came home from work, he walked into packed bags sitting in the hallway. The emails were hung up with clothespins on a piece of wire that was strung from the kitchen window by the sink all the way into the dining room.

The last year was rough, then four months ago Elizabeth met Rick. She still had it, that same curvy body and the same tilt of the head. At age fifty-four her face was beautifully seasoned, not so innocent anymore but still sensuous. Rick was kind and funny. He had time to enjoy her company since he was coming to the end of his career, a good career that had allowed him the finer things in life. They laughed often, enjoyed each others families and looking forward to traveling. With Rick she would have the luxury of retiring early and enjoying a soft relaxed pace.

Don’s letters of apology, cards and phone calls never stopped. Sometimes, it was a single rose with a ribbon left on her doorstep while she was at work. Other times it was a quick email to make sure she was alright. When the kids told him she had the flu, he had her favorite restaurant deliver chicken soup. He never saw Lisa again, told her it meant nothing to him, that he had lost his head and would make it up to her for the rest of their lives if she would give him another chance. Even after he knew about Rick, he didn’t stop.

Elizabeth sat on the ground looking up at this window, the window to her soul. She thought of Don, and their long life together, and the lives of their children and grandchildren. She touched her hurt heart thinking of what she had learned last year. She remembered back to her long ago summer with Thomas. Don had never known about Thomas. She had always felt guilty for not telling him. Was she really any better than he was?

Now, with Rick in her life, there was excitement again. He was like a fire that never stopped burning, had a love for anything old and all that is new. He kept things positive for his family, kept them close together, even after the tragedy of losing his wife.  She knew she could enjoy every day with him, for the rest of their life, knew he would spoil her with whatever she wanted and then give her more.

Sitting alone, staring into the panes of glass, Elizabeth thought about her many life decisions. Just after dusk, she saw the reflection of a young girl, just twenty-five years old, walk slowly away from the window, wiping her tears. She, too, stood up, following in the footsteps of that young girl, knowing what she must do, the answer etched clearly in her mind.

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Thank you to Indigo Spider and Sunday Picture Press for her inspiring picture prompts. Here is my submission.

Visual Prompt 1 — Bridge by Marilyn Elmore Bragg (from chessiesphotos.wordpress.com/)

THE BRIDGE TO QUIET

As I step on the weathered walking bridge, I feel a gentle sway, a rhythm set by the wind and my body movement. My feet respond to the tempo, like a dance, a cadence dance. Such music to my soul! The soft mellow flow persuades me to move on, and the healing effect is already part of me. I can feel it infuse my very being. I love the tenderness the bridge shows me as my body feels its light soothing breeze caress and wrap around me in waves of warm-air rhyme. The well-worn bridge boards, seasoned and discolored, hold me close as I walk from the middle to the sides breathing in its welcome. Falling isn’t a worry. Life has already felled me and I now hope to be lifted. The motion beckons me as we step forward, the old stained-by-rain bridge and I, melded as one.

Looking up, I see, ahead, the cottage, my home for the next month, my hoped for Shangri-la, a place surrounded by lush green forest trees and overgrown spreading bushes. The time alone will be my elixir, my time to become whole again. The rocking chair on the covered porch is moving slightly to and fro, hardly noticeable, but I know it is the kindly wind once more welcoming me and whispering to me, hoping to mollify me, to release and then mend my deep hurts, bind my wounds and renew my broken spirit.

I look behind me, back at John, standing alone on the other side of the bridge, his kind sad eyes following me as I become smaller to him, moving farther away from his touch, from his life. Tender-hearted tolerant John, who took the time to find this haven for me. Never a better husband has there been. Eleven years of deep intimate love he has given me, and I, him.

The day we met, our hearts knew, our eyes spoke to each other with bashful blinks. What fun we had exploring and  learning together. Our first kiss, so shy and awkward, young lips, hardly touching, and then laughing together about it later on. Holding hands has never grown old.  I still love to weave my fingers in his, to squeeze his hand, embrace the sensual feel it gives, and then smile at his crinkled eyes, knowing he is smiling back. Soul mates. That is what we are, what nothing can take from us, not time, not disappointment, not life hurts…not even miscarriage.

My brow furrows as I think of the word miscarriage. Once, I looked up the definition. It said ‘failure’.  Does that word convey the pain of seeing your much-wanted first baby born blue and without breath, the umbilical cord wrapped around its neck. NO. Does that word explain how you feel when a year later your second cannot make it to term and is born on the bathroom floor three months too early, and dies before the ambulance arrives. NO. What about the third, fourth, fifth and just three months ago, the sixth. NO. NO. NO.NO. That word does no justice to the emotional pain. None.

There is a movement at a distance. It stops my thoughts and I see John waving goodbye, hugging his chest, then pointing to me, a motion to show his love, that he understands and knows I need to heal. My John needs resuscitation, too, and badly wants a child. He will miss me as much as I will miss him. John, also broken, is putting himself aside for me, giving me this time alone, to take what is withered and broken inside, to pull it out of me, painful like a stillbirth, to cry and scream and moan even more than I have, and to work at healing – going from in to out.  My compassionate John.

As he turns to walk away, John holds up his phone. I smile, pull mine from my pocket and wave it to him. After giving me the thumbs up, he turns, shoulders a bit sloped, and walks a distance back to our car. Panic sets in. I have not spent a day without him in such a long time. I miss him already.

I look down at my phone, a reminder of why I am here. A new medical procedure we learned about last week sounds hopeful.  Can I make peace with what has already been so I can move forward and try something new? Can I endure more disappointment? Do I dare hope once more?

I turn back looking toward the trees and bushes as I hold the sides of the bridge, touching the railing, like I would an old friend I know very well. The sway and rhythm again appease my spirit and take away my restlessness as I make my way to the nestled cottage, across this bridge to the land of quiet, alone.

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Thank you to Indigo Spider for Sunday Picture Press and the inspiring photos posted weekly as visual prompts.  I have chosen the picture below but wish I had time to write for all of them. Please visit her blog and join in the fun!

Visual Prompt 1 — Old School by Trevor Litchfield (from Trev’s Teleautograph)

SCHOOLHOUSE

I did try. Honest. I did. I told her once. Actually, twice. She didn’t listen. Or, maybe it was that she couldn’t at that time. Her mind couldn’t handle the possibilities or consequences back then. I understand now it would have complicated our lives.

But, what about ME, my mind, my life?

I know she grew up in a rigid environment, in a poor family, with twelve brothers and sisters, and a strict Catholic background. The priest was akin to God and could do no wrong. When he told families they should go to church every morning, 7:00 A.M. mass, they went.  When he said no meat on Friday, fish it was. When he handed out small white donation envelopes, they took them and didn’t question the number stamped on the left side to track the amount given.

Her Mom worked herself to the bone at home. Her Dad worked when he could but liked his drink more. She never talked much about her younger years but I remember once, in passing, she said there was never enough food in the cupboards.  She was often pushed aside at the dinner table by those with longer arms.

Things were different later, after she left home, when she married and had children of her own. She lived in a comfortable middle class home in a tight-knit community with neighbors who shared her values as they watched each others children. LIfe was good and the memories made there were sweet. I cherish many of those memories, too.

But why didn’t she believe my other ‘memories’?

The old parochial school has forever unnerved me, and now that it’s closed and empty, it’s even worse. Each time I head across town, I swear I’m not going to drive by, but I know I will. I always do. All these years later it still has me in its grasp, even though weeds have replaced children on the pavement and bushes are growing where the basketball hoop once stood.

My eyes glance at the small window and door of the protruding attached office. I remember when it was built, new, in front of the right  L wing by the playground. Now, rotting plywood is boarding the framework, keeping wandering animals at bay.  A shiver ripples through me as my mind recalls. I pull my sweater tighter and button it to my neck. The tightness and warmth feel good.

I startle…the time. I’m late. Time always escapes me here. 2:30. Mom will worry.  I told her I would stop by around 2:15. She sounded so strange on the phone earlier, insisting I visit today even though, like clockwork, it is shopping on Tuesday, BINGO on Thursday and Mass in the small stone cathedral on Sunday.

“Please, Linda, come in, come in.”

“Do you have a cold Mom? Your voice is so hoarse.”

No, Linda, not a cold. Please, sit here beside me.”

From the pocket of her worn sweater she pulls out a fresh newspaper clipping. Her trembling hands pass it to me. I look down at the blaring headline “ARCHDIOCESE ADMITS AND APOLOGIZES FOR ABUSE AND SEX CRIMES AGAINST STUDENTS FORTY YEARS AGO.

I can feel Mom’s eyes watching me as I look up. Our eyes lock and I follow her single tear as it caresses the crevices of her wrinkled cheek and stops by her now-thin lips. I tenderly wipe that lonely salty tear away thinking how salt is used as a preservative, how salty tears can preserve our spirit, our soul, can help us to survive.

“All I ever wanted was for you to say ‘I know’.”

As she gently grabs my hand, she whispers “I do know now, Linda. I do know.”

Floodgates thirty-nine years strong open as I give her my full heart. I am her little girl again feeling the warmth of her bosom as she rocks me back and forth. I hear her soft voice, balm-rich,  murmuring again and again “I know, I know, I know, I know….”

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My heart answers yours
In the still deepness of night
Neither of us hear.

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This weekend I spent time with my memories. Not all of them. There are far too many for that. Fifty-nine years of  living has taught  me how to reach in and pull them down from the inner shelves of my mind. One at a time, I can dust off whichever I choose and enjoy the gift of reflection.

My memory folds keep and nourish my experiences as well as things near and dear to me, like family, friends, loves, good times, hard times, travel, work, sorrows, joys and even things unknown to me.  Some are easily attainable and others I have tucked away, cradled deep in the recesses of my mind.  These I have to unfold a little at a time, like an accordion, rhythmically, because of their heaviness, and eventually when enough air enters the folds they open themselves to me.

I woke up Sunday morning very early with a restlessness inside, a raw longing that wouldn’t go away. It was more like an ache, a gnawing, and unreachable. It was deep enough to touch my kidneys. I finally gave in to it and dragged myself out of bed. It wasn’t even 6:00 A.M. I sat at my desk staring at the computer without turning it on. How could I take care of myself, take care of whatever this ache was?

I decided I should write, get my feelings out. When the pencil touched the paper nothing happened except the gnawing grew and the rawness became sharper. Words weren’t there.

I knew, then,  what I must do, what I had avoided for quite some time, what I didn’t want to do. As a master at deceiving myself, I no longer had the luxury of time. I was long overdue to face my albatross.

Breathing deeply, audibly, I decided to dig into the very nook and cranny of my memory that I prefer to avoid, the ‘What If’s’ and the ‘If Only’s’. These are very painful to me and when I go there I deal with fear, despair, hopelessness, grief and tears.

Opening the “If Only’s” takes great courage on my part because the crevices often feel like canyons.  My heart becomes heavy and broken knowing many of the ‘If Only’s” were decisions I made that changed my life. Sometimes they were decisions made because I was backed into a corner, sometimes because I didn’t know how to do it any other way, sometimes because circumstances dictated it, and more than once the decision I made was one I continued to regret all my life, despite being the right decision at the time.

I have learned the hard way, that to move on, I must make peace with what burdens me. So, revisit I must. Revisit I did. It was a long hard day, one filled with memories that made me laugh, then cry, comparisons of ‘what if’ to ‘what is’ and vice versa. I held close to me some of the ‘If Only’s’ and refused to let go for hours, finally giving in to what I knew must be. I laughed at the preposterousness of some of my thoughts and cried when my heart ached.

Finally, long after midnight, I was able to put to sleep memories that needed to rest.  Folding them gently, lovingly, I placed them in hibernation, beyond the folds where the accordion can soothe them awake, into the innermost of folds where some day in the future, time will wink and nod. I will know then, I can caress then once more, for a while, without tears and, then,  put them back, not in the innermost of folds, but this time in the memory folds of joy where they can be taken out a little at a time and, then, more often, fondled lovingly and put back for a later visit. Someday, they will be my joy.

Yes, Sunday, I organized my life once more and in the process I didn’t sell my soul.

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BeKindRewrite, Inspiration MondayXI, has again provided us with a feast of prompts. Thank you, Stephanie!

One Man’s Trash

Jenna winced as she ran her fingers over her left jaw, black and blue…again. She touched her left breast. It felt sore, inflamed and swollen! If only she had listened to her friends and family those three long years ago. Instead, here she was, clear across country, strangers all around her, and even worse, with a stranger in her own house, someone she had once been in love with and trusted.  

“When did things change?” she wondered out loud. She had taken up talking to herself. It soothed her. She knew when she answered she wouldn’t feel two feet tall and berated. She wouldn’t have to worry about a slap, pinch, kick, punch, or rape.

She reached into her jacket pocket looking for a small piece of paper she had recently found in a bathroom at the mall. It was gone. It didn’t matter. She had memorized the meaning behind the words. She didn’t have to live with abuse. There were other options and choices out there. Her life could be better. She needed only to reach out.

Jenna thought of the picture she had seen recently of an iceberg. It had hit her like a ton of bricks. She had stared at it and studied it for hours. A very small part was visible above water. Beneath, invisible to the eye, a much larger mass was attached, lurking, impending danger, a menace with the ability to take life, to destroy it, and all without knowledge it could happen.

“That is me. I am an iceberg. My visible hurts, my black and blue cheeks and breasts are here for the world to see even though I do my best to hide them. Much worse, though, are my invisible hurts, what no one can see, so much larger, destroying me, my mind, my soul, who I am and even worse, who I can be. Why haven’t I seen these invisible changes?”

She thought of all the advice she had been given. She had ignored them all. She had been in love. Everything would be so wonderful. How embarrassing, how humiliating, she thought, to have been so wrong in the one thing that had felt so right.

Just then, the door flew open. Jenna startled and jumped noticeably.

He walked over to her. She could smell alcohol on his breath.  He hadn’t gone to work, again.

“What’s a matter, bitch? You afraid?”

Jenna held her breath knowing it was coming, and it did, sharp and painful, a punch and a kick. Visible!  Inside, underneath was all that hurt, agony, torment, dejection. Invisible!

“You deserve it. You are nothing, not even a whore. At least a whore is worth something. Trash, yup, trash, one man’s trash!”

He laughed, spit on the floor near her shoe, looked at her in disgust, and walked out, slamming the door behind him.

Jenna’s eyes brimmed, swimming in tears salted from sorrow and grief. She looked around at this place she didn’t call home, put both hands gently but firmly on her hungry, hurt heart and whispered, “…is another man’s treasure…One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

Her wet eyes softly smiled, even through her pain and sadness. As she reached out and picked up the phone, she knew she was going to be alright!

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Stephanie, you have worked long and hard for all of us and Inspiration Monday X prompts this week are wonderful as usual,  no exception. I can’t thank you enough for the time you spend doing this!  Here is my submisssion this week.

A Man With No Fingerprints

 Joe moved carefully and slowly to the window and managed to stiffly turn his body to the right to get a better view.  He watched his almost four year old daughter Josie skip up the walkway while her mom, his wife, Ann, was following close behind.

 “Daddy, Daddy, I got my pwints today!”

“Good for you, sweetie! Let me see them.”

“My pwints are spesh-al. The nice man tole me that”.

“Yes they are. No one else has fingerprints like yours. Your fingers have special curved lines. Quick, let me kiss those pretty fingers!”

Josie giggled and climbed into her daddy’s lap, her favorite place to be. She was more comfortable on his lap than any other place in the house.  She pointed out each fingerprint, showing him how different they were, the whole time chattering up a storm and filling him in on her exciting trip to the police station.

Joe looked down at his hands, at all the finger tips grafted to the point of smooth, and watched his right hand move with great effort toward her.  Slowly, painstakingly, he covered her little hand with his somewhat knotted, deformed, nail-free, shorter-than-normal fingers, warmly caressing hers. He loved the look of life in these little hands. With difficulty he brought her tiny fingers to his lips and kissed each of them, beautiful, perfectly formed fingers, soft and flesh-pink, a color so different from his, so full of life. Josie was used to his slow half kisses. She knew he couldn’t move his mouth like she could and she loved his special kisses, the kind that no one else could give quite like he could.

As Joe lifted his head he noticed Ann’s reflection in the wall mirror, watching, smiling at what she was seeing. His eyes somewhat smiled back at her, as much as they could, since movement, even eye movement, was such a struggle for him. He thought back to the day over three years ago that changed everything.

He had a great job working on the oil rig and was earning the bucks. Life was good. The Gulf Coast was beautiful, water as far as the eye could see. He had grown up in the area. There was no place he would rather be.

April twentieth was the luckiest day of his life. Others might think differently but not Joe. He often thought back to the explosion and to that day. He felt it odd he remembered nothing. What he did know was that eleven of his co-workers no longer could look into their wives and children’s eyes. He could. Like he always told everyone, he was lucky.

When he woke from his coma a month later, he felt pain from burns all over his body but even worse on his torso and face. He remembered seeing his beautiful Ann for the first time after waking up and had no doubt he was the luckiest man alive. Little Josie was just a baby and didn’t understand much, but he knew, even then, he would endure all the torture, pain, suffering and endless operations required to live. They were worth every bit of pain because he could then be there at her graduation and her wedding.

There had been days he begged to die because the pain was so excruciating but he hadn’t really meant it. It was the nerve endings screaming, live nerves shooting pain, like a sharp knife digging everywhere, scraping each side, every part, over and over again, torturing him. The pain often took on a life of its own.

He laughed at the thought of a time years ago when an abscessed tooth had kept him home from work for two days because of what he thought at the time was pain. He scoffed and thought how trivial that pain had been compared to what he felt from this ordeal. Peanuts! How could he explain what this had been like? Maybe if someone cut a two inch deep, two inch long and two inch wide gash in their arm or leg and put acid on it they would feel some of what his pain had been. If they did that everywhere, then they would probably have a good idea.

He remembered the first day he had been given a mirror. It was after his third facial surgery was beginning to heal, months into his rehabilitation at the burn center. He had cried, but no one knew because his tear ducts didn’t function, they were gone. He saw a grotesque figure staring at him. His face was scarred, huge white patches on his forehead from skin grafts still not healed. His nose was disfigured, huge nostrils flared up toward the ceiling. Half his nose was white and the other half a dull ugly brown, each side a different shape. His left eye drooped severely and huge pouches hung underneath. Raw redness surrounded his right eye. His lips looked no different from his cheeks, raised and inflamed. Deep ridges and indented areas worse than pock marks covered his skin.

But that was then and this is now. Even though the mirror shows the same image, he feels that he looks different. His daughter sees love in his face and his wife sees contentment.

“Daddy, Daddy, listen to me!”

“Sorry, honey, daddy was dreaming again.”

Ann walks close to his chair, kisses his patchwork forehead, rubs her smooth cheek against his disfigured cheek and then plants a solid kiss on the lips that no longer resemble lips. She kisses Josie, picks her up from her Dad’s lap reminding them it is time to get ready for dinner.

“But, Mommy, I need to get pwints of Daddy’s fingers, too!”

Joe smiles at her, so glad he has this moment in his life, so grateful there will be many more. It matters naught to him that he is the man with no fingerprints. After all, he is one lucky guy!

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