ROAD MAP – a story

So this is where they put in those trigger warnings, right? OK. This is a story about cutting. If that’s not a topic you want to read about then please turn away now. Otherwise, this is Road Map. This, like all my stories on here, is a first draft. Accept it as such. 

ROAD MAP

When I was young the setting of the sun meant an ending.

The end of the day.

The end of adventure.

The end of fun.

It wasn’t until I was older and was taught the magic of night, the mystery of the moon, and the dangers of darkness that I learned that the setting sun is just one part of a cycle of life and death, death and life, one stepping aside to give the other the stage.

I went from running in the street, playing in a yard, and screaming at a lake to smoking in the woods, drinking in the backseat, and fucking in a field.

Maybe the old me had to die to birth the new me.

Some days I like that, that transition.

Other days I hate it.

Today I hate it.

Today is a red day.

They aren’t all red, which is why I never go deep, but a lot of them are red, which is what leads me to the relative darkness of my room in the first place.

Privacy, something I was never really afforded as a kid, feels like it is everywhere as an adult. The places I can go that I couldn’t before. The things I can do. The fact that I can close a door and not have someone feel the need to open it because they can.

It was my door.

I paid the rent to have that door and even if I shared the apartment, that door was still mine.

As was the dark.

I didn’t always love the dark but red days I did.

Loved it as much as I hated it.

That’s why I started painting, with my skin as my canvas and a blade as my brush.

It was a friend that opened that particular door.

A friend long gone now, drowned in their paint, but someone whom I loved, and missed, and who helped form who I am.

For good or ill.

I saw the scars on her legs once, after we’d played a gig together, and I reached out to touch them, instinctively, without even thinking, and she recoiled from me, dropping her guitar over her thigh to hide it, not realizing her shorts had climbed high enough to reveal what had clearly been a secret.

“Why?” I asked.

And she answered simply.

“Because there are things that tears, and words, and music, and nothing else can speak life to. Only pain can. Only blood can.”

She looked around to see if anyone was near but we were sitting on the back stoop of the coffee house and no one was out here but us smoking heathens. She pulled out a tissue from her back pocket and opened it to show me a razorblade. I leaned in and saw the red on its edge.

I asked her to show me.

Fascinated by this.

Drawn to it.

I think she thought I was turned on at first but I wasn’t.

I am not.
But I was drawn to it like it was fire.

She pulled the blade out and looked around again before moving her guitar aside and sliding the blade against her thigh. I watched as her skin tore open and a thin line of red appeared and then wept gently down her leg.

She hadn’t cut deep but she had cut.

She went to do it again and I grabbed her hand.

As drawn as I was I was also scared.

She smiled at me.

“Oh, you never cut deep. Not unless you want to drown. This is just swimming for me. Not drowning.”

And it was.

I watched has her legs and then her upper arms became a roadmap of whatever she was dealing with.

I never quite knew what set her off.

Happiness or sadness or both.

Eventually she started to swim out deeper and deeper and I couldn’t keep up.

We stopped playing shows together.

We stopped going for coffee at all hours.

We stopped catching each other when we fell.

I watched the scars deepen.

I watched her friends change.

I watched her eyes change.

The last time I saw her I knew she was looking to drown.

We were booked to play the same night at a new bar. I hadn’t realized I had booked to directly open for her. She was the headliner, I was the middle act, and some guy who played Uke was booked first. She was the headliner. She booked the gig.

All of the songs she played were happy.

They were love songs, they were dance songs, they were things that she would pepper into her performance but never lean on. I watched her from the back of the bar, nursing a whiskey and sour about having to play the gig but I was in awe of her. She owned these people.

She owned me.

It was the best I had ever seen her play.

When it was done the bar had made her do two encores because the crowd demanded it. I went to see her, to talk to her, to see if she was better, had changed.

I caught sight of her as she was getting into a cab with a couple other women who’d played backup with her, she waved at me and was gone.

And then she was gone.

She drowned a week later.

They found her in the tub of one of the girls.
She was drunk.

She’d done a sloppy job.

There was blood everywhere.

She became the new posterchild for tortured artists and suddenly people wanted her bootleg tapes and CDs. Her last performance became the stuff of legend. The stuff of masturbatory prophecy.

But I was there.

And it was legend.

But it was also tragic.

And it broke me.

It was painting that saved me.

Painting lead to where I am.

A map to a road I had never taken, to a roadmap I needed to write.

A story written as song.
A song written as prose.

So I dove into the red water to see how it felt.

The first time I went too deep and just barely made it to the ER before it was too late. I struck a vein with my pocket knife but was able to stumble the fourteen blocks to safety. I was embarrassed but they were scared.

An Attempt, they called it.

They knew who I was, that singer that knew that other singer, so they nodded and patted my back. It was two months after she had died.

I wasn’t famous but in the city,  I was known.

I was patched up, I was given the card of a Professional, and I was sent home to rest.

‘No partying’, they said, seeing me as a typical artist with an addiction.

My addiction though was my disconnectedness.

I wanted no one.
Nothing.

Being a performer there were always people wanting to talk, play, touch, kiss, fuck, or take.

There were always drugs.

Always drinks.

Always something.

I wanted nothing.

The music had been my refuge.

I wasn’t me on stage, I was a performer hiding behind an acoustic guitar.

I was a second name on a bill.

But now that she was dead the spotlight had tipped my way because I had been so close to her.

I was the next hot falling star.

I hated it.

I stopped playing.

I picked up shifts at a diner downtown.

I hid in my room.

But they wouldn’t stop calling, or writing, or coming by.

And I needed to play.

So I painted to build a bridge between me and the performer I pretended to be night after night.

I was lucky in that I made enough performing that taking these side gigs could just be for extra dough or for a break. I wasn’t rich, by any means, but I was lucky, and I was good, and I had the zeitgeist, at least for the moment.

And it felt dirty, but I didn’t abuse it.

I didn’t write some fucking opera about her. Or make anything about her or my pain over her loss.

No.

I sang.

I just sang.

My songs.

Other songs.

Once in a while one of hers, when it felt right.

And I missed her.

But the painting helped.

 

After that first dive I realized that that was my bottom, or close.

I had been pulled under and had to be careful not to go under again.

I wasn’t ready to die.

I just wanted release.

So I didn’t go deep.

I sat in the dark, listening to one of her tapes, the first one she made, she and I splitting the cost to record, she getting one side of the tape while I got the other, and it was there, in the dark, engulfed in her memory, that I started making my map.

I started on my thigh, like she had, but over time the map changed as I changed.

Relationships guided it.

Heartbreaks.

Successes.

Failures.

The record contract that never got signed.

The one that did.

All of it chronicled across my legs, my stomach, my chest, my arms.

Tiny slices that stung as the blade dipped into the ink and burned as the air hit the cut.

It didn’t make me feel good, doing it, no, but it was release.

It was focus on something other than me and the bullshit that I was.

I would look into the mirror and see the failures and fuck ups.

In the darkness I could make my own red dawn, a crying sun that would burn into my skin and create another piece of the roadmap of my life and one day I would be able to run my fingers over it all and know where I was and who I was and what had made me.

I was lucky, like I said, in that my gigs allowed me to cover up anything that I didn’t want seen.

Sure, I liked to fuck, who doesn’t, but I did it at clubs, or in cars, or anywhere it was dark and where there was no need to talk.

I didn’t want a relationship.

I didn’t want more heartbreak.

I had had my fill.

I just wanted release.

I never cut too deep, just deep enough to leave a scar.

Deep enough to carve more of the map.

Sometimes I went too far, carving at myself like I was a pumpkin, stabbing and gouging behind a veil of rage filled tears.

I hated those times because it meant recovery, and rest, and it meant me reflecting on what the fuck I thought I was doing.

I knew what happened to my friend.

Is that what I wanted?

No.

I wanted a sunset that lead to a night that lead to the day again.

I didn’t want one or the other.

I wanted the cycle.

The cutting let me live through a red night while the scars were my dawn, my reminder that I survived with the knowledge that if things got hard, there was always darkness to hide within.

Maybe it was sick.

Maybe it is.

But it’s me.

It’s my addiction.

My release.

My red bliss.

I don’t want to die.

I just don’t want to live like anyone else.

I want to live like me.

And the only way to do that is with a roadmap.

…c…

FLAW – a poem

I have challenged myself to write something new for the blog every week. Some small slice of something to keep the machinery greased. This would be an attempt at a poem, poetry not being a strong suit. It’s a first draft, like most things I post on here, and so it will reflect that. 

From darkest dream we came to seem, we things of blood and dirt.

From desperate days of pain and hurt.

We come to whisper, harm, and haunt.

We come to watch, and laugh, and taunt.

We are the blackest part of night, the gloom before the dawn.

We are the rush of joy that leads the blade,

We are the nodding head as grim minds are made.

We choked in you the nursery and push you towards the grave.

We are the monsters that made you and to unmaking are we slaves.

We push the button, and pull the knife, and load the heavy gun.

We drop the dirt and pull the switch when doing is all done.

We are your shadow self, my friend, there’s no escaping us.

Just close your eyes and put out your throat and please don’t make a fuss.

We’re here to set you free again, your soul to take its flight.

We’re here to set you free again, into forever night.

Damned to watch us from above as we watch from below.

Damned to never stop our hands and damned to always know.

I wish I could tell you something sweet and made of cake,

Alas the words would die on birth and be nothing but fake.

You’re doomed you know, to walk this earth, a living-dying fraud,

Born to pull in all the dirt through which in life you clawed.

You rise in shit, you die in shit, in shit you build your grave,

And it’s we who are the ones that laugh from safe within our cave.

We are your brethren, can’t you see, day unto your dark,

We are the beast, oh can’t you see, and from us you got the mark.

Oh we, oh we, oh we I say when really, it’s just me.

It’s I that set you free.

There was no apple, no man and wife, and you see there was no tree.

No one above, no one below, no one hidden from sight.

I was right there in your mirrored stare, forever holding tight.

Together are we wed to death, you monsters and your da’.

For when the spool of time runs out and all you are is ka,

It’s only then that you’ll hear of wonders filled with awe.

It’s only then I’ll say your names and wipe you of your flaw.

The flaw of every one of you that stalks this little ball, the flaw innate within all things that has a human paw.

…c…

GLORY – An Easter Story

GLORY

POP.

The sky flashed for a moment and the children looked around for the source of the sound but in another moment, it seemed to be revealed – a pastel pink balloon a little girl was holding had exploded. The little girl whose balloon it had been looked around at the dozens of children, their eyes all on her as she stood in her best dress, and for a moment there was only stillness and then came the tears, and the sobs, and down fell her basket with the plastic eggs and off ran the girl towards her parents, who had been sitting at a picnic table talking. They looked up and saw her in time to open their arms to her and embrace her. The children looked around and then the game was afoot again and they were off chasing hidden eggs.

Continue reading “GLORY – An Easter Story”

Drawn To The Dark

Authors have gone to great length over the years to discuss horror and how it is used as a means of catharsis – a way to confront the horrors of the world real or imagined and to see them faced and conquered. Horror is our way to lean out over the edge of the chasm to feel its cold breath knowing we can always lean back when we’ve had our fill. This is why so many of us love horror and more hate it – it revels in the dark side of things and some fear what that dark side may bring out of us. And I am sure, like everything else, horror and every other thing can have an adverse effect on the psyche of someone with preexisting issues, but any blame that horror – or other things like video games – takes for the horrors that Man commits against Man is just a form of scapegoating. If we won’t blame the guns for killing people then we can’t blame the movies for killing people either. No, horror is not meant to be a cultural guidepost towards bettering ourselves, no, it is meant to be a barometer as to where we are in society, where we have been, and where we may yet be heading. If comedy is a release from the pressures of the world – comedy never being blamed for teens getting up to sexual high jinx, naturally – then horror is our confrontation of the world’s horrors.

Continue reading “Drawn To The Dark”

Slow Rot – a story

I guess this is technically Flash Fiction, though I never tend to pay a whole lot of attention to that stuff as I write. This just so happens to be a very brief tale I wrote last night. I like the heck out of it. Strange to be back on a writing kick again with no outlet for the stories other than here or nowhere – mostly nowhere – but so be it. 

Enjoy. 

– c

Continue reading “Slow Rot – a story”

Grieve – A Story

This is a rough story I just wrote. It feels awkward in parts and needs a lot more polish I’d wager but I wanted to share it. Heck, if it ever IS evened out then maybe I can do something else with it. For now, here’s a rough version of a dark little tale. 

Grieve

A mother shouldn’t have to bury her baby.

It’s unthinkable.

It’s unbearable.

It’s against God and all His angels.

Yet…

This is God’s will.
This is God’s plan.

Who am I to deny it?

I have lost two beautiful stars to the heavens, two perfect sunbeams to the darkness, and have had two of my own sent where I cannot follow. It is soul crushing. Every day I can feel the weight of them in my arms still, can feel them in my belly, even hearing their cries in the night as I am asleep. They speak to me and through my veil of tears I can still see them lying there in bed beside me, holding hands with oen another as they smile at me. At least they are together in Heaven. At least there is that small solace. At least there is that small mercy. Even if it does mean I am all alone.

After Daniel died the women at work and in church fawned over me, bringing me dinner, offering to come sit with me at lunch or at night, and actually caring, genuinely caring about me and my well-being – the first time I had had that since I was a little girl. As a child I was invisible. The third child of five. The middle child of parents who worked multiple jobs and who were too busy with the others to notice me. I wasn’t the first, I wasn’t the last, I was just stuck in the middle. Oh, they asked how my day was, they asked how I was, and they made the efforts like good parents but they weren’t. They weren’t. They didn’t care about me. It was an act. It was their job. They did it because they had to and I hated them for that. I saw how they laughed with my brothers and sisters, how they joked, how they played while I sat alone, refusing to be pitied and pandered to. All I wanted in the world was all of their attention and I would never have it. Never. It wasn’t until Robbie, the youngest of us, drowned in the pond behind the house that they started to care. I had been with him at the end and they knew how terrible it had been for me to watch as he struggled before the waters took and they told me they loved me and that Robbie had loved me. I had been helpless when he drowned. I had never learned to swim and so there was nothing I could do to save him. Nothing. All I could do was watch over the course of those twenty minutes as he ran out of energy and finally lost the fight and sunk below the surface. There was nothing I could do. Afterwards I ran and got Anne, the oldest of us, and she swam out to get Robbie but it was too late. He was gone. He was gone and all of a sudden my parents saw me. My family saw me. They all saw me and they all loved me. They all loved me until Anne started asking questions. They loved me until something else took their attention away.

It was the same thing at work. When I was pregnant everyone cared, everyone loved me, and everyone wanted to know how I was. I was just an abandoned woman, left by the father of the child, all alone in the world. When Daniel was born though the focus moved to him and I was forgotten again.

‘How is Danny?’

‘How is the baby?’

‘How is that pretty boy of yours?’

That was all I heard. I wasn’t asked how I was. I wasn’t asked how I found time to sleep. I wasn’t asked about who watched Daniel when I was at work. No one cared about me anymore. Everything was about Daniel. The world only gave a damn for him. Within months I came to hate him. I would stand over him and watch him sleep and think about how I wish he’d just roll over and suffocate himself or maybe he could just fall out of the crib and…and I would cry myself to sleep thinking about these things. What sort of mother was I to think all of these black thoughts? I loved my baby. I loved my Daniel. He was my world. I would never hurt him. Then one night he was taken away from me. Somehow he had gotten one of his baby spoons in the crib with him and he must have been playing with it and he choked to death on it while I was asleep. I found him the next morning and he was cold and blue. The world spun, the floor fell away, and I was all alone again with no one to love me.

Like saints my congregation descended to care for me and look after me and my co-workers too suddenly remembered my name and helped me through that difficult time. For two months I was the center of attention and it felt wonderful. It was like laying in warm Spring sunshine. People looked out for me, cooked for me, asked me to go out with them for lunch and dinner. I was never alone. I had friends. It lasted until a girl caught pregnant at work and a teenager at the church succumbed to cancer and then my loss wasn’t so great any longer. My pain wasn’t as important any longer. I wasn’t alone though, no, I had Daniel with me, singing to me, speaking to me, cooing to me when I would cry myself to sleep. He knew it wasn’t my fault he had died and he forgave me. He forgave me. But Daniel didn’t want me to be alone. God didn’t want me to be alone. He wanted me to have someone that would love me. Someone that had to love me. Daniel told me God had another angel put aside for me, another angel to love me and only me and I just had to do the work to make that miracle come true.

I don’t remember Daniel’s father’s name. I don’t remember Angela’s father’s name either. It doesn’t matter though because they were merely vessels that carried the seeds that I was to bear. It took several tries with brutish, drunken man but it was worth it because in the end I was given my Angela and with Angela came the attention and love once more but with her birth that attention shifted again. It was the same cycle I had been in since Robbie’s death, only with Robbie there were questions, so many questions, so many that I ran away to escape them and never went back. They wanted to know what had happened, why I had waited so long, why his pockets had been full of rocks, questions and questions and questions and so I ran away, far enough away that they’d never find me. They didn’t know what it had been like. They didn’t understand and they never would. I thought things would be different with Angela, different than it had been with Daniel but I was wrong. With Angela it was just her, her, her, that’s all the people cared about. It was even worse than it had been with Daniel.

She was an angel.

I was just shit.

My anger came sooner with Angela, and was fiercer and while she slept I would put things over her face, over her mouth just to see what it felt like, not meaning to do anything but wanting to see what it felt like. I didn’t get the sick feeling I did when I did the same things to Daniel, no, I didn’t feel guilt, I just felt cold. I couldn’t stand the guilt, even if Daniel had forgiven me, but I could stand the cold. I was used to the cold.

Angela died nine months after she was born, almost to the day. She drowned, like my brother Robbie. I had stepped away from the wash basin to check on our dinner and when I got back she was face down under the water. I tried but couldn’t save her. It was too late. The police came again, as they had with Daniel, and this time they clucked their tongues at me and asked me so many questions that my brain started to hurt and my skin got hot but they finally left and that was that. I was negligent but it was an accident. Of course it was an accident. How could I kill my child? Only a monster would murder a child.

Work and the church were not as sympathetic this time and some people actually acted as if I had been at fault in her death. Some said I shouldn’t have left her side, and that I should have known better, and that I should have had her taken away. What did they know about me? What did they know about my life? I cared for Angela, I loved her, I took care of her. I was her MOTHER. No one could take her away. Oh how the hens clucked though and what gentle talk there was was centered on her, on poor Angela and how she had died too young. How sad it was that this innocent had been taken by death. No one cared about me or my loss. No one cared about what I was going through. No one bothered to check on my condition.

I hate them all.

I could not hate Angela any longer though, no, my hate was gone and in its place was cold emptiness. A desperate chasm of loneliness. Where was my love? But they were still with me, my children. My babies came and spoke to me at night, and they sang to me, and they told me they forgave me and loved me, and that they wanted me to be happy. They told me that God was good. God was love. God had a plan. My tears stopped and I listened intently to my children as they whispered to me from the darkness that God had set aside another angel for me and that this time, this time the love I felt wouldn’t fade, the attention I wanted wouldn’t disappear, and that this time, this time things would be ok.

God was good.

Love’s seed was waiting for me.

All I needed to do was the work.

I got out of bed and dressed, wanting to get to work as quickly was possible. Love may be patient but I was not. I am just not a patient woman. It’s my one flaw. Besides, this was God’s plan for me so who was I to deny it?

Who am I?

WHEN YOU WERE HERE – story

WHEN YOU WERE HERE

I remember your smell.

I can’t say what it was, it was, I don’t know, it was cigarettes and hair spray and perfume and, and sex, was it sex, beneath all of it, beneath all of it and hidden in those layers?

Was it sex?

I think of the men you would go out with, the carousel of faces I could never keep up with. Dan. Don. Doug. Dave. I think sometimes that you would choose them for their names as much as anything else, the game too exciting, the chase too fun, and all of it such grand theater just for me.

I want to think of the good times, the sweet times, and the times when you would wave to me from the swings. How you cried the first month you went to Kindergarten. How you would take money from my purse when you thought I wasn’t paying enough attention to you, begging for me to hurt you, to teach you another lesson and giving me the act, the tears, the crying, all while you hummed to yourself as I spanked you.

It’s all a game.

That’s what you told me in the note.

Everything’s a game…and I refuse to keep playing.

And I think of all the times we spent together in your bed, when I would read to you, or I would come home from work crying and you would console me or how when Na-Na died we slept together in your bed and fell asleep telling stories to one another about her – both of us having pieces of her the other didn’t. Maybe it was then that I realized it – that all we are, that all life is is a giant puzzle and no one ever has all the pieces. We spend our lives trying to re-claim our own pieces and trying to find enough pieces of the people around us to know whether they mean us harm or not.

Christ, is it all a game?

All of it?

All those years?

All those moments?

I spent so many years in the bottom of a bottle while you raised yourself and watched me from atop your tower. I think you were fifteen when I stopped being your mother and was simply the woman who gave birth to you. When you stopped letting me up into the tower with you. Once upon a time it had been the two of us, the both of us up there and there were No Boys Allowed and it was good. It was good, wasn’t it?

Yeah, I think it was.

I think it was.

But all of it, the memories, the moments, all of that time and it ends in a note written on the back of a fast food receipt. All I could do was put your birthday cake on the kitchen counter and go into your room and sit there on the floor and wait for the darkness to close in.

Our lives become graveyards, that’s what I found out when your dad died. The older we get the bigger the graveyard gets until you reach a point when all that remains is one grave and it’s yours and sometimes you fight it and sometimes, well, sometimes you don’t fight it as hard. Sometimes it’s just an extension of the darkness you have already been living in.

There is so much, so much I needed to say, so much you deserved to hear. You deserved a full time mother and not a part time drunk. You deserved a mom and not a friend. You deserved the best of me and not the leftovers of a string of terrible men. I let myself become wreckage and left you alone.

I think the police gave up looking after the first week. You were seventeen, pretty, and we hadn’t gotten along for years. It was bound to happen one of them told me. I stopped looking for you after the third month. You would come home when you were ready. I stopped calling the hospitals after six months. Time starts to become a melting ice cream cone and as hard as you try you just can’t stop the melting, and pretty soon all that is left is a mess.

Oh god sweetie, where did you go?

Was it so bad?

Was I so bad?

But there’s only darkness now and an empty house where your smell still lingers and where your pictures still hang. I wish you’d become an artist. Or a clerk. Or a stripper. Or anything. Anything but gone.

I saw on the news that they found a girl in the bay on the edge of the city, a girl not much out of her teens with blonde hair and no clothes on. I am waiting by the phone now.

I know it’s time for you to finally come home.

 

http://www.meepsheep.com