Fare thee Well

As I have gotten older I have come to see the past differently, something I think all of us do if we think about it a moment. The past was once a warm place where I could look back to when times were tough. The past offered respite and solace and the warmth of memories.

As I have gotten older though I see the past differently.

Continue reading “Fare thee Well”

AND WHATEVER CAME NEXT – a story

I don’t write romantic stuff a whole lot. It just isn’t something that fascinates me as much as other ideas do but this came into my mind and stuck there. I tried to capture the innocence of young summer love and the naive trust in a world that you were just playing a full part in. Most of my romances come with razors and claws but it was nice to do something different. I really dig it and I hope you do too. 

AND WHATEVER CAME NEXT

It was late.

Or early.

It was hard to tell.

It was the part of the night where the summer heat has burned off and the dew is forming and fog is rolling slowly over the fields. I looked over at her and watched the goosebumps form along her skin, an army marching over every curve, every dip and along all the places my hands and lips had been just a few minutes earlier. She shivered and looked away from the stars and over to me and smiled shyly, her hands covering her nakedness. I leaned in and kissed her forehead, the salt of her sweat a bitter taste but sweet reminder of the evening. She smelled like donuts. Sweet and sticky. She had met me after work, her uniform in a pile underneath her head, my own uniform of jeans and a t-shirt underneath mine.

I had never been kissed by a girl.

Not really kissed.

Not kissed by someone who meant it.

Not by someone who wanted me.

I had never been kissed by a girl.

Not before her.

We had met weeks ago, friends of friends of friends of whatevers, both of us meeting near the pool and spending the night sitting in lawn chairs and sipping warm beers and talking until everyone else had passed out or disappeared into the darkness of a stranger’s bedroom, or closet, or bathroom, or wherever. The closest we came to touching was when we shared a drag off of a clove cigarette she had. It was awful but smoking after her gave me a weird jolt I hadn’t expected. The night ended like a dozen others had since I had started going out with my friends when we turned eighteen – the girl and I said our awkward goodbyes and we parted ways. Only this girl wasn’t just a girl at a party. Wasn’t just a face with no name. I dunno what it was but she was different. I thought about her the whole next week. I worked my clerk job each night hoping vainly she’d come in and I could get her name, her number, something. But she never came in. My friends were sympathetic but hey had girlfriends and insisted that they knew the perfect girl for me, or that there might be someone at the next party. Only, it wasn’t like that. It wasn’t desperation. It was, I don’t know. Different.

I didn’t see her the next weekend and was crushed. There was no reason she would have been at this kid’s party, a kid that even we barely knew, but I had hoped. I had really hoped. My friends offered me beers and their girlfriends told me they might know someone I might like and they were all awesome but they didn’t really get the strange itch I felt in wanting to see her. Needing to see her. It was stupid. I knew that. But I didn’t know it at the same time. And knowing didn’t make the itch go away.

And that was what got to me.

When I ran into her two weeks later at a concert I couldn’t help the smile that came to my lips and when I saw how she blushed at seeing me, well…it was a great night. A fun night.

Her name is Mary.

That night I got her name and phone number. I called her the next day and the next time we saw each other we didn’t have our mutual friend-anchors.

That was last night.

Last night was when she kissed me.

She.

Kissed.

Me.

I had never had that happen before.

We were sitting in my back seat under a blanket, passing a beer back and forth and listening to the radio in the parking lot of an all-night mega-mart. She knew I had an apartment, and I knew she lived in one with a friend but I didn’t ask and didn’t offer to go back to one of them. It wasn’t time yet. So we sat in my back seat just talking about music. Suddenly a song that she loved came on the radio from a mix CD I had made for the night and she squealed and bent towards me and kissed me. When she pulled away our foreheads were touching and our breath was coming in short bursts. I could smell the beer on her breath and beneath that the tacos we had had as a late snack earlier in the night. She blushed and was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. I ran a hand through her hair, unsure what I was supposed to do. I was far from a rookie but before things had always been hook ups or the one time I fooled around with a friend of mine. This was…different. Her smile grew and she leaned in closer and kissed me and my body caught fire. I lost track of all time, all thoughts, of everything but that moment. I ran my hand from the side of the head to her cheek and she placed a hand on my thigh and I felt it creep upwards. Suddenly there was a loud knock on the rear passenger window.

“HEY! That’s fuckin’ disgustin’ you perverts! Get a fuckin’ room! I got a kid here!”

It was a woman wearing too much makeup and had a t-shirt on that showed a cartoon elephant being screwed from behind by the President. The tagline said ‘Thanks…’ something or other. The rest was obscured by a young boy covered in chocolate she held on her hip. Mary raised a hand of apology and the woman knocked on the glass again then stormed off. We busted out with laughter. I sat up a little and saw that the woman had found the security car for the store and was pointing at my car as she approached them. We laughed all the way back to her apartment where I kissed her goodnight.

It had been a week since I had seen her. Both of our shifts made it hard to find time but we ditched friends, ditched plans, and carved out space in the world for us and it would be worth it. It would be worth going into work bleary eyed and exhausted. Muddle-minded and distracted.

It was Thursday night and I was just off of my shift and she was just off hers when she picked me up in her roommate’s car and took me for a midnight picnic under the stars.

And here we were.

Here we are.

Here I am.

I leaned forward and kissed her and closed my eyes and saw…nothing. I saw nothing. I loved it. I loved nothing. I had spent most of my teen years worrying about grades, and friends, and parties, and college, and jobs, and girls, and everything else that wandered into my head and those ghosts had chased me since then. It had chased me right up to that moment of blissful nothing where it was just her, and it was me, and it was us.

Us.

Damn.

I felt the first cold drops of rain hit me and broke the kiss off. She frowned and wrinkled her nose. We laughed and the rain fell harder. We stood up, naked and laughing. My body still humming from our time together. We bent down and grabbed our clothes and slowly made our way back to the car. She took my hand.

“If…if this was the end of the world would you dance with me in the embers until the end?” She looked at me with no smile in her voice or eyes.

“…until the very end and then whatever came next. Until forever came and whatever comes after that.”

She squeezed my hand and I smiled and she returned it. Deep inside me my world caught fire and I didn’t care because I already had my dancing partner for it and for whatever came next.

…c…

9.1.15

www.meepsheep.com

MOMENT – a story

MOMENT

Her smile was more blood than teeth but there was a wild joy in her bright blue eyes full of enough joy to make my heart want to explode. It was the last thing I expected to see as I pulled her back to her feet, the pulse of the crowd like that of a great beast, its heat coming off in waves and not wanting to relinquish her as I pulled her up. Her hair was night-light yellow and it flashed with the stage lights as she regained her feet and I could hear her laughing and it cut its way through the heavy waves of music. She leaned towards me and I felt her breath on my chin, then my cheek, and then my ear as she screamed into it – I fucking hate these guys but I love beatin’ the shit out of their fans. Does that make me a bad person? She pulled back and was laughing again as she shrugged at me then bent forward and she kissed my cheek as she pulled away, red smeared across her lips and mouth and she laughing as she plunged back into the bodies, which parted before her. In a moment she was lost and I was standing there stupid before the movement of the crowd pushed me back to where I had been moments earlier. I looked over and saw my friend and he gave me a crooked smile and pointed at my cheek and I returned the smile. It burned where she’d kissed me. It burned and the heat seemed to cover me. The music washed against me and I stood my ground in the sea of people as they undulated around me. I trained my eyes on the crowd and caught sight of her as she bobbed up and down and I couldn’t help but laugh with her as she danced and jumped and swung her elbows around. She would appear, disappear, then re-appear, then disappear again, each time in a different spot, and always moving against the crowd.

I don’t think I had ever fallen in love before that moment I helped her up off the floor.

I didn’t know if I’d ever fall in love like that again.

The kind of love that burns.

Lucky for me…

Well…

Her name is Hannah.

Books

For Those Who Survive

For those that survive, the darkness has yet to pass.

The darkness, that great black curtain that falls any time we lose someone we love, is a living thing that morphs and evolves day by day as you remember things once forgotten and regret things never done or said. The darkness that haunts us for the rest of our lives just as the absence of our loved one does.

But there is light.

As dark as things may get we can never, ever forget that every darkness is born of the absence of light, and that every light yet lives in the darkness, just unseen.

There is always light.

In every fond memory, in every soft word, in every photo, and every time we think of someone we lost there is a light waiting to be born. And sometimes that is the worst of it, that there is so much love in us at times that knowing that a person we loved is gone makes it hurt all the more. But there is light. Whenever you love someone it doesn’t go away, it never goes away, it just changes, it evolves, it grows as we grow and never has to disappear. Memories and love are never enough, never, never enough to make up for the loss of someone but life too evolves. Life too changes. And it is change that makes this world worth exploring.

We are neither promised nor guaranteed that we will meet people who touch our lives in lasting ways and it is only by the act of magic and miracles that we do meet those people. Take a moment, one moment, and think on all the loves of your life, all the friends, all the family, all the amazing people you have met so far on this journey and who have touched your life and changed who you are. It’s breathtaking. It’s overwhelming. It’s light.

Loss is always sad, it is sad because suddenly we are without this light we had known for so long, but just because that light is dimmed it does not mean it is gone, it means it has changed. It is only gone if we let that light extinguish, and that happens if we cling too long to the dark. We all need to mourn, we need to hurt, but in the end we also need to heal or we lose why it was we were hurting in the first place.

And here’s the rub – I can give you a million flowery words but it won’t take your loss away. The horrible thing in life is that we are born to lose the things we love, but lose them though we may, we lose them only in a physical sense. The feelings we have, the moments we share are gone only when we let them leave us and even then they remain. We affect people in so many ways that we cannot guess, and are affedted in the same ways. We will never know how deeply the people around us have changed us and will never see how many fingerprints are on our hearts but you can never remove those fingerprints, even if we want them gone. At your saddest, at your darkest, take solace in knowing that you changed the people you loved and you too were changed by them. Even if you can never see it, it is there, like breath…like faith…like magic.

So this is for those that survive and are left behind. A love song and a reminder at once. We are only in the dark as long as we choose to remain there, but in the end – is the dark where the person you have lost would want you? Is that your tribute? Don’t they deserve more?

So mourn. So cry. So hurt.

But heal.

But remember.

But live.

Because living is the true sign that we have not forgotten the ones we love, and the true sign that the light lives on. And for you I light a candle, in honor of all of those you have lost, so you may find your way back home.

Fare Well – a story

As a Christmas gift, I wrote this story for my girlfriend Amanda. This is part of the same story cycle/mythos as the Meep Sheep.

Fare Well

Amanda wiped away the tears as her carriage left the city of the pandas and headed her into the snow and to a home she hadn’t been to in ages. She had been with the pandas serving the queen for two years and in that time she had made friendships such as she had never had before. Had it not been for her family and boyfriend waiting for her she would be tempted to stay with the pandas forever but there were other adventures, and other stories for her to write and it was time for Manda to return to her life. It was time to go back home and back to writing stories that didn’t involve the wonderfully complex world of the pandas.

A sob escaped her as she looked out the back window of the carriage and saw her friend Kindri, a young assistant to the elders, waving goodbye. There had been a grand ball the night before in her honor, not so much a ‘goodbye’ as a ‘fare well’, and it had been something she would always cherish.

“Goodbye is for war, Miss Manda…and for the dead. You are going to neither, so this is fare well.” She was told gruffly, though there were tears in the voice of Ruuuj, one of the honor guards in the city.

Yes, not goodbye, just fare well.

Amanda forced herself to look away from Kindri and turned around to face forward and look toward the road ahead, which was covered over with the winter snow. Behind her the preparations were already being undertaken for the grand winter festival, which was a mix of the annual Renewal Festival and of the traditions of Amanda’s home, something the pandas had taken on in her honor. No one had anticipated how well the pandas would take to her, especially not Manda, but it was true, and the Kingdom had changed because of this friendship. In fact, were it not for her, what began as unrest in an outreaching part of the land may have become full war if Zoof, one of the panda elders, had not gone to speak with the people and taken the Winter globe with him, and it was that which turned the tide. The wonderment that could be created with the magic globe was enough to calm the tide of this budding war and so this would be another season of peace for the Kingdom of Man. Manda smiled thinking this and it was that warmth that took the tears away.

The snow was a blur outside the small window as the carriage picked up speed and Manda looked down at the small green box she held in her hands, a final gift from her friend Loof. He had told her, the day before she was leaving, that he preferred to see her off then, so it was not truly anything more than a fare well, because she had not departed yet. In sending her off though, he gave her the one gift she accepted from the pandas – a small green box. It was not that she didn’t desire to take the beautiful presents that were offered her but she knew their culture well and that gifts were only accepted like that by the family of someone who has passed away, and she was clearly not departing anything more than this kingdom for another. So what she did was have the pandas leave the many gifts of food, clothing, and the beautiful sculptures that were part of their heritage with Kindri, who kept a small cottage for Amanda, should she return. It was a nice thought for her, a warm thought that there was a place for her there. There was a home.

Ah, but when she’d ever get to return was the question.

Much had changed in the Kingdom, and there was much to report, and Manda was still the lead reporter for the Queen and as such, wherever there was something important, she was there. So when she might return she wasn’t sure, but she would.

Some day.

She hoped.

Ah, but the box.

The snow was a blur beyond the window and the sun was fading. It would still be hours until she was home again and that was an awful long time to think so the box was the perfect distraction. The box was small and green and though simple at first glance, was very ornate. Small, stones had been woven into the fabric, and though they were nothing valuable, their rarity to the pandas and in their lands made them of great value to Amanda. Tears started to run down her face again.

She wasn’t sure what she expected to be in the box but part of her didn’t want to know. Opening the box would take away the last mystery she had left from the place. Maybe the last she would ever have from there.

More tears.

But then, deep in her mind, she heard the voice of Loof, who had once told her that as long as there were sunrises, there were mysteries. Mysteries did not pass with the person – they only became greater, broader, and more wondrous. Each day, he concluded, is a new world, a new mystery, a new life – it is for us to link these days together or to push into the thickets and make a new path.

Manda nodded to herself.

To not open the box would be an insult. She must be brave, she must be bold.

She must forge ahead.

Amanda took a deep breath and opened the box.

Within the small green box was a red key atop dozens of coins of different color, size, and seemingly denomination. Even in the dim light of the carriage the key sparkled atop the coins and she couldn’t help but smile. Fastened to the inside of the lid of the box was a note, which Amanda pulled out to read.

Miss Manda – I give to you my most cherished treasure – a Key of Dreams. I was given this by a shaman from a lost Tribe of Man many, many years before our histories were recorded. I give this now to you, you who have bridged the Panda Kingdom with the Kingdom of Man once more. I give this to you and smile, knowing the adventures I had with this key when I was younger and had far more dance in my paws. This key is for not a door but for an idea, for a dream; and dreams, my dear, can be found everywhere one looks. When a day comes when you need an escape, when you need an adventure, when you need a new story to tell then take this little red key, close your eyes, and think of where you want to be. When you have that in mind, hold the key out and turn it and a door shall appear and through that door you will arrive wherever it was you dreamed. To return, you do the same. This key is as magical or terrifying as the user wishes, so be warned not to dream darkly unless you wish to see the shade. Use it well, and I trust, some day, you will use this key to dream of us, so we might see you once again.

Amanda couldn’t stop the tears as they coursed down her face, nor could she stop the smile that lit her up and warmed her as they were linked. She lifted the key and it was light, light but warm, and she smiled more broadly, a place in mind, a person in mind, and closed her eyes and held the key out and turned it and felt a lock click open and then a breeze. She wondered a moment about her luggage and then laughed – the carriage would go to wherever it was bidden to travel, with our without its passenger. She took a deep breath and leaned forward, eyes still closed, and fell into nothingness, and into the waiting arms of the one she loved.

And somewhere, far, far away, a grand old panda laughed, as if tickled by a breeze, or by the kiss of someone precious, and it was a smile that lit its face as it fell back into slumber.