Tic Tic Tic

It wormed itself through his heart, starting off as a small tic really. Rubbing his chest, he could feel It burrow within him. Small, minute even. Hardly noticeable.

Continuing on, he thought nothing of It. But then It persisted. It wiggled more, slithering itself within the cavernous depths of his soul, growing in strength, making itself at home. As he allowed It sanctuary, It grew, weaving its web within his heart, integrating itself deeply, grasping him tighter.

He could feel It like a leaden weight within his chest now. His heart beat thudded heavier, burdened by the extra load.  His heart and It were now one. While Joy tried to enter, It could not, so was his heart crowded by It. Contentment pounded on the heart’s doors, but was turned away as there was no longer any room for it.

It churned within him, caressing his heart, begging for entrance into his mind. The ponderous weight of It now became a cogency. No longer a menacing tic, It is a force to be reckoned with. Each beat of his heart allowed It to ooze within him, pouring its oppression into his mind, reaching downward to his soul with its fingertips.

It nestled its way throughout his mind, convulsing as his conscience willed it away. So much more difficult than his heart. His mind knows right from wrong, but It is resilient. It can wait. Seizing an opportunity, It bores into his mind, encircling it, submitting his conscience to it. It’s all but encompassing him now.

Its fingertips have caressed his soul, so much more darkened now than before. That minute worming has irrevocably dominated him, now pouring forth with the strength of his heart and mind behind It. It gushes within, cascading into his very being, intertwining itself within his soul so that he no longer exists, but It thrives.

It has conquered him, taken his essence. It pours forth now unbidden in his words, conjured in a darkened mind. It propels action where once it might not have possessed power.

Tic. It was just a Tic. But now, It has become him.

Just Bloom

This is my favorite place. Ever since I can remember, I have escaped to this veranda. It’s nestled off the second floor of our old antebellum house, once regal but now chipped with paint and in need of attention. My haven overlooks a copse of generations old live oak trees smothered in Spanish moss. It also gives the best protection from the berating noises of my father hollering across the house at Mama. Lord knows what the bourbon has lied to him about this time. The magnolias have bloomed fast under my bedroom window just to the left of me, and their scent serves as a reminder. They are beautifully fragile and last only a moment, yet they are strong enough to return each year. Just like me… and Mama.

Dilcey says Daddy had a rough upbringing, and since she’s the oldest person I know, I reckon it to be true. She’s never lied a single day in her life any how. She says Jesus rewards those who are true. I sure hope so. She’s got to be at least sixty so she’s had plenty of time to figure things out. I can’t even remember a time when Dilcey wasn’t here with us in this big old house. Her grandmama was a slave right up the river a long time ago, and Dilcey’s grown roots here. Says she ain’t never leaving. I figure that’s true too.

Dilcey is the only one who knows that this is where I hide. It’s got two old navy damask wingback chairs, faded with time. They face one another like two old people sitting in silence. I usually just plomp down and cross my legs just to feel the coolness of the worn wood planks on my skin. Mama and Daddy haven’t been out here in ages. They stay downstairs where it’s cooler in the summer when the windows are thrown open, and heated up by the fireplaces in the winter. Only I use this place to look out over my little paradise. Or to escape it.

One time, before Dilcey’s knee began to ache too much, she climbed up the stairs after one of Daddy’s bad ones just to bring me an ice cold lemonade.

“Chile,” she said as she persuaded my fine, limp mousey hair into braids, “Sum folks jes got so much hurt inside of dem dat dey don’t kno’ how ta do nuthin’ else but hurt.” She didn’t say anything else to me. Just let me sit there in the shade, sipping my lemonade, trying to fix my helpless hair. I patted her arm to let her know I understood. That’s the way it’s always been with me and Dilcey- not a lot of words, but a whole lot of talking.

Now I sit- much older than I was then, but too young to do much about anything. My hair is now pinned to the top of my head, letting the slight breeze tickle my neck promising of cooler days to come. I close my eyes, trying to drown out the sound of his voice and strain for the song of whippoorwills in the distance. Mama doesn’t make a sound. Just listens. But unlike me, she listens up close. Taking the brunt of his anger, fending off the sharp edges of his words.

Eventually, he will put down his weapons and return to himself, just as he always has. Our little paradise will return, and life will go on. Kind of like those magnolias. When they are here, they are beautiful- pure. But as they die, they wither into a sickening brown, littering the yard below with their ugliness.

 

~~~

 

This is just one of many pieces I have written over the course of the past three weeks during the Oklahoma Writing Project’s Summer Institute.

http://www.owp.ou.edu

Homeward

Homeward

I reach up pulling my hair out of my lipgloss- again. My sleek ponytail is now a mess of cobwebs, but I don’t care. Pieces of it lash against my face, my ears, and my neck. But I just keep going. The wind whispers to me over the blare of music. My fingers tense and relax again. Invading motorists sometimes catch my eye, but I just keep going. Words swirl through my brain, “Mercy, Mercy… Heaven’s story, Breathing life into my bones, Spirit lift me, From this wasteland lead me home” finding release in my voice, firstly softly yet growing. “Arrest my heart, from its reckless path, release the chains in me.” I am off pitch and out of tune, but my Listener does not care. He appreciates my effort. “Gracious fury, written in my Savior’s scars.” My voice battles for my soul pouring over the beat of the wind. Tears spring to my eyes. “Mercy Mercy now engrained upon my heart.” The incredible gift of grace is more than this heart can bear. In this moment I find deliverance in the overwhelming gratitude for it. So often Life is too chaotic for me to find a minute to bask in the glory of His presence. The present engulfs me, suffocating me with this mortal life. So I just keep going. The peaceful noise of this moment reminds me of where I am going, my true destination that can’t be found on this road. My destination is not a house… it is my Home.

All Hail Breaks Loose

Gazing out the window, she asks, “Man! Was the storm really that bad?” Leaves and debris are strewn about the grass. The road is turned into a mud puddle, and the neighbors’ front yard looks like a war zone. Newly blooming flowers are shattered to colorful smithereens.

“You didn’t hear it?” Mike responds from the kitchen. “The hail sounded like cannons being blasted through the roof. It was insane!”

“Nope. I’m a deep sleeper,” she smiles lazily and pours herself a bowl of cereal.

This week’s storm was insane. What started as a lazy lightning show soon became a roaring thunderstorm. But that was nothing compared to the 3 a.m. hail storm that shattered even the noise of thunder. Combined with the cries of my 3-year-old, I felt like World War III had begun. But my 15-year-old slept right on through… never even blinking an eye.

While I’m incredibly jealous that she can just snooze through it all, I am also in awe of it. As I listened to their morning conversation, a profound thought hit me. Shouldn’t we all be able to rest through the storms?

Not the literal hail-smashing, thunder-crashing, torrential downpour type that the atmosphere throws at us- but those in life that weigh down upon us. Some of them are like the other night’s storm. The day was beautiful, but as night moved in, the temperature dropped. Then a beautiful lightning show illuminated the darkening skies. A few fat raindrops watered the earth. Yet just a few hours later, that beauty was an ugly ominous threat.

Others are sudden. No warning. The rain pours in on us with no end in sight. Storm clouds roll in quickly, drenching us, catching us ill-prepared, flooding all around us.

Life is like that. Storms are certain. We find ourselves standing in the rain of life- sometimes it’s just enough to soak us through and other times it is earth shattering. Yet, shouldn’t we rest through them?

My daughter was secure here in her home. There was nothing the storm could do to get to her. She was safe. She is a deep sleeper to be sure. But that’s because life is noisy, and she’s learned to rest through the craziness of it. Even in the noise, she is safe.

Jesus asks us to be just like that- to know that even in the noise of the storm, we are safe.

In the middle of a storm, a literal storm, Jesus slept comfortably on a pillow while his disciples freaked out. So physically close to the savior, they still looked not at Him but at the rain and wind. “Why are you so afraid?” He asked them. And so He asks us too- “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:40)

In Life’s storms, rest. Rest in his love- his security- His faithfulness.

 

Home Sweet Home

There’s no place like home… or so they say. But what is a home? Home is a place where you can belong- a place where you can be who you really are- unguarded. What is that place for you?

For me, when I walk in the door of my house, it is chaos. “Mama’s home!” It’s like two words to ensure a whirlwind of movement and a torrent of words. Quiet moments do not happen until far after bedtime, and that time is typically monopolized by the weightiness of Responsibility.  Ugh- adulting. Yet, this crazy place is my house. Is it a home? You betcha. If you walk in my door, I want you to kick your shoes off (literally because I hate dirty floors), pour yourself a glass of tea, and stay a while. Welcome to my home.

But this is certainly not the only home I have. Home for me is going back to Mississippi. Home is where my heart is, and my heart is there. Though my family and friends have all moved on in their lives from where they were when my naive teenage self still lived there, I still go home to Corinth. (Typically in search of a Borrum’s milkshake and turkey melt- yum.) It’s where I became me. That town, those people molded me into the woman I am today. And I am proud of my roots. Though the town and people have changed, it’s still where I go home.

And even this is still not my only home. The House is my home. It’s my new church- The House. That’s right- it’s mine. I say it like I possess it because I do… along with my many family members. We have The House to go home to. It’s not like any church I’ve ever attended (which is A LOT, believe you me!).

You know the stereotypical Sunday mornings- Mom’s running around trying to apply mascara while one kid pees on the floor, the other asks for another pancake, and Dad spins in circles trying to decide who needs him where. They all scream and yell and cry (Mom- not the kids), then they get to church, adjust their smiles, tuck their Bibles in their armpits, and pretend the world is okay.

That was a lot of Sunday mornings for me as a kid. (Ha! Sorry, Mom, but you know it’s true!) That’s still a lot of my Sunday mornings that are like that now. But now, I don’t smile and pretend everything is ok. I bluster through the door dragging one kid through, pushing the other to the donuts, hoping to God someone hugs one of them and ushers them off to class… then hugs me because I just need it. And that IS what happens. My kids walk through that door knowing there are people inside who love them, who will help them when Mommy’s is a little crazy. I walk through that door knowing that even though I am a little crazy, my friends, my family love me. I don’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to smile. But once I get there, I feel like smiling.

I smile because I am home. I am in my Father’s house with my family. And we can let loose, be ourselves and love one another as we are. We can lay aside the troubles and adulting of this world, focus on heavenly matters and just take a deep breath in. It’s just like Jesus wanted church to be…. because the church is not the building I enter any more than a house is a home. The church is my family because they are the ones who make The House MY home.

“I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD.”

Psalm 122:1

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Beauty and the Short Man

Anticipation trickles over the crowd. The little man sits in the tree anxiously awaiting a glimpse at the rumored Messiah. His shins throb from where the bark scraped them clean as he clambered up the sycamore. His excitement shadows the pain.

“There he is!” someone shouts out.

Straining his neck, he finally sees him. The Messiah greets those around him, smiling at their childish joy. Ever so slowly, Jesus makes his way through the crowd. The little man sees him plainly now, just almost below him. Suddenly, Jesus’ gaze locks with his.

“Zacchaeus,” He calls peering up through the branches.

“Uh…. yes, lord?” Sweat begins to bead on Zacchaeus’ forehead. Could this man really be talking to him?

“Come down so that we may speak,” Jesus commands.

Zacchaeus leaps from the lowest branch to stand in front of this man. His heart hammers in his chest.

One of Jesus’ disciples whispers into Jesus’ ear disdain dripping from his words. “This man is a tax collector.”

Jesus’ eyes widen, eyebrows shooting upward. His lips turn downward. 

“Oh, really? Well, I was going to visit you in your house today. However, as you are a, ah hum, tax collector, I think it would tarnish my reputation too much to do so. Perhaps if you cleaned up your act a bit, and really abided by the law, I would associate with you. But as it is, I shall have to move along. Goodness knows that I can’t be seen to too friendly with sinners! Others might think I condone your behaviour! Tata!”

He flips his hand up in finality leaving the stunned short man wiping the dust from his face.

Gotcha, didn’t I? You thought Jesus was going to be so Christlike, and overlook the poor little man’s beastly behavior. Oh, wait. That IS how it happened!

Sadly, however, it is the way the story is very different in America today. Today, Christians are so full of ‘you can’t do that’ that we are entirely undesirable to a world who desires something greater. Our representation of Jesus is SO far off course that He must be slapping his cheeks in shock at our attempts to ‘Be Like Jesus’. He never once said “be like me”; He said “love” and showed us how to do it.

I get that we are supposed to be ‘in the world and not of it’ (not that that phrase is actually IN the Bible). But we can’t even be IN the world if we make Jesus look so undesirable that the world turns away from us. Jesus did not come to condemn the world, but to save it. His words- not mine. (John 3:17) It is pretty plainly stated, so how is it that we the Church keep missing it? It’s not our job to condemn people and bring them to judgment. It’s our job to love them and by doing so bring them to repentance.

Recently, Christians have made a big stink about Beauty and the Beast because of an entirely overly exaggerated homosexual agenda. Oh my gosh. Really? Of all of the crap coming out of Hollywood, we are going to hammer another nail into the coffin of Christianity because of one insignificant scene at the end of a children’s classic that you need a microscope to catch? That ONE movie out of thousands (all packed full of sin- drunkenness, immorality, lying, cheating, stealing, etc.) has made negative reverberations heard around the country.  Perhaps if that one scene is worth your fighting for a ‘Christian cause’, you ought to stay away from the theatre, movie stores, or Netflix all together else you might be a bit hypocritical. And if you do choose to fight that battle, please don’t stand on a mountain top- or social media- and bash your Bible against people’s foreheads. They rarely like that very much. 

Sorry Zacchaeus. Can’t come to your house today. Too much sin there.

If you must fight a battle, do it like Jesus. The only time we see Him angry enough to take action was not IN the world, but in the church. Let that sink in for you. Jesus became angry not with sinners, but with those who claimed to be followers of God- those who stood in His father’s house making a mockery of it, going directly against the word of God. He didn’t beat non-believers over the head in an attempt to bring them to him. He did, however, spit some serious scripture at the Church when they were in the wrong.

Sure, take a stand when you must. But don’t be obnoxious about it. Don’t reflect a Jesus who never actually walked the earth. If you want to make a difference in this world, take a stand in LOVE. You don’t have to condone someone’s sins just to love them any more than Jesus did.

Eph 4:29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

And you know what the world needs? Paul tells us in Romans that they need God’s goodness to lead them to repentance. The world doesn’t need our condescension and regulations. They need to know that they are loved despite the fact that they do wrong.

“Ah, yes, Zacchaeus.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:1-10)  The REAL end.

 

Men in a World of Boys

Tiny fingers turn white as they press against the heavy glass of the door.
“I do it mysellph.” His voice is full of determination and grit.
Struggling, he pushes, elbows locked forcing the door out of his way.  A lady behind me giggles in amusement at his feeble, full-hearted attempt. Struggling, he finally gets it open pushing it to its max.
Turning, he pushes his back on the door, holding it in place. His big, blue eyes lock on mine.
“Here you go, Mommy.” Using his body as a doorstop, he waits until I walk through then steps away from it.
“Thank you, Asher. You are such a gentleman.” Pride beams across my face.
Nodding his head once, he takes my hand. “Yep. I am.”
We walk hand-in-hand to the car.
Already, not even three years old, my son is innately aware of his duty as a gentleman. He rushes ahead of me to open doors for his mama whenever possible. Part of it is borne out of his obstinate disposition, I’ll admit, but another is that of knowing his place in the world as a man. And as his mama, I endeavor to raise him not only to be a man, but to be a gentleman.
In a world where treating a lady is squashed by ‘women’s rights’ and ‘you have to earn respect’, my son will know that a gentleman opens the door because it’s the considerate, courteous thing to do. Women can fight all day long for equal rights, but at the end of the day, we all appreciate the kindness of a gentleman.
That little gentleman who opens doors for those ladies will also remove his hat when we eat at a restaurant, enter into church, or during the Pledge of Allegiance because it’s a sign of respect. He will not hide his face behind the shade of its bill because I want him to find confidence in who he is, presenting himself before the world as I have raised him to do.
He will say “ma’am” and “sir” not because of the age of whomever he addresses, but because it is courteous. It reflects a respect of people who, regardless of their worthiness of it, will receive it simply because it is proffered. He will respect his elders because it is the right thing to do.
Antiquated as these idea may be, my boy will be set apart in a world full of men. He will be not just a man, but a gentleman demanding respect from others not by words- but by his own actions.

Unperfect

“Gargh!!!” Her teeth grind against each other clamped against the flow of curse words begging to unleash on the world. Inhaling deeply, she realizes that her fists are balled into tight weapons, knuckles whiter than snow. She exhales slowing, grasping for mental strength, physical strength, spiritual strength. Anything at all to keep her grounded. Flexing her aching fingers, she reaches for perspective. It won’t always be like this. It won’t always be like this. It won’t always be like this.

It’s not a superhero facing her nemesis… it’s just me. It’s what seems like my day-to-day life. Now that I am a domestic engineer, I sometimes face the question, “So what do you do all day?” from unknowing potential victims. They don’t mean it ugly; they’re genuinely curious. But let me tell you, hun. The real question is, “What DON’T I do all day?”

I wear a lot of hats- wife, mother, friend, counselor, human Klenex, teacher, student, Christian, volunteer, plumber, laundress, chef, electrician, mechanic, just to name a few. Today, I drove up to Norman (after slightly losing what bit of sanity is left in my brain) to retrieve the fourth item needed to fix a toilet… only to fix that and have another part break. Buy one part, another breaks. It’s like a bad boyfriend that just keeps coming back. The people at ACE literally know my name, and on what days I actually wear makeup.

I actually made the comment to my husband earlier- “I am done with 2017. Can it be 2018, yet?” Sheesh. It’s only February 6th.

Sorry for the bunny trails- stay with me. I’ll do better.

It took the entire way home from my impromptu escapade to Norman for me to find that bit of sanity I had lost, and return to what I consider my normal. I needed a serious reset button today.

My reset came in the form of an old CD. One of the cool black ones that I burned back in the day and titled “Praise and Worship 2010” using a WhiteOut pen. I was ready for anything. Windows rolled down, wind slapped my hair against my face, carseats rattled in the background, and 2010 blared over my speakers. I sang what words I remembered at the top of my lungs. I was ready for anything. And I got it. I got my reset. I got my wake-up.

Lyrics from my past blasted around me:

This world is always trying to take a piece of me
But You are always there to make me feel complete
If I can keep my eyes on what You have for me
I will face the truth and never look away
You’ll show me the real me

The real me. With all these hats I wear, I forget who that is. The real me. I thought I’d accepted that she’s just hidden for a time and that it won’t always be like this. But the real me escaped as I cried out these words to God today.

The real me- she’s unperfect. I know that there’s no such word, but it’s better suited than imperfect. Imperfect means with flaws. I know I have those. But I am unperfect. The prefix “un” simply means “not”. And I am not perfect. I am a lot of things, but perfect, I am not.

Tears roll down my cheeks and my words begin to mumble beneath the feel of the reset.

It’s You that I search for
It is You I can’t live without
Your hope is what I long for
When nothing’s left in me
It’s You

The real me. The real me is a daughter. I am His daughter. God created me. He is a good father; He loves me though I am unperfect.

He loves me even when that string of curse words unleashes despite my attempts to hold it back. Because He is what I search for; He is what I can’t live without. It’s my Father’s love that keeps my grasp on the reality of this world when nothing is left in me. When I have nothing left to give, he requires nothing of me. He loves me for me because I am his unperfect daughter. His unperfectly, lovable daughter.

Reset. Who am I? Today, I was a lot of things; I wore a lot of hats. But underneath all of them, my identity is true. I am a daughter of the one true king, the God who created this world and all who are in it, the creator of unperfect people like me doing their best to remember that, in spite of all this world has to offer or all it throws my way, I am His.

 

She Stands-Unabridged

She Stands

Snot melts from her left nostril, pooling with the tears streaming down her face. She dare not lick her lip though she instinctively feels the need. Desperation wells up inside of her tossing its ugly head, beating its fists against her rib cage. All the while she stands there immobile. Her body rebels against her screaming mind, “Run away!!” But she cannot go. She stays, looking up into a face she scarcely recognizes as his. Could he even be the same man whom she had loved? His was a face she had sought for love, comfort, direction and peace, now he is barely a shadow of who he once had been.

Guards shout at her to step away. “Move, you whore!” One shoves at her, but she keeps her ground. She pierces him with her eyes so that he dare not try again. She stares into their dirty, haggard faces, seething, trying to tamp down the hatred inside of her for these people. They, who have invaded her homeland, stolen from her and tarnished her soul, now trying to wrench her last moments with him. Her gaze is enough that they step aside avoiding the assault of her stare, leaving her grounded in the mud. She will not move. She will stand.

And stand she does. Tears continue to flow, but she moves not her face from his lest she miss. She watches each agonizing breath as he hangs to what little life there is left in his body. His face once so kind is now distorted and misshapen. She finds him revolting but is unable to look away. She yearns to meet his eyes, but they remain swollen shut. Just one glimpse from him is all she needs for the strength necessary in the days to come. Just one glimpse for her to know it wasn’t all just a terrible nightmare. Just one.

Darkness threatens her view of his face. Rain thickens the air tempting to release its fury over the waning crowd of onlookers. Flashes of lightning dance in the distance just off the mountaintops. It’s as if the sky mirrors her inner turmoil.

She stares unmoving into the pulp of his flesh trying to remember his softness, the softness that always lingered there even in turmoil. She remembers his tears that day. And her anger. He had not come. When her brother lay there dying in her arms, she had sent word to him, begging him to come. But he had not come.

She had sent word again the next day full of dread that her first letter had been lost, stomach turning that he might have simply ignored her. While she waited, helplessly she cared for her dying brother, writhing in his anguish, fighting death to the end. Her beloved brother, whose eyes mirrored her own, struggled to hang on to what little life was left. “Don’t worry, sister,” he had gasped, “He will come.” With that, he had wheezed, convulsed and with a final shutter left her alone in the room. Gritting her teeth, she slammed her fists into the cavernous chest of his emaciated body, beating into him the pulsating beat of her anger, hoping that its heat would make him live again. It had not. She had not cried then, nor did she cry now.

Still standing in the muck as the skies darken above her, the winds threaten to displace her. Her hair whips around her face reminding her of the tears she had finally shed that day.

Four days had passed, and her brother’s body lay cold in the tomb she had purchased for him. She, with her own, hard-earned, dirty money had purchased it. After it was done, she had sat staring into an ash filled hearth with crowds of people around her, crowds who three years ago would have had nothing to do with her. They would not have dared to step foot inside her house. Smiling bitterly, she continued to stare.

A loud cry had interrupted her tumultuous thoughts. “He has come!” Her sister’s flushed, paunchy face was filled with joy as she labored for breath.

Too late, she cursed mentally. “What do I care now?” her eyes bore a hole through the brick, and she fought the emotions warring within her.

Her sister stood beside her, “He is asking for you.”

Her heart flipped and without warning, her legs carried her through the door knowing the way without prompting. Skirts flying all around, her mind whirled with the stares of people nearby blurring them in the dust. Seeing him in the distance, she pulsed forward, skirts flapping around her ankles.

She had fallen in the dirt without grace and clasped his dusty, road beaten sandals. “If you had been here, my brother would NOT have died!” She had stared at his feet, frightened of what he might see in her face. Frightened that he would sense the sheer desperation wrapped in anger at him, all directed at him for not being there when she had needed him. She pinched her eyes shut, willing the tears to stay behind her lids. She would not cry.

A thunder clap above echoes the distant memory of her anger in that past moment. She senses that the heavens feel her pain even now as he had then. “Please, God. Please,” she prays, hoping for a morsel of mercy. The guards continue to push and taunt at the crowds, but not one of the men enters her line of vision. Numbness replaces the hate and anger. She stands.

Her mind carries her back to that moment in the dirt at the tomb of her brother. His sandaled feet clasped in her hands, rage emanated from within her. These same feet that she would later wash with her tears and hair, now gripped beneath her curling fingers squeezing them as to maintain her grip on the world. Shutting her eyes tighter, she had silently willed him to speak. Face bent forward fighting the heat inside her, she felt his calloused hand on the crown of her head, tenderly but firmly. His touch spoke volumes more than his words. The dam had burst. Hot tears sprung forth from her eyes, and she had finally wailed in anguish. The pain of her loss, anger of his absence, despair of hopelessness had sprouted from her shaking her from the inside out. That loss so significant at the time, proves nothing compared to this day. A bitter smile plays across her lips at the irony of it all.

Suddenly, he moves. Just a fragment. But he moved. She watches as he fights the swelling to open his eyes. His kinds eyes are still there, hidden beneath the folds of flesh and suffering. She remembers them on that day. Though buried in bruises and lacerations, her mind reels to a moment when they were once covered in softness. It reminds her that once she had finally met his eyes, despite her anguish, they were also filled with tears. Her mind pulls her back to that moment- the moment she realized he did love her beyond what she may have ever imagined. In the loss of her brother, in her despair, she had found comfort in his eyes. For in his eyes, she had seen the same emotions she felt, though their cause was quite different. As she had looked in his eyes, there was hurt, but not of loss. Her lack of faith had hurt him. Her lack of trust had wounded his soul. Her pain of loss had yielded his infinite compassion. He had wept with her and for her. That was the miracle that day. The miracle of realizing the expanse of his love.

Now those eyes struggle against the weight upon them. Slowly, painfully, she watches as he fights to open them. Rather than finding her face, he seeks the sky. Grimacing as he tilts his head upward, his eyes find the clouds above. She watches, fighting the urge to grasp him, pull him to her, and make the moment go away. Her heart bursts in her chest as she watches helplessly, unable to offer him anything in his moment of suffering. Yet she stands.

The clouds let loose a thunderous roar. Her feet, caked in mud, reverberate beneath her, but she does not move her face away from his to look. The crowds scream as the ground begins to shake, yet she stands. Over the chaos, she can barely hear him.

“My God. My God. Why have you forsaken me?” His voice, strong as it once had been, is now stricken with defeat and agony. His loneliness pierces her heart. His desperate cry slaps her across the face. Yet she remains standing.

She watches as a tear slides down the cavernous wounds in his face, dripping from his chin. His head slowly sinks downward toward his chest. His eyes, for just a moment, meet hers before closing. Before eternity was changed.

 

Happily Ever Never

She gazed fixedly at the couple just a few tables away. The lady, probably once beautiful, twirled the pink umbrella in her drink, apparently more interested in the designs she was making in the frozen concoction rather than her present company. Said company was a man, slightly balding yet attractive rapidly typing away on his phone, clicking sounds resonating through the restaurant. Each click seemed like it tapped directly into her brain as she watched the two of them. Click. Click. Click. Faster and faster as she watched.

Aware that she as completely unobserved, she unabashedly watched the two for quite some time. The woman’s full lips were painted red, turned in a slight frown that matched her drawn eyebrows. She was dressed smartly in a black blazer and jeans with grey booties. Her auburn hair fell long around her shoulders but was pulled back on top by a clippie, the only sign that fashion was probably not at the top of her priority list. Occasionally, the lady would bring the straw to her mouth, sipping heavily of the drink before returning to her musings. Every so often, she would look around the restaurant as though waiting for someone else to appear, some one who might entertain her and fill the void with more than clicking noises.

The clicking noises only paused every other minute while the man took a drag from the bourbon setting in front of him. Ice melted slowly in the amber liquid causing a pool of water around the glass on the wooden table. She watched as the man sipped without even taking his eyes from the screen in his hand. His eyes never left the phone. It was almost a talent. He seemed completely unaware that the woman was even across the table from him. Unlike hers, his face was one of peace. Lines formed across his brow, but did not crease or shoot upward in surprise. It’s as if there was no emotion what-so-ever. Just him, his bourbon and the clicking sound.

She wondered what brought this couple to this place in time. The dull gleam of rings indicated that they were married, and given their age, it must have been for some time. Both were relatively attractive people. Surely it was that which had first drawn them together. She allowed herself to imagine them as they may have been 20 years ago. She with shorter hair and 15 pounds lighter, was quite the catch. He, head full of dark hair and athletically built, holding his arm out so that she might escort him to a party. Him smiling at her as though nothing else in the world existed. Both of them dressed to the nines.

“Ah hem”. The smiling waiter interrupted her thoughts, blurring the party’s details. “Anything else?” His youthful face begged that she would say yes. His hope for increasing his tips for the night was plastered over pimples and barely-there whiskers.

She smiled, “Yes, please. Another of these.”

“Very well. Be back in a second!” He beamed at her and left.

Returning to her musings, she pictured the couple on the beach, sipping margaritas with the same pink umbrellas, leaving them to melt and wading out into the ocean. The man swinging the lady around, her head tossed back in estatic laughter, only to draw it in toward his smiling face for a passionate kiss. Then splashing back to their towels on the sand, dissolving in fits of giggles.

Maybe it wasn’t always so picturesque, but she took comfort in giving them some sort of benefit of the doubt. Surely their lives couldn’t always have been this way.

Her waiter returned, exchanging her empty glass for a new one. Thanking her with his eyes.

Looking down into her glass, she frowns. This poor couple, she thought, looking up over her glass for another peek. They sit here in this restaurant hardly even acknowledging one another. It’s so tragically sad. Sipping her drink and finding it satisfactory, she stares over at the couple again.

The man has set down his phone, tossing back whatever remains there were of his bourbon. The woman’s drink is nearly gone, pink umbrella still swirling around in her fingers. She has yet to look at her husband.

Gosh, these two are such a sad couple. What a terrible date. She shudders at the thought of them and thinks to herself. Lord, I hope that never happens to us. 

“You ready?” The voice from across the table makes her jump. So caught up in her own observations, she’d almost forgotten he was there.

“Sure.” She twists the pink umbrella out of the glass, dropping it to the table, and stands to leave.