Lost

How could she say no, he loved her and that’s why he gave her the pills, like he told her, if he didn’t care he wouldn’t spend his own hard earned money to buy her what she needs to get through her day. Now all she has to do is cook him and his kids, their kids’ dinner. He works so hard ya know, he was dealt a bad hand so he didn’t get a job making what he’s worth, but he found other ways to make money, and he couldn’t go to school because he wouldn’t be able to work and buy her pills. So when he came home from the bar and she questioned him about where he’d been and he lost his temper again and hit her, well it was her fault for being unfair and making him mad. That’s what she told the police anyway when they questioned her, and that’s when she turned to go to her room and ran into the edge of the door cutting her cheek.

So each day she washed his clothes, the kids clothes, cleaned the house, tried to study but after a while she knew it was unfair for her to take so much time away from his kids to study for some class he said she’d never be able to pass anyway, she wasn’t smart enough but he would take care of her…and like he said, he loved her.

There were parts of her day when she started to crash that she questioned whether or not she doing the right thing, there was a part of her that was struggling, a part somewhere inside of her that opposed him but that scared her and she kept it tucked away. That was dangerous thinking. And after a few years her relationship became one more recognizable as a caretaker than as a mother, she couldn’t play with them because she had to make them dinner, what kind of mother would deny her man and his kids dinner?

When the kids were fed and she’d washed the dishes he gave her what she needed, she swallowed them with some warm Pepsi and went off to her bedroom and sat, she waited with her eyes closed as her body began to slump and feel warmer, then her mind drifted off and she lay back on her bed and floated away to some place better. Some place where the sun shone upon her face, where the wind was sweet and she was free. Some place she could wander off to as he came in and stripped her clothes from her, used her, took advantage of her and then left her by herself afterwards to curl up in the corner and hold herself against the torment that came like a slow burning fire day after day. Night after night, and so on, and so on.

Eventually she was lost touch with the outside world, her support structure had been severed, she was manipulated and abused and her soul was in dire straits. When she saw or interacted with others it was through a sort of mask or body suit she wore that no one could see through to feel sorry for her. They didn’t know what was happening inside the dark, dangerous walls of her home, they didn’t know the rot that had infiltrated her body, her mind. Soon no one saw her and she knew it, she became lonely, not lonely like most people feel when they everyone leaves after the party but lonely like there is no one that knows how you feel, like no one understands the pain you feel, like when you find yourself inside of a nightmare and you try to scream aloud but nothing comes out, you have regressed inside of your own mind and lost your way.

On a sunny Sunday afternoon an aunt and uncle leaving the family cabin happened to pass her as she rolled up the driveway, they saw her, she looked into their eyes and smiled and they smiled back and waved as they drove on, they had someplace to be and couldn’t really stop to visit just then. They thought how she didn’t have the kids with her and she was alone but they’d get hold of her later on and check in with her then. So they continued on their way.

Three days later they called her husband because she wasn’t answering her cellphone. He told them how he was upset with her for just up and leaving her kids at home alone with no dinner, how he’d not heard from her either. They didn’t say anything then, not to him but they wondered about the cabin, maybe she finally ran away, no one in the family liked him, they all suspected that he wasn’t a good man. That was all, they were adults and could handle their own affairs.

So they drove to the cabin, there in the driveway was her car. It was cold and the keys were still in the ignition. They checked the cabin but it was empty, in fact the door was still locked from when they’d left, nothing had been disturbed, it appeared as though no one had even stepped inside. He stepped outside and called out to her, she stayed inside and made a few sandwiches, she probably went for a walk, and she’d be hungry when she came back. He began wandering around the cabin, there were a few trails off from the driveway and he thought he’d just wander a bit and see if he found any trace of her.

In a small clearing underneath a tall Poplar, he saw her from behind, she sat in the leaves, and he called to her. He stated that they’d been looking for her, that people were worried. He paused a few yards behind her because he felt sick in his stomach, he didn’t know why but he knew something was wrong. Then he saw her left hand, it lay palm up on the ground next to her hip, he didn’t need to go any further, next to her hand, in the grass, on top of some leaves was a gun. He saw the other side of her head and her hair was matted and darkened with blood.

What happens to a person when they get so lost, so lonely that there is no way out, that their lifeline cannot reach beyond the place within themselves, that dark place that becomes their only safe place? In what world does God allow a mother to go so adrift so as to go missing within themselves, to drown in such sadness that there is absolutely no other way out. And how do those around them not see her?

To my cousin, may she rest free.

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Her Broken Cocoon

The sun, try as it may couldn’t get through the clouds on Saturday morning, so she lay in bed, tucked under the covers, pulled up to her ear and tried to dream of warmer, sunnier days but the imagery was washed away by the pelting rain hitting the windows’ at the foot of her bed. The past week was dreary to say the least, no sun and too many clouds.

Leaving the house meant getting wet; normally this isn’t a huge issue, but day after day with no direct sunlight, no reprieve from the cold, barrage of precipitation makes it difficult to swallow. So she lay under her comforter attempting to fill her mind with thoughts of anything but negativity and her reach for any sort of respite was met with frustration and a growing darkness.

Eventually she slid from her broken cocoon, opened the shades and watched as rain drops rolled down the glass like unending tears. Against the heaviness she tried to breathe in deeply but her lungs felt shallow. She stripped the bed and attempted to push back the impending sadness.

She opened the bedroom door and the house felt empty, lonely and quiet, the floors cold and walls a little too close. Even a glass of water couldn’t rinse away the feelings of melancholy.

She brushed her teeth and searched her reflection in the mirror for comfort but in her dark eyes she saw only gloom. She brushed her hair and even that felt annoying, she was losing the battle, the weight of so many things began to bury her from the floor up, impeding her step, slowing her climb from this wretched valley no light seemed to reach. And her only companions, hiding in the shadows beside her are all the things that scare her, that threaten her well-being, her strength and the warmth of her soul.

Now with her sight skewed, the fog of depression manipulating all around her, making it difficult to see a way out, she swallows hard, reaches in and pulls out from behind her a rope, a heavy, old rope and throws it as far as she can. Hoping for someone to see it, to pull back and find her before its too late. Before her tears make it too difficult to hang on and she loses her grip.

Falling Away

For years he walked against the wind, struggled against life’s gales, fighting for each step. He would turn his head from side to side straining to draw breath at times as he shielded his face from the stinging reach of his mistakes, and when the wind turned to a lesser breeze he’d look skyward for a light to show him the way, but all he found was reflections of shame.

He would sit down then, hunker in and wait for the storm to pass. Then when it did and he could stand and see around him all he saw was nothing, he couldn’t see into the future and he couldn’t see into his past, all there was, was nothing. He failed, failed to progress, failed to attain, he failed to be anything but present.

Like so many the present is unaccounted for, they wander between what came before and what happens next. Never knowing their fate, always looking for the solid, steady ground below their feet, which always seems to be there…until it isn’t.

When that moment comes and it always does, you have choices to make; you can surrender and fall away or reach out desperately and grab hold of the very edge and hang on. Then you fight, you fight with everything that’s left, you fight and claw and battle against gravity. You pull and struggle, and you as your fingers bleed and become cold and frozen and the feeling in your legs dissipates quickly you get angry and you spit as you cry out for a chance, just a little opportunity to show you have something left to give.

When you dig deep enough and you find that small flame buried somewhere in your soul you suck it in, and use it and crawl from that hole and roll over onto your back, exhausted, and weep. For you just learned that there is fight in you yet, that there is something worth saving and you love it and caress it and as you lay there contemplating the present, you realize that the clouds that kept your world dark and empty have begun to thin. You see blue sky and know there is something in your future if only you strive to put it there, there is something and you will find it.

Midnight River

No one understood how deep the darkness was.
This darkness was not the redeeming darkness of night.
It was a darkness that crept across the page, between words.

River water ran through her blood.
It renewed her soul, flowing both deep and muddy
in places, and rippling with sparkles in others.

She looked for redemption in these waters of contrast.
She tried to let water wash the darkness away but it was too heavy.
Words and water alone were not enough this time.
This was a darkness she fought with everything she had.

The road out of town she followed was not others’ road.
Her road was a solitary journey, of discovery, of quietude.
She stood for a moment in silence, just breathing,
absorbing the energy and history people left behind.
It’s what made places holy.

She had always wanted to fly.
To spread her arms and effortlessly take flight,
bending her fingertips just so to catch the breeze and glide,
to follow her heart without blinking,
to feel weightless again, but an open cage door
is of no use to a bird with a broken wing and though
glass birds sparkle in the sun, they shatter when they fall.

She knew some paths were meant to be lit by the sun
while other paths were better lit by the moon and stars.
Moonlight changed her when she breathed it in.
It seeped into her veins and silvered her soul,
awakening her anew to the wonders of night,
helping her see things she couldn’t,
helping her understand things she didn’t.

She inhaled the night like a bouquet,
Taking comfort in landscapes darkness hid,
the glaring imperfections of a man-made world
overtaken by soft purple shadows of dusk
and even softer grays of moonlight.

She wondered what was out there.
Fearful but aching to fly.
Because when she felt the wind in her face,
she could see, she could create, she could be.

She looked for rain to wash down on her,
baptize her soul with color.
So she would always have an artist’s eye,
a musician’s ear, and a poet’s soul.

Her poet’s voice urged her to write,
her inner fears held her back.
Voices within argued over her pen.
She wrestled between opening her heart
and keeping it safely closed, protected.

Allowing herself to be loved was so much work.
She wished she did not understand…
– what it felt like when a heart stops beating
– that love cannot conquer everything
– that the night does not hide everything
– that she could not fly like a bird.

copyright Nov 2016, Cynthia Sherar

Conflicted

The sun beats in through the window from outside his car and burns the skin on the back of his neck, but it feels good. He squints to keep the light from piercing his eyes as he drives south along the river.

It’s been far too long since the heat of the sun caused him to perspire; it’s been bitter cold almost as long as he can remember and now the black leather wrapped steering wheel threatens to singe his palms if he moves his hands from ten and two.

There is a part of him, buried somewhere deep inside, hidden away, something that’s been there all along and though it doesn’t show itself he knows it’s there because there are echoes of its presence. That something makes him long for the bitter cold, in spite of his desire to pull his car to the side of the road and get out, and allow the full strength of the sun’s rays to wash over his self.

It’s that bitter cold that stung his cheeks when he faced it, that crept up under his skin like a shadow and stole away any heat stashed there. So why then does he want for it, why is it that he dreams of the chill that used to slide up under his pant leg like a thief?

It’s the warmth of the sun he knows he needs, it’s the gleaming off the pavement before him that makes his chest swell with excitement making him search for it, reach for it and throw his face skyward with arms outstretched inviting it in.

Yet he feels foolish, how can it last, it’s only a fantasy, he can count on the cold to be there mostly, he doesn’t question its presence, its bite, its bitter presence. So he leans his head against the window and feels the heat from the sun pour in over his forehead, he feels a drop of perspiration roll down in front of his ear and listens as it falls to the floor and soak in to the carpet at his feet.

He closes his eyes and swears to himself for feeling conflicted.

So this is it

So this is it, I sit nervously speaking directly into the small microphone on the desk in front me, to the judge poised above me and behind his big oak dais. To my left is my attorney, she is older, appears frail to a point with short, dark crimson hair but doesn’t hesitate to speak up. To her left, my soon to be ex-wife, she is dressed for success in a sleeveless blouse and nice pants. She has a look that seems to say she is somewhere far away. She never looks at me, even when we met in the hallway before hand, when she spoke to me she looked out the fourth floor window or at the floor. Now we all face the judge, it’s a very quiet room and we wait as he flips through the divorce decree page by page. He takes a sip of water from a clear glass and the folds his hands together and leans forward, in a deep and pudgy voice he says “You two have been very respectful and mature during this process, I don’t often deal with a couple like you whom manage to get through this with sensibility.” I respect that about you two and applaud you for it.

I don’t know how to feel just then, I am proud of us, my ex-wife and me. I am beginning to falter also, I look over at Angie and I see that her eyes are full of clouds; she uses the middle part of her index finger to check her eyes in an attempt at keeping the tears at bay. This has been a long process and I have been impatient at times but mostly I have felt great sadness as I do now. I feel a sense of loss for something that has lasted twenty two years.  When she and I met she was 16 and I was 20, we married in 1992 and moved far away from her parents. We have had four children, the first one is Aspergers, extremely high functioning; she is 21 and is in college studying to be a prosthetics engineer, the other ones are also all very educated and intelligent, kind and wonderful. We must have done something right, together. I think for many years our marriage was amazing, and I think for years we struggled, especially after my tours in the military overseas in South West Asia, and we both grew apart emotionally, trying to nurture and develop our own selves through-out strain and emotional neglect.

It’s at those times that a person must reach inside and rely on their skills at surviving and adapting, and neither of us ever had those lessons as we grew up kids in the homes in which we lived. For very different reasons, both homes were very dysfunctional and I am afraid we both learned inappropriate ways of dealing with emotional struggles. That didn’t serve us well later on in our lives, in our marriage. Eventually we looked for different things to make us happy and help us go on. We concentrated on the children, they were always our main focus, albeit with different ideas and styles but still it was about the kids.

Two people can only go on so long in that way, they become less of a couple and more of a team, and when that team begins to fade and fall apart, so too does the communication and support and success of that team. And that becomes obvious to the children and that becomes hurtful and neglectful to them as well. We practiced good front stage behavior for a while, but more and more time was spent in separate dressing rooms off stage. We tried counseling and tried a few different avenues and means of treatment both as a couple and as individuals.

Finally, in the end all we had left of each other in our hearts were echoes of past times when things were good, but even those have been muddied, covered over with a thin but rank layer of regret, anger, disappointment and misery. I still love her and I always will, I think she is responsible for saving me more than a few times, I am broken and always was and from the start she knew it but saw something then that she wanted, that had value, that she was attracted to. I guess that only lasts so long until its only shadows in the fog, drifting in and out around us until we don’t even recognize it any longer and then it melts into history.

So this is it, as the judge signs off on the twentieth page of a document that legally terminates our marriage I am conflicted, feel torn apart and opened up like a gutted fish. As we walk out the front door of the Family Justice Center in the middle of downtown, surrounded by cranes and jackhammers, cars and busses and trucks, I watch as she quickly, steadily and forever walks away from me, never looking back. Lost in the crowded streets, a friend, a wife, and a consort. I have lost someone I have loved for more than twenty two years. Regardless of the circumstances, the hurt, the deception, the anger, the heart still bleeds; even whilst it runs dry it will desperately continue to beat until there is nothing left to beat for. Then standing there, empty and alone, looking for a spark, for shelter from the approaching cold and waits.

The Breaking of a Father’s Heart

When she smiles his whole world lights up and his mind goes blank,

his heart slows and he wishes all time would stop and let him see her like that forever.

Her eyes sparkle and her skin becomes radiant, when she smiles.

 

When he thinks of her when she’s gone he can’t wait to see her again,

he misses her and tries to think of reasons to text her just to say hi.

Would a man dare become a father if he knew how much his life would change,

Would he back away and try and protect his heart from breaking all the time?

Could he walk away, knowing that on the darkest days, when storms rush all around him,

And he’s cold and afraid, that his daughter can make everything disappear with a simple “hello daddy”?

 

Once committed, a father‘s heart never stops getting broken, from the day his little tiny girl gets on that big ‘ol bus, to the day she drives away all by herself in the car, he worries about her, he thinks about her.

 

He can no longer protect her, he doesn’t get to hold her hand and walk her in to school.

He can only wait for her to come home, and when she does his heart breaks all over again.