Living Life #13 “Déjà Vu”

(a collection of independent vignettes)

I know you.

My sneakers skidded to a stop in the street. A drum was beating in my chest and a shiver screamed down my spine. It didn’t matter that the sun was blazing down from high above because my body had suddenly run bitterly cold.

I know you.

It hit me right in the face from all the way across the street where you were. Sitting outside the very coffee shop I was nearly on my way to. You didn’t even look up and silently I thanked my lucky stars.

Though was I really lucky that they had let me get this far?

I wish I had realized it sooner. But in all fairness, I’m glad I realized it at all. Years had blown by my mind all in the matter of a single glance, just across the street. Why now? Why? Why?

Fate you’re cruel.

A few months ago, I noticed you at the table across from me. You were just sipping your coffee and I had been minding my own business. But then I saw you the next week, and the week after that. Kind words passed between us when your order accidentally got mixed up with mine. You said hi to me the next time we crossed paths and then goodbye a few days later.

You even told me a story about your job. You looked so happy and so passionate and I was so stupid. I got a crush. A crush. The perfect word for a terrible thing. I wanted to crush your mouth against mine and now I want to crush the bones in your body.

But that’s just me trying to get a handle on the feelings turning my blood to ice. You were just being nice. I’m not mad at you. I’m mad at myself.

Stealing my sleep at night, distracting me at work, turning my brain to goo when all you did was walk by my table on your way to the restroom. Good God. You probably didn’t even know how much I liked you.

So many years have passed, you most assuredly don’t remember me. Not from back then. It was ten years ago, when high school was right around my corner and college was the next step for you. I was chubby and small, nothing worthy of a near senior. I saw you at a party that I just happened to be at by accident. I was hanging out with a friend whose name I don’t even remember now, and her older sister was having a a few friends over. And there you were.

I know you.

Even then I gave you gaga eyes and stared. I looked right at you. You did not look at me. Then I watched as another girl walked right up to you and you squeezed your arm tightly around her. All alone in your own world. That’s when I ran upstairs to hide.

I stole another look across the street and there it was glimmering in the stupid heat from the sun. I never noticed the ring, but now it’s all I see. Stupid, stupid me… I never even thought to check before.

You still have the same face. The same tan. The same laugh that fills the air. No wonder I saw you from across the room. It was inevitable, but why?

My nails dug deep into my palms, but if they pushed any farther I might have started bleeding on the street. This stupid crush trying to tear me apart.

I pushed myself to put one foot in front of the other and I walked away from the heat, the cafe, you. You had no idea, thank God. The past belongs in the past. And from now on that is where you are going to stay.

I know you.

But why did it even have to happen at all?

Living Life #12 “Can You Hear It?”

( a collection of independent vignettes)

Can you hear it?

At first, it sounds like the release of a long held breath. The kind where there are no bills in the mail, all of the work is done for the day, and everyone is home where they belong. Relief. The feeling floods you and makes the world safe. Then, when it breathes in, you turn your attention to it. Though not always because you wanted to. Sometimes it pulls at your mind so much it gives you no choice. Don’t be alarmed… all within a certain radius sense its pull. The air it carries is infused with its own special magic.

And the sight itself is beautiful.

The water has a pattern that plays over and over. It’s hypnotizing… and endless. Breathing out and coming forward, and breathing in and pulling back. It will play this game forever… and after it captures your eyes for longer than a glance you will want to play too.

It helps if it’s hot outside but that isn’t always necessary for some. On occasion even when the wind blows frost, I’ve witnessed the most steadfast soul become drowned in just the allure of the waves.

With each step closer the sand molds to your feet and again that safe feeling returns. Each grain wants you there, and each step sinks your heels deeper and deeper into the warmth of the ground.

It doesn’t matter that by the time you reach the end of the path your arches are burning because the water is right there kissing the fire away. A reward for making the long trek across the desert to say hello.

Back and forth, teasing you and bringing that relief again and again. Why bother with the game, when the ocean whispers to you just come a little closer and we never have to part.

Can you hear it?

Just a few more steps and now the water has a hold on your ankles. It feels like ice cream on a parched throat, a shower after playing in the mud, a fan blowing in your face. Safe. Oh so safe.

It isn’t until it’s caressing your waist that you hesitate. Some don’t even realize that they have gone that far out. It’s from feeling the pulse of the wind across the water, it’s from the crushing blue color of the sky and the sea meeting, it’s from dodging the waves that never stop coming.

Maybe this is too far.

The ocean is at its strongest by the time you reach this point. Everywhere you turn there’s water and the last time you checked there was no oxygen down there. Something rough scrapes against your heel and you jump moving a little bit deeper to get away. It was probably a sea shell.

I’m sure it was.

But the last part to this play is when the ocean’s breath no longer sounds like a sigh. Listen.

Now, it’s screaming. The realization hits you fast. The water moves by itself. It has no alligience to me. Or you. It does what it wants, and right now it is holding you in its hand. The feeling of safety drains from your body like sand down a hourglass as the next wave smashes into your mouth. A bitter taste of salt and seaweed. It’s this moment that you realize you could die.

Just come a little closer and we never have to part…

The tune never changes. Even though your feelings have. So you stand stuck trapped in what was once such a beautiful thing and, though your pounding heart will now say otherwise, it still is…

Can you hear the breath of the ocean? And if you do…

Are you strong enough to beat its game?

Living Life #11 “Solid Land”

(a collection of vignettes)

I bet I could catch him if I tried.

Like a goldfish in a mass of sharks I was trapped. With one arm pinned behind me and my other thrust forward with the paper in my hand I had to find a way to swim through. To my detriment though this wasn’t an ocean of water, but of concrete and business suits.

“Excuse meeeee.” I tried, squirming from under one elbow to another. The heat wasn’t helping anything. Beads of sweat were collecting at my temples and no matter how many times I ducked or swiveled I couldn’t escape the throng. There wasn’t time for this. I would need a different approach. “MOVE.” Well. That was more effective. “Please.”

A gangly guy with slipping glasses and a goatee moved immediately and the bald headed man in the pinstripe suit raised an eyebrow but to his credit knew when to follow an order. Even when it came from the mouth of a short girl with a ponytail of frizz. Couldn’t be helped.

A car horn blew by and between one breath and the next the mad dash of traffic running parallel to me dwindled to a trickle. No. Not yet. Just as my feet reached the corner of the street the crosswalk signal turned red.

“No.” I said out loud. Stretching in my sneakers, my eyes scanned ahead. Past the skyscrapers and coffee cups there was an endless sea of people, but there was just one fish I needed to catch… there. Just past the hot dog stand, right in front of the entrance to the park was the navy blue baseball cap.

I took a step forward. That’s when the horn hit me loud and clear. Right in front of my face the blur of a taxi rushed past, and I teetered back to the curb. That was close. The rest of the traffic stampeded past in front of me and the herd behind pushed like hammerheads testing the confines of the cage, but I kept my eyes locked on that cap just until it rounded the corner of the next block. The breath left my lungs.

The crosswalk light lit up. Deep breath in. I bolted, as did the rest of them. Being at the front of the pack was easier than being trapped in the middle. In no time at all, I distanced myself and took up the next challenge of weaving through the others floating along the street. The elderly couple I swung around shouted at my back, but I just crushed the paper tighter in my hand. The mother of three I was sure didn’t even see me breeze by, but her kid in the stroller giggled when I jumped over his fallen toy. After some awkward eye contact with the hot dog guy, his white shirt stained in unflattering spats of red and yellow, I whipped to the next corner and turned right. I stopped short.

The avenue was near empty. There was no sign of the cap.

With my heart pounding in my chest, my hand crunched to a fist at my side and my face wearing a defeated expression… I had lost him.

The paper crinkled. In my pursuit it had turned into a mess of wrinkles and creases. The once pretty note, no longer looked as pristine as it did when it had accidentally fallen out of his backpack and then against my ankle, blown back by the wind.

Do you ever feel alone
even when the whole world
is pressing against your sides?
(The water pressure
pulling you down.)

Why hadn’t I opened my mouth sooner? As soon as the damned thing had touched my skin, why didn’t I open my mouth when you were only a few yards away? Because… as soon as my eyes caught the words on the page I had to finish reading it.

Do you know
how the words you say
no one seems to understand?
(Speaking goldfish
in a tank full of sharks.)

The edges unfurled in my hands, the pen lines running slick with my own sweat and disappointment. The letters, all loose and flowing like water down a stream, trailed into marks on my fingers.

To what end
would you go
to find the answer
you need?
(How far down
into the sea
would you swim?)

This poem wasn’t mine to keep. But nor could I throw it away. That would just seem wrong. If I hadn’t read the whole thing would I have even gone this far to give it back to you? Probably not… but it didn’t matter now.

And what if
when you arrived…

I looked down the avenue once again.

you were still left dumb.

Every new face that appeared around the corners, and hopping out of cars looked the same to me…because none of them were wearing navy blue baseball caps. To no one I muttered, “You didn’t even finish it.”

It was easy to move when there wasn’t a crowd around you, and I got to the concrete wall easily enough but an unsettled feeling tugged at my stomach. After all the trouble, I had come up short. Pulling a pen from my purse I flattened the paper against the building then paused. Then I put the pen down, letting my own curving scrawl drift onto the page.

I don’t now how long I was standing there after I finished, when I felt a tap on my shoulder. After being so focused before, my head felt dazed when I looked up into a pair of navy blue eyes. He gave a nervous smile, and gestured to the paper still flat against my palms.

“Excuse me but…” and he let the sentence hang. But that was probably my fault. Saucer wide, my eyes zeroed in on the cap and I’m sure I must have looked like an idiot but…

“This is yours!” I whipped the paper toward him, quick and self conscious. “Here, thank God. I wanted to give this back. You dropped it.” I took a deep breath and a step back. His eyes roved over the sheet and now I was feeling embarrassed. Maybe best just to go. Another step back, but then my mouth got the better of me. “Sorry, I thought I lost you so I…”

“You finished it.”

To the surface
you’d float
spitting water from your chest.
And think maybe this won’t
turn out for the best.

“Well… I…” Cue the nervous laughter. “You can just cross it out.”

Until the air flows back
into your lungs
and out reaches a hand
to haul you back to solid land.

His eyes scanned the page again and with a quick shake of his head he said, “No. No.” I watched the cap shake side to side, it was too embarrassing to look at his eyes. It had been stupid of me in the first place. It was uncalled for to finish his work, rash to chase after a stranger, and luckless that I had decided to walk home today.

Realizing the answer
wasn’t going to come
when you called.

“It works.” he finished, dumbfounded. Wait, what? Did I hear that correctly? Rewind. His eyes met mine. They were a tad more noticeable, up close, than his hat. “Thanks.”

It needed
to find
you.

“Oh… you’re welcome.”

Living Life #10 ( a collection of vignettes)

“Jump”

“I would rather not.” Aly shifted from one foot to the other, and in the process took another step back. The edge was still too close for comfort.

Peter gave a bland smile. His mouth was a straight line across his face except for the slightly tipped corners. If it wasn’t for those the rest of his expression wouldn’t count as a happy look at all. It was the face that he only wore when things were not going his way… yet. Aly took another poignant step back.

“It’s not going to bite.”

Aly raised her eyes from the frigid swamp. “You can’t promise that.”

“I can promise that.” Peter, on the other side, took a step closer so that his toes were dangling off the edge. “Pools don’t bite.”

“Water does.” she huffed, tapping a toe in and pulling it out just as fast. It felt like ice, especially when the pavement under her soles felt like fire. Refreshing ice but freezing nonetheless. Aly swallowed slowly. The water was so clear she could see straight to the bottom except for where her own face stared back up at her. The reflection was frowning. Jerking her head away, she looked to the other end of the pool. The steps seemed much more promising as an entrance.

Peter’s voice was a threat. “Don’t even think about it.”

“It would be a lot easier…” she trailed off.

“But”Peter moved another precarious inch closer so the edge kissed the arches of his heels. “a lot less fun.” He mirrored her across the pool slinging his arms across his chest, and then drawled “What promise did you make to me again?” Damn him.

“It was a mutual promise.” she muttered, knowing she was in the wrong but still trying to procrastinate.

Then he said it, the real problem that she was trying to avoid bringing up.

“We only have one more summer Aly…” There it was. As if dragging out the first trip into the pool in months would prevent him from leaving.

Peter ran a hand through his hair, pushing down the brown waves the humidity had given him. A gesture she had seen him do a million times, and now once more. When he was gone, would she miss that? Would she forget all these little things when he wasn’t there to remind her of them every day? Arching his brows in her direction, Aly realized belatedly he was waiting for her to speak.

“And we promised to spend it together.” She was running out of time. “Having fun.”

“With no regrets.” he finished. “If you can’t even jump into the pool with me, there is no way you are going to survive what I have planned for next week.” He held his hand out.

Aly’s mouth went a bit dry. “Okay.” She stuck her own arm out unquestioningly, mirroring him this time. Being brave enough to jump into the pool first was easy compared to the bravery she would have to have next summer, without her best friend. “I’m ready.” Liar.

“On the count of three grab my hand.” The corners of his mouth touched his eyes. It was his real smile, all teeth and crooked to the side. “One.”

Aly braced her legs and took a deep breath, “Two.”

Then finally together they both shouted, “Three!”

They locked hands.

But in the next breath the water rose to meet them, or rather they fell to meet it and lost their grips. It didn’t bite. Peter had kept that promise, like all the others though the years. Aly had to be sure to keep hers too.

Especially the other she had made to herself.

Gasping for air, she blinked the water from her eyes and found him staring at her. “Task 1 complete.” he laughed, slicking back the hair from his face. She spit pool water at him in response just before he ducked back under.

Aly forced herself to look away. The bottom of the pool was just as clear as before and also, just like before, her reflection was frowning. By summer’s end she would fall out of love with Peter. Just as she promised herself.

Living Life # 9 (a collection of vignettes)

“Undone”

Something was watching me. My breath caught in the back of my throat and I froze.

It was a nagging feeling, the type that says the oven’s on or the door’s unlocked. Not exactly the concrete creep of a touch to the shoulder but, for the fourth time today, I felt it. I wasn’t alone. 

First weaving through the high grass as I crested the hill, next meandering over the small bridge near the lake, and then sitting on the porch outside my front door. It was there, in all those places. And it was here, right now… this peculiar feeling. The best explanation I could give would be that it felt as if all my personal, private expressions were being noted. How earlier the way my arms had swung like reeds in the wind at my sides, or how my eyes had floated down to the water to catch something sparkling, or even when one of my boots tripped over the other and I tried to walk it off like it never happened. And I had been alone. Supposedly. Until in the next breath after each of those actions I suddenly became undone.

Each and every time, I turned. At the hill all I saw was the swell and buckle of the land beyond, the lake’s water had held still as if trapped in a glass and even though I heard the door creak on the porch it was held firmly shut just as I had left it. This time I determined would be different. It would be futile to turn, so I wouldn’t. Instead I would let whatever it was come to me. 

I released my long held breath and bushed it off as if I hadn’t noticed anything at all. I placed my hands firmly on my hips and looked off to the trees ahead trying to focus. The longer I stared though the more the feeling grew. Maybe I had made a mistake. 

In the tangle of the trees that marked the entrance to the forest, I could spy not a thing out of place. There was no wind so the leaves were still and the clouds above cast the shadows long and deep beyond the trunks. There was not a hint of movement. Trying to focus on anything else I strained to hear the birds but no songs touched my ears. My nails dug a bit deeper into my hips and I tried to tell myself maybe it was going to rain and that’s all the silence was. A calm before the storm. Instead, my heart insisted on not listening to this drivel. It pounded to its own rushed beat that even my own lies couldn’t stop. The truth it hammered again and again was this. There was nothing in the forest… but there was almost certainly something behind me. 

A ghost of a touch breezed by the back of my left thigh. I stayed still. The trees filled my eyes. Look to the trees, look to the trees. But maybe I couldn’t see the forest I was trapped in for those trees. No. Don’t think like that. Choose the high road. That wasn’t real.  

A trace of a tingle across my elbow. Look. No. Don’t. Look to the sky instead and try to tell one cloud from another, even though the imminent rain would make that impossible. 

A curl of breath against my neck. Too warm to be from the lungs of the nonexistent wind. My heart stuttered releasing my own breath from its cage and I couldn’t take it anymore. I turned.

The porch, the lake, the hills against a gray sky were all in sight… and someone was there. But still… they were the only thing I couldn’t see.

Living Life #8 (a collection of vignettes)

“Starved”

Don’t go shopping when you’re hungry. If your slumped shoulders are falling to the ground, if your empty head is spinning in aching circles, if your heavy heart is painting the world in black and white that means you have already waited too long.

If only I had a will to take my own advice!

Walking through those double wide doors, my senses exploded. Everywhere in sight was the nourishment that my body was so desperately craving. Out front were the staples, basic necessities to every health conscious person. My feet flew to them as if wearing winged sandals, not my ratty black sneakers with the frayed laces, and picked up the first to touch my hand. Of course, immediately going for heavy stuff.

Hardy and filled to the brim with adventure, The Odyssey I quickly tucked to my chest. Whenever my shoulders slumped too far I could heft it up to remember that a long and difficult journey is made with the ending in mind. It would be the perfect breakfast to get me through the rest of the day.

From there it wasn’t hard to spot lunch. Moving further into the stomach of the store I found just the right thing to feed my head with twists and turns, and break it out of its mindless rut. I plucked Descendant of the Crane between my fingers. That would distract me to help keep down all the bad thoughts and still the hunger pains.

Now the last. Dinner would be the most challenging meal. It would have to be nutritious and well balanced, something with good flavor and peppered with light to get me through the night. I wandered, I searched and so many things looked quite good but not quite right.

Until… with a off handed glance what did catch my eye was Howl’s Moving Castle and I picked it up with a cry. Finally, finally one to turn all those blacks and whites to green and blue and a red so bright. Something to give the world color again and help my heart sleep through the night!

I took my food to the counter and as the cashier rung up my order I realized with a start, I only had $2 on me and no debit card. In my haste to feel better I overlooked that important thing. Learn from my mistake, so you don’t stray from your diet. You have to be well fed to keep your spirit up, your head clear and your heart shining bright. Otherwise you’ll overlook things then need to run home burning more calories in two trips instead of one. Ugh.

Living Life #7 (a collection of vignettes)

“Color”

It was a menagerie of colors.

Orange in flashes, the first lights of fire at night in the brittleness of the woods. Green everywhere, like vomit oozing from the same spot on the carpet that never would be the same again. Purple, the color of bruises that would show up after the fight the next day. Yellow, dead center, just like the perfect ring of a bullseye waiting to be stabbed. Pink, darting in-between and screaming for attention like the anger on a face of a manipulative man. Red… just like the trace of blood dripping down her arms from the thorns.

And white, the innocence lost and fading in the mess of it.

Her hold tightened on the bouquet. There was a note.

I’ll see you tonight.

She smiled. Yes, she could hardly wait. “Blue, the color you’ll be when I am through with you.”