Sacred

This is a sacred place.

I know, because I think I’ve been here before. Casting my hands out into the darkness, hoping to pull something important out of it. Grasping at straws, by which I really mean that I’m grasping at hope. Hope that I would find something I have not yet found.

I wanted meaning. I moved to a big city, all alone, searching for answers to my hollowness. A better job, new friends, an exciting city life. What I found was loneliness, sickness, emptiness. For a while.

Then there was you. My light in the darkness. My hope, budding and blossoming. You know, I was never worried that we would end, not on the first day, not six months later. I never decided to put down the sword and shield and stop fighting. Fighting for you and for love that I had never known before.

Annnnnd here come the cliches. It was hard. Love is hard. Anything that’s worth having is worth fighting for, no matter how painful it gets. Anyone knows that. Even when there is anger, there is love. It may be small and shrivelled, lacking the nourishment that will bring it shooting out from the dark soil towards the sunlight. But the anger doesn’t last. It is always the love, and the flower always blooms again.

I left my sacred place to find meaning. And I found something more important than I ever thought I would find. While I climbed the trellis and gazed out over the concrete jungle of my thoughts (and my surroundings) that I never really liked, I realised that liking wasn’t the point. Living was the point. Loving was the point. Finding the person that made even a dumpster view and swelteringly painful humidity have a point.

The point is that my sacred place is not really a place at all anymore. My sacred place is in the arms of that person that means more to me than any apartment, or house, or neighbourhood.

You are my sacred place.

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Peppermint Candy Canes

Cold evenings and roaring fires that throw smoke and ashes high into the air. Cups of tea slowly warming freezing fingers through thin, store-bought gloves. The scent of cinnamon and pumpkin wafting through the air, rising on the breeze trying to push through thick coats.

Fantasies of autumn. Fantasies that didn’t come true. Not for her. Not then.

There were cold evenings, but they were mostly spent curled under four blankets on the couch, alone in a basement suite with a flickering television that spat out generic sitcoms with unnatural laugh tracks. Sometimes they made her feel better because being pulled out of her own life into the unreality of the fancy apartments that these twenty-somethings couldn’t afford in real life and eternal coffee dates with good friends reminded her that some people had nice lives and maybe she could too. If she went to a store and bought a white porcelain pumpkin and a stack of cute wicker boxes she could cut and paste herself into a non-reality that resembled one of these girls with the gorgeous lives.

Even if the coffee dates never happened.

There was one fire. But it was too far away to keep her feet warm and she was surrounded by people who had anything to talk about other than something she knew. She never contributed to conversations much anyway. As far as she knew, no one cared what she had to say. Jumbled mumbles rising from her lips with as much force as can be exerted by a butterfly’s wings as it lifts off from a flower. Easy to talk over and easier to forget it even exists.

On the bright side, there was a lot of tea. Chai and rooibos and green and black and white, mingling in a cupboard designated solely for that eternal collection. Fumbling through dulled silver tins to find just the right combination of flavours that would burst on her tongue exactly when she most needed the comfort. Which was always these days. Her roommate (oh that’s right, she had a roommate – it was just hard to meet her when she never emerged from her dark, dirty cave. It was like the girl lived alone, only with more mess and no help) had her own sky-high stash of tea, but she never drank it. The girl stared longingly at it as she picked through her own meagre supply, eyeing her roommate’s tin of caffeine-free pumpkin cheesecake rooibos. Why have what you’re never going to drink? Tea-loving poser and infuser-stealer. What kind of roommate steals her friend’s infuser and moves away with it?

She tried for the scents of cinnamon and pumpkin. There were unlit candles and dreams of baking delicious treats with her ever-elusive roommate that amounted to no more than broken ideals, like cookies in which the sugar was forgotten. The dry, crumbling sawdust of both the dreams of baking and the friendship itself. Disappointing. Boxed brownies and laziness.

Forgotten forgotten forgotten. Who cares.

Fantasies are just that. Forgotten. She should know better. Like cracks in the asphalt that just grow and grow, webbing out from a single point until bits of blackened pavement begin spilling from the ground like marbles, carving a hole that can’t be properly filled again. So with fantasies.

After, she stood outside and stared at the moon as it was pulled down by the claw of darkness to make way for the rising sun. Someday, she would be all right. The pain would fade into a silent throbbing and the fantasies would reignite with someone else, somewhere else. But until then, she would stand under that black sky, wander through thick woods, step over ice-cold streams, searching for something she could call life. Something that she didn’t copy from a sitcom, or try and force out of an unwilling unbestfriend. The laziness and claustrophobia of undetermined insensibility long forgotten and washed away by the lull of the ocean and the smell of salt-water freedom.

And maybe just a sprinkling of love, like the mini peppermint candy canes that dotted her favourite black tea.

That would be her life.

 

 

fallen

I fell again. It was a accident. A genuine, honest mistake, but I couldn’t help it.

You were just so right there and what was I supposed to do about that? Close my eyes,  count to ten, do a rain dance, hope you’d disappear? Honestly though, if I had done those things, I would have seemed less insane to some people. The distance alone would have and should have been a deterrent. But like I said, couldn’t help it.

Your blonde hair skimmed your forehead in just such a way that made me need to reach out and brush it away. Your icy blue eyes shone warmth through the cold and you were just so excited. About everything. About life.

The passion was there, so evident, like a vine reaching up the side of the house. Reaching to the sky like it could just keep going, face open to the sun, absorbing the warmth and radiance. How could I not be drawn to that?

Not to mention that accent. Oh boy. Though don’t mistake an accent as the reason I fell for you. It certainly didn’t hurt though.

I had fun. Soccer games, spontaneous hikes up hills on the pathless side. Genderbent Hamlet and Guiness for the first time.

But then the inevitable separation. We knew it going in, but we wanted to try anyway. Maybe we shouldn’t have bothered, but I guess neither of us could help it? I always felt like I cared more than you though. Like I was more interested in what we were doing than you were.

It was nice having someone to talk to, I suppose. But my heart felt like it had strings attached that stretched across the miles and it hurt when you pulled on them without really thinking about what you were doing. I missed you but the distance to your heart spanned more than just the physical distance.

You held me at arm’s length, and I was so scared that if I stepped a little closer, our fragile situation would crumble, and I would be the one left to pick up the pieces. I suspect you cared, but I’m not sure how much. I sat at the other end of the skype call, wondering how long I would have to wait for you to actually open up to me. When would you stop hiding behind sentiment?

Breaking up is hard. Even if it’s mutual. Although that’s easier than most. Less blood is spilled. Fewer hearts and minds reduced to trembling emptiness.

The problem with mutual breakups is that they are amicable. There are no shouting matches (hopefully) or barrages of tears (at least not for us). Amicable might seem to be the ideal. Which I guess it is. But it’s still hard. Because no matter what, you aren’t still friends. You really can’t be. Even if you never did anything but hold hands and Skype once or twice a week.

Because how can you be friends with someone that you thought about marrying? You can’t. The attraction was there, we both felt it. And that doesn’t just go away when you have a friendly, mutual breakup. Seeing you after, even months later. Talking to you. Reminded me of what was and why.

Then we found others, and that makes it even more impossible. Because you can’t be friends with someone you used to see when you are married or engaged, now can you?

It’s all right, because we’re happy, but I miss our friendship. It’s never coming back. We can talk casually once every six months over email, but that’s it. And it’s tough when we used to talk every week. We had fun, enjoyed each other’s company.

So really, what I miss is my friend. I’ve lost so many and I don’t like how they just keep going, but I have a new best friend, who I’m going to spend the rest of my life with and I couldn’t be happier.

That’s really the worst part about breakups though. Not the loss of a lover or a significant other. The loss of a friend, someone you had a million things in common with and could talk to for hours.

It really only makes up for it when you find your real best friend for the rest of your life.

 

 

Purple Butterflies

She painted purple butterflies in his eyes. Every day he would wake up to her smiling face, but it existed only in his mind, compelled into being by his own wishful thinking. Drawn in bright sparks on the backs of his eyelids.

He lay in bed while his alarm screeched at him, staring at the ceiling but only seeing butterflies. The blue ones she scribbled in the margins of her notebook. The pink ones on the back of receipts and ticket stubs. The purple ones that adorned her left shoulder, that he had only caught glimpses of when it was warm enough for her to wear a tank top and they had gone out for drinks as an office in the heat of the summer. It was a rare occurrence that the thick strap would slip off her shoulder, but when it did, it upped his heart rate just the tiniest bit.

He knew it was cheesy to even think it, but in his mind he thought about how her eyes sparkled like morning dew and her thick golden blonde hair held the scent of coconut. Any time he caught the scent, it turned his head. But it wasn’t her any more.

Of course it wasn’t.

How could it be?

He’d seen the police report on the news site he checked every day on the computer in his tiny cubicle, often only reporting vaguely on events that barely even interested him. He just read it because it was something to do. Routine.

But.

Woman Found Murdered In Home – Police Search For Suspect

He hadn’t wanted to believe it. The article had no photo but the name Rhea Harnett stuck out in his mind like the letters had come off the screen and were burning themselves permanently into his skull.

It wasn’t a common name.

When she hadn’t shown up to work, he knew for sure. It office was quiet, but the knowledge was palpable, like someone had spread it lightly over a piece of warm toast with a butter knife and it had melted slowly into an almost invisible layer, settling over them all. It lasted for longer than he cared.

Murdered.

That didn’t happen. Well it did, but not to people he knew. Not to people he cared about. He shivered at the idea of her death, but the sadness that oozed out of him concentrated itself into fear. Fear that those things that only happened to ‘other people’ could actually happen to him. The purple butterflies wilted to black within his brain, flapping halfheartedly and falling to the floor.

He was not immune.

And that scared him to death.

broken

All this is unbearable.

How can I keep pretending that I’m all right when things fell apart so fast and hard that I didn’t even have time to think before they hit the ground and shattered into a million pieces? Tell me that, oh great and powerful Google.

I spend years scraping together something called ‘best-friendship’ and then I do one thing wrong (but honestly not even that wrong) and it’s like something snapped and shattered, shaking everything I thought I ever knew.

Like, how can someone I’ve known and been friends with for NINE YEARS just walk out on me? Sometimes when I think about it too much it feels like I’m scooping out my heart with a spoon.

I never knew you. Not at all. Everything was fake wasted useless nothings piling up on top of each other until it all came tumbling down like the recycling you never took out.

You play the victim card so well, even though it was me who was hurting all along.

I swim through my own subconscious and search endlessly for a meaning, a reason, a thought that will force it all to make sense. But I just come up gasping for air.

I am angry and hurt and frustrated and there seems to be no end in sight. Just a thought or glimpse throws me back into the whirlpool and spits me out however long later, clothes torn and hair matted.

Ways to deal. Ways to deal. Ways to deal? Write angry words on a big white page. Check. Fill brain with wedding details. Double check. Appoint new best friend. Check.

Then why do I still feel this way?

 

Inside

Her salted caramel corn scented candle settles to a slow burn as it reaches the end of the wax. She flicks her finger in the flame absently, not feeling the heat as her mind rolls over itself like clothes in a dryer. Hot and staticky.

It is stifling, the big city. Even when she sits alone in her room, doors closed, blocking out the world. Time crawls by, and also flies by, but she’s still there. Rolling around inside her mind, trying to be free.

The smell of the candle infiltrating her clothes, her carpet, her couch, reaches inside and pulls nostalgia out of her heart and brain. It doesn’t change anything. The rain still falls and Iron & Wine still plays from her iTunes, like there’s nothing else in the world. She gets up, goes to work, stays within her mind. If she reaches out, even a little, someone slaps her back in.

STAY INSIDE.

DON’T GO OUT.

IT’S DANGEROUS OUT THERE.

Ok, fine. I’ll stay inside. I won’t go out. Because I know, it IS dangerous out there.

People are mean. They ignore you, snap at you, glare at you, stare at you. She reminds herself of these simple truths.

“I think I’lll just stay in today.”

She wraps herself in a blanket on the couch. Takes a sip of tea. It’s getting cold. But the swirls of black, earl grey goodness dance on her tongue in time to the music drifting from her speakers.

The kids that live upstairs scream and fuss and the dog barks. Never any quiet.

NEVER ANY QUIET. ANY QUIET. ANY QUIET. QUIET. QUIET. QUIET.

But the candle scent calms her, reminds her that the world is lovely. There are little things every day to be thankful for. Today it’s the candle. The sour candies she ate until her tongue felt raw. Tea, blankets and music.

And last but not least. Never least. Him.

He breezes through the door and she breathes him in. Wraps herself in him. Loves on the way he cocoons her with his arms. The screaming in her head quiets just a little.

“Hey, sweetie.”

A smile. The only one she’s had all day. Everyone else smiled at everyone else. But not  at her. There were fake smiles, fake “how are you’s”. Fake fake fake. Forget it.

He smiles at her.

She melts. Like the candle, her insides liquify and spread out in a puddle around her.

And she thanks God for this wonder, this gem, this beautiful person He put in her life. Who loves her despite her incapability to go outside and brave the world. Loves her because she feels it all. Everything.

And so even when the wind blows through her mind and scatters her thoughts on the breeze and pushes her creativity, love and joy out of the window and out of her reach, he grabs a net and catches them for her. Helps her put them back together in her mind. Gently. Like he loves her.

Holding her, kissing her. It’s going to be all right.

Everything will be…

…all right.

“Let’s go outside. Ok?”

“Ok.”