Friday, January 28, 2011

Fourteen (Chapter Two)

She danced within the blackness. It held her as a lover would. Its arms spread open, embracing her, wrapping her in a cocoon of pleasant nothing. She felt the blackness lift her and kiss the very spots where she had burned. It healed her from the inside out. She felt nothing but weightlessness. This was her heaven.

My black heaven.

And maybe, after the hell she had endured, it was a heaven. A heaven for people like her. People not really evil; but more wicked in their ways. Her ways were wicked. She let Robbie have her in a way that fourteen year old girls should not. While other girls her age were playing hopscotch, or giggling their secrets to their school friends; she had been laying under neath him wrapped in a web of arms and legs; telling him how much she loved him, and needing to hear those words in return. She skipped school on days he didn't work just to lay in his arms and feel his hand brush down her bare back. Wasn't that wicked? Even if she were good in nature, her ways would have easily negated all the best she had in her. So, wouldn't it be reasonable to say that a heaven for her would not be the same as the heaven for the people who were good in heart as well as in their actions?  Maybe this black heaven, with it's nothingness, was a place for the wicked to return to once they had endured hell on earth.

Her mind raced within the blackness. Although her body, with all its wounds, was held by unseen hands; her mind roamed free. She thought of her mother more than anything else. She remembered Kay standing in the doorway unwilling to see what had become of her middle child. Why was a stranger offering her comfort when it should have been her mother?  It should have been her mother there, leaning over her, stroking her hair and telling her it was going to be ok. Kay should have been the one to instruct someone to call the police. Instead, she had stood at the door looking out. Unable to handle the scene of her daughter slumped over, battered and broken, Kay left.

Why was that exactly? Had she been unable to view her daughter in that condition? Or was she simply unwilling to lend the emotional support that the child needed during this time? Any love that Kay felt for her daughters went unspoken. She did not give out hugs and kisses like normal mothers. Kay kept those things to herself. Any affection she felt towards her children she kept locked away in a vault in the back of her mind. Kay couldn't say that she was raised without the love of her parents. Both her parents doted on their only child from birth. In the age old argument of nature versus nurture, Kay was not a product of an unhappy home. She was more or less born this way. She was born with something missing. That piece of the soul that turns a human into a compassionate being. The piece that brings tears to a person during an emotional time; or causes someone to feel warmth for a loved one. It is this mysterious piece that connects us to the rest of the world. And Kay was missing it.

At night, when the rest of the world lay sleeping, Kay would unlock the vault that she kept hidden. There in the dark, when her middle child experienced one of her nightmares, Kay would creep into her bedroom and provide the soothing touch of a mother the young girl so desperately needed. With the covers pulled up to her neck, the child would lay perfectly still in her bed on those nights. She would fight the impulse to jump into her mother's arms and beg for the love that was denied to her. Afraid she would scare Kay off with her neediness, she let the woman come to her. For a few brief moments, Kay provided what she craved. In the sunlight of morning, Kay returned to the stranger she was more familiar with. Her mother became someone she saw in passing. Someone who would scold her occasionaly as they bumped into each other in the hallway. She was not familiar with this woman who silently entered her room at night, bringing with her tender moments. She did not reconize the side of Kay that was only visible for a brief time after the sun bid the world a farewell.

It was Kay who taught her to appreciate the darkness of night.

"I know it's scary," Kay admited to her. She had awoken in a cold sweat from a bad dream. In the dream, monsters had snatched her from the safety of her room. "You have nothing to be scared of, though. Monsters do not exist."

"I'm scared of the dark," she whispered to the stranger. "I can't see anything."

"I know. But, just think about it like this: if you can't see anything, then neither can they. You can hide in the darkness. You're always safe where you can hide."

During the colder months of the year, when they were all piled in the livingroom basking in the heat of the kerosene heater and each other, she never dreamed of monsters. During the communal bedtime, her mind became a void. Monsters did not lurk in the shadows. No one was waiting to snatch her from the safety of her bed.

...the couch.

She snapped back to the present time. The blackness began to losen its grip on her.

No. I don't want to go.

Yes, the thing within the blackness hissed. You don't belong here.

Why can't I stay here? Let me stay.

No! It shrieked. This is not your world. You belong in the light. Go.

He's alive. He's going to come back for me. He'll kill me.  Even in the blackness, her heart swelled with fear. She began to fall towards the nothing beneath her.

A sound unlike any she'd ever heard reached out across the black expansion. The shreek filled her with terror. Her heart raced as she searched for the source. She stared into the nothingness, unable to locate the orgin of the disturbance. Arms grabbed her and slung her towards emptiness.

How dare you doubt me, It said. I am here. Call and I will come ready to bring chaos down apon those that harm you. He is nothing compared to me.

Who are you?

She woke to bright lights and voices. Voices calling her name and asking endless questions. Voices which belonged to people with hands that reached out and touched her. They touched the burned places the darkness had lovingly kissed moments before. Pain ripped through her body as needles penetrated her skin. She tried to move. She attempted to cry out, but it was all in vain.  Restrained, all she could do was lay in agony. Tears rolled down her cheeks. For the second time in less than 24 hours, she prayed for death. And just as before, Death was unavailable.

Help me. Please. Someone stop this. I hurt. Please. Please. Please. 

"Hannah," a gentle voice called to her. "Hannah can you hear me?"

She shook her head no. Hannah could hear other voices chuckling around her. She opened her eyes and looked around.

She was sitting upright in a hospital room. Strapped at her ankles, arms, and with a vest around her chest; the young girl was unable to move. Her long, curly black hair laid in tangles around her shoulders. Her deep brown eyes were bloodshot from the night before. Bandages covered her arms and legs. Florescent lights hurt her eyes causing her to strain to see those around her. A kind looking doctor gazed down at her from beside her bed. At her feet stood three nurses. On the other side of the bed, stood her mother, silent and uncaring.

"Momma," she whispered. "What happened?"

Kay nervously cleared her throat. Without glancing at the others, the doctor spoke to her again.

"Hannah, I'm Dr. Kayzech. You are in the hospital. Do you remember anything at all?"

Hannah looked at the handsome doctor. She guessed him to be in his late forties. He wore his blond hair shaggy, like they did in the old pictures Kay hid in the box underneath her bed. He was about 6 feet tall with a slight build. He nervously pushed his wire rimed glasses up on his thin nose as he anxiously waited for her response. Hannah closed her eyes. When she thought about last night, it all came to her in a series of flashes and noises. She felt the heat rise to her face as the memory approached. The smell of Robbie's pudgent breath suffocated her. Hannah could imagine him standing in the corner, staring at her. Grinning that stupid grin as he said her name in that sing-song voice he used to use.


No way.

She pushed through the terrible  memories of the previous night. Yet, no matter how hard she tried, she couldn't escape how real his voice was to her now. Hannah could detect the faint odor of vomit. She could feel the electricity in the air stir as she recalled the horror from the house. The possibility of him standing in the room, unnoticed, was absurd. Her fourteen year old mind was old enough to grasp that concept. Deep down, though, she knew differently. Somewhere in that room, in the shadows where the light couldn't reach, Robbie was waiting for her. She could almost see him.


The doctor nodded. "That's right. Now, I know that you have been through alot. But, there's a detective that needs to talk to you. He wants to talk while everything is still fresh in your mind."

Don't leave me alone. Please, someone....anyone...

"Can my mom stay with me?" She looked to her mother. "Momma. Please?"

Kay continued to look at the floor. She could feel her daughter's desperate need for her. It was palpable, like a hand gripping her throat and squeezing the breath out of her. She ached to feel what she should feel. Kay wished above all things to be what Hannah needed her to be, at that moment, that second, in that room. No matter how hard she tried, the woman could not be anything other than what she was. A statue. A stand in until someone else came along to be what a real mother should be to this tragic child. Nodding to the nurse, she turned and left the room. She uttered nothing to her daughter who watched her go with eyes filled with a fear few people had ever experienced. The doctor and nurses wondered about the silent mother who seemed to have no concern for her young daughter. They stood there, silently judging the woman who showed no emotion. They wept tears for the young girl who laid, brutalized and restrained, in the bed.

A dark haired nurse walked to the head of the bed and spoke to Hannah with a voice that was smooth as velvet. She talked to her like she would her own daughter, soothing her and telling her how brave she was. She stroked Hannah's black hair; running her hand through the tangled curls. She told the young girl about all the prayers that were being offered up to an absent God that Hannah had pleaded to only hours earlier.

"I don't like God," Hannah informed her matter of fact.  She turned away from the well meaning nurse. She didn't have the energy to explain how God had failed to help. Hannah lacked the patience to describe how she searched for God along the dirt road. Even towards the end, before the fire took over, she still held out hope for a God that never arrived.

I don't like Him at all.

Dr. Kayzech spoke. "The detective will be in here to talk to you shortly. I know you are tired Hannah. I can not imagine what you've been through, but it's very important to speak to him. You've got to tell him everything you remember about last night."

"When are you going to take these straps off of me?"

"We have to get someone to sit with you," the doctor said. "As soon as that happens, the straps will come off."

"Why are they on in the first place?"

"You don't remember?"

"If I did, would I have asked?" Hannah replied.

"True. True." Before the doctor could say anything more, the detective walked in.

Detective Larry Jones was an intimidating man. Standing at an impressive 6'4" and weighing all of 450 lbs, he looked more like a linebacker than a cop that dealt specifically with victims of sex crimes. His eyes were a rich chocolate that hinted to the temper that laid just underneath the surface. He had an easy gait about him; as if he were in no hurry to arrive at any particular destination. People tried their best to not upset the calm mannered detective. His size alone indicated he was not one to take lightly.

As he approached Hannah, he quickly surveyed the restraints.

"Is this really necessary?" He inquired.

"Yes, sir." The doctor said quickly. "Hannah is a danger to herself and others."

"Well, I'll tell you what," Detective Jones said in his easy going manner. "You take those restraints off, and I'll be responsible for her. If she hurts me, I'll let you know."

After Dr. Kayzech and the nurse removed her restraints and left, Hannah eyed the massive policeman. She couldn't explain it, but she immediately felt comfortable in his presence.

The detective took a moment to introduce himself and then got down to business.

"I'm going to ask you some questions. Take as long as you need to, but I need you to tell me exactly what happened. Can you do that?"

"I can tell you what I know," Hannah said.

"Fair enough. Around what time did you go to bed last night?"

"It was about eleven. I was at a cook out earlier."

"Whose house was the cook out at?"

"It was at Robbie's house."

"And Robbie is who exactly?"

The devil.

"He's my boyfriend. Well, my ex-boyfriend. We broke up at the cook out." She hesitated. Something wasn't quite right. She could remember most of last night. She filled him in with the pieces of the puzzle that she could fit together. But, a big part of it all was gone.

"There was a fire," she told him. "At least I think there was. The heat burned me. But, I don't remember any smoke. The flames though were everywhere. Am I right? There was a fire, right?" The detective shook his head no. "But, I remember being burned. When did they put the fire out?"

"There was no fire, Hannah."

"Yes, there was," she insisted. "I remember the burning. I have burnt places on me." She began to pull up her nightgown to show Jones her scars.

Jones quickly jumped up and covered her. "There's no reason for that. I've spoken to the doctors and the others that were there last night. You weren't burned anywhere."

He was wrong. This whole thing was wrong. She knew there had been fire. She knew because it had scorched her inner thighs. It had consumed her. The fire brought the devil out of Robbie. Or had it been the other way around? Had the devil brought the fire. Surely it was more like that. The devil's home was fire. So, naturally, he would have brought the fire with him. For a brief moment, she imagined the devil packing a suitcase filled with fire and brimstone.

"Well, we're all packed," she imagined Lucifer saying. "Now, let's go torture Hannah. Wait....where'd I put my keys?"

"But.....but, the fire was everywhere. I thought I was going to die in it."

The detective nodded. He recognized this moment for what it was....a confession of sorts. He didn't want to slow the momentum that was building. Let the girl say what she needed to. Jones was determined to get to the heart of the terrible events that had taken place over the last twenty-four hours. Had he known...truly known....what would transpire in the days to come, he would have packed his bags and bid farewell to this haunted girl. But, he was not blessed with a sixth sense. No music played ominously in the background to foreshadow any impending doom. So, he sat his big fanny on the little stool in the room. He didn't touch her. It was his experience that rape victims preferred not to be touched. Especially by a man that looked like he did. But, he held her gaze and listened as she rambled on about a fictional fire that burned her where no one had any business touching a fourteen year old girl.

Sensing her anxiety, the detective tried to sooth her with his voice. "Hannah, listen to me. You are safe here. No one is going to hurt you anymore. Not on my watch, baby girl."

Hannah looked at this man that promised the very thing she had been pleading for since Robbie had barged into her home and stolen her from the couch. She dared to believe him, but couldn't. Hannah knew that Robbie still lived.

The devil can't die.

Fear gripped her. Out of that fear, another emotion emerged. Anger. Anger can be very powerful. Anger is what fuels the weak, strengthens the frightened, and adds to the burning of the needy. In an instant she realized why her mother stood by as others tried to help her. It wasn't that Kay lacked the love a mother should feel for her daughter. Rather, she lacked the anger that was needed to motivate her towards action. It was this anger that powered Hannah now. She looked at the detective with his bulging biceps and the weight that he carried effortlessly, and knew that no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't stop her if she made a run for it.

The need for escape swelled within her. The walls began to shift as the shadows in the corners began to grow. Something caught her attention out of the corner of her eye. The smell of sweet vomit rose to tickle her nostrils.

Oh dear God, he is here.

She turned to her new protector. "You have to go. You have to leave now. It's not safe for you."

Detective Jones looked at Hannah with confusion and concern. He could see the terror sweep through her. Underneath the terror, Hannah was visibly seething with rage. A strange combination for such a young girl.

Her attention seemed to be directed towards the corner of the room. "What is it Hannah?" He asked.

She shook her head and repeated that he needed to leave. Jones could feel the static electricity in the air. Was it his imagination or were the light bulbs actually burning a little brighter than a few minutes before? He could smell a sickening odor in the room. The hair on the back of his neck stood up. Jones could feel the weight of some one's stare on him. Feeling ridiculous, the large detective tried to shake the feeling. He couldn't erase it from his mind. He'd swear that something else was in the small hospital room with him. He developed the sudden urge to get as far away from there, and her, as possible.

"Hannah? Talk to me. Look at me."

Again, the young girl shook her head. She began to mumble softly to herself. She appeared to be in some sort of self induced trance. She sat up straight in the bed and curled her knees up to her chest. She folded her long arms around herself and rocked.

"Stop. Stop. Go. Go. Go. Stop." 
"Hannah! Hannah, listen, you need to calm down. You're safe now. Hannah look at me."

Hannah stopped her rocking. She sat up, slowly turned, and fixed her eyes on Jones. He forced himself to return her gaze. There was something in Hannah's stare. Something frightening. Something that suggested the young girl meant to harm him. With Hannah staring intently into Detective Jones eyes, the air around them stood still. The clock ceased to tick. For a brief moment, the world stopped. The only sound that circled around them was the sound of his heart beat. It was like the girl had stopped living. She just sat there, with her crazy not-quite-brown eyes breaking down the detective's strength. His pulse quickened. His breathing deepened.  He could feel knots tightening in his stomach. Jones fought the impulse to run. His reasoning told him there was nothing to be afraid of. Not a small hospital room. Not the sound of his heart beat. And not a small, frightened fourteen year old girl. While his mind was drawing out these rational conclusions, his body was telling him to run like hell and ask questions later.

Hannah stood up on her bed. At this height she towered over the 6'4" detective. She raised her arms above her head and drew her hands into a claw like grasp. She cocked her head to the side. He could swear he heard her neck crack. Never taking her eyes off of him, Hannah slowly opened her mouth.

Blood poured out.

He shook his head and not knowing what else to do, Jones ran out into the hallway for help. 

Stop. Stop. Go. Go.

As Jones exited the room, Hannah collapsed back onto the bed. She returned to the fetal position and started to rock again. She knew Robbie was there. She could feel him.  She could smell him. She heard the laughter before she saw his face. It was a sickening laugh. The type that spewed forth venom. She gagged on the scent of vomit and rotting flesh.

Help me. Where are you?

I see you. He spoke to her in his sing-song voice. She could feel the pure weight of his being boring down on her. Not wanting to look at the devil in the flesh, she turned her gaze and hid her eyes from him.

Don't look. Don't. Stop. Stop.

Haaaannnnnaaaahhhhh. Come say hi to me. You stupid little cunt. Come here.

It sounded like he was dragging something

  his leg

behind him as he approached her. Unable to help herself any longer, she stole a glance over her arm. The scream that she was preparing to let out stuck in the bottom of her throat. She sat there, speechless, not looking away. Unable to look away.

Vivid colors danced around Robbie as he approached. His arm still dangled at the side. The leg, still backwards, he drug behind him. His neck was twisted like he was looking for something over his left shoulder. With the one good arm that he had, Robbie fiddled with the intestine that fell out of his stomach. And as before, he wore that loopy grin.

The walls shook from the force of her terror. Again, she tried to scream. Nothing came out. Her voiced betrayed her as well as her legs. Neither provided her with the ability to get help. She was stuck on the bed, crying silent tears. Only able to beg for help within her own mind.  Any resemblance of the anger that she felt earlier was gone. She sat trembling, waiting for this monster

this devil

to come and end her.


Monday, January 24, 2011

The Demonic Pop-Up Tent

It sits there in the middle of my livingroom floor mocking me with its japanese infrastructure. I know it had to have been made in some foreign country like Japan. How else can you explain the difficulty that it's causing me?

I despise it. This inanimate object that has caused me to cuss in front my delicate children. This....this THING that refuses to cooperate. I bend it, fold it, swirl it....I do everything imaginable to it (except for weird and kinky) to put it back where it belongs. Alas, it is all in vain.

I hate a damn pop-up tent.

Red got the cursed object for Christmas this year. She was so excited when I let her keep it open in her bedroom. Her and the 3 yr old would snuggle down in it, giggling and happily playing. Perfect gift from her grandmother. But, like the the demonic car from Stephen King's Christine, this seemingly innocent entity is actually the pop-up tent from hell. I can picture Lucifer in all his evil glory having sleep overs with his little demon buddies in it.

This evening Red called me into her bedroom and requested that I put the offending object up in it's rightful place. She stated it was taking up too much space on her bedroom floor. I happily agreed. An hour later, I looked at my Red Headed daughter and silently cursed her and her Christmas gift.

I'm not stupid by any means. I can pretty much figure just about anything out. It's just that this atrocious play tent represents all the doubts that I have of my capabilities of being a single mother. I SHOULD be able to place a simple pop-up tent back in the bag that it came in. I SHOULD be able to break down my Christmas tree and stuff it back into the box from whence it came. And something as simply as placing my beautiful tree topper on said Christms tree should not make me want to denounce the Christian holiday and become a Muslim. These things should not be happening.

But, they are.

I moved into my very own home in October 2010. Before I moved any furniture, kitchen ware, bathroom items, or a tv into this fortress of singledom, I swore I would not ever need a man again. Bills? Nah, I got it covered. Picture hanging? I know my way around a hammer. Light bulb in the pump house? I can remember that. I made it my very mission in life to not need anyone with the Y chromosome. Sex? By golly that's why God invented Pricillas. I was covered in every sence.

Flashforward a few months and I am sitting on the floor cussing out a 6 yr old's play house. My go-get-em attitude has been replaced by a "What the $#& in the $#^& blazes is this %#^! all about?!" growl. I don't care about proving anything anymore. I just want the blasted thing put back into the blasted bag.

I am blessed with a slew of guy-friends more than willing to travel to my location to tackle the dreaded tent. They see it as a rescue attempt. With their testosterone soaring high, they are more than willing to sling their man-hood over their shoulder and say with gusto, "Come on little lady! It ain't that bad. It just takes know-how!" Wink. Wink.

(This is when I would kick them in their chins.)

My point is, I shouldn't HAVE to call on anyone. I should be able to look at the clearly marked instructions. The same light bulb that lives in a man's mind should also be the same one that goes off in mine; thus enabling me to assemble, hang, put on, break down, and insert anything that needs it. But, instead, I stand looking at what ever it is I am tackling and scratch my head. My wheels don't spin. The light bulb never comes on. A moth kind of flutters by, but that's about the extent of it.

I need the same things that occur in a man's head to occur within mine. How else am I going to survive out here in singledom on my own? How else will I be able to properly hang the shelf that has lived in Red's closet for years now? How else will I be able to teach the 3 yr old to pee standing up?

These are the questions that plague me at night. Now, along with the christmas tree, the shelf, and the tree topper; the pop-up tent stands for everything that makes me question my awesomness in single-land.

Damn you, pop-up tent. Damn you.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Just a Cat

There is a black cat that stalks my porch every night. He is thick in fur and long in tail. His face is battered and he is missing one eye. This cat has seen his share of battles. His combative posture suggests that he is ready for more.

I hear him every night whining an eery sound like something I have never heard before.  It almost sounds like an injured baby. But, it's worse than that. I can not explain it; but whenever I hear that noise, the hairs on my arms stand on end. It's like even the tiniest particles on me know that the sound coming from outside should not exist. He whines and screeches to get my attention. He wants so badly for me to step out on the porch. I look out the window and see him pacing in front of the steps that lead to my front door.

Come out, come out, where ever you are.....

I don't open the door to this hellish cat. My inaction frustrates and thrills him all at once. I know this because of the way he wags his tail at me when I open the blinds to view this massive creature. When I close them, he begins the screeching that I can not stand.

I have only seen him once during the day. Usually he waits til night to come and visit, but on this particular day, he approached me as I walked to my car. Fur standing on end, he crouched towards me slowly. When he was sure that I saw him (and he got a good look at me) he whined and ran in the direction of the road. I was able to see the black fur clumped together by dried blood. I saw that part of his tail was missing. He reeked of death and decay. The stench lingered long after he had vanished down the street.

I can hear him out on the porch now even as I type this. He is pawing at the screen door in a feeble attempt to get me to go outside.  His nails sound like knives when they hit the metal. He is screeching at me now. A thump at the door tells me he is growing ever impatient. My windows shake and the blinds sway as he bangs into the door a second time. I hear the clump clump of his paws under my living room windows. I can tell that he's trying to peer inside to get a better look at me. My blinds are down and closed, but I still feel exposed. Goose bumps break out on my arms. I get the sensation that he is watching my chest rise and fall......Like he's counting my breaths.

A scratching sound comes from front door. It starts at the top of the door and slides down to the doorknob. Something.... Someone is on the other side twisting the knob; trying to get in. I dare not look.

Another bang. Another scratch. I jump to my feet as something begins to push on my door and twist the handle.

In a beat, silence surrounds me. I don't know where the demon cat has gone; or if he has even left. I don't dare open the door to look. What if he's out there now? Waiting. Watching. Hoping that I trust the silence enough to open the door and take a teeny tiny peek.

I won't do it. I refuse to.


It has been hours since I heard from my unwanted visitor. I sit here in bed, the dim lamp my only company. I wonder if I'd imagined the noises earlier. To be sure, it is merely a cat and nothing more. He looks evil, but it's only a cat.

Only. A. Cat.

Something is outside the window trying to get my attention. I hear scratching. As my fingers pause over the keys on my laptop, an eery whining comes from the other side of my bedroom window. It's him. I know it is. I'm going to turn off my light.

With the light out, I can see a silhouette in the window. It looks like a person. It's hard to tell exactly how tall he is. I'm only guessing as to the gender. I can't make out what it is at all. It's raising it's paw at me, in a kind of a gentle wave. It's the outline of a cat's paw. A big paw with long, sharp claws made for scratching.

The shadow has turned sideways. I can see its massive jaw as it opens up to let out a horrific screech.  Oh, dear God what is that thing? It's scratching at my window again. Wait. Not really scratching, more like it's trying to cut through the window pane.

Cooooommmmmeeee heeeeerrrrrrreeeeee, it purrs to me.

Behind the shadow, I see a tail begin to unravel. The tail is traveling up the window and

   tap tap tap

is trying to get my attention. I can't find the phone. I'm too scared to even move. What do I do?

A massive paw is banging on the window. The only thing I know to do is to run.


Friday, January 14, 2011

A Conversation with Death

I saw Death today. I know it's Him before He speaks my name. He's not wearing his usual black garb, nor is He carrying a sickle. No, Death has come dressed for comfort. His denim jeans are ripped at the knees. He wears His baseball cap backwards over His shaggy blond hair. Hi weather -worn flannel shirt coveres a faded Greatful Dead t-shirt. Apparently, Death has not gotten the memo that the 90's are calling and they want their grunge look back.

But, I see Him on the corner of Wilshire and Brooklyn. He is casually leaning against the pole that holds the walk/don't walk sign. As cars pass by, Death peers into the driver's side windows. He shakes His head at the occupants of the cars. He can hear their conversations and seems a bit disgusted.

I approach Death with caution. After all, He is Death. A sneeze in my direction and my poor mother will be picking out gravestones.

"What are you doing?" I ask curiously. Meaning: Why in the world are you standing on a street corner when there is someone somewhere waiting to punch out?

He knows what I mean. "I'm bored. Life has no meaning."

"Of course it doesn't." I reply. "Life shouldn't have any meaning to you."

Death shakes his shaggy head. "No, I mean, life has no meaning for these mortals. You mortals, rather. Used to be I was invited to a game of chess for someone's life. Then I was downgraded to poker. Hell, now I'm lucky if I can get anyone to play Go Fish with me. It's sad."

I don't follow Him. And I tell Him as much.

"Well, people aren't interested in living anymore. But, they don't want to die. You mortals have turned into the walking undead. You go through the motions of life. You don't taste the wonder of it. You're too scared to fall in love. Too scared to be alone. Diseases run rampant around here, and yet no one takes care of themselves. When I arrive to claim you, you're not even interested in living enough to challenge me. You just give in."

I tell Him I understand what He's saying. After all, I'm guilty of the very thing He is referring to. My days consist of work, home, kids, and then I do it all over again. I can't remember the last time I stopped to just marvel at anything. I was about to agree with Him, but I got the feeling Death didn't really care if I agreed or not. He just wanted to talk and needed someone to listen.

"I met a fellow one time," He says. "This was the strangest fellow. He didn't have any friends. No family to speak of. He just was a person. He'd go to work in a shoe factory. Come home in the evening and eat these most gawd-awful tv dinners. That's what his life was. Work. Home. Tv dinner. Saddest bastard you ever did meet. At least that's what I thought of him."

Death pauses in His narrative to pull out a cigar and light it. I catch myself before I begin my lecture on the evils of tobacco use.

"Anyhow, this poor average joe goes to the doctor one day. Something about insurance premiums through his work and him having to proove he was still healthy to keep insurance." Death sighs. "What I mean is, there's no real reason for him to go to the doctor. But, he goes and they find that he had pancreatic cancer. Can you fucking believe it? And he has, like, six months to live. So he goes home and pops in a tv dinner and turns on the tv. Ya know, continues his normal routine."

I nod to show that I follow what he's saying. The light turns at the corner we're standing at and people file by us to cross the street. Death is so wrapped in his story that He notices none of the activity. He is staring intently at the sky and speaking between puffs on his cigar.

"So, one night, about 3 months after he gets the news I come and visit. I mean, it's time for him to go. I'm just doing my job. Right?" Death looks at me expectantly.

"Oh, yeah of course." I say. "You can't just not visit. This place would be over run with average joes, and janes, and sams....."

"Yeah. So anyways," Death continues. "I appear at the foot of this poor slob's bed. All dressed up in the ridiculas uniform I have to wear. I tell him it's his time... Yada yada yada. And you know what this genuis says to me?"

I shake my head no.

"He tells me he doesn't want to die. He tells me that life is to wonderful to leave. He says he's still waiting on the love of his life. That God (and can you believe this?), that God hasn't sent her to him. I mean, the guy's had his heart trampled on, but he's still waiting. He still ~believes~ that love is just around the corner. This schmuck is refusing to die until he finds this mysterious woman. Can you believe that shit?"

"So, what did you do?" I ask Death.

Death looks down at  His cigar and flicks the ashes. "What was I supposed to do? I hit him over the head with my sickle and went on to the next one. He's roaming around the heavens right now."

I clear my throat nervously. He puts out His cigar and offers me His hand.

"Now, what about you? Are you going to give me the same speech or are you ready to go?"

I look at Him in His grundged out, faded look. He looks more like 20-something college kid than the sinister being that I have seen in books. I realize that He's really nothing to be scared of.

"I'm not going to give you the same speech," I inform him. "But, I tell ya what. Let's go into that coffee shop across the street. I'll play you a game of chess and we'll discuss you letting me live."

A sly grin plays across Death's face. "You're on!"

Three hours and two chess games later, I walk out of the coffee shop and head home. Life is just too beautiful not to live it.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Insomia Part 2

I understand now with perfect clarity what I had been fighting to understand throughout my twenties. Before my children came and took away any spare moments I might have had, before the husband sat down and asked me my thoughts every night, before adulthood came crashing down and demanded of me what so many others were willing to give, I fought to understand who I was. I wanted to know why I was frightened every night. Why, when the sun said it's final farewell, did I begin to panic. At night, when seemingly normal human beings cuddled up to their loved ones with thoughts of passion in their minds, I grasped hold of whomever I could as a drowning man would grasp for a single piece of floating debris.

Alone, fear would grip me. I would lay in bed, tossing and turning. It would toy with my emotions. Tell me there was someone outside ready to strike as soon as I closed my eyes and breathed deeply. I know now that this is not the case. I realize that the only monsters I am to be frightened of are the ones I create for myself. Isn't that the case with all of us? The terrible, tragic events that play out in our mind's eye are much worse than anything reality could ever deal.

But, I knew none of this in my early twenties. My memories were buried deep into my subconscious, only brought to surface when sleep graced me with its presence.  I would try to sleep only to find myself staring at the clock. My mind would play it's cruel tricks on me. Shadows would become intruders. A creaking floorboard would be a man ready to grab me and haul me off to anywhere but safety. But, when I was in some one's arms sleep would arrive. It would kiss me gently on my forehead and whisper its dreams in my ear. There were no intruders. No kidnappers were waiting to snatch me. I was safe. To me, safety was not a locked front door. Safety was not something that prayer brought at night. Safety laid in the arms of a body laying beside me. Eyes closed. Breathing deeply.

Safe in the arms of my lover, I would sleep the sleep that had been denied to me. But, even then, my sleep was not uneventful. I would dream things that I had no memory of. I would awaken in a cold sweat, only to be lured back into the sweet darkness of sleep. When morning came, I would shake the frail memory of the night before and carry on with my day. I had no way of knowing that my dreams were my subconscious speaking to me. Telling me to remember. Never wanting to forget. But, I didn't know anything of this then.

It took time for me to learn to listen to myself. Ridiculous as it may sound, but rarely does anyone actually listen to their inner voice. We should. We should listen to what our subconscious tells us. This is how God talks to us. It is in our dreams, in our inner voices that He tells us what He needs us to know. It took me awhile to realize that.

I am now in my early thirties and I view my world much differently. I walk a path that my twenty year old self was unable to take. I listen to my subconscious as it speaks to me. I trust what it tells me. I analyze the information. I no longer see anything in the shadows. I find solace in a prayer and not in some one's arms. And even though sleep still remains an ever elusive creature, always at the edge, never quiet coming when beckoned, I do not feel the same panic when the sun sets. I view night as an old friend now. I have the tools to fight the devil as he stands on one side of the bed. He does not frighten me. For I have God on the other side ready to do battle.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Oreo Cookie Blues

As I stare into my cabinets and contemplate death by Oreo, a Phil Collins song starts to play in the background. Before I realize it, I begin to sway to the music. As Phil sings how there's only a memory of someones face, I begin to hum. And before long, I sing at the top of my voice. Long runs....screams of agony; the whole nine yards. I am feeling Phil Collins' pain.

Then I snap out of it. I shake off whatever depressed moment I was in and slam the cabinet shut. No Oreos for this girl. No more Oreos for the chick who sits at home on a Saturday night curled up in a Thomas the Train blanket that smells like a 3 year old. No more for the broad who would rather chat by text then hear another humans voice. I don't deserve the deliciousness of an Oreo cookie. I have taken advantage of the comfort it gives as it melts in my mouth. I no longer relish the bag that at one time could sit in my cupboard for a month. These days, the package only lives for two days before I mercilessly demolish it with a Pepsi.

No wonder my size eights are too tight.

I know what I am doing. I have replaced companionship with food. Instead of reaching for the phone and asking a friend to a movie; I reach for an Oreo and set my DVR to play whatever campy Lifetime movie I recorded for such a time as this. I have become the epitome of pathetic. What's worse is that it doesn't bother me. I don't feel the loneliness that consumes me. I now view my isolation as an old friend ready with a bowl of popcorn to discuss the bad acting of the movie I'm watching. It has become my dearest confidant. My bff. My homie. My road dogg.

And that, ladies and gents, simply will not do.

So, from now, I will throw off the Thomas the Train blanket that could actually use a good washing. I will no longer turn on Phil Collins, Celine Dion....or Yanni. Instead I will jam to the "Rump Shaker" or something along those lines. I will go out on a Saturday night, and not just to the bookstore alone either. I will find my social life once again. I will accept the invitations of socialization from well meaning friends. I will discuss the mundane. I'll laugh when it's appropriate. I will pat a distraught cohort on the back with a "There-there." In short, I will re-join mankind.

Of course, if all else fails, I could always end it all with some double stuffs and a glass of milk.