Ribbons wrap around trees that line the streets of the subdivision I live. I didn’t know why until yesterday. A 21-year-old woman who lived just blocks from me, away at college for her senior year, was killed by a hit-and-run driver.
Just minutes before, the young woman had been out with friends on a Friday night. None of those friends could know that that night would be the last night they’d hear that woman’s laugh. See her smile. Hear her voice. Feel her hug.
The goodbye they shared was their last goodbye. But none of them knew that until they got the call.
The sudden call that confirms you will never see a person you love ever again.
The call that changes lives forever.
The call every parent prays never rings for them and then is shattered in disbelief when it does.
But all you can do is pray because one can’t control the erratic car, they didn’t see coming, racing toward them while crossing a street at night.
One can’t control which classroom, which grocery store, which concert, which movie theater, or which parade a gunman will choose to spray his bullets.
Our fate is not always in our hands. Even the most obsessed control freak has to concede to that. There is no guarantee to a long life no matter how healthy a lifestyle you live.
You can eat right. Exercise daily. Limit risky behavior. But if your day brings you to the exact spot where a car will run a red light, or a bullet will pass with no warning, what can you do? What chance do you have?
Nobody lives forever. Death is certain. We all know that. But everyone wants a timely death. To die with a wrinkled face, silver hair, and a hundred years of memories lived, instead of just a couple decades.
How some people live long enough to see old age is a combination of good genes, self-care, and having the good fortune of never being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
When lives, especially young lives, are taken in such tragic, unfair, and nonsensical ways, it is easy to wonder what this life is for. Is it worth it? To live and love when your life and your love can be ripped away from you any minute of any day?
Our personal life experiences may answer that question for us.
The basement ceiling is still streaked with marks from when we used to play football. Made-up goal lines, just in front of the bar. I really don’t know how we didn’t break the glass case, shelved with wine and beer glasses, in the corner behind the bar. It’s a good thing. Grandma would have lost her shit.
How many touchdown passes had been thrown in that basement from when you kids used to live here? So many the Bears would have been envious.
The bin of swords we used to fight with, sometimes against each other, other times against imagined zombies, has been packed away a long time ago. That time I took your swords from you and hid them in my closet because you scared the dog, chasing him with a raised sword in your hands. Phil didn’t understand the game. You were young, but old enough to understand the innocence of a dog. You were just being mean, because you were the youngest and used to being a menace.
So, I had to take your swords away. Not forever. Just for a little while. Your older sister, always the protective Mother Bear, tried to sneak and steal them back, but I wouldn’t let her. She was mad at me. Her little brother could do no wrong. Ever. I used to always say that you could burn the house down and she’d yell at me if I gave you the slightest sideways look.
She used to knock on my door late at night. Two o’clock in the morning was nothing to that nine-year-old girl. I’d stop writing and we’d talk on my bed, mostly about the divorce, sometimes about other things. But we talked. The divorce happened when you were so young, and you were forgetting the memories you had of your mother and father being together. That was sad for you.
So, we talked through some memories. Popcorn movie nights with your parents. Watching Elf with your dad. That Thanksgiving at your house, when I came covered in puke because I’d thrown up with my head out the window, while Grandma sped down I55. A mixture of motion sickness and being hungover. Your oldest brother, just a young boy then, yelled out “Auntie!” and ran to greet me at the door. I shot my arm up and stopped him like a traffic patrol. “Don’t! Auntie has throw-up all over her.” Your father hosed the car down in your driveway, as I hosed myself down in his shower.
Birthday parties at the house you grew up, with the backyard you missed so much. The giant trampoline. The swing set you loved to hang upside down from that always pulled at my nerves. But you were fearless.
The day you came home from school after learning I was writing a lesbian book, because you’d crept up behind me the night before and read over my shoulder as I wrote on my computer, and shouted, with your backpack on your shoulders, “How’s your lesbian story coming, Auntie?”
I laughed. Your mother laughed. You were a funny nine-year-old girl.
Your other brother, just a few years older than you, was a homebody. He loved nothing more than cuddling on the couch with me watching sports or shows, mostly Pitbulls and Parolees and the Friday Night Lights series. “Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can’t lose.” You loved that.
In public, you were never the kid we had to worry about running off. You were a scared and anxious kid at times. You never strayed from my side. Ever. But your older brother, I’d lost him once at a Blockbuster on a busy Saturday night, and it was the most terrifying thirty-seven seconds of my life. I eventually found him kneeling at the end of an aisle, going through stacks of videos and DVD’s.
But you would never scare me like that. You were the boy who would take my hand in a parking lot before I even had to tell you, because you were scared of getting hit by a car. You told me your entire school schedule so that at any time during the day I could look at the clock and know what you were doing, what class you were in. You then wanted to know my daily schedule so that you could do the same with me.
That was the cutest thing. Well, maybe not as cute as the love notes you would write me when you happened to be over, and I wasn’t home. Sometimes you’d leave the notes right on top my desk, so I’d see it right away. Other times, you’d put it into a drawer and sometimes days or weeks would go by before I found the note telling me you love me. How happy you are to have me as an aunt. You’d tell me that I’m a great writer. I have all of them. All your notes. You’d ask me how many nephews love their Aunties as much as you love me. I’d say, “Probably not many.”
But you’ve all grown up and moved on with grown up lives, as children tend to do. We can’t go back in time or relive the past, but if we could, 2014 was a good year to live again. You guys still lived here. We were so close and spent so much time together. I was healthier. Happier. I hadn’t yet known the stress of a Donald Trump presidency. And covid was nothing but a word.
We can’t go back in time and relive the past. We can only hold our most cherished memories close to us and relive them in our hearts by never forgetting them.
My dog, Phil, has arthritis, mostly in his right back leg. So when he started favoring that leg, I gave him an anti-inflammatory I keep on hand for such occasions. Within a couple days, the limp went away and I stopped giving the anti-inflammatories. But four days after the initial limp in his right leg, Phil started hobbling, while favoring his left hind leg. This was unusual. The left leg wasn’t the usual favored leg, and the limp was never that drastic. So I called the vet the next morning and got Phil in for an examination that day. The doctor felt a tear, but I would need to see a surgeon to confirm. In the meantime, Phil’s anti-inflammatory was upped in dosage. This was on a Friday. By Thursday of the following week, my dog was dying of liver failure.
I had an appointment with the surgeon on Wednesday (before I knew about his failing liver), and a few nights before this, Phil was throwing up and not eating. I chucked it up to the stress he must have been feeling related to his injured leg. But blood tests showed morbidly high levels of liver enzymes, and I wasn’t prepared for the call from the surgeon telling me she was extremely concerned about my dog.
Just a few weeks ago, he’d been a completely happy and healthy dog. For an eleven-year old, Phil had avoided major health issues until now. Other than the usual yearly check-ups, I’d only had to take Phil to the doctor for an innocuous eye infection and common stomach issues. So it was crushing to accept that my dog was suddenly sick enough to die.
I spoke with my vet, and Phil was immediately given fluids that evening and put on seven different medications. His eyes and gums were heavily jaundiced, and it worried me. The hope was that we’d get enough fluids in his body to flush the liver. He was drinking on his own, but hardly eating, even with an appetite stimulant, but at least what he was eating, he was keeping down. Our go-to food was my mom’s homemade meatballs. Even with a failing liver, homemade Italian food was apparently hard to resist.
For the next few days, he went to the vet for IV fluids. After five days of almost no improvement, the doctor told me she wasn’t very hopeful, but if this was her dog, she’d give him a couple more days. A couple more days? Those words cut me deep. We were standing in the vet parking lot. The tears were hard to stop, though I don’t remember trying.
While Phil was at the vet getting fluids, I spent the time without him browsing through pictures on my phone, some taken at a park a mere two weeks before this happened. Those were emotional pictures to look at, because I knew the me in those pictures, with my dog, couldn’t fathom the reality that was in store in the short future.
I couldn’t stand being without him all day while he got his fluids, and I thought if my time with him was limited, I needed to be with him as much as I could. The vet agreed and she gave me fluids to put under his skin at home. You don’t go through a vein, you just stick a needle, attached to a long tube connected to a bag of fluids, in his skin. My brother did the honors of sticking him. I just couldn’t do it.
My brother loves that dog as much as I do. All you have to do is utter the word “Uncle” in front of Phil, and Phil’ll jump to his feet, tail speed-waggin’, in search of his favorite person. It’s heart-warming knowing my dog is so well-loved by people other than myself. Aside from his “Uncle”, Phil has a “Grandma”, “Aunties”, and “Cousins” who were all concerned for him. I had so much support from my family, I never went to a vet appointment alone. My brother was with me for every one of them, as well as for the fluids done at home
Phil loves sitting outside in the grass, so we sat outside as much as he wanted. Because Phil was filled with so much fluids, he needed to go out three or four times during the night. At three o’clock in the morning one night, Phil wanted to lie underneath a tree, near the street in front of our house, his favorite spot. It was a still and cool late July night, and I sat beside him and watched him take the night in. Phil was always so content and happy being outside.
One Sunday afternoon, a few days later, we sat underneath that same tree, and I thought this would be our last Sunday afternoon together. I kept noting the time, so that the next Sunday, I could look at the clock and say “at this time last week, I was lying in the grass with my baby”. Or, “At this time, I was rubbing Phil’s stomach.” I wanted to be able to look back on that Sunday and remember how every moment was spent with him. I was so conscious of my time with him. I suppose that’s what you do when you think you are living your last moments with a dog who is your everything.
The only other thing Phil loved more than sitting outside, was going to the park. My brother and I took him for a ride to his favorite place, and we took a lot of pictures. I hated thinking this was the end, but I wanted these days documented. I wanted to be able to look back at the possible last days of my dog’s life and know that despite everything he was going through, Phil was happy. I didn’t like thinking that way, but the vet’s words of hopelessness never left my mind, though it was hard to accept.
Still, after those “couple of days” the vet said she’d give her dog had passed, there was no doubt we were continuing with treatment. After a few more days of fluids and medication, we did another blood test, and though the levels were still high, they were lower than the previous test. And that was all the hope I needed. And when you’re pathetically desperate, as I was, all you can ask for is hope. Phil was still jaundiced, but we continued on.
About three weeks after getting the blood results that had showed his liver was failing, another blood test revealed all of his levels were back to normal. My dog survived liver failure. It is a major understatement to say that I am relieved and so appreciative to be allowed more time with my baby.
As Phil continues to age, I knew this wouldn’t be the last of his ailments, but I didn’t expect the next thing to happen so soon. The day after that last blood test, I noticed Phil’s right ear looked a little red. I thought it maybe have been an allergic reaction to something, so I left it be. But the next day it was even redder, so I called the vet. By the time I got an appointment, the infection was in both ears. A double ear infection seemed so innocuous compared to the liver failure he’d just survived, so I wasn’t very concerned. Phil was prescribed ear drops, but after three days of giving him those drops, my dog had completely lost his hearing.
I called the vet, and was told an ingredient in the drops, gentamicin, can cause hearing loss. The vet expected Phil’s hearing to come back after a couple days and periodic flushing, but it’s been five days now, and he still can’t hear his mommy’s voice.
In the last two months, Phil tore his ACL, survived liver failure, and is currently deaf. I wonder what is going through his mind. I know he’s confused, because he’s even needier towards me than he used to me. It’s as though he needs extra reassurance from his momma that he’s gonna be okay.
I haven’t given up hope that he will hear again, cuz what do you have if you haven’t got hope? If we got through liver failure together, we’ll get through this. Despite what happens, Phil will be okay because he’s loved so much, and I can only hope that he knows it.
Dana Perkins lost her longtime partner in a tragic accident. Although she still struggles with the loss, her profound loneliness is evidence that it is time to move on. She knows her deceased lover, Casey, wouldn’t want her living this way. Dana begins her slow process of letting go, removing reminders of Casey from her house, and dating again.
The women she meets leave Dana uninspired and missing her deceased partner even more. Just as she is about to resign herself to the belief that she will never love again, Dana meets Emily Daniels, a married woman who is deeply conflicted over her attraction to women.
Soon, the two women form a friendship that leads to deeper emotions. They discover that one moment in their past had brought them together in a way neither woman could have ever imagined. Is that one moment in time enough to let both women follow their hearts, or will they let their past continue to rule their future?
Here is an excerpt from my book, Loving Again:
Dana and Emily walked along the sidewalk as the sun began to set. The streets were quiet. At this time of night, Dana figured most people were settling in front of their televisions after a long day’s work. She slipped her hand into Emily’s and closed her eyes, realizing how much she missed this. She and Casey had taken many walks together along those same streets.
“You okay?” Emily asked.
Dana opened her eyes. “I’m fine.” She lightly squeezed Emily’s hand. “Just enjoying this.”
“You looked like you were out there for a second.”
“Walks do that to me. I love nature.”
They walked a little longer and then Dana pointed toward a park. “Do you want to sit down for a little while?”
They made their way toward the swings and sat down. Neither woman swung very high, merely dragged her feet over the dirt.
“I hope you don’t think I’m this big head case with everything happening with me and my ex.”
“A head case? Don’t be so hard on yourself. This is life. We figure it out as we go.”
“Thank you for not judging me.”
“There’s nothing for me to judge. I’m happy to be here with you.”“Not many people would say that about a date who talks about their ex all night.”
“This is different. If you’d been talking about some woman you were with and I sensed you were still in love with her, I wouldn’t be here right now.”
“I wouldn’t expect you to be.”
“Would it make you feel better if I talked about Casey?”
Emily looked at her, surprised. “Sure.”
“What do you want to know?”
“Everything you want to tell me.”
Dana peered at the ground and dug her shoes into the mixture of pebbles and dirt. She felt Emily’s eyes on her as she drew lines in the ground beneath her feet. “We all have our guilt. The heavy burdens that we carry,” she said. “You have yours. I have mine, but our hearts can only take so much. Do you want to know how Casey died?”
“We got a hotel in the city for the weekend. We were gonna see everything. That was the plan. We’d just gotten off a trolley, heading back to the hotel. We were standing on a sidewalk, talking. There was no warning that something bad was about to happen. I moved my hand to touch her, but she took off running away from me. I didn’t see him right away, but a little boy was chasing a hotdog vendor into the street. Casey saw him and she didn’t hesitate, not even a little.
“A little boy’s alive, but she isn’t, and I know that’s how she’d want it, but I never got to say goodbye to her and that kills me. I was angry for a long time. I resented all the people who lost the person they loved to something they could prepare for, because I envied their chance to say goodbye.
“Sometimes, I think it would have been easier losing her in some dull hospital room, looking diseased and weak, on a miserably cold, rainy day. I’d watch her become someone I no longer recognized and she’d look so pained that I’d pray for God to take her, believing she’d be better off.” Dana closed her eyes for a moment. “But that’s not the way it happened. Casey wasn’t better off dead and her death wasn’t merciful. It was violent.
“She died on a gorgeous summer day. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. You wouldn’t expect something bad to happen on a day like that. And Casey didn’t look like someone who was about to die. She was vibrant and healthy.” Dana smeared her sleeve across her wet eyes. “And I wish I’d had the chance to tell her I loved her, just one more time.”
“She knew. You must know that,” Emily said.
“All I know is that she’s dead and I never got to say goodbye…and I’ll never stop loving her.”
“No one should ever ask you to.”
Please check out my books, Her Name and Loving Again. Thank you!
I came out as a lesbian twenty-one years ago. I was nineteen years old. I told the people closest to me, one at a time. It was a positive experience, for the most part. There were lots of questions, of course. I was surprised at how surprised some of my loved ones were. I was a tomboy growing up, playing sports, wearing dirty clothes with holes in them. I hated dresses as a child. Still did as a nineteen year old, when I declared myself a lesbian.
So why some of my loved ones were surprised by my revelation, is astounding. Denial is fierce.
Last night, something happened that made me feel nineteen all over again. No, I didn’t try to buy beer with someone else’s ID who looked kinda, sorta, like me.
I came out to a loved one.
It started out as a typical Friday night. I was on my recliner, watching the Sox game. My sister’s kids were over. My seven-year old nephew was laid out on the couch next to me, my niece in college was working on her studies at the kitchen table behind me, and my other niece, twelve-years old, slid onto the recliner with me.
“Do you like girls?” she asked.
It was a casual question. There was no tone. Just a straight-forward, no-nonsense question. I was caught off-guard. This niece, as do all of nieces and nephews, has known for years that I write lesbian novels, and that I have a gay friend with whom I go to gay bars. But they’ve never asked if I was a lesbian.
I knew the question would come up soon. They’ve asked me other questions bordering the, “Do you like girls”, “Are you a lesbian, Auntie?” question.
“Auntie, why do you write lesbian stories?”
“Lesbians need to read, too, right?”
“Auntie, so you go to gay bars and watch boys kiss?”
“Yes, I do. And that’s okay.”
“Auntie, aren’t you afraid someone’s going to think you’re gay?”
“No, because being gay is okay.”
Maybe you’re wondering why I didn’t just come out and tell my curious nieces and nephews that I was gay. They were young – nine, ten, eleven years old. I didn’t think they were ready to know. Or maybe I wasn’t ready for them to know. Whatever the case, I didn’t volunteer the information, but I swore I would answer honestly if they ever directly asked if I was gay.
“Do you like girls?” my niece asked.
I tossed my head back. “Why would you ask me that? No, I don’t like girls.”
“It’s okay if you do. I respect gay people,” my niece responded.
I went back to watching the game, not believing that I had just lied to my niece. I did exactly what I told myself I wouldn’t do. I was not expecting that question at that moment. I was unprepared. In that moment, I wasn’t ready to tell her the truth.
When she got off the chair with me, I replayed in my mind what had just happened, and I knew I couldn’t keep things as they were.
Later, we were practicing our dance routine to Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud,” and I pulled her into another room.
“I’m sorry for lying to you,” I said.
“When?” she asked.
“When I told you I didn’t like girls.”
“You like girls?” she asked.
She smiled and jumped in my arms. She squeezed her arms tight around my neck. “I’m so proud of you! I love you so much.”
It was a beautiful moment. My twelve-year old niece is proud of me. I have to laugh at that. When we left the room, and joined the others, we went right back to where we left off. She didn’t treat me any differently. Being gay is really no big deal to her.
Later that night, we were watching the movie Signs, and she jumped onto the recliner to snuggle with me at the scary parts, like she always does.
I’m so pleased to have author, Annette Mori, on my blog today. She is the talented writer of the books, Out of this World, Love Forever, Live Forever, Asset Management, and Locked Inside.
Here’s an excerpt from Locked Inside, a story about overcoming great obstacles and freeing oneself from emotional prisons. But the heart of the story is about love.
Awareness came slowly to me, as the blanket of fog, smothering intelligence, rolled back. I imagined an intricate spider web in my head, tangled with fine silk strands. Wonder Woman was slicing through them like an adventurer hacking through a jungle.
I was still confused about where I was when I heard giggling. At first, I thoughtmy sisters were invading my sacred space.
“Shhh, come in here and tell me every little detail,” a girl’s voice said.
“I don’t think we should be in here, Tammie. We’re supposed to be doing our volunteer hours, not screwing around in a resident’s room,” a different voice huffed.
I opened my eyes and a fuzzy picture began to emerge. Two strange teenage girls were huddled in the corner of a foreign room with sterile white walls. I wasn’t in my bedroom at home and I began to panic.
It’s probably hard for people to truly appreciate the terror that I experienced at this particular moment in my life. I had no idea where I was, who these strangers were, or what had happened to me. I would later discover that I’d lost six years of my life while hovering in a semi-comatose state. They never did figure out the origin of the illness or why I went into a coma and by the time I showed any awareness, six years had passed and my family had accepted the original prognosis that I would never recover.
The tall, skinny one with red hair shrugged. “Don’t be such a tight ass, Carly.” She pointed in my direction and giggled. “She’ll never tell.”
“That’s just mean.”
“What? She’s a vegetable, but right now she’s kinda creeping me out. Look, her eyes are open and it’s almost like she’s listening to every word we say,” the redhead blurted out.
The other one looked at me and frowned. “I think we’re upsetting her. She’s breathing really heavy now and I think she can hear us. Something is wrong. She looks terrified.”
I was trying to move my head, my arms, my legs, anything, but none of my body parts would cooperate with me. I felt my breathing quicken and I desperately wanted to communicate with them. I wanted to know where I was and why I couldn’t talk or move.
“She does look kind of agitated, Carly. Maybe we should get your mom.”
They left the room and I tried to move my head. I managed to move it a couple of inches as I took in my surroundings. I was able to shift my eyes from side to side as I noticed a TV mounted high on the wall in the center of the room and a single bed with a simple nightstand on my right. It looked like a typical hospital room, but I wasn’t positive. In my mind, I was still ten years old and my parents were nowhere to be found. I wanted my mom. I wanted reassurance that everything would be okay.
I heard the click clickclick of heels on the linoleum floor and watched as an attractive dark- haired woman entered the room. She had a stethoscope draped around her neck and one of the teenagers followed her into the room. They had similar features and I wondered if she was the mom the redhead referred to earlier.
“I’m sorry, Mom, Tammie dragged me in here. I didn’t mean to upset the patient but shelooked like she was trying to say something. Her breathing got kinda fast like she was having a panic attack or something,” the young woman confessed.
Well, that answered that mystery for me. The beautiful girl must have been the one the redhead, Tammie, called Carly. As each minute passed, I was becoming more aware of my surroundings and I was working to remember little details like the names of the young girls.
“Carly, it’s not like you to get sucked into Tammie’s harebrained ideas. I taught you better than that. Belinda is a very special case, but I don’t think she actually heard you or that you upset her in any way. She’s been completely unresponsive for nearly six years. Unfortunately, her illness caused severe brain damage.” “I know she reacted to something,” Carly insisted. “Okay, let me check her out.”
The woman grabbed her stethoscope and I felt her hands push aside my clothing as she placed the silver end on my chest. Her hands were gentle, but the stethoscope was cold and I must have had some small reaction—although it didn’t feel like any part of my body would obey.
“I’m sorry, Belinda, did you feel that?” she asked.
Carly stepped up to the bedside and I could feel her touch my hand.
I looked down at my curled up hand, which resembled some kind of deformed claw.
“My mom’s a doctor. She won’t hurt you,” Carly soothed.
Since I wasn’t able to move any part of my body but my eyes and my head in incremental movements, I concentrated all my energy on letting them know there was someone locked inside this useless body. I wasn’t a vegetable.
“Hmmm, in all the years I’ve looked in on Belinda, she’s never reacted like this. She does respond to certain stimuli. We’ve always been able to feed her as long as someone touches her lips first. This is new, though. Her heart rate does appear to be elevated and there is definite movement in her eyes. Perhaps she is reacting to your voice.”
Yes. It was a start. I had to find a way to communicate and let them know I was aware and present. My instinct for survival and Carly’s soothing presence was enough to tamp down the initial terror I felt. Everything was still too new for me to truly experience the first stage in the grief process. That would come later and didn’t last long. I’d always been a practical child. It didn’t serve a useful purpose to deny my limitations, so I didn’t remain in denial for very long.
Elisabeth Kubler Ross’s five stages of grief don’t just occur when someone experiences the death of a loved one—a significant loss in one’s life can certainly trigger that grief process, as well. I’d lost my childhood and during the next several years, I spent various amounts of time in almost every stage—denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
“Can I read to her or something, instead of the other duties the volunteers do? Please, Mom. You just said that maybe she reacts to my voice. I want to help,” Carly begged.
“We’ll see. I need to make sure that would be okay with everyone, but it may be beneficial to Belinda. I don’t want Tammie in this room though—she doesn’t have the same altruistic motives that you have.”
“Aw, Tammie’s okay, she just wanted to get the scoop on my date last night. She was way more excited about it than I was and I still don’t see what’s the big flippin’ deal. I’m not even sure I want to go out with him again.”
“Why not? Isn’t he the heartthrob of your school or something—captain of the football team and good looking by teenager standards? He seemed like a nice boy. Anyone who can put up with your father’s twenty questions can’t be all bad.”
“He is nice, but I just don’t get that excited feeling that I’m supposed to when I’m around him. It feels more like I went out with my brother. Maybe there’s something wrong with me. Tammie says the same thing—that I’m the luckiest girl in school since he picked me.”
“You have plenty of time to find the right one. I thought your dad was the biggest dork the first time I went out with him. I only went on a second date because I felt sorry for him and then he kind of grew on me.”
As mother and daughter had theirlittle heart to heart conversation, I felt like an inanimate object. Something in the background that no one noticed unless someone pointed it out as if they were giving a tour of their house. I wanted Carly to stay and talk to me or read to me, but she left with her mother and I remained alone in an empty room void of any stimulation. I closed my eyes and tried to conjure up a mental picture of my family. I wondered where they were. The woman said I’d been unresponsive for six years. I wondered what had happened in those years. Was it only six years? Or was that merely the amount of time she’d worked here? Even if it was only six years, I was now sixteen years old. I’d already missed more than a third of my life. I had to find a way to break free of this prison because that’s what it felt like—a prison.
I was watching a movie with friends. The movie we were watching revolved around a highly-oppressed minority group of people living amidst a society filled with extreme violence and chaos. A scene unfolded as a visibly desperate man – who had fought every adversary he met as bravely as he could, whose mind had endured as much emotional suffering as it could possibly bear, and a man whose body had experienced pain it could no longer withstand – walked down a gravel street carrying a canister of gasoline. He stopped suddenly, poured the gasoline over his body and set himself on fire.
A young woman sitting beside me asked, “Why’d he kill himself?”
“Because he’s a coward and that’s what cowards do,” her boyfriend, sitting on the other side of her, replied.
This exchange took place more than a year ago, but I haven’t forgotten it, and probably never will. The tone that young man uttered his incredibly insensitive words lacked any hint of empathy or compassion. He made the ignorant statement unaware of the plight of those around him. He wasn’t close enough friends with every single person in that room to know their struggles, their downfalls, or to witness the quandary of their weakest moment.
He exemplified none of the human values (compassion, kindness, tolerance ) necessary to be a decent loving human being. I remember being angry when that young man said what he had said, but I didn’t say anything because I believe those who boast loudly and talk boldly, do so to hide their own weaknesses. I swallowed my dissent that night, and instead of challenging his words, I looked at the young man with sympathetic pity in my heart because maybe he was struggling a battle so deep and profound that he needed to appear stronger than he felt.
Maybe the young and confident man was putting on an act.
Or, maybe he was just an insensitive jerk.
But that night I chose to give the young man the benefit of the doubt, and I hope he made no one in that room feel like a coward if they were struggling to overcome their own weighted hopelessness.
According to Veterans Today, the annual suicide rate for veterans is 29.5 per 100,000 veterans. This suicide rate is 50% higher compared to people who never served in the military. If this young man knew of this statistic, I wonder if he would still have boldly stated that people who kill themselves were cowards.
I don’t know, but I do know that men and women who serve our country and protect our freedom are not cowards – no matter how their life ends, and the same applies to everyone else who loses their life to suicide.
Be tolerant. Be compassionate. Life is uncertain. Life is unpredictable. Life is uncontrollable.
There’s help for those who need it. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255
Note: I do not own this picture. If it infringes on any copyright I will take it down.
My lesbian novella, Her Name, is a sweet romance about a woman who believes the beautiful woman she dreams about is the real love of her life.
Here are a couple excerpts that I hope you enjoy!
She held me like she knew me as I cried in her arms. We lay on the bed, on top of the covers, as streaks of sunlight peeked through the curtains. She leaned against the headboard and cradled me in her arms, rocking gently. She had a tender, motherly touch, and the harder I cried, the closer she held me.
“Let it out, baby,” she whispered. “Let it out. I’m here.”
I wept freely until, slowly, my cries faded to whimpers, and soon, all I heard was the steady sound of my own heavy breathing. She pressed her lips against my forehead, kissed me, and told me she loved me.
I wrapped my arms tightly around her. “I love you, too.”
I opened my eyes to darkness as I reached my hand to the other side of the bed. It was empty. I quickly sat up and wiped the tears from my eyes, not believing I had dreamed of the same woman and had again woken up looking for her.
Now, I laid down my fork and leaned into my seat. I knew she didn’t want to talk about this anymore, but I did. “This all sounds crazy to you, and maybe in the beginning it was something to joke about, but now, I’m not sure. These pictures were taken directly out of my life, and this woman was in every one of them. You can’t tell me I just dreamed it from memory, because my memory isn’t that good! The photos were identical all the way from the clothes we wore, to the smile on our faces. Hell, even the background was the same! She was the only thing that was different. How could that be?”
I stared at her, waiting for a response as she took it all in.
“Like I said on the phone, I just don’t know what you want me to say. I’m not sure what you’re asking me. Is it weird? Yeah, totally, but I’m no dream expert, and neither are you. Like I said before, maybe it’s your subconscious taking over. I’m sure there’s a logical explanation, and it probably has some fancy scientific name.”
“She’s my wife,” I said flatly. “I saw a picture of us from our wedding, and we looked like we belonged together. We know each other. I mean, really know each other. I wish you could see us together, because you’ve never seen me this way with anyone before.”
“And what way is that?”
“In love,” I answered.
“In love,” Shelly repeated and then pushed herself away from the table. “Well, Maddy, me seeing you with her is something that will never happen. Do you wanna know why that will never happen?”
“I know why you think that will never happen, but that’s where you’re wrong.” I stared at her and said, “I’m just gonna come out and say it. I think she’s real.”
Shelly took a deep breath and pored over her food. “Maddy, Maddy, Maddy. What are you saying? This is crazy! I’m back to thinking these dreams are about your mom, because this is way beyond not getting laid. You lost a woman you loved, you miss her, and now you’re trying to replace all those things you miss about her with this other woman.”
Shaking my head, I said, “If this was just about me missing my mom, then why wouldn’t I just dream of my mom? There’d be no reason for this woman to be in my dreams if it were just about my mom.”
I watched a look of frustration cross Shelly’s face as she ran a hand through her hair. “You said you were at your dad’s today. How’s he doing?”
“Wow, that was a very obvious subject change,” I pointed out.
“I’m sorry, Maddy, but I’m having a real hard time digesting this food and your dreams at the same time. I need a fucking break.”
“Fine, but don’t use my dad as an excuse to change the subject.”
She touched my arm. “I’m serious. How’s he doing?”
I looked at her. “He’s desperately lost without her, and I don’t know how to make him better. Of course, I knew it would be hard for him to move on, but I thought eventually he would.”
“Maddy, it’s only been eight months. Give the man some time.”
“But he’s only getting worse. She was the love of his life, and he can’t live without her. Until I started having these dreams, I’ve never experienced that kind of love before and what it felt like to have someone to come home to, or someone to comfort you while you cry in their arms and take care of you when you lose your mom to cancer. The love he misses is the love I have with this woman.”
Shelly kicked the chair out from underneath her and came toward me. “What are you saying?” she yelled. “That you love this woman the same way your father loved your mom? Madison, that is ridiculous. It is not the same!”
I shoved myself away from the table and stormed across the room. “Maybe not here, in real life, but in my dreams it is! We were married! I saw the picture of us. We had a life together. We’d known each other a long time. I can feel it. Hell, my brother graduated from the academy eleven years ago, and she was in the pictures! Eleven years ago!” I stopped and took a deep breath. “If you could see these pictures, you’d understand. It isn’t just about the mere fact that she was in them, but it’s about how close she looked with my family. She was a part of my life.”
Shelly cocked her head and gave me a challenging look. “So you’ve known each other for a long time, you and this woman in your dreams. The two of you shared some great life together, yet you don’t even know her name. Madison, real people have names.”
If you like what you’ve read so far, you can purchase my book for only $2.99 on Amazon at the link below.
I’m currently working on a piece I wrote in college called The Hideout. I may keep the title, but most of the story will get tossed in the garbage soon, but it’s given me enough to work with, and though I’m sure I am barely a decent writer now, seventeen years ago, I sucked.
A horrible writer, but showed flashes of possibilities, ever so slightly, and today I’m trying to right my wrongs. It’s a big task, and only when my mind is saturated with enough alcohol do I believe I can succeed. It is late. I am drinking – writing – while watching a documentary on Kurt Cobain, and though I didn’t embrace Grunge when the music first hit the scene (because it knocked the #uck out of the long-haired, hard-rock bands I loved so dearly and I was bitter), it brings me back to my teenage years. I may not have connected instantly with the angry and depressing sound that was Grunge, I did love the fashion trend that came along with it. Flannels. Baggy jeans. Jesus sandals with socks. It was suddenly cool to dress like a lesbian…or the grumpy old man three doors down.
Plus, the ozone layer needed a break from all that Aqua Net. Goodbye high-hair!
And now, in the solitude of the late hour and the fog in my head, with Kurt’s tragic life playing in the background – I’m sure I can write this story – fix my mistakes as though they were never made because no one will ever know. No one needs to know how bad I was. The beauty of words written down that have never been read is that they are easy to erase.
And like magic, tonight, I will make my mistakes disappear. The mistakes I’ve made on paper. The mistakes not already revealed. The mistakes I don’t have to drink to forget because I can make them go away… and no one will ever know.
Usually I eat a bag of Doritos when my head is this heavy, but tonight I write. A half-filled glass sits next to me that was filled four glasses ago, and I want to sleep, but tonight I write.
All of my old stories, finished or not, have death in them. I hadn’t noticed this reoccurring theme in my writing while I was writing them so many years ago, but there it is. Every damn story has a character who dies.
I reread a piece that I had submitted to a publisher fifteen years ago when I was twenty-four years old. This was before submissions were sent electronically and everything was sent through the mail. The response time was slow, about six months. Writers spent a lot of time waiting. I had sent a query letter, a precis, and the first couple chapters of my story. Some time later, a woman from the publishing company called me, talked about the process, and requested the entire manuscript. I was heart-pounding ecstatic.
Shortly after I sent my complete story to her, I received a thin envelope regretfully informing me that my book was rejected. After a phone call and talk about book tours, I was denied a chance at my dream.
A few months ago I reread that story. The piece needed heavy edits, but I didn’t think it was too terrible, until I got to the end. The book was about two women who, after a lot of push, pull, and resistance, fall in love and then in the end one of them dies in a plane crash.
In my precis I didn’t divulge the ending, but I did set the tale up as a love story because that’s what I believed it was, and this was the last line of my lovely love-story:
“Loneliness never killed anyone, though sometimes she wished it would.”
That was my romance novel – my version of a love story. It was depressing as $hit and I was only twenty-two when I wrote it.
I don’t know how I became so jaded about love and life. Maybe it was all that Grunge music I learned to love so much.