This is a short story poem I wrote in continuation of “Her Mind’s Eye on Suicide” (see November 21st post).
(Photo Credit: Matt D., St Peters, MO)
A voice from afar travelled through the wind and suddenly Quinn was stopped from committing a sin. A virtuous being leapt in her way, of what was supposed to be a tragic day. They both lay on the ground as they tried to breathe in heavy. They gasped for air and tried to level their heartbeats steady.
“What the hell were you doing? The train was coming straight for you,” he said, “The lights were in your face, you weren’t moving. If I didn’t save you, then you’d have been dead.”
“I’m at war with myself,” she replied. “Peace is not a piece of me. And I don’t think it’ll ever be. What’s peace without war and everything free? The games are futile and fun until someone gets hurt. Thought I’d get me some so I could sleep beneath the dirt.”
He lay there, in the field of grass, next to the girl who was willing to make those moments her last. He couldn’t help but think about the world with one less girl and although to her he was just a stranger he explained that he was no stranger to danger. He didn’t own a cape or have special powers, yet he felt like a hero with a new purpose to devour. He turned over to stare at the girl who was cloaked in despair. Bewildered by him she asked, “But why do you care?”
All the while he couldn’t help but smile. He rolled over on his back and stared at the stars and asked her if she ever dreamed of some place far. She nodded and asked him why, he began this story as his reply: “I lived in a concrete garden of evil, where no roses bloomed, only weeds. I was living life in upheaval and to never bite the hand that feeds. Every night I prayed that I’d be freed but you can’t escape a life of greed, when you’ve been planted in the system as a seed. Sometimes your only option is disappearing, when you’re faced with lessons on how to be immoral as a form of child rearing. A victim of being open minded. A thought escapes, now I can’t find it. This fine print of fine with it is enough to make me quit it, but it’s either you’re with it or you belong to a pile of shit where no troubled kid wants to be, when all he ever wanted was to be free. So this life of damnation and cowards, yes, makes you hungry for a life out there, which reeks of success. But this life doesn’t exist when you’re told to starve to death. Your only time to eat is when you’ve done your best. But your best is the worst, when it’s blood that quenches your thirst, so you’d rather go hungry and thirsty because you’re fated to die. And we all die inside. Not old, but young, when all you’ve got is your gun. Not a soul to save you for what you have done. When it’s the devil on your shoulder claiming you’ve won. So your desire sets in, because you’d rather win but when you’re faced with loss, you realize it’s a sin. To take someone’s life from him when they needed it most, but now you’re a magician and turned him into a ghost. With a bang, bang…damn. You thought you’d feel like a man, you didn’t think that you could but you can, when the one behind the gun is the one who had ran. They say that when you live behind the gun you’re bound to live forever, who’d have thought taking lives would be your future endeavor? But you don’t live forever; no one ever does, especially when you’re living to die at the hand of someone. Told to toughen up because men, they don’t cry, unless you’re weak or you want to be the good guy. They raised me to fear no one, not even God. When you kill it’s for the greater good and they give you an applaud. I learned to test my faith in a pistol and to believe that God is gone, my mamma’s praying for her only son, after I became a son of a gun. I was a survivor of fate, danger my mate, when all they used was power as bait. Glory be to Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, are the last words I said because I just could hear it. The sounds of screaming and sirens, I was just begging for silence. Sometimes I’d wonder, are we living to die or dying to live? That spell I was under is a gift I can’t give. We’re screwed up and scared and never prepared. We only see what we want to see or what we can through a lens, which is just a means to an end. All I’d ever hoped for was heaven and I’ll I ever got was a hell, sending letters to the devil in the mail. We’re convinced to love this violent life as if it were beautiful, until you watch someone die. You often bear witness to your best friend’s last breath as they lay there with open arms and welcome death. These are the stories which you’re told to never speak of just like your preacher who won’t tell you there isn’t a God.”
She lay there and listened to him unfurl a new world in his story of danger and despise. “It’s a story that should stay between you and I,” he said, “you wouldn’t tell it if you tried. Keep your tongue aligned with your promise to comply. You’re going to pack your things and run away to a place where we don’t count the days, the days where you fear it’s your last, where fear is a thing of the past.” She took his hand and ran with him, where she could learn to live again and he could learn to live a life without sin.
He said, “Here’s to a new beginning.”
She replied, “Here’s to good deeds and sinning.”
This poem depicts one of Quinn’s darkest moments in the book (the one I’m writing). It’s from a scene where she writes a letter to the people she’s leaving behind.
I’d let you in on my little secret but then that would spoil it for you. Perhaps another poem is the answer to your question what happens next? Let’s see if Quinn can be rescued from her tragic state of mind…
“He whom God has touched will always be a being apart: he is, whatever he may do, a stranger among men; he is marked by a sign.” -Ernest Renan
TALES FROM A COFFEE SHOP: A Story Within A Story
I often get approached by the strangest people in coffee shops. I haven’t figured out why this is the case but I assume they feel that I, a.k.a lonely girl sipping coffee by the window clearly stuck in thought, am the best candidate who will listen to their obscene analysis on anything small but enormously important to them. Today I had an entirely different experience meeting a stranger. It was what I would consider bittersweet and beautiful in its own way. It was just what I needed. You know that moment of bittersweet clarity, which makes you sigh and go “hmm”? This was one of those moments.
I sat down with my coffee and opened up the paper to read the obituaries, as I sometimes do. Some would find this morbid but I find them interesting. I’ve been fascinated with death and stories about those who have passed since I was a kid. I always wondered where we go when we die. Do we turn into dust and nothing more? Do our souls leave our bodies and venture off to other places, or do we come back as someone else or something else? Everyone wonders about life after death. It’s why we place so much emphasis on living the one we have now, to the fullest. We are given life and then we spend the rest of our lives searching for its purpose or meaning.
So I sat down with my coffee and opened up the paper. An elderly man dressed in a beige peat coat and a hat walked by my table, smiled and said hello, as he usually did. I often saw him there alone. He’d stare out the window and smile. I never really knew what he was smiling at but I admired him for his happiness. Maybe he was deep in thought and was reminiscing about something lovely? He didn’t seem complacent or worrisome, yet there was a particular sadness that followed him, a certain kind of sadness that made me wonder what his story was. Unlike any other day, today he stopped to talk to me. When you’re a regular at a coffee shop and you see other regulars, they are bound to turn a smile into a conversation at some point or another. That’s exactly what happened today. He walked up to my table and asked me what I was reading. I looked up at him and pointed to the paper “I’m reading the obituaries.”He looked at me with sadness and asked me if I had lost someone recently. I told him I hadn’t and explained that I occasionally read them because I find them interesting. He couldn’t understand why. He said I was too young to be concerned about death. I explained that one is never too young at all because death can happen at anytime, whether you’re young or you’re old. I figured I may as well reciprocate with the same question, so I asked him if he ever read the obituaries. He replied, “Everyday.” I wondered why. He sat down and asked me if I had time to listen to a story. I smiled and said “Sure, have a seat.” It was always a pleasure to listen to a story, especially a story from someone I had never met before.
He began to tell me that the reason why he loved to read obituaries was because his heart had never completely left the woman he once loved. I was confused. Had she passed away? Had he lost the opportunity to tell her that he loved her? He began his story by describing where he had grown up and talked a lot about a lady named Eva who had grown up with him. He said that they were practically neighbors. They attended the same high school and college and became very good friends. He was always too shy to ask her out but finally after college he worked up enough courage to ask her to the graduation dance. They dated for a year after that and then her family moved away- somewhere up north. He missed her tremendously. They called and mailed letters to each other but eventually the phone calls stopped and the letters came every so often until there were none. He had hoped that she’d call or write, but she never did.
A few more years passed and he heard through a friend that she was teaching at a school in Toronto. He decided to pay her a visit at the school. He waited across the street and watched her line up the boys and girls for home time. He told me that she looked as beautiful as she did when he last saw her. He described her as having milk white skin, dark brown hair and light green eyes. He said she was absolutely divine. His conscious was at war with him as he watched her from afar. A part of him told him he was crazy and begged him to turn around and go home. The braver part of him told him to sit tight and wait. When she finally emerged from the school doors his heart started beating so fast that he thought it was going to leap out of his chest. He called out her name from across the street. He said that she turned around slowly and smiled like an angel and mouthed his name. He was so happy that she remembered who he was, even after all those years. After a long-winded explanation for how he had caught wind of her teaching there, he asked if she’d like to get a cup of coffee. She frowned at him and declined. She explained that she was engaged to be married. She said that although she appreciated the effort, it would be indecent of her to be fraternizing with an ex-boyfriend. He told me his whole world had crashed and had fallen down on him. When I asked him what he said or what he did, he replied “Nothing. I just smiled. I had to be happy for her if she was happy. I wish I had told her I loved her though. Maybe that would have changed things. Maybe not. I’ll never know.” He told me that he had never loved any other woman the way he loved Eva and that he should have listened to the skeptical voice in his head telling him to go home. He had humiliated himself out there in the street in front of the woman he loved so much. I told him that he would have always wondered about the what if. He smiled and agreed. So I asked him what his story had to do with reading obituaries. He told me that although he had never run into her after that, there was hope he’d see her or hear her name again. After all these years and old age getting the better of him he thought maybe he’d see her name one last time in an obituary. I thought this was a little alarming. Why would anyone want to hear of someone passing away or see someone they knew in an obituary? He said he wasn’t sure when his moment to pass would be and explained, “I’m getting old and I could pass away any day now but perhaps if I see her name in the obituary then maybe I’ll feel better about dying. Maybe our souls will someday re-unite and we’ll get our chance in heaven.” I looked at him in awe and with sadness. He said, “You might think I’m crazy but I’m telling you it’s better to love after than to never love at all. So tell the one you love that you love them because you may never get that chance.” After that, he got up and thanked me for listening. I was glad I listened. It’s a beautiful story that I think I’ll tell anyone I meet. After all, we all have a story to tell, whether it’s our own or a story which belongs to someone else.
On that note, I think its time to leave this coffee shop.