Kick start your week with a lil' moxie!
I fell asleep cradled in a New York lullaby.
The steady pulse of passing traffic.
The blaring tenor of honked horns.
The biting falsetto of a siren’s wail.
The city’s rhythms worm their way into my dreams.
Fireworks of inspiration ignite all around me.
Their vibrant colors rain down, dropping
hopes and dreams
at my feet.
I am jolted awake by a New York symphony.
The shuffling hum of commuters.
The shrieks of school-bound children.
The crescendo of a new day filled with possibility.
Kick start your week with a little moxie!
Leonard didn’t like poetry. Hated reading in general. But he knew better than to say so since responses fell into one of two categories: pity or disgust. He would fare better if he didn’t own a television or was gluten free. So, he kept his mouth shut. It was this lack of sharing that had led him to this moment.
“You’re going to love her,” his sister insisted. “She’s smart and funny. Cute. And she’s a poet.”
She rolled poet off her tongue like it was bubbles or candy or unicorns. But Leonard felt the sharp edges of the word striking through every nerve in his body. The instant dread sent his mind grasping too quickly at excuses, mushing them together and leaving him unable to form a single, cohesive argument against it.
Now, as he shifted uncomfortably in his chair, his blind date tried in earnest to dust away some of the awkwardness between them.
“So, Kelly tells me you work in corporate sales?”
Leonard flipped his fork over a couple times and nodded. He knew social norms required him to respond with: And she tells me you’re a poet. But the thought made his fingers curl around the fork handle and he had to will himself not to it jam in his eye.
There was an underlying plea in Juliet’s tone. For him to respond with actual words or to even send a glance her way. The problem was that his sister was right. Juliet was cute.
But the future he imagined with her was bleak. A never ending carousel of feigning interest in words she slapped together in the name of art. Why couldn’t she have chosen a life as a dentist? Or a barista?
Thankfully, the waiter arrived to take their orders. Juliet lit up at the opportunity to really talk to someone. The comfortable Juliet was light and funny and the waiter genuinely laughed at her clever banter.
Leonard knew he should appreciate this. The real her. But he also knew he couldn’t. For as long as he could remember, he fixated on things. Too many times it led to him being alone. Snorts when she laughs? No thanks. Inserts ums between every word? Nope. Yammers on and on about whatever book she’s reading? Uh-uh.
And it wasn’t like he was such a catch. Leonard wasn’t foolish enough to think that. Clearly his social skills needed a complete overhaul. And that was just the tip of the iceberg. He was ruthless at his job and grew more isolated every day in his personal life. Evenings consisted of getting food delivered and watching television. It was no wonder he didn’t know how to talk to people. How to make them comfortable. How to give them a chance.
The waiter took their menus and a tortuous silence fell over the table again. Leonard swore he could feel the heat generated from Juliet’s mind working overtime on what to say next. With her gaze focused absently out the window, he found himself staring at her. She gnawed at her lower lip and her furrowed brow twitched every once in a while. No doubt the manifestation of an idea of what to say being shot down. The passing headlights lit up her eyes and despite the intensity in her face, Leonard couldn’t overlook her softness.
It triggered something in him. A lightness. An understanding. His sister was one of the only people in the world he trusted. And one of the smartest. She had to have known what she was doing when she arranged this date. She didn’t need him to tell her about his aversion to poetry. That was the kind of thing she just knew. Just like how she probably knew the path his life was heading down was a lonely one.
Juliet’s poetry wasn’t what was ruining the date. Or what made him believe her to be undateable. Reality socked Leonard right in the jaw. Shocking and painful and difficult to accept, but ultimately undeniable. So, he cleared his throat, drawing her attention. The hope in her eyes scared him, but there was no turning back. Instead, Leonard took a moment to toe the edge before taking a giant leap into what he hoped to be a new life. A new Leonard.
“So, Kelly tells me you’re a poet.”
I was four years old when I was taken from my mother. It was surprising how vividly I remembered the day, despite trying to forget it…and every day since. I remember the way my ankle bones bounced off each other, my legs wrapped around my mom’s waist. The strong yet tender way her arms wrapped around mine. The blur of green that passed under her bare feet as she ran across the field at the back of the Big House. How beautiful and celebratory the flashing red lights edging the house from the other side looked.
There were at least a dozen of us. Other moms. Other kids. Except for John, Jr. I remember thinking how strange it was that he wasn’t with us. Aside from Father, he was the only other boy in the house.
People appeared on either side of our home. Dressed in black, they looked like ants as they entered the field. Freeze, they shouted over and over as they ran toward us. Some of the kids stumbled. Some of the moms did as they were told. But my mom kept running, telling me it would all be okay, her voice raspy and spent. And I believed her.
Now, tugging at the skirt of the dress my husband told me to wear, it hit me how wrong my mom had been. And how deeply rooted those first lessons of what it meant to be a woman were. Despite being placed in foster care and adopted out, I had somehow still become her. Even down to falling for and marrying a man named John. Shame sliced me through the gut. I had never once tried to stop the fall as I tumbled into a cult of one.
Memories whisked me away from the loud, crowded bar where I was surrounded by John’s friends. Taken back to that day I felt the warm air against my cheeks. The smell of the sun meeting the blades of grass in the field. The beating of my mom’s heart against my chest.
She ran because she never knew she was a prisoner. At least not until it was too late. But I knew. For her, for me. I knew.
John dug his fingers into the fat of my arm, snatching me close to ask through clenched teeth why I was smiling. But I was enveloped in a calm I’d never known as the field came back into view. It beckoned me toward freedom. It filled with a sunny glow and informed me that I had a choice. I had a chance.
Kick start your week with a lil' moxie!
Milly flicked her tail as she whined and buried her face into my calf. Reaching down behind her ear, I scratched her favorite spot and struggled to recall the last time she’d been so needy. I wondered if she somehow knew that in just a few hours she would no longer be a part of my life. At best she’d be the spark of a memory that never quite ignited. A fleeting wisp of familiarity that dissipated quicker than it appeared.
Not so long ago people lived with their pasts, no matter how painful. The lucky ones would go through years of therapy, talking about their issues until they became manageable. That wasn’t enough for me. I had no doubt that most people in my position would make the same decision. Would sacrifice everything they once knew to forget the feeling of their cheekbone crushing under the fist of the man they believed loved them. Forget the time—every single time—they accepted his apology and stayed.
In my isolated world, Milly was my only bright spot. My only constant. She never judged me and was always there to lick my wounds. At the first appointment I’d asked about the possibility of keeping her in my life, but they made it clear that memory swipes were all or nothing. Losing her was breaking my heart, but at least it wouldn’t last for long.
I nuzzled my nose into her neck and held her until she started to squirm in my arms. She leapt soundlessly onto the hardwood floor, but didn’t go far. She stared at me with her piercing yellow eyes and somehow I knew she’d miss me. Without breaking our gaze, she let out a single meow. Just one to say goodbye before she turned and hopped up on the couch. She never looked up again as she circled her favorite spot and curled up into a fuzzy gray ball. My hand itched to pet her once more, but I couldn’t. One step would be all it took to weaken my defenses.
I grabbed my bag from the floor and read over the carefully crafted note one more time. It said nothing of how or why I’d reached my decision, it only held instructions for taking care of Milly. Her new owners would need to know about her favorite spot, her favorite toys and that she was afraid of the vacuum cleaner.
I wished it had been that simple for me. A note full of care instructions that broke down my needs as simply as a laundry tag. Handle with care. Be gentle. Do not hit.
Long, lazy purrs wafted from the couch. I found the sunlight circling Milly and giving her an ethereal glow. A fitting reminder of what an angel she’d been in my life. My old life.
With the dulcet tones of New Age music surrounding her, Audra felt weightless. Inhaling deeply, she held it for a moment as she floated. She exhaled and her mind filled with images of…violence and murder.
She untangled her legs and plodded down the hall trying to recall the last time her boyfriend had annoyed her this much. He was on the floor with his back against the couch, fingers dancing frantically over the game controller. She stared at him for a while, but it was clear that he didn't realize she was there..
“How am I supposed to meditate when you have this thing blasting?”
Her exasperated gesture toward the television went unnoticed, his eyes never leaving the gun-toting, carjacking character on the screen. The silence hung in the air so long she doubted that he’d heard her.
“Sorry, babe,” Denny finally said.
The rich colors of the game reflecting in his eyes and the lack of remote control reaching betrayed the sincerity dripping from his voice. A string of past apologies played in her mind and she questioned the authenticity of each one. A pain radiated along her jawline drawing her attention to her clenched teeth and pressed lips. All of this wasn’t worth a fight right now. She wanted to feel centered, not angry.
She shot one last look toward Denny through narrowed eyes and grabbed the headphones off the coffee table. Heading back to the room she had to remind herself to breathe.
“I really am sorry,” he said and with the sounds of squealing tires and utter carnage dissipating, she believed him.
Audra crossed her legs, inhaled deeply and smiled as she placed the headphones on the floor.