There was a day by the river; when I was sure that I could love him endlessly. The sun’s rays lit his light eyes so beautifully. Looking back, I can’t imagine how I didn’t see the razor blades behind those eyes. I thought I knew pain, I thought I knew broken, and I thought I knew disappointment. I didn’t. I learned all of these the first time he stood me up. I learned just how salty those tears taste, and yet, I still forgave him.
The night we made up was beautiful, I could taste the beer on his lips and he held me more sweetly than ever before. I gave in and let him hold on to me until the early hours of the morning, when he had to sneak back home. I reached out after he left and the emptiness of the space beside me felt all to familiar.
There were midnight phone calls and racing hearts mingling with whispered secrets. Before I knew it, I was driving over one hundred miles to see him again. I never did; he didn’t show. Again, I was shaking and crying and more angry than I had been in years. Later he apologized, I yelled and told him that I would not be falling back into him again.
Then, I found myself in my car again, driving the 126 miles to him. It was midnight in his bed, and I couldn’t get words past my lips. My heart was too heavy to speak. For the first time, he saw me broken. I watched him silently; after all of the heartbreak, I still believed I could love him. I ran my hands across his arms, calming myself, and I leaned in to kiss him softly. I was gentle and sadly beautiful as I let a tear slip down my cheek. We stayed silent a while longer and I could feel his disappointment in me. He held me tightly as I left, as if he was trying to glue me back together. I should have known. There was never another word from him, even when a month later, I finally told him that I was ready to stop letting him hurt me.
I was outside, pacing beneath the spanish moss trying to come down from one of my worst panic attacks. Tears were rolling down my cheeks without relent and I was wondering how the hell I was going to get on stage in two minutes and muster up that same old facade and smile. Breathing in wasn’t easy and it felt as if there was nothing left to breathe out. I could feel the redness in my cheeks and the heaviness in my chest. The stress of everything was finally surrounding me.
I closed my eyes and whispered a silent prayer. God answered. You stood at the door and there was no look of pity on your face, only one of hope. I crashed into you, still shaking, and instantly I felt better. You held on tight as if we’d done this a million times before, but we hadn’t. You’d never seen me cry, much less panic. I’m not a pretty crier and I apologized for that, but you just laughed. I smiled up at you and tried to wipe my tears off your jacket. “It’s okay,” you told me and I explained everything to you in broken scentences.
We stood there for a moment as you let me collect myself. A minute or so later, we were back inside and I was on stage, yelling with faux excitement. I watched you the whole time. I held on to your gaze because there was strength there. So, thank you for not running like so many people have. Thank you for continuing to gracefully protect me and always being willing to share a hug. You’re such an amazing human.
It has come to my mind a lot lately that this town is memory soaked. Every corner, every trail, and every building has a story stuck to it. Every person, every face, has a name that rings bells in your head and flashes images through your mind.
Where are your stomping grounds? Recently, mine seem to be growing. It seems that every exit off the highway has a beacon to a place I’ve momentarily considered home.
Drive north. Chattanooga street art and photographs of my best friend are the glue that holds the “Clumpies Icecream” sticker on to the back windshield of my car. Pura Vida juice bottles sit on my nightstand and ferment, because I’m too scared to loose the memories. They’ll always be there.
Drive east. Find the place that I’ve spent my summers in the Georgia heat. The Camp Christian lake begs us to jump in and maybe one summer we will. I’ve walked this path a thousand times and each time a new memory was made. Megan chipping her teeth. The night that I was sure there was a wolf prowling. So many midnight sneak-outs and games of truth or dare hidden in the dark. The place where I found God’s glory and I felt His grace.
Fly west. Seattle and Tacoma nestle the city of Puyallup where I spent that week senior year. A thursday night high school football game and friends I’ll probably never get the chance to meet again still soak the jacket I bought at the Tacoma mall. The henna from the state fair has washed away, but the memories never will.
Stay here. Marietta, Roswell, Atlanta: my true stomping grounds. As moving out edges nearer, more and more ancient memories swarm me. Land of a Thousand Hills still feels like french presses with Banter Squad. The Beltline and Kennesaw Mountain still remind me of Noah’s video camera. The Krispy Kreme in Marietta still makes me choke back the tears when I remember Jacob messing around, parking his car on the first night I truly met him. The one in Roswell is a reminder of free donut night after babysitting a wedding. Driving the roads here have a soundtrack that ranges from Bryce Vine to ODESZA.
They say you shouldn’t live in the past and that what has already happened doesn’t define you. I think it should. No, not your faults, but the memories. The memories that make you throw your head back laughing and the ones that bring tears to your eyes. That is who you are. That is what you’re made of.
He held her close in the cold of the room as if he really cared, but she knew better. This was his game; a chorus of “I love you,”s and secret conversations that meant nothing. She knew he was insincere; she knew that she was sharing him. He smiled and again, she felt as though he was her world. He was everything. Of course, he could never do anything wrong. Of course, he didn’t mean to hurt her. They never did. Naive.
His eyes were so light, though. He felt so solid when her mind was falling to pieces. How could he be bad if he made everything okay? Her skin began to tingle. Her body began to shake. His arms became tighter around her and he kissed her forehead. Yet again, she fell into him. She loved him; she was sure of it. The tears came silently, yet he felt it when they landed on his shirt. He let go. Crying always made him leave. “I have to leave, pretty girl,” he whispered to her.
She was cold again, still shaking. She was alone and this time he wouldn’t be coming back.
I was beyond upset. I was shaking and I could hardly walk. I met an old friend at a park, because he thought I would do something stupid if I was alone. We walked the green trails and talked about what the boy had done to me. He could see that I was struggling to walk and my legs were still feeling weak so, we set up my hammock and we laid in it together. He asked what I was thinking like he always did. I curled my body tighter and buried my face in his chest so that I wouldn’t have to answer. His arms found their way around me and he let me lay there, silent and still.
A few minutes passed and neither of us had said a word. I felt his arm shift and his hands make their way to my sides as he began to tickle me. I squirmed in his arms trying to get him to stop. Suddenly, we were face to face, millimeters apart. His hands stilled when he noticed how close we were. His eyes met mine for a long moment and one of his hands lifted my chin as my eyes teared up he asked again, “What are you thinking?” I knew my response before he even asked.
“That I’m going to kiss you.” I spoke softly and I wasn’t sure that he would hear me, but in an instant his lips were on mine and I was kissing him. It had been months since we’d kissed. This time was so much different. This was hungry, needy, and without emotion. Yet, it was something we had both been dying for.
The night was the color of the roses sitting by my sink; the wilted dead ones. You sat across the table from me with anger painted on your face and I wasn’t sure why we were still holding on. It was silent. My fork scraped the plate as I shivered from the cold of the room. I looked down and shakily set my fork on the table. You couldn’t stand it anymore and you pushed your chair backwards and stood hastily. “I’m done.” You spoke and left without another word.
I couldn’t blame you for leaving me. After all, I wasn’t what you were looking for when we started. I was quiet and shy, but always looking for a story to write. You wanted someone by your side to adventure and wander the world, but I was always behind you. I was always waiting for you to become my story. You never did. You never let me see your weakness; you never let me into your head.
You weren’t the story I needed.
You were the hope of a story I wanted and never recieved.
I was not the adventure you craved.
I was the failed attempt at settling for less than what you truly wanted.
There was a deep chill in her bones as she held the pen in her hands. Words raced through her mind, but the pen hovered over her paper unmoving. The summer carried on like this: devilishly cold and dry pages aching for wet ink. Fall came, gracefully she emerged from her bedroom to take on the world. Out there, she met him, the boy she once knew. She felt the strings attached to her body pulled her in to him without caution.
One the night she dared herself to kiss him and finally did shock-waves rang out from her lips. She brushed her frozen fingertips across his cheeks and suddenly they were warm again. Her mind was freed from the chains as winter rose. With his body next to hers there was no danger of the cold and ink flowed freely.
Fatigue washed over me and I could no longer find the will to carry on. My back slammed heavily against the wall and I sank to the floor. Tears burst from my eyes as my throat closed. I was gasping for air, but I couldn’t find any. First, I felt it in my toes, the light tingling you get when your foot falls asleep; but the feeling grew more extreme and deeper. The feeling was racing toward my hips, engulfing the entire lower half of my body in what was beginning to feel like flames. I was utterly terrified. It spread to my fingertips and my mind was telling me to find my parents but I wasn’t getting near enough air. As I tried to stand, the edges of my vision went black. My legs couldn’t hold me so, I fell back to the hard tile. My whole body shook and my breath became quicker from it’s already astonishing pace. All I could do was scream, I tried, but there was no air to pass over my vocal chords. I heard footsteps over the fuzziness of my mind. I felt my body being lifted from the floor and someone yelled, “Breathe!” But I couldn’t. It got worse and worse. I was terrified that this was how my life was going to end, weak and desperate for salvation. My cheeks were soaked, my vision was black, but the worst part was, I had no control.
His eyes were bright and wild and he looked at me just like he used to, like the earth was behind my eyelids. He tangled his fingers in mine and spun me around to face him. His free hand found its way to the base of my skull and pulled my lips to his. There was an intensity to it. He didn’t just want to kiss me; he needed to. He let my hand go and put his on the small of my back and pulled my body closer until there was no air between us. My hands ran down his back until they found the bottom of his shirt and pulled it over his head, breaking the kiss for only a brief moment. Then the music began, distant at first then drawing nearer and nearer until it was too loud to ignore. I opened my eyes but he was gone and all I could see were the stars on my ceiling and my alarm clock lighting up beside me.