Monday, March 15, 2010


 Hey everyone. This story is not about me and does not involve me. Because it was mis-interpreted and used against me, I will explain. This story idea came from a very dear friend of mine who is currently in a situation where she feels ignored on a daily basis. She feels as if whatever she does is not appreciated. I changed the sex from her to him in the story as a way to add a little privacy for her. However, because I know some people read this and think things I write are about me, I wanted to clear it up with this disclaimer.

One other thing I might add here, to calm the fears of some and the speculation of others, I am not going to commit suicide, I am not so seriously depressed that I am going to "do something stupid" and just because I write something, does not mean it is what I feel. I write what I write because my fingers tell me to write it. I am a writer who writes fiction. If you have read either of my books, you'd understand that.

Not a hand stuck him. No piece of leather slapped across his back. Nor were there bruises from fists, or prints from a boot. His hair was not mussed from being struck soundly, nor were his hands damaged from the application of unnecessary pressure. His ribs did not absorb impacts, nor did his fingers feel as if they were being torn asunder. There was no starvation, no bright lights, no tortuous thrashing about.

Still, the cruelty was there.

As real as a whip on his back, as painful as an electrical cascade on his body, as hurtful as a slap.

It was cruelty of the silent kind.

He was ignored.

Nothing he said or did registered with her. She ignored him completely like he was no longer a part of the living. If he died right now, he doubted she'd even notice.

He was gone from her.

He knew she no longer cared about anything if it had to do with him. Nothing in her life would include thoughts of him. He knew this and it hurt him.

It was cruel.

Every morning he woke to thoughts of her.

Every day he walked through his life, seeing her smile, feeling the touch of her hand, tasting the kiss of her lips.

Every night he would fall to sleep, dreaming of her face, feeling the comfort of her arms around him.

Now it was all gone.

She no longer needed him.

She found someone else.

She left his world.

It was cruel.

It hurt because they had shared so much. They had laughed and frolicked. They had joyed and they had cried. They were together and they were almost one.

He was there for her and she was there for him as they walked through the days and slept through the nights. He felt her near when they were not and he knew he would trust her with the secrets that were his.

He surrendered to her and believed she was surrendering to him.

But she was not. She was using him as a stepping stone, a crutch to assist her in healing and a tool to be used then discarded.

He was just someone on which she would stand to reach the next platform where he would not be.

She used him mercilessly and he let her because he could not see the real her.

He didn't see through the veil of secrecy where she hid her true self. He did not see that which she chose to hide. He was blind to the real her.

And the day came when she showed her true self.

It was hurt.

It was pain.

It was sorrow.

It was repeated every day.

It was repeated every night.

And it was cruel.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Two Faces

Saturday night again.

Another night alone.

Another night by himself in the home he'd paid for every month for the past 13 years.

Another night listening to people talk on the television about things he no longer cared about.

Another night looking around and seeing nothing different tonight that wasn't the same as it was six months ago.

Another night of the same passing of time from one minute to the next.

Another night of the unending feeling of loneliness and sadness.

Another night of laying his head on the pillow she used to sleep on.

Another night of unending sorrow and pain.

Sitting on the edge of his chair, Terry looked around the living room. It was empty of everything that once made it a home.

Gone were his children.

Gone were the lives he'd brought into the world and raised from birth to adulthood.

Gone was the wife he'd loved so deeply and who he'd love until the end of time.

Tonight, Terry knew, would be the end of time.

All his life was gone now.

Children gone, wife gone, life gone.

That was what he saw as another minute clicked off the clock on the wall.

And no one knew. No one knew the depth of Terry's pain. No one knew how deeply he hurt inside. Even his closest and dearest friends could not see past the veneer he kept on the outside. The pain was a constant companion day after ever hateful day. It ate at him through the day and devoured his nights in persistent memories and sleep-depriving dreams. Pain harassed him whether awake or asleep. It was as present in his being as was the blood in his veins.

Terry hid it well.

Terry had two faces. Terry created the face of normalcy. He could show anyone and everyone that he was okay. He could show them he was getting along with his life. He could show the face which said he was living his life and taking it one day at a time since the loss of his wife.

But what those with whom he lived his life of normalcy didn't see, behind his eyes, was the sadness and pain which tortured him by continuing to alive.

Behind his eyes, deep in the soul of his being, Terry hated life as he hated nothing else. He was angry at life, angry at breathing, angry at the sunrise and angry at the sunset. Each experience reminded him that he was alive and he hated each one.

Tonight the sun had set for the last time for Terry. He was tired of struggling. The decision was made.

He knew beyond a doubt that his life was over now.

 His thoughts drifted to those who would be left behind. He loved his children, but knew they would be okay even if he was gone. He respected their love for him, but now they had lives of their own. He knew they'd miss him when he was gone, that they would cry tears of sadness. He knew they would always wonder of there wasn't something more they could have done, or something they should have seen, a sign they should have picked up on that would have kept their dad another day. They would ask themselves if there some words they could have said to keep Terry on this side of the endless darkness.

He knew all of this, and in his last note to those he would leave behind, he'd release them of all responsibility for what would happen tonight.

They would read it.

They wouldn't understand.

They hadn't seen his soul and how tortured it had become.

Terry couldn't stand the sorrow.

But no one would know how sad and how depressed Terry was because he never showed them the other face.

Day after day since the loss of his wife, his love and his life, friends and family had been there for him. All had come and offered there help to Terry and his children.

But there was no help for his loss. There was only the sorrow, there was only the darkness, only pain, in his life; there was only the ticking of the clock to remind him of another minute he lived.

Terry knew however, he wasn't living. He was caught between the light of today and the darkness of tonight.

No one knew the darkness of the end was calling him.

It was not the face they saw.

With the tragic loss of his wife, Terry was comforted through the hardest times. He was always with someone. His pastor, his children, his parents, his friends were always close to him. They nursed him and reminded him that he was still alive. They saw his tears and heard his whispers of love to his wife.

And days turned into weeks.

“Time will ease your pain” he was told.

They lied.

The pain didn't stop.

Every day it reminded that he was alone. Every day was painful. Every day was as bad as the first day without her.

But since they were all lying to him, he would lie to them.

He would show them another face. He would give them what they wanted. They wanted to see him healing and “getting past the pain.”

And for nearly six months Terry lied his way though life.

He went to work every day.

He did his job.

He talked with friends.

He laughed at their jokes.

His listened as they spoke.

He went to church and prayed to God to make the end come, but knew it would be his own hand that would put an end to the daily chore of living.

They would tell him he was looking better. They would tell him he was sounding better. He would thank them but in reality, he did not care.

His mind was elsewhere.

But they did not know.

He lied very well.

The face they saw was the face they wanted to see. He was healing. He was going to be okay.

He was not.

Tonight he would finally show them the other face.

Tonight they would learn how he much he'd lied to them, just as they had lied to him.

Terry heard the clock she'd loved so much chime the hour of nine. The time she and he often went to bed. Terry stood, turned off the television and the lights, made sure the doors were locked and the plants were watered and the answering machine turned on.

Terry then went to bed for the last time.

Three days later, a friend from work to whom he'd given a key many weeks ago, “just in case” found him.

His body was cold.

He was at peace.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

His hand cracked across her face for the last time

His hand cracked cruelly across her face for the last time. The sound of the impact, as instant and as loud as a bull whip, and the deep, full-mouth hurt of at least one tooth being knocked out was the end for Sarah. She’d believed with everything that she was, that Eddie was the man she would love until the end of time. She believed in him.

She knew it was the alcohol that drove him to anger. 

She knew it was the loss of his job that made him mad all the time.

She knew it was his plans that had gone awry that made him holler.

Now she knew it was always another excuse with Eddie as to why he was angry.

When he was sober, he was a wonderful man, for the most part. But when he drank, the hurts in his life made him mean, made him lash out at those closest to him. 

Sarah, it seemed, was always the one there for him to release his anger.

If she said anything now, he might hit her again, but if she did nothing, he might just take his anger outside and leave her be to clean herself up. There would be a bruise that needed make up to cover and a bloody tooth to be found. Maybe the dentist could repair the new gap in her mouth.

Eddie was stalking around the kitchen. Pulling cupboard doors open and slamming them shut when whatever it was he was looking for was not found. His voice was gravelly deep, almost hoarse from hollering at her. This time it started when his case of beer that had been on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator finally ran out. He was eight or nine deep into it when he called for her to get him another and she had to tell him they were all gone. 

He must have forgotten that he’d had half a dozen beers the other night and shared what he had with one of his friends. He’d lost count of how many were remaining. Sarah had told him earlier that Saturday morning that he only had a few left and she would gladly pick some up when she went to drop her kids off at her ex-husband’s house.

But Eddie didn’t have any money and what money Sarah had she put toward food for her kids, nine-year-old Denny and seven-year-old Kris, herself and Eddie. Her budget was exhausted and the only money she had in her purse now was five dollars in cash and six dollars in change she would have to use for gas for the week so she could get to work and at least bring some money into the household.

Eddie was mad because he was out of prospects for work, mad because he was without a job, mad because he was out of money and mad because he had no more beer in the house.

He took his anger out on Sarah one final time as he slammed the last of the cupboard doors and kicked the refrigerator hard enough to dent the door then turned to hurl the more hurtful explicative he could at her. 

Sarah, now used to these outbursts said nothing. She clenched her hands in front of her, afraid even to acknowledge the swelling she could feel on her cheek for fear he would lash out physically again.

“This is your fault,” he screamed at her, as if the screaming would magically make every anger he felt go away with the blame laid squarely on Sarah’s shoulders. If she’d been able to get out of the kitchen, she would have run this time, but Eddie kept himself between her and the doorway. “If it weren’t for you and your brats, I would be out having a good time now instead of sitting around this rat’s hole with you!”

That was what Eddie always wanted, “to have a good time” and what originally drew Sarah to him. She’d cheated on her husband of 14 years when she and a couple of her friends had gone out to a bar one evening a little more than a year ago. 

Good ole Eddie was at the same bar and flirted with her shamelessly. Sarah was flattered and thought she saw in Eddie all the things she was missing in her life.

Sarah, in her middle 30s was still a pretty lady. Crows feet had yet to appear, her skin had not tanned to a leathery darkness, but a healthy light tan, and her eyes still sparkled when she smiled and her hair, with no grey, still shined in the neon bar lighting. Her figure, not that of a teen anymore, but full with classic woman proportions was enough to draw the attention of men and her legs, were she to repeat what her brother-in-law once said in a moment inebriated candor, “were to die for.”

She wanted the excitement, the fun, the wildness of the cowboy-looking Eddie. In her marriage, it was only stability, regularity, and the raising of two kids with a husband who worked diligently, took vacations with her to places like the Grand Canyon and museums, meals at six and bed at ten. There was a milquetoast about him with no very high highs and no very low lows. He was an average Joe who loved her and she loved him, but inside, she wanted excitement.

She got excitement with Eddie. She slipped him her cell number on a bar napkin well into her fourth drink, purchased by Eddie in an act of gallantry, thinking he would never call her. She felt a little shamed that night when she climbed into bed beside her trusting husband who never got jealous of the time she spent out with the girls. He believed in her and trusted her. “Have a good time, hun?” he asked sleepily.

“Yes, I did,” she said then kissed him on the forehead as he felt back to sleep.

She laid beside her husband for the better part of an hour thinking of the tall, strong, man that was Eddie, and wish her husband was more like him. She then felt guilty and eventually fell asleep to the gentle snoring of her husband.

Days passed and Sarah thought Eddie had forgotten about her until her cell phone rang just before she was to pick up the kids at school. She didn’t recognize the number but she answered anyway.

“Hey, babe, when you comin’ back to Dyson’s,” he asked, mentioning the bar where she’s given him her number. “Without you here, there ain’t nothin’ worth lookin’ at.”

That slightly southern accent made her toes wiggle and somehow she mumbled out something about a week from Saturday being out there again.

“No, baby, I want you out there this weekend. Saturday night. Me ‘n you are going to be dancin’ till the sun comes up.”

Then he hung up without waiting for a conformation and Sarah knew she was going to go to Dyson’s Saturday night. Eddie wanted her. She wanted the excitement, she needed to just let loose she told herself. She rationalized it to herself “there’s nothing wrong with harmless flirting,” she told herself. “I love my husband, but a little excitement might perk up the marriage a little. Nothing will happen after I tell Eddie I’m married with two kids.”
Kids shook her from her thoughts as the climbed into the back of her van. “Hi mom,” Kris said to her shoving her current finger painting in her face. “Look what I did today.”

Sarah looked and instead of the multi-colored swirls and curls of a five-year-old’s painting skill, she saw the ruggedly handsome face of Eddie smiling back at her. Sarah closed her eyes and said to her little girl as her son Denny strapped the young one into her seat. “It looks great, honey.”
Getting out of the house Saturday night was easy for Sarah. She felt some guilt again at how easy it was to lie to her husband, telling him she was going over to a high school friend’s home for the night. She’d gone over to Terri’s a couple times a year for a weekend so it wasn’t too unusual and if Steve did call to check on her, he’d call her cell, not Terri’s house. After all, Steve trusted her.

She dressed casually, almost too casually because she didn’t want to make Steve suspicious. He came into the bathroom while she was applying makeup. His hand slid comfortingly around her waist as he kissed her head. “I’m going to take the kids to a movie tonight, ok?” he asked, not that he had to, it was just something he did. “Sure, hun,” she said mechanically and continued to apply eye liner.

He left her there as he and the kids ran out to the car. After 14 years of marriage, there was no need to be all passionate about a weekend’s separation.

She arrived at Dyson’s Bar around 8:30. Eddie was already there, playing pool against some other guy in tight jeans and cowboy hat. Sarah took a seat at the bar as Eddie smiled a brilliant smile her way and finished up the game. 

The bartender passed her a tall draft beer courtesy of Eddie and the night began.

They talked and laughed as Eddie told her of all the exciting things he’d done in life. 

He told her he was a successful contractor and built the house he owned at the same time he was leaning over her back, teaching her to shoot a combination shot at the pool table. 

He told her how well she danced and moved on the floor as the music played loud in the background. Loud enough he had to get very close to her ear. Close enough she could smell his manly aftershave.

He spoke in a manner that was self-deprecating and bragging at the same time. He often asked her about herself and at some point she told him she was married but separated, because if she were married the magical evening would end, she told herself.

It’s just a little white lie like she knew he was telling her.

The booze or the company, the music or the cleft chin, the sexy voice or the ice blue eyes, she didn’t know what had moved her to dance so close to him, rubbing her body against muscles that bulged inside his tight shirt.
Hours later she was in his bed, having thrown her marriage vows to the curb with the same cigarette she smoked hesitantly, not being a smoker. 

The Saturday night fever worked its way into a Sunday morning passionate romp with the cowboy from the bar. He captured her and wasn’t going to let her go. And she did not want to go. The passion was back in her life. The excitement was hers for the taking.

Weeks later she served Steve with divorce papers and moved out of their comfortable three-bedroom home. Steve was so surprised and cried like a baby and Sarah felt sorry for him a little when Eddie told him to “be a man and get over it.”

Months later the divorce was final and Sarah was living in Eddie’s three bedroom home. Her kids were visiting every other week and every other weekend. On their off weekend, she and Eddie were hitting the bars and taverns, dancing it up and drinking until they fell in bed, usually too drunk to remember why it all happened so fast.

Sarah enjoyed all the excitement at first. She was Eddie’s center of attention and he wasn’t bad to the kids. On her weeks and weekends with them, Eddie was usually elsewhere with his friends so Sarah got a lot of the kids to herself. She knew she was with Eddie for herself and didn’t mind too much that Eddie didn’t want to be a step dad to her kids. Although, truth be told, she really wished they got along better and she really wished he wouldn’t holler so loudly when Denny made a mistake or Kris cried. 

They weren’t his kids. They were her kids so she made allowances for Eddie not being all she’d hoped toward.
Sarah loved Eddie for all the good things he was, not for the things she knew she could fix in time.

The first hit came five months after they were married by a justice of the peace. The kids and Steve were off camping in some state park over a four-day weekend. Of all the things she and Steve did together, camping was her favorite, but Eddie didn’t camp, so they instead went to a biker rally upstate.

It was exciting for Sarah because she’d never seen the wild biker side of life. Eddie’s bike, which he talked about often, was still in pieces in his garage “waiting until I can afford some parts for it,” so they drove his 4x4 truck. No air conditioning, stiff suspension, dirty, loud, and smelling of spilled chewing tobacco juice mixed with beer, it was a miserable ride, but it was more exciting than taking her minivan. Eddie refused to ride in what he called her POS.

The rally had bikers from all over the state and they scared Sarah a little. She was wearing her favorite blue jeans and a nice conservative white blouse. The biker chicks were wearing next to nothing. She felt out of place and way out of her comfort zone. She held tightly to Eddie’s arm because he wouldn’t hold her hand.

He walked around the bikes; he talked to people he knew and called Sarah his new bitch. She didn’t like being called that, but it seemed as if it weren’t the insult she associated the word with so she didn’t say anything.

After the better part of three hours, when Sarah had talked to almost no one and Eddie talked to what seemed like everyone, they entered a bar that was crowded with bikers and dense with smoke from cigarettes, cigars and probably more. Sarah’s eyes went huge when she saw strippers on stage and couldn’t believe Eddie would bring her in here. She clung tightly to Eddie who laughed at her for being so “anal.”

Two hours and six beers later, Sarah almost begged Eddie to leave. She finally got the nerve up to go sit in the truck and Eddie laughed at her again as she worked her way through the crowd. Some biker smacked her on the ass on her way out, but she was too close to tears to do anything. She could hear Eddie laughing all the way out the door.

Eddie eventually came out to the truck and they began the three hour drive back home. Eddie stopped at the quick-stop to pick up a six pack to drink on the way home. Sarah had always disapproved of drinking and driving and said something. Eddie just laughed at her as he opened the first bottle and took defiant long drink as they got on the interstate, and followed it with a very loud, wet, belch.
They drove in silence for over an hour when Sarah, who had sat quietly on her side of the noisy truck, noticed Eddie starting to swerve across the center line too many times. 

“Are you okay to drive, Eddie” she asked timidly. Eddie looked at her from under hooded eyes and said nothing. She didn’t see how fast the hit came until her head was jerking suddenly to the left. 

Spewing vulgar language like an angered steelworker, Eddie told her that if it weren’t for her being a crybaby, they wouldn’t be driving now and he’d be back at the biker hangout having fun.

She shut up the rest of the way home. The flash of anger he’s shown seemed to have sobered him enough to keep the truck on his side of the double yellow line. 

Entering the house while Eddie finished off the last beer, she went right to the bathroom. There was an imprint of his land on her face. She cried and locked the bathroom door.

After a long while of crying, she unlocked the door and went to bed. Eddie was already there watching a television show where men were beating each other inside a cage. She started to get into her nightgown when Eddie spoke up. “I think you owe me a stripper dance, bitch.” 

He was serious. 

She was scared. 

She’d never been asked to do such a thing. 

She’d never been treated like a piece of meat. 

She hesitantly started her strip tease for Eddie. 

He kept up a steady commentary on what she was doing wrong, how she could improve and how hot she was making him.

She’d never been treated like she was a sex object. It was kind of exciting to be told how hot she was making Eddie, but she hated that he also kept telling her what things he was going to “do to her.” She was a little scared because he’d hit her less than three hours ago and she knew he could hurt her.

She also never once heard the word “love” uttered.

Steve had never treated her like a piece of meat to be taken and used then pushed away until later.

Eddie watched her through the commercials and a few minutes of his show. He then flicked the tv off and grabbed her when she got close to him. He was rough and forceful. He was a man’s man to her. He took what he wanted with no thought of what brought her pleasure. His breath was stale from smoke and beer. His stubble scratched her face and stomach and thighs. 

His hands grabbed her, they didn’t hold her. 

It was not love making, it was Eddie taking what he wanted.

It was exciting, for Eddie. 

For Sarah, as soon as Eddie finished, he rolled over, said “thanks, bitch,” and went to sleep, she carefully got out of bed and went to the spare bathroom and showered for a long time.

She was up hours before Eddie, not wanting to have him paw at her before he’d gotten up, brushed his teeth and shaved. He’d done it often enough, and in the beginning, it made her feel wanted and needed; now the smell of his breath just sickened her. She was also a little afraid him and didn’t know what mood he’d wake up in.

Eddie surprised her after he’d crawled out of bed just after 10:30. He showered and shaved, cleaned up and met her in the kitchen. 

He sweet talked her, held her, caressed her hair and told her how important she was to him.

Sarah ate it up. 

She believed him. 

She believed every word.

To feel his finger running gently though her hair and his soft kisses on her neck turned her on like nothing else. He was acting like the man she knew he could be, but just as she was beginning to forgive him for striking her the previous night, after all, it was her fault too for being a crybaby and forcing him to leave a party he wanted to be at, and her body began to respond to his touch, he kissed her deeply and then pulled away. “I gotta go over to Cal’s and look at a new job. I’ll be back later,” he said as he grabbed his old Carhart jacket off the hook by the door, blew her a kiss, took the cup of coffee Sarah had poured for herself and left the house, kicking the door shut behind him and whistling a jaunty tune, which Sarah could hear through the open kitchen widow.

She watched him as he climbed into his truck. He threw the empty beer bottles from the previous night on the yard, started the truck and left her alone. How she wished he’d asked her to come with him. She wanted to be with him, to show him she forgave him for his hitting her. 

She spent the morning and afternoon by herself, examining the past year of her life. She recalled the excitement and the fun and the go go go lifestyle Eddie gave her. It was what she’d longed for and was now living.

But more, she was missing her children. She missed the security of Steve. She didn’t like being afraid. With Steve, she knew she could trust him every moment of every day to love her without condition.

It wasn’t that they hadn’t fought. They had disagreements like any couple. But with Steve, the arguments went toward conflict resolution rather than winning an argument.

This Sunday morning, she missed that. The excitement had grown weary. She would like to spend an evening or four doing nothing more than sitting on the sofa watching a nice television show.

She missed her simple life.

But she loved Eddie so much, she knew she could never go back to Steve. That part of her life was over and done with. As much as she’d loved Steve when they were first married, the feelings of passion were not there anymore. They’d waited until they were settled in before having children, and then they had two in the space of two years.
It was not Steve’s fault he was boring and predictable. It was not his fault he loved Sarah for all that she was and what she wasn’t. He was just no longer the man Sarah loved.

Eddie was.

And she’d find a way to change him. To make him see that hitting her was never okay. She’d teach him to treat her with respect, as an equal.

She wanted the excitement, but not the fear; not the pain.

As the sun set she heard Eddie’s truck coming up the drive. She peaked out the kitchen window and saw him pulling up to the barn and getting out of the truck. He had a beer in hand, but he didn’t look drunk.
Hurrying, she went into the living room and got ready for him.

She lounged out on the couch, wearing nothing but a red kerchief around her neck and a pair of high heeled shoes.

She’d tease Eddie into making love to her the way she wanted, not the way he wanted. She’d show him excitement and make him understand that her pleasure was important too. 

He walked through the back door and she heard the bottle he was carrying drop into the trash can. He was coming for her now and she knew he would want her and want to make love to her, but this time it would be her way and the way she wanted it and if he didn’t, well, she never got that far in her reasoning.

Through the archway he walked and Sarah, with her most seductive smile looked up from where she had positioned herself on the couch.

“What’re you doing, bitch? Why you acting like a whore?”

Eddie shook his head, not looking at her and walked toward the stairway upstairs. “I got work tomorrow so let me get to sleep before you come up and wake me.”

Sarah was crushed.

Her world fell apart.

He didn’t even want her in the way he used to.

She got off the sofa and grabbed the robe she usually wore and wrapped it tightly around her and sat back down on the couch to have a long cry.

Days and weeks and a couple of months went by as Eddie finally went to work every day and Sarah went off to her job. Eddie would always be back well after Sarah had arrived home. He told her he was working on a new contracting job.

But when payday came, Eddie’s excuse for not having money was that the job wouldn’t pay until they were done. Sarah knew it was an excuse. He was hiding something and she was getting tired of having to pay all the bills on her salary while he was out somewhere.
Their relationship had changed. His mood controlled the house. If he was in a good mood, everything was great, but if he were mad, Sarah would keep the kids away from him and the days she didn’t have them, she did everything she could to please him and not upset him more.

There came a day when, getting tired of his occasional morning grope sex with her, she finally told him that she would not put up anymore with it. 

At night she was in bed long before her got home, and she was tired from her days at work and for the most part, he left her alone. But two or three times a week he would wake her in the morning to satisfy himself and roll back over to sleep while she had to get up, get cleaned up and get ready for work. She’d put up with it and even did what she could to help him enjoy himself as much as she could. She wanted to hear him whisper “I love you,” in her ear again. Instead she heard “I like that. Do it some more.”

It was no longer exciting for Sarah, it was usury.

She was tired of it.

She told him so.

“I don’t need this,” he said as he rolled back over and pulled a pillow over his head.

Sarah was shocked. She expected an explosion from him when she denied him sex and instead she got indifference.

She rolled out of bed and got ready for another day, feeling like she’d missed something in the exchange.
It gnawed at her through the day, his brief sentence. She didn’t know why, but it did.

Picking up the kids at school that afternoon, she thought she’d figured it out. Two blocks down from the school she saw, what she thought was Eddie’s black truck. She didn’t have the chance to circle around to find out for sure, but it looked like his truck.

Attending Denny’s scout meeting after Kris’ dance lessons, and closing the night out with a quick dinner for her and her kids kept her mind from thinking too much about the meaning of the truck two blocks from the school in the afternoon when she knew Eddie was on a new construction site.

Denny and Kris were both fast asleep by the time Eddie pulled into the drive. 

Sarah, steeling herself for what might or might not come from Eddie walked out to the kitchen. Eddie came in with his usual gusto and no concern that two kids might be sleeping upstairs at 9:30 pm.

“Hi, Eddie,” Sarah said as an opening and Eddie just grunted some semblance of words that Sarah didn’t understand. “Rough day honey?”

“Yea,” he grumbled, pulling the leftovers she’s saved for him out of the oven. “Shingling a steep roof all day,” he said by way of explanation as he set his plate of food on the counter and reached into the refrigerator for something to drink.
“I thought I saw your truck on Church Street this afternoon as I was picking up the kids,” she said.

That was when his anger flared and swung an open hand across her face, knocking one of the caps her ex-husband Steve had paid $900 for, out of her mouth.

“Don’t you ever check up on me, bitch,” he bellowed at her. “I am the man you are just a woman…just a whoring little woman.” He then threw the plate of food in her direction and left the kitchen to go up to their bedroom. Sarah, tears held in check waited in the kitchen until she heard Eddie go upstairs. She wasn’t ready to give up yet on him. They had been doing well lately. 

Maybe, she thought to herself, she just caught him at a bad time. Maybe tomorrow she could talk to him about getting their marriage back on the right road.

She was just about to start cleaning up the mess from Eddie’s thrown food when she heard Kris say something at the top of the stairs. “What happened, Eddie?” he asked.

“Shut the hell up and get your ass back in bed, you little bedwetter” Eddie shouted at her daughter. “Now! Before I blister your ass too.”

Then a door slammed.

Sarah started shaking. Now she feared not only for herself, but her kids. Eddie was angry and he wouldn’t stop at hitting her. Now he might hurt one of those she loved most dear to her, her children.

She loved Eddie despite all he’d done wrong, despite all his faults, despite all his anger. She really believed she could change him, to make him more the man she wanted him to be, to make him the man she left Steve for, to feel the love he showed her in the beginning.

She believed she could change him.

That was until the slamming door shut those thoughts out of her head for good.

The shower in the master bedroom turned on and Sarah knew what had to be done.

She hurried to her kids’ room and whispered to them to not make a sound, but to put on their shoes and coats. They’d heard the noise downstairs and Kris started to cry tears of fear, but she was shushed by a very grown up Denny.

The three hurried out of the house and into the mini van.

Backing up to turn around, the headlights of the van briefly illuminated the house and Eddie screaming something out of the upstairs’ window.

It was the last time she would see it, the anger, the house, the man she loved with a passion.

She would not come back here ever.

The same way Eddie tossed her love aside, Sarah now tossed aside her hope of changing Eddie into the man she wanted him to be.

Excitement was what she'd sought and found. Tonight, the excitement had become too much.

However, her children were safe, her cheek had stopped swelling and the bleeding in her mouth had subsided. 

She drove down the driveway, not hurrying, but not so slow Eddie could come after her easily. She had no where to go, she had no money, she had no one to turn to anymore. 
Tears rolled silently down her face as she drove away from the excitement. She didn't know what tomorrow would hold for her and her children, but it would not hold Eddie.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Lest we forget

Arnie scraped the last bit of pizza cheese off the top inside of the cardboard box with his cleanest dirty finger. He had three fingers remaining on his left hand, but only one finger and a thumb on his right, so he didn’t have much of a choice. He’d found the box in the dumpster behind the rundown tenant building he’d been trudging through this evening.

It was a start for a good night for him, as not only had he found an almost clean sock to nearly match the one he was wearing, but he’d also been near the front of the line at the soup kitchen a few blocks north of where he was now, ensuring he got a full bowl of hot soup and two slices of bread and butter.

After leaving the kitchen and getting away from the other street people there, he’d found the pizza box. Opening it with less enthusiasm than he would have if he’d missed several days’ worth of meals, he was pleased to find the cheese stuck to the top of the box and a little sauce for flavoring that had probably spilled in the box delivered to its recipient. By the looks of the box, and the lack of any rat droppings, Arnie suspected the box had been thrown away just that afternoon, if not within the last couple of hours.

Cleaning off the last bits of cheese and sauce, Arnie felt satiated for the first time in weeks. Tonight he would go to sleep without worrying about the gnawing hunger in his belly that was his almost constant companion here on the streets. He’d find his place to sleep and he wouldn’t have to worry about his left foot growing cold in the night air because of the shoes he wore and the missing sock he’d suffered with for the past month.

Tonight would be a night of easy slumber if Arnie could find his place that was out of the way of other transients on the streets, away from the hookers who kept vigil on the corners until all hours of the early morning, away from the beat cops who would roust him if he’d chosen the wrong doorway to spend the night.

Arnie knew of such a place. He didn’t go there often because other transients might be watching and if they saw where he went to hide, they’d soon follow. Someone would try to steal his hidey hole and leave Arnie to find another.

Arnie was not a large man anymore. Arnie knew he was in the wrong world for a man his size. He barely tipped the scales at 155 pounds now, down from the 202 he’d weighed when he served in the Army. He had a limp from where a car had hit him one night back in the spring, shattering his hip. The V.A. hospital did what it could for him, but once he’d healed, he was returned to his world of the streets.

It hadn’t always been this way for him. He’d fought in the first Gulf War in early 1991 as a tank commander and the rank of Staff Sergeant with the 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st of the 7th Armored Cavalry.

Sergeant Arnold Zylestuezki earned a few medals for bravery, including the Bronze Star, but the one that had cost him the most was the Purple Heart the division commander pinned on him in the VII Corps field hospital.

The rocket propelled grenade that slightly damaged the right front quarter of his Abrams M-1 Tank damaged Arnie enough he could no longer be in the Army. He was shuffled from field hospital to the evac hospital, to stateside’s Walter Reed, then a series of rehabilitation centers and outpatient halfway houses until he was healed enough the army said there was nothing more they could do for him.

That’d been four years and seven months ago. The V.A. did what they could for him, but one of Arnie’s injuries caused infrequent, but devastating migraines and sometimes blackouts from the pain. He went through several jobs in the first years out of rehabilitation. He had been adept at fixing things, but he could not hold a steady job because of the re-occurring headaches that would put him down for days at a time.

Eventually Arnie got tired of applying for jobs he knew he’d lose. His compensation from the Army was not enough for the one-bedroom apartment in a better part of town, especially if he wanted to eat as well. His head injury, where a small piece of the ablative armor lodged itself under his helmet and deep into his frontal lobe, left him unable to secure a driver’s license.

Social Security wouldn’t help for another 19 years, no matter what the doctors said. When Arnie thought of this, he would chuckle to himself. He planned on being dead a long time before social security started paying him.

Arnie had spent his first winter on the streets on south side of Little Rock without much trouble. He could no longer afford the apartment he was in and left it just hours before the local sheriff would have evicted him. He left behind nothing of value except the medals he’d been awarded. To someone they might have been valuable, but to him they had cost him his life.

He’d made bi-weekly visits to the V.A. hospital to get at least one good meal and to re-new his medication. The winter nights were cold in Little Rock, but not as cold as his days as a child in Detroit or the nights in the desert of Iraq. With a little prior planning, Arnie was able to suffer a little less than many of the others on the streets.

His mind was still sharp analytically, although he knew there were many things he would never remember again. He tried not to think about the passing of his parents several years before he joined the Army because he could remember just vague faces and a few scattered memories. Nothing to treasure on the long nights on the street. A tragic car accident which he could not recall took them both, leaving Arnie and an older sister without parents in his final six weeks in high school.

The rocket propelled grenade removed almost all of the memories of his sister. She’d come to see him many times at first in the hospital. Her visits came much less often after Arnie admitted he could not remember her or his parents enough to carry on a conversation about them, no matter how many photos were shown to him. She tried to make the connection to her brother, but he was not the little brother she’d grown up with and soon even she stopped visiting. It was a hard thing for her to do, but her visits made him uncomfortable and made her even more so.

Not long after Arnie recovered from his hip damage, he found a hiding place no one else had found.

Arnie tried to stay away from the regular street people. It wasn’t that he was afraid of them, he just didn’t like them. Arnie didn’t feel like he was better than them, just that they were not the type of people he felt like being around. They were dirty for the most part, and unkempt. Arnie knew he wasn’t as clean as he used to be, but he shaved as often as he could, bathed when given the chance and cut his own hair with a pair of scissors he’d found near an abandoned barber shop.

He also found their language vulgar and hard on his ears. He didn’t recall having a faith in God, but the coarse language the others used so often made Arnie feel as if someone were striking out at God for their lot in life.

The women who also lived on the streets tended to have morals Arnie did not agree with. He couldn’t say why, but it seemed to him the women would sleep with any man who offered them food or drink or drugs.

Arnie prided himself on avoiding hard drugs, although he drank from a bottle if he could afford one. He told himself he did it to help him forget the pain he was constantly in, but he also knew the truth that he drank to forget everything that was his life now.

On one night many months back he’d been harassed by a trio of street thugs who wanted nothing more than to fight with Arnie. They threatened him and spit on him for being in their area and Arnie quickly left the block on which they were lording over.

Luck had him skirt down an alley between two buildings that were very close together and had an enclosed walkway between them. From the street, it looked like a dead end, but Arnie found that behind the large pile of debris from a remodeling project, was a hole that led under the walkway. If someone had seen him come in here, they too would find the spacious area and want part of it for themselves.

The area he found was almost 12 feet wide and eight feet long at its longest. The ceiling was over four feet above his head so he could sit upright in the near totally enclosed and warm “room.”

He waited silently in the dark for a very long time before venturing back out of his hiding place to make sure he had not been discovered. With careful, silent movements he was able to better hide the entrance of his new place. Now, even if someone else came into the alley as far as he did, they would not see the entrance.

Over the next few weeks and months he improved his spot with the box springs he’d snuck in one early, rainy morning when there was no one on the streets, with dry cardboard from the fruit market two blocks away, and the carpet pieces he carried with him under his clothes to protect himself from other people’s punches.

The box spring Arnie recovered after someone in an apartment let it fall three stories, landing near a large trash dumpster Arnie had been sleeping behind. He took it quickly to his hiding place before it got too damp.

The blanket he’d liberated, he didn’t like to think of himself as a thief, from the back of a work truck that had parked too near an alley he was frequenting that week.

Tonight, a good night for Arnie as his stomach was as full as it had been in months, he would seek out his private place, curl up under the blanket he knew would be there and warmed by the walkway air vents, and the camouflaged Army jacket he wore.

Beneath him would be the last remnants of a single bed’s box spring, several layers of dry cardboard boxes and some carpet pieces he’d been hoarding.

He would sleep comfortably and soundly.

…if he could get there without being seen.

…if no one else had found his place.

…if he could recall the directions to get there.

A twinge at the top of his spine belied the prospect of a good evening.

Arnie’s head started hurting and he suspected a migraine might be building. He had to find his hiding spot soon, before the migraine set in for a few days of misery. He hoped the blackout wouldn't come, but with the way he was starting to feel, he wasn't so sure this would not be one of the big ones.

The pizza box was dropped back into the dumpster as the headache started to work its way through his shoulders and into the back of his head. Arnie had experienced the early stages of the migraine before and he knew the lower it started in his back and shoulders, the worse it would be.

It made him angry that in all likelihood, he would end up throwing up the fine food he’d eaten. If he could keep his bearings, he hoped to find his hiding hole shortly after dark. The alley would very dark as well as the entrance to the alley as it was hidden by poorly placed street lights.

On a good day, Arnie could remember exactly how to get to his place. On bad days, he often forgot how to get there and would wander around for hours and sometimes all night before either giving up or deciding it was unsafe to venture to his spot.

Ambling in the general direction he knew he should go, Arnie felt the headache manifesting itself in his neck and base of his skull like an extra three gravities. The dull ache between his shoulders was moving itself into his chin and jaw area. The old Army jacket scraped on his neck hairs and a ringing in his ears was getting loud enough to cover the sound of his shoes on the wet pavement.

Like a slow-moving dark shadow, the pain slowly worked its way into his head.

He continued to walk in the general direction he needed to travel. He stopped several times in shaded areas between buildings to recover so he could walk a little more. The sun was setting on the horizon, behind the clouds which were bringing the dizzily rain and soon the street lights would flicker alive to cast harsh shadows.

Arnie knew he needed to find the right block to be on before too much longer. He knew if he was not close when darkness came, chances were he’d not find his safe place and he’s spend the night on the street, wet from the rain, cold from the falling temperatures and in pain from the migraine.

His shoes were wet and squishing from the water on the streets and the puddles he didn’t see as he continued to stumble forward. Nothing mattered now to him except to find his place to sleep and hide from the light.

He arrived on the block he was looking for just as the street lamps did their best to erase the darkness in the area. Many of them were broken and would never come to life again until city workers replaced the bulbs.

Arnie, headache beginning to throb behind his eyes with the pulse of his heart, saw no one near, but still he worked his way through alleys, around open windows, and over foot paths no longer used until he worked his way under a chain link fence across the street from the alley his hiding hole was in.

A hooker stood at the corner, underneath the lone street lamp in the area. He couldn’t go into his alley without her seeing and even in the pain he was in, he was not ready to surrender his privacy. He hunkered down under a piece of abandoned sheet metal to wait out the hooker. He knew she would either move on or find a john to take her for a ride.

The hair on his head began hurting. His fingers trembled in the cold and he fought to keep his teeth from chattering. Water dripped from somewhere down his back, but the pain in his head was worse, so he ignored it.

He kept his eyes tightly shut from any light. The ringing in his ears was louder than the falling rain and his stomach protested the food it held. Arnie knew that to throw up now would bring unwanted attention onto him. Bile worked up his throat which burned, but not as much as the hurt in his head.

The hooker was picked up by a man in an expensive car and once again the area around Arnie’s alley was clear.

He slowly got out of his hiding spot. His knees hurt, his back hurt, his gut hurt, his hands hurt, his feet hurt and his head hurt.

Still, he was almost home.

No one saw him as he slipped into his hole, gently bringing a piece of discarded drywall over the entrance.

Inside, the lighting was near non-existent. Arnie had used an oil lamp on the few occasions he needed light, but the lack of fuel kept its use at a rare minimum. When feeling better, he knew he could lay here in peace and day dream of good things, but tonight, he thought he could hear blood rushing though the veins and arteries in his head.

Arnie crawled onto his bed, removing the damp jacket and sliding his shoes off. The shoes would dry in the warm air that circulated in this room and he would use the jacket over the dry blanket.

Gently pulling the blanket over him, because every movement was painful and every sound was deafening, he laid his head down on a makeshift pillow made of shredded foam inside a torn shirt. The jacket he put over the blanket for extra warmth and he curled into a fetal position.

A small sob escaped from between his lips.

Eyes closed, head covered, and breathing silently as possible, Arnie finally fell off to sleep, away from the pain in his head and body.

His last conscious thought was of the smell of his home. He smelled coffee, French Vanilla, as he drifted off. Gone was the smell of musty blankets, wet shoes and dirty clothing.

In spite of the pain, Arnie fell asleep with a smile.

And somewhen in the night, Arnie left his life in the hiding hole he called home.

Monday, March 1, 2010

It was beyond my reach

I reached for you, but you were never here

I felt your heart beat, but I never heard it

Your voice was gentle and kind, but it was no voice at all, just a silence in the room

You brought light into my life, but it was not the light of life, it was the reflection of elsewhere

Where were you when you were here?

Where are you now that you are gone?

The hollow echoes from the empty space are silent without your laughter

The darkness that shadows every step I take is not the darkness, but your missing light

The silent whispers of secrets between us were not secrets at all, rather whispers into an empty world

The joys that we shared were not memories to remember, but agonies to be relived

The flicker of hope

The touch of your hand

The feel of your body close to mine

The friendship that was ours

Gone now in yesterday

For there was no one there

There was nothing to share

It was beyond my reach