Aurelius’s Father

“You can.” She is the perfect specimen. She has no idea the destiny the gods have aligned for her. Her innocence and disposition are exactly what is needed. I wondered how long it would take her to ask if I need help. She is studious in her work. I watch a nervous smile cross her face.

“What kind of help would you like?” I glance around the shop and then lock eyes with her again. Her red hair falls in soft waves, hanging far below her shoulders. Her bronze skin shows time spent in the sun, but gives way to no wrinkles and few lines. The lines that appear on her face are those created from years of laughter. She is definitely one who loves to laugh. Her green eyes sparkle with mystery, both her own and wondering at mine.

“I’m quite new to eating pirpusus. I’ve seen the fruit itself.” I say holding one up. “But never all this other stuff you seem to have made out of it.” Pride dances in her eyes.

“Let me show you.” I set my clipboard down on the counter. I’ve decided his eyes are what is most unsettling about him. Although he stares openly at me, it doesn’t make me weary of his intentions. The steadiness of them is what makes them unsettling. His eyes are confident and unwavering. A small hint of a smile dances around his mouth. He doesn’t break eye contact. Most people break away after a moment, but not him.

It’s almost as if he’s staring not at you, but through you. Not in the sense you are invisible to him, but in the sense that he sees into your soul. I get the feeling lying to him would be useless. It makes me uncomfortable, but also secure at the same time. It’s odd and doesn’t make much sense but his gaze is both calming and unsettling at the same time. I wonder what he is thinking about. What he thinks about me.

As she shows me the different tonics, jams, salves, and raw fruits of her shop I listen to her with interest. She has a beautiful mind. Pirpusus is rare on this planet and for her to know as much as she does has taken her years of research, trial and error, and frustration. She hasn’t told me that, but I know. As we circle the displays, I watch her body sway softly. Her shoulders are straight as is her back. Not in a harsh schoolmarm way. It is from confidence. She is speaking about what she loves and this helps her hold herself up, proud.

“So that’s everything.” She turns to me with a smile on her face. I can’t help myself.

“You are captivating.”

He says the words almost as a release of air. His sure, confident eyes locked on mine. I look away embarassed and try to cover my awkward smile with my hand. He reaches up and softly pulls my hand from my face, but says nothing. His eyes continue to see through me.

“Thank you.” It comes out weak. I clear my throat. “I’ll just be behind the counter. Let me know if you need anything.” I retreat quickly. My hand tingling where he had been holding it. When I get to the counter and turn around he is still staring at me. He smiles a crooked smile and turns to look at the tonics again.

I watch him for a bit. I hadn’t realized just how tall he was until he had been standing right in front of me. I didn’t just have to look up to see his face, I had to bend my neck backward. His body is thick, solid. Normally having such a large, powerful person in my shop would make me a little nervous. I have weapons under the counter, but you never know how they might pull you away from it. He, however, doesn’t make me nervous at all. Which also makes me nervous. The more innocent he seems, the more I’m likely to trust him and the easier it’ll be for him to rob me. I’m extremely confused by my feelings toward his presence.

His face is aged, but still handsome. The tips of his wavvy, silver hair just barely touch his shoulders. His beard and mustache are trimmed neatly. His skin is the same as those native to our planet so I don’t think he is an outsider, but there is definitely something foreign about him.

Aurelius

I’m standing next to our vehicle. I’ve never felt this much pressure and pain. He wants out and he wants out now! I place one hand on the side of the car and wrap my other hand around my stomach as another wave of tension moves across my back and abdomen. Just wait another 10 minutes Aurelius. I whisper to my eager boy. 

No one had told me he was a boy. I just knew. I knew from the moment I first felt my body change. I knew from the moment I realized I was pregnant. The physician confirmed it, but I wouldn’t have needed him. The same was true for his name. I didn’t know why, but one day when I felt him move, I unconsciously whispered “You are going to do great things Aurelius”. I had surprised even myself. I rolled the name over in my mind a few times and decided to keep it.

My mom arrives with the doctor just as the contraction subsides. They help me into his home. They get me into a room as the time between contractions tightens. Through the pain and agony all I can see is his face. All I can think is why did he do this to me. He was handsome, but that’s not what had attracted me to him. 

I’ve heard of worlds that are full of soft green grass. Worlds that grow foods that are yellow, orange, red, and blue. Worlds full of color. Worlds that rely on blue waters for life. Their people live in houses too big for their number and drives cars that cost more than their houses. 

Here things are simpler. We rely on triteum. It is a dry, dense crop that serves many purposes. It can be eaten raw. It can be ground into a powder. It can be chopped and cooked. We rely on one liquid. Liqua. It is thick and its color is a deep sparkling purple. Liqua and triteum can be mixed together and some people find it a rich blend. The rarest of foods to be found is pirpusus. It is a rich, succulent fruit. It takes five years to grow. Those are our three sources of life. 

Our homes are humble. We build only what we need. We do not tear down more of the nature that surrounds us than what we will use. They are made from the wood of the hard unblooming trees and the mud beneath them. I am fortunate enough to have once found a pirpusus seed and now have a modest sized shop to sell from.

That is where I met him. He came into my shop. I had just opened that morning and was still going through my inventory. I didn’t give him much thought at first. I get plenty of unknown faces. He walked around my shop without interrupting my work. He was quiet and moved softly. It was surprising how smooth he moved for someone his size. It wasn’t until I realized he had been there for quite some time that I looked up from my logs.
“Can I help you?”

Just Keep Writing

I feel like I’m……..

A teacher in high school once made us do a writing assignment. She told us that she didn’t care what we wrote about. She didn’t care if we repeated the same word or sentence over and over, her only rule was that for 15 minutes we had to continuously write. I don’t even remember what the goal of the assignment was. 

This came to mind just now because I’m not sure how to go on. I want to write about what I’m feeling, but I don’t even understand what I’m feeling. I feel half crazy. I have a lump in my throat and I feel like the air is thinning, but for no reason at all. I’ve gone through some pretty intense emotional, mental, and even physical trials over the last 9 days. The only problem is – I don’t know if that’s what’s causing it.

I want to talk to someone, but am not sure who to talk to. Do I spend the money to go to a therapist? Will it even help? Am I chemically imbalanced and that’s why I can’t understand my own moods.

I was angry earlier for no reason. I just felt irritation and my chest was tightening. I couldn’t explain why. Not knowing the answer to the why question is driving me nuts. I like to know how things work, what makes things function. This becomes more difficult when you don’t even understand yourself. How do I answer my husband when he asks me what’s wrong and I have no idea what’s wrong?
Well I guess the advice to just not stop writing worked.

Another Small Step

Took another small step today. I’m trying to work my way up to sharing my writing with all, but I’m still not sure I can face the inevitable music of sharing it with my friends/extended family. I did, however, decide to start sharing my posts on Pinterest. Not too many people follow my Pinterest as far as I know, but it is still me branching out. I think I’ll figure out a way to celebrate this small step toward being more outgoing and less fearful of responses.

Her Name is Anxiety

Her figure stands just behind me

Always lurking

Always reminding me I’m not in control

Always making my heart beat faster

My chest tighten, my head spin

Does she realize I see her shadow?

Everywhere I go, she’s there

I try to shake her eerie gaze

A chill runs down my spine when no wind is present

I turn and yell

“I know you’re there!”

No response

She is quiet and patient

What she is waiting for, I know not

Why she looms day after day

If I knew, maybe I could help

Maybe I could free her

Can others sense her presence?

Do they feel her piercing eyes?

Do I dare ask?

I lie in the dark and still her shadow covers me

I stand in the sunshine, but it’s rays do not reach me

“What do you want?”

I whisper in the stillness

No reply

How do I rid myself of that which I do not understand?

On the softest of breezes I hear my name

I turn, but no one is there

No one but the shadow

The ghost of someone in torment

The ghost of someone broken

The remnants of someone defeated

The ghost of…Me?

A Close Call

Hands twist inside my stomach
They claw at my throat

My eyes burn

Hot tears slide down my cheeks

I can’t breathe

The floor is hard on my hip, my shoulder

The carpet scratches my face

My body shakes

My knees instinctively curl toward my chest

What am I supposed to do?

What could I possibly do?

It would ruin me

I couldn’t live

I couldn’t move on

Every move I’d make would be rigid with pain

Darkness would consume my soul

The world would hold no joy

The sun would grow cold and hostile

The faces a blur

As my body shakes

As my vision melds into indistinct objects

As I lay halfway between the hall and the bedroom

As I think about what could have happened

I feel my heart tearing

I feel my muscles tightening

I feel the life being pulled away from me

I feel him being pulled away

This can’t happen

I won’t let it happen

I will be at his side

My light will not leave this world

The reason the sun shines

The smile that lights the room

I will pick myself up

I will wipe my tears

I will be at his side

And I will not give up

I will fight until my dying day

A Trying 5 Days

It all started Wednesday. It was a day packed to the brim. In preparation for a large company meeting I pushed myself into hyper drive and didn’t stop even after I got in my car at the end of the work day. I came home to make dinner, clean up a bit, pack, and try to squeeze in some quality time with my husband before turning in early.

I woke up early on Thursday to make sure I had time to pick up the rental before going into work. I step through the door at work and immediately retrieve a few “emergency” items for our receptionist to hang on to in case issue should arise while my boss and I are out of town. As soon as I get her the items, my boss rounds the corner and asks if I’m ready. We load the car and head down the road. I drive. I like doing long drives. I get car sick and being the driver gives me something to focus on if conversation dies away. It was a pretty uneventful 4 & 1/2 hour drive.

We get to the hotel where our event is being held and find out we can’t get checked in because their systems are down. While we wait for a few of the other employees to arrive, we sit in the lobby and get a small break. I order a cell phone for an employee so I’m not technically taking a break, but it’s an easy task. Finally the hotel receptionist calls my name and checks me in. We have just enough time to drop our luggage in the rooms when our coworker calls and says to leave right away and find a place for lunch.

This may need explanation. There are some people in the company we can’t relax around. They just aren’t our “people” and we’d prefer to eat without them. The coworker who called, we’ll call her Alice, is not one of those people and she is trying to avoid seeing said people. Alice is frantic because she tends to spaz and so there we are, rushing back out the door hoping not-our-people don’t show up before we get to the car. We go to lunch, have a few moments to relax and then head back to the venue. We get another small (15 minute) break before setting up the banquet room.

Setting up the room takes two and a half hours and, of course, my boss and I are the last ones still setting up while everyone else has retreated to the bar. Forty minutes after everyone else, we arrive at the hotel bar, ready to eat and drink. Now is the point in the day where I officially relax. After nearly 13 hours of some form of work, I stop talking about the meeting and avoid that topic. I go to bed only an hour or so later and my stomach is still in knots.

The prep for this meeting has been horrible on the organizer’s side. We’ve done everything we (my boss and I) can, but we still think it’s going to be a flop and that it will somehow come back on us. It also doesn’t help that my husband is still seeing double. He told me this morning that, at a distance, he is seeing double. He claims it is because he was playing our Vive without setting the pupillary¬† distance properly and so he strained his eyes. I tell him he should get it checked out and he assures me he will if it’s still happening tomorrow. I lay in bed wide awake for over an hour. I also have two presentations to do in the morning so that is not helping my nausea. I look at the clock and groan. I need to be up in 4 hours and I always feel horrible with so little sleep. I finally fall asleep.

My night is an alternation between waking and, while asleep, dreaming about the meeting. I spend my four hours of “sleep” in torture. I get up when my alarm sounds and get ready. I go downstairs to find my boss setting up. We go to work to complete the final touches. The morning goes well. I make it though my presentations and, although I’m nervous as hell while I stand with over 100 faces staring at me, no one has any idea how much I’m freaking out. We don’t hit a snag until 12:15 when the presentation computer freezes. We figure out the cause and get it fixed in about 5 minutes. The rest of the day goes off without a hitch.

We finally leave, starting the 4 hour drive back to the office. I’ll drop my boss off at the office where his car is and I’ll go back to drop off the rental. Mid-way through the trip, I get notification that I can’t return the rental. It is an office pool car and normally I use my key to open the gate after hours, but the gate is broken. Now I have to worry about driving a company car over the weekend and what that could mean if someone hits me or I get pulled over for some reason. Three hours from home, I get a text from my husband that he is going to urgent care for his double vision. Two hours from home, I get a text they are sending him to the hospital in an ambulance for high blood pressure.

I spend the rest of the trip texting and calling to try and get details from him on what is going on. Finally we get back to the office and I can be on my way. I meet him at the ER, still dressed in my business casual presentation outfit, luggage waiting in the car. They decide to admit him overnight to try and bring his blood pressure down. He assures me he will be alright and that I should go home to change and feed the cats. I reluctantly leave his side to do just that. I also pack a small bag with a change of clothes for him to wear when we leave the hospital the next day.

I don’t go to sleep until after midnight, having been up for a very long 21 hours. I sleep better tonight considering I am at least in the same room as my husband. I wake up every couple of hours to listen to the nurse read off his blood pressure, making a mental note of if it has come down at all. I wake up only 6 hours after going to sleep. I make a short trip to the house to check on the cats and clean myself up. My husband repeatedly tells me he’s fine and that I should go home and chill. I repeatedly tell him I don’t want to go home and that I will only go if I’m bothering him.

I can tell he doesn’t want me worrying about him and that he feels like a bother, but the truth is that I will worry more if I’m at home. If I’m at the hospital with him I am aware of what is happening. If I’m at home I’m thinking of only the worst that could be happening. Finally after dinner I get him to realize I’m not going anywhere and that this is where I want to be. He even gets a few visitors tonight. A doctor orders a barrage of tests and tells us he will be staying another night.

Today has been quieter. The results of a few of the tests have come back clear and the results of the others will take a few days, but he should be able to go home tomorrow. We’ve both had to call off work. I will have to return the rental tomorrow, even though I’m not going in to work. Someone needs it though, so that means I need to take it back. The last 5 days have been jam packed. I feel like I’ve only had a moment here and there to truly relax. My anxiety has been at an all time high. My emotions have been all over the place and I’m exhausted.

Oh and on top of all this, I’ve had to catch up on homework that I couldn’t get to while traveling. It’s been a trying 5 days and I just can’t wait to get home with my husband to have things go somewhat back to normal.

Is It Worth It?

Laying flat on my back, I stare at the black behind my eye lids.

A touch of vodka lingers in my system.

A touch to help me sleep, but I was only being silly.

What could possibly help me sleep tonight?

I go over my speech in my head.

The thought of all those faces staring at me in silence.

My voice the only thing to ring through the room.

My heart begins to race.

My stomach twists and turns.

All those faces.

I continue going over the words.

I need to remember to do my power stance tomorrow.

My power stance?

For a 5 minute presentation?

My eyes fly open and I pull my mask up.

I reach for my phone and make a reminder.

I lay down and stare at the black again.

I start to go back over the words.

I pull my mask off again and remove the reminder.

We aren’t going over that tomorrow.

I lay back down.

Words sing in my head.

I tell my brain to slow down.

I tell it to stop.

It doesn’t.

I look at the clock.

Have I really been laying here awake for an hour?

Will it really be only 4 hours until I rise?

Finally sleep comes to my aid.

Well…Maybe not.

A dream interwoven with bouts of waking.

A dream about today and how terrible it will be.

3:30 comes too soon.

I want to be at home.

I don’t want to be 4 hours away from the one person who can guide me through it.

Too many hours spent fixing potential problems.

Too many hours spent doing the job of another.

Too much time spent with people I don’t love.

As I sit writing this I wonder.

Is it worth it?

Gretchen – Part 4

I’m standing in shocked silence while the rest of the supermarket continues its business. People shuffle past me and pick out the things they need. He’s been looking intently at the various types of tampons for five minutes and a part of me wants to haul off and punch him. But another part of me wants to run into his arms the way I did when I was eight. The way I did when I would get off the bus to find him sitting on the steps with a juice box in one hand and a beer in the other. The days he came home from work early were the best days.

We would sit on the steps and he would ask me all about my day. How were my classes? How were my friends? I would tell him about a certain project I was doing or about something that happened on the playground. I would ask him how his day went and he’d tell me all about how the numbers were particularly easy that day, thus the reason he was able to come home early. I always felt like a grown up sitting there talking to him. He treated me like I had was someone worth talking to instead of just a silly kid.

“Excuse me.” None of my mom’s other boyfriends or husbands had ever made me feel so confident and accepted. “Excuse me!” I turn to find a woman behind a cart full of food staring at me with annoyance.

“You’re excused.” I say without moving. She continues to stare at me. But I just turn around and start walking toward him. What do I say? Will he even remember me? That was almost 20 years ago? Should I even approach him? He’ll probably run, thinking my mom may be with me. Or he’ll act like he doesn’t remember me. Either way, this is pointless, right?

“Get the kind with a plastic applicator.” I say softly, more softly than I intended. My insecurities are all running to the surface of the deep dark cave where I keep them. He keeps his head down and looks from box to box.

“I don’t see…” I point one out to him and you can see a little light bulb come on in his eyes. “Oh.” He still hasn’t looked at me. Maybe he saw me before I saw him and decided to not even make eye contact. I decide I’m not going to say anything. I’m starting to turn when he says thank you and looks up. Before I am fully turned away, he touches my arm.

“Wait.” I turn back to him. For some reason I feel like crying. “Do you know what kind of-” his voice drops to a whisper. “Pads are best.” His volume increases to normal. “This is my first time doing this and I’m not sure what all I need.” I start to point out the kind that works best for girls just starting this maddening cycle of life. Then his face changes and my words catch in my throat.

“Um.” Is all I manage to get out. He is studying me quite intensely now. “Is something wrong?” I ask bringing my arm back to my side.

“I didn’t even recognize you at first. Gretchen?” For an instant I think about telling him that he’s mistaken. That I’m not that little girl who he abandoned. That I’m not the ten year old watching his car back out of our driveway, tears rolling down my cheeks, knees digging into the gravel. That I’m not the girl he left to deal with the wrath that now had to be placed on me because she had nowhere else to aim it. Only for an instant though. Considering tears are blurring my vision I have no chance of denying it.

“Hi Miles.” It’s all I can get out. No what the hell? Why did you leave me? Why didn’t you take me with you? Why did you leave me with her? To my surprise he doesn’t say a word. Instead of talking he pulls me against his chest. His arms still fit around me completely. I wrap my arms around him in return. All the pain of the last 20 years is clawing at my throat. I’m fighting the tears with everything I have. I’m not one to cry. I don’t cry. I just don’t. 

But his hug feels so good. It brings back all the times he snuggled with me on the couch. I don’t care that he came into my life five years late, he was my dad. I don’t know what deadbeat got my mom pregnant and left, but the man holding me now is my dad. His grip starts to loosen and he holds me with his arms straight out, box of tampons still in one hand. I watch his eyes take me in from head to toe and back again to meet my eyes before letting go.

“How have you been?” His question is so generic, almost bland.

“Good.” I say. “You?”

“Good.” He says. We stand in awkward silence for a few seconds. Both unsure how to proceed.

“Daughter?” I point at the box of tampons I helped him pick out. He laughs and a proud smile widens across his face.

“Yes. Her mother passed a couple years ago and so the task of purchasing feminine products is now mine.” He doesn’t even have to talk about her for me to see how much he loves her. The way his eyes lit up at the thought of her. I don’t think anyone’s ever had that look in their eyes for me. Amidst the pain, joy, and sadness, anger starts to creep back into my system. I open my mouth to ask why he left me when his words fall out in a soft breath.

“I’m so sorry.” He says letting his shoulders drop. “I know I left abruptly and I know that probably hurt. You were so young.” His eyes are so sad. I notice the lines in his face for the first time. All this time I had been seeing him as the young thirty-something he had been when he’d left. His face was still handsome. The vibrance in his red hair was starting to fade just a touch. His green eyes still deep and kind. But his smooth young face was replaced with that of a middle-aged man. 

“I’ve managed.” I say with more edge in my voice than I intended. It’s the truth though. No matter how many “fathers” came in and out of my life and no matter how long they stayed, I managed. I made do with whatever I needed to. His mouth twitches.

“How’s your mom?”

“I haven’t talked to her in a few years.” He nods, understanding. What made me leave was that she had found a man that finally decided to hit back. I didn’t want anything to do with that much crazy. “Oh” is all he can manage. He looks at me in silence for a few seconds more before reaching into his pocket. He pulls out a pad of paper and a pen. Who does that anymore? He writes something down and then hands me the paper.

“I have to get going, but that’s my number. Call me so we can get together some time. I’d love to catch up.” I smile for the first time since seeing him. “And you can meet my daughter!” He adds in excitement. I remember when I was his daughter and the memory makes my smile fade a little.

“Yeah.” I say in response. He pulls me into one more tight hug before starting down the opposite direction. He walks backwards for the first few paces.

“I mean it. Call me.” I smile and nod. He turns and disappears around the corner. I stare at the numbers on the paper. I feel so… so… empty. He sees me for the first time in twenty years and all I get is a number and an invitation to call him? What a dick!

I hope you have enjoyed my intro to Gretchen. I think there’s a lot more I to be told of her story and I will probably return to it in the future. For now I’m going to leave you with just a small piece of her life. Thanks for reading!

Funny – I couldn’t help but write. I only wrote a couple paragraphs a day so this post actually took me 3 days (including today) to finish. I have been doing schoolwork every night and on my lunches so I’ve had to squeeze it in here or there. I wrote a little before going to bed, a little before getting out of bed, and was finally able to finish it this morning.

Taking a Break

I may be taking a break for the week. I have a business trip this week and also have homework to complete. Normally I would write in the morning, but it looks like I’ll be doing homework instead to make up time my business trip will take away. This saddens me, but I gotta do what I gotta do.

I can’t wait to continue Gretchen’s story so hopefully I still find time!