The Boy

He slipped in the front door like the mild December air, a silent rebellion.  We settled on the low, blue couch in the den.  My parents pretended to be busy.

He had ended it over the phone ten days before, with no real explanation.  My young heart had given out.  Plus, he’d stolen Christmas.

We stared at our hands not touching while the tv buzzed in the background.  He had no words left; I had words on lock down.

So we made up new ones.

“I should have asked you to marry me a long time ago,” he lied.

“I would have said No,” I lied back.

Later, I learned he only came that night because my mom had called.  He was her One That Got Away.

Turns out you can build an Ebenezer out of bullets dodged.

*Joining Amber C. Haines at www.therunamuck.com in her new study, Concrete Abstractions.

Living Books

In the beginning, books were my friends.  Now the reverse is true.

Here are some of my favorites.

She is trendy and popular.  I wonder why she hangs out with me.  She takes me places I’d never go alone.  She pulls me into the crowd where we line dance with a dozen copies, eyes wild, until our cheeks blush.  We cluster round, snap our Chiclets, and flap about Hermes bags, platinum cards and New York brownstones, the trappings of modern day Babylon.  I nod in agreement, glance over my shoulder.  We snicker like the female side of a seventh grade dance, hands over mouths, and it feels so good to belong. I get home too late, drop my shiny jacket on the floor, and sleep off the nagging knowledge that you are what you eat.

She is always within reach.  I never regret making time for her.  We stake out the comfy chairs and curl up in the corner, knowing in a blink the gust from the next several hours will flip over that “Open” sign.  She draws me in and I rest in her presence, drink in familiar stories.  Her words are slathered in butter.  She Cross-references me and tells me the ways of wise women.  I want everyone to know what a friend she is, but I mute my reviews because, really, I want her all to myself.  She has stayed with me through dark chapters to remind me that this is not the end.  No, this is not how it will end.  She lets me take my time.

They are a sticky pile, covered in marker.  Crumbs hide in their creases.  I kick away Legos, settle into my spot.  I tuck them in tight, bend back corners and smooth covers.  He whispers of secret passages.  She bursts with color and song.  We blend together until Jesus and Noah sail off to the Goodnight Moon.  I lose myself in their scent of peanut butter and lavender, which I want to bottle in a sippy cup so I can rediscover it ten times over.  I notice my inscription all over them, still awed by how it got there.  They are bite-sized pieces of poetry in motion.  I memorize their words, their art.  We share giggles and tears, then more giggles — always ending in giggles.  I linger long after they are finished.

He is rough and unpolished, fully dedicated to me.  He is the co-editor to our work in progress.  We meet barefoot over wine and hot dogs to trade stories from a day of meetings and meeting needs.  We discuss the friction between our developing characters and, in grace, strike out whole sections.  We laugh as we trade new quotes and rehash old ones.  Sometimes a lot is accomplished; other nights we just sit and mull it over.  His eyes are always on the goal, and I can trust him to make the close calls.  We make a good team.  Still, I try to imagine the earlier drafts of his life story, before I entered the scene.  He knows, but does not hold it against me.

I ponder these relationships as I sit with the “Word became flesh” and search for meaning.  How would these dear ones describe me?  Which version of myself is closest to the truth?  How much is lost in translation and does it even matter?  There is already One, Word undefinable, who knows.  And His Story, praise God, is not all about me.  He is the Author of all mystery; the already but not yet.  So I spin in this holy reversal where down is up, last is first, and end is beginning, ears piqued for the trumpet blast when we will burst free of time and place, falling up like gilded, paper-thin confetti into white space — the shimmer of divine celebration.

*Inspiration sparked by the weekly writing prompt so generously provided by Amber C. Haines as part of her Concrete Abstractions series at http://www.therunamuck.com. 

The Stairs

These stairs and I have a tense relationship.  It’s not my fault.  Sometimes these things just happen.

We used to see each other all the time, outside the Women’s Center.  Three pregnancies in four years, I got to know them well.  We met when I was too impatient to wait for the elevator.  Please don’t ask a pregnant lady to wait for one more thing.  Soon, I could travel them by muscle memory, and chose them even when I couldn’t see my feet.

From the top of the parking garage, I’d descend them on my way to doctors’ offices and childbirth classes, an awkward spiral, all knees and elbows.  They led me to my promised land — the sacred place where I learned to count in weeks instead of months, how to clean a freshly knotted bellybutton, and that women really do have babies every day.

Worn smooth, steady and predictable, this passageway delivered comfort in the midst of constant change.  These stairs were my place of winding and unwinding, rushing and waiting, giving in and toughing out.

I’d enter in, tune out the chaos and barrel down on the reason for my visit.  Down I’d go.  Right-Left.  Dot-Dash.  Lub-Dub.  Lub-Dub.  Lub-Dub.  The letter “A” in Morse code.  The walls would echo back in complete agreement with the heartbeat of my feet.

I’d choose the stairs for my return climb too, spirits soaring from the excitement of being one step closer to my due date.  Dash-Dash, Dash-Dash, taking two at a time.  I’d grab the rail and push away the pain.  You’re almost there.  Don’t forget to breathe.  On the best days, black and white ultrasound pictures streamed from my hand, a banner raised high.

And on it went with each visit.  Down and Up.  Wind and unwind.

Even Stephen.  Or Stella.  Time would tell.

I always chose the stairs.

Until one day, I didn’t.

When something is ripped from your woman’s center can you even focus on the step right before you?

The ultrasound revealed no heartbeat, no growth.  The bundle I carried out the door babbled of steps to recovery and stages of grief, my film strip left on the cutting room floor.  I fled the place of life and death and broken wings and Please Excuse Our Dust.

They say my angel baby flew to heaven.

Angels don’t need to take the stairs.

I shuffled blindly to the parking garage, weighed down by the I’m So Sorry’s, and snubbed my trusted stairs.  The elevator doors closed in around me.  That felt wrong too.  Elevators are for mommies with babies in strollers.

This was my red button emergency.

I was raised against my will.  The doors parted and I recoiled, gasped for air.  I stepped out, turned my head and let the sun begin to dry my tears.

I never got to say goodbye.

*Inspiration sparked by the Monday writing prompts so generously provided by Amber Haines of www.therunamuck.com.

The Necklace

I was the first female Best Man I had ever heard of when my only brother got married.  At the rehearsal dinner, with red carnations on the table and water rippling outside the window, he slipped me his gift.  I opened it on my lap, where it fought for space with my oversized napkin.  The looking down hid my teary eyes.  My husband squeezed my knee.

It was a simple silver locket with a butterfly etched on front.  Inside was a black and white photograph of us together, all bad haircuts and goofy grins.

“That’s his favorite,” his fiancee said from across the table as she looked on.

“It’s a great one of us,” I exhaled.

“No, that’s his favorite picture.”

____

My heart lurched back in time to the day he had dropped the A-bomb.

I don’t believe in God, and I never have,” read his email declaration.

Alone in my office, my heart exploded onto every surface.  I kicked off my pumps and buried my head into the crux of my dry-clean-only arm.  From the hall my boss’ voice asked, “Has someone died?”

Maybe.

How can he be an atheist and I never want to speak to him again and I want to grab him and hold him and force-love him until he wrangles free.  How can his genius mind be so dense and his overgrown heart be so cold and how do I just trust the Lord with his soul when his whole life I’ve been his Big Sister? 

____

I clipped the chain around my neck and ran my finger over the locket.  Did he pick this out himself?  Did he have any idea that the butterfly represents the hope of resurrection from the dead?  Jesus Christ raised in glory?

There are no happy accidents.

Did his thick fingers curl tight to lay our photograph inside this shared cocoon?  Does he see that this beauty can only be enjoyed when it’s split wide open?

I stayed up until 4:00 a.m. to write my speech.

I vowed to love him.  And trust Him.

I will bear witness.

*Inspiration sparked by the Monday writing prompts so generously provided by Amber Haines of www.therunamuck.com.

Write. Now.

My soul has thick bangs, coke-bottle glasses and a plastic black mustache.  It flies under the radar and over the rainbow to give us wallflowers a good name.

I am an observer.  I am the last to raise my hand.  I hear between the lines.

But.

I cannot ignore this pull to pen and paper, this process that owns me.  These jots on scraps that swirl about my head like Pig Pen’s dust cloud.

Word puzzles that show this Quiet Girl that her voice can be bold.

Now is not a convenient time to declare myself a writer.  I’ve nearly perfected my disguise.

Still, this is my time to write.