Life flashes before your eyes

Life flashes before your eyes

You’re never ready for it. All hell breaks loose and your brain suddenly feels like swiss cheese. Women are better at dealing with it than men are, sure. Specifically mothers, like there’s some sort of mechanism born within the mind of a momma when she gets pregnant. But the feeling is the same. “What the fuck do I do now?” It’s a universal thought process.

When you add trauma to the chaos, that’s when momma’s really shine. Take a black woman in her kitchen making dinner for her kids when she hears thumping bass notes turning onto her street, that first pop barely reaches her ear before she’s pulling those babies into the basement stairwell, screaming at them to get down. Like she knew it was coming. But then a bullet aimed at the neighboring dump ricochets off a shovel sitting on their porch and bursts right in through her living room window and catches her neck as she’s hunching down to follow her kids on the steps. She doesn’t immediately have that next step ready at the front of her brain to call out to her 12 year old now watching her momma slide down the steps with blood seeping from a major artery. Nope. She thinks to herself, “What the fuck do I do now?”

Holding a hand to the wound, pressing as hard as I can, staring into my oldest baby’s face as I tried to unfold emergency plans in my head, I felt as stupid as the dummy I married who is now rotting in a prison cell up state. Fortunately for me, it’s my daughter who inherited brains from someone else in my family who had the plan.

The 911 operator’s voice seeps from the phone calm and authoritative, and I thank heaven for that. “My mom’s been shot. We’re at 62 Hanover St. It was a drive by and I think the bullet is still in there because I’m pretty sure it hit an artery but the blood is just sort of leaking out.” I raised an eyebrow at my little science junkie. “Don’t press too hard, Momma. Just keep your hand there.”

I watched her bark orders at her younger siblings, her beautiful eyes focused on me until she heard the sirens outside. As she stood on the step beside me, peeking out the basement door, I cursed myself for never getting us out of this shitty neighborhood.

“Make sure it’s cops first, baby. Don’t open the door until the cops are here.” I grabbed her wrist with my left hand, “And keep your hands way up in the air, you hear me?”

She shook me off, “I know, I know.” I could see the lights, but my vision was getting hazy. “Hang on, Momma. Just hang on.” I imagined her with babies of her own in some big house in the suburbs with a two car garage and one of those kitchens with a double oven. She’s smarter than me. She would take her brains to college, instead of getting knocked up at 18. I prayed every day of her life that she would be smarter than me.

The police pounded on the door, and she walked out of the stairwell with both hands straight up in the air. “I’m coming to unlock and open the door. I have a phone in my hand, but only a phone.” As she unlocked the door, I prayed some more for God to keep her safe. It was getting hard to hear over the heartbeat in my ears. Oh why couldn’t I have just gotten us out of this hell?

My vision went black and I felt as though I were floating, carried by something free of form. Light began to flood in all around me. Blinding light. But then, suddenly, I was standing in my kitchen. I looked around at a frozen moment in time. Raybecca stood at the front door, hands high, in front of a familiar looking cop. I turned to the stairwell, my crumpled body lay on the top two steps, Miandra and Michayla hunched around my legs. Watching their momma die. And Tobias sat with his back to it all on the bottom step. Good boy, Toby. You keep your mind and memories safe.

I turned back, the cops eyes were on me. I blinked and he smiled. “Hey, Dahlia.” His voice was familiar too. And his skin glowed like amber coated bronze. I did know him.

“Lonnell?” I took a step forward but stopped as an invisible band held me in place. “How- Am I dead?”

He laughed, and the sound went straight through me. It was rich and deep, and something that had been frozen within me for a long time melted. “No, baby girl.” He stepped around the statue of my daughter. Nothing else moved. There was absolutely no sound but his voice. “This isn’t death. This is a choice.”

He came to stand in front of me, and part of me wanted to reach out to grab him. But if the choice was between going wherever he came from and staying alive for my babies, I could never choose him.

“I know.” He gave a sad, hopeless smile as he stood before me. “But if you had chosen me all those years ago, we’d be in a different place now, wouldn’t we?”

I blinked up at him. “How could I have known Ray would do what he did?”

His eyes narrowed, and his smile disappeared. “You believe that you didn’t see that side of him? The day I met you, he’d backhanded you right in the middle of a Walmart parking lot. Knocked a beautiful, pregnant woman to the ground. You didn’t know then what he was capable of?”

Some loyal part of me stretched to defend him. But Lonnell’s point was valid. “I loved him. I was about to have his daughter.”

“I can’t fault you for giving him the second chance, Dahlia. But the others?” He pointed to the steps, and I started down at the frozen figures of the only other things Ray ever gave me. “Eh, I’m just salty because you didn’t feel what I felt back then.” He stepped forward and his warmth invaded me. “This is a new choice though, baby.”

He took my hand and spun me on the spot. As my vision cleared, I stood in a sunny kitchen before a broad, pine table with benches on either side where 12 children sat eating breakfast. I looked at their faces and realized that the twins were sat at the end, teenagers now and laughing as their brother sat across from them. His preteen face sulky, but his hazel eyes lit up like I’d never seen before. The rest of the faces were unfamiliar until I turned around to see Becca standing at the kitchen island with a forty-something version of Lonelle.

She was a woman, three massive textbooks in her arms. “She’s just finished pre-med. But that smile on her face that looks so much like yours is because my wife, Liza just told her that the scholarship program she started when she graduated high school is going to put 4 kids into college.”

As my eyes moved around the kitchen and found Liza, my absent insides twisted. Liza-Marie had been Ray’s girl before me. In high school, she’d dumped him because he had disrespected her father. And now she was married to Lonell, the boy who’d promised to save me from all that I’d made myself endure. He’d married her and was going to take in my four parentless kids?

“They are all foster kids. Liza and I can’t have our own. So we try to give a better chance to kids who grew up like we did. Show them there’s another way.” He stepped up next to me and took my hand again.

I looked up at him. “This is my choice? Die and give them to you or keep them… And what? Fuck them up forever?”

“No, baby girl. That’s not the choice at all.” His fingers came under my chin. “Think bigger.”

I felt this world falling away. He didn’t spin me this time, just lifted my face, and when he let go, I stood in the parking lot of Becca’s elementary school, holding the hands of my tiny toddler twins and pregnant with Tobias. I remembered the day vividly. I’d stood there with my babies waiting for their older sister and trying to think what to do. Seven months pregnant with a swollen, bruised face, two broken ribs, and nothing to call my own, I was about to decide to stay, just until the baby was born. But I never left.

“You could choose differently this day. Decide not to go back. Move into that woman’s shelter. You could have had Ray arrested for this, instead of that terrible thing he did after this. Your friend Natalie from Becca’s school would’ve taken you in and gotten you a part-time job at the school, helping kids who don’t have computers at home learn how to use them.”

He squeezed my hand again, and I opened my eyes to the nursery where the twins spent their first fragile days of life. Ray had disappeared for 29 days and Becca was being looked after by Ray’s sister, who I was pretty sure was a heroin addict. But I hadn’t known what else to do. There was a nurse, wheeling me into the NICU 26 hours after my precious babies had been taken out of me in a emergency C-section. I was still swollen and weak from preeclampsia. But they’d finally let me out of bed to go meet them. I didn’t even remember my babies being born.

“She’d asked if she could go get Becca for you, do you remember?” I nodded but not looking at the nurse. I stared at myself. So puffy and stubborn. I wouldn’t even accept help when it was offered. “She would’ve helped you get into a better house, too. Her mother’s house in Reynoldsburg. She would’ve let you live there and helped you get that IT certification you’d wanted. When the girls were two, you would’ve moved into your own home where Becca would’ve been mentored by an amazing science teacher and even graduated early.”

I looked down at our feet, “Why are you telling me this?”

He slipped his fingers under my chin to look up at him, and when he dropped them, we were back in my crappy house on Hanover Street, right after we’d moved in. I stood at the bedroom door with Becca on my hip, watching her Daddy, naked on the bed with another woman. “He turned this around and made the whole thing seem like my fault,” I said in a tight voice, remembering all of the times between then and now that Lonell wasn’t showing me. All the moments I should have walked away.

I turned away, and as I did, a park shelter house materialized, where he’d shown up drunk to his daughter’s first birthday. My expression frozen in horror as I watched the path of his fist coming straight at me. The first of many full, facial punches over the years. “Stop, please.” I covered my face, but there were no tears.

Until I heard my own voice.

“I can’t Lonell. I know I’m probably making a mistake, but you won’t love this little girl like he will.”

Lonelle at 21 was softer than he was at 35. His kind, coffee color eyes scanned over me. My face had healed from the night in the parking lot, but I’d seen him every day since that night. “That’s where you’re wrong, baby girl. I could love her more.”

I shook my head. But he kissed me. The whole world was right that night.

“You know I was right back then.” The 35 year old Lonell locked his fingers with mine as we watched our younger selves make love.

I turned toward him, “But I can’t go back. I can’t choose you now.”

He stepped close to me. “None of this has happened yet, Dahlia. I’m not real. You’re not dying on the steps to your basement. Ray doesn’t exist here. You have the chance to make a different choice right now. Any choice. But only one. And you won’t remember anything else once you’ve made it. Your life will simply move forward from that point, with a different trajectory.”

As I turned away from him, I saw them all. Options on a wheel of fortune. I could spin around and walk into any of them, deciding the opposite of what I’d decided before. I could decide not to let Carson Donovan put my hand in his pants when I was 12. I could say yes to going to prom with Stephen, our class valedictorian. I could walk away from our neighbor Mr Quintez when he asked if I wanted to watch a movie with him in his basement.

I could decide to go to college and get that degree in IT.

Making the entire circle, I turned back to Lonell. “But there were good things, too.” I closed my eyes and pictured my babies’ faces. I remembered the day Ray told me he was going to turn himself in, and try to turn his life around. I remembered the night we’d talked all night about how we could make things better. I remembered only a few days ago when I went to see him, and he cried fat, heavy tears about the things he did to me. “There were so many moments I will lose if I decided anything differently.”

Lonell’s smile was full and bright. “That’s right.” He nodded and held his hands out to me. “That’s what makes it so hard. You know what you know, but if you give one moment up, everything could be entirely different.” He put his hands together and opened them again to reveal a bubble. Like a crystal ball. I stepped close to see inside.

It was me. A foggy, different version of me, wearing an expensive looking flowered blouse with navy slacks. My hair was cropped short and flecked with gray, and I wore chunky jewelry that I always loved, but wouldn’t afford. I stood in a beautiful sunny office, writing on a whiteboard. But as I squinted to try to see more clearly, the bubble popped.

“Sometimes, the choice is simply to see yourself in a different life. And go there.”

I looked up into his eyes. And I saw the scene reflected there. My daughter’s face contorted with fear and anger in front of him. I turned and saw myself. The woman I’d let myself become, covered in blood. “Can I survive this?”

“If you make that choice.” He stepped back, his voice growing distant. “All you have to do is decide.”

Abandoned

Skyscrapers by Ralf Kunze

The pavement pulsed with waves of heat, out of time and place in the city during late October. The bus stop was quiet. The park was void of anything that resembled a Saturday evening. There were a pair of forgotten pink rainboots sitting by the wishing fountain.

A rich, amber glow had settled into the horizon, over the ocean, supplemented by this sound heard by no one. Or possibly everyone.

Clouds gathered in the west mocking the sunset’s twin by hiding it from any possible observer. Or maybe calling to its observers. Bidding them west.

Before it is too late.

axoim

Martina Janochová

defined
but perhaps
indefinable
presupposition
all these threads
do not limit me
I am limitless
devouring life with
each change in
trajectory
weaving my world
around us
some ugly
tangled
mass
but to me
it is infinite
freedom
for today I focus
on heart
spirit
instinct
but soon
when morning dew
casts prismatic
bliss
upon us
sunrise will welcome
my contributions
and
break me free
to spin
again
something solid
stable and salable
for you
to trade
today
I am incalculable
a hundred plans
millions of words
one hope
someday
I will be
the seller
one day
I’ll find the
single shining strand
and follow it to
my
private
pot of gold


forgotten

Artist unknown… Forgotten?

existence is perspective
the sanded edges of memory
cause history to evolve
we aren’t who we are
nor are we who
we will be
it is foolish to believe
a memory is forever
that love is everlasting
or that you are important
the phases of lives
bumping into one another
like so many
soap bubbles
floating on the wind
please don’t let mine
pop
for here, inside this breath
perhaps i won’t be
forgotten
misremembered
sand beneath the
boot of time
i make myself real
in every brush stroke
each wiped tear
a hundred loaves
ten thousand cookies
millions of stitches
all the back rubs
and neck kisses
yes
this is my memory
and perhaps
where my name is lost
are just blank pages
i was never meant
to be
or maybe
they just await my story
not yet
told

thirsty

glitter veins by ThisGirlCanHateYou via DeviantArt.com
glitter veins by ThisGirlCanHateYou via DeviantArt.com

greater than the sum
of us, here
something brilliant pulses
a guiding light
a beacon, drawing us together
our home may change
but it was never a place
it is us
in our veins, in our morrow
love is forever
it glitters inside me
as new and magical as
the day you kissed me
and set loose a million
butterflies
in my soul
do you feel it, too?
as life cracks it’s whip
drives us harder, farther, faster
we drink up these
tiny moments
where it is just us
coiled and locked together
as we were made to be
until you are part of me
and I am part of you
thirsty only for
another day
another month
another year
of you
give me another sip
one more, pretty please
I’ll give you forever
for just
one
more

 

 

~~ Happy Birthday, Daddy! ~~

Ordinary Darkness

Everything by psycheanamnesis via DeviantArt.com
There’s a Crack in Everything by psycheanamnesis via DeviantArt.com

the light catches
where the truth hides
fractures in the cold
oppressive world
that let magic seep out
in tiny droplets
missed by so many
but those in the shadows see
for you can find so much
in the dark
without the distraction of
melody and mock joy that
cascades around those
who pitch their eyes to
stare at the sun
instead
find the broken bulbs
glints of pleasure from seeing
beauty
where it has been forgotten
isn’t a rainbow that much more beautiful
because of the storm
it is forced from?
the stars that much more
breathtaking
for the vast darkness they
somehow penetrate?
I think I’m there
somewhere
in the sparks and colors
I may disguise myself
in these layers
of ordinary and plain
but, no
know me
I am brilliance inside this
dreary grey facade
and if you crack the clay
even for an instant
peer through the
darkness
you might see the secrets
the magic inside
see what others
don’t even look for
it may mean nothing
in that moment
but when you find
light
it is yours to hold
to make your own magic
forever

Modify

Rainbow in the dark by Mel Douleur

Every thought strangled

Each hope shattered

Wishes cast into a sky

Too bitterly black

To return them

Where is my chanced

Tomorrow

My dream blurred by

The smudges of

Yesterday’s obligations

I know this is not

Forever

Now is just a piece of sand

In the glass of life

But allow me

My moment

Of disappoint

Because

I long for the winds

Of change

To toss the clutter

Aside

To

Modify this life

And give me

Something new

To dream

I will find the rainbow

Which is precisely

Why I need

To focus

On my

Dark

Sky

Enough

Stride by sivel120001 via DeviantArt.com
Stride by sivel120001 via DeviantArt.com

(Originally posted November 2014)

My fingers press against the cold glass causing the area just around them to fog from my warmth. I’d love to break this glass that tells me I’m not pretty enough, sexy enough, skinny enough… I’d love to break it and cut away this disgusting flesh that makes me feel like I’m not enough. I’d love to bleed away all these feelings of hatred and disgust. I’d like to feel the pain of that instead of the useless pain of self abhorrence.

I stare hard at that bitch who screams inside my head that I’m ugly and useless. I can’t stand her voice, it feels like a hammer breaking bones inside my skull. I can’t listen to her for another single minute.

I press harder on the glass and focus every ounce of my magic on those points of contact. I know I might break the mirror, but the sound of that might be welcome compared to the hurtful abuse going on inside my skull. I push harder and harder until I suddenly begin to feel my fingers permeating the membrane of this plane.

My reflection sees and laughs, taking on that awful voice. “Whatcha gonna do, baby doll? Do you think you can come through here and shut me up? God, you are dense.”

I wonder if I’m strong enough. Can I truly breech reality? Can I go through this glass? Is this possible?

Her abuse begins anew, from the other side of that force field, and I don’t even care if this is insane and I’ve had some sort of mental break. I am going to shut her up. I am going to make her stop or I’m going to kill her.

My arm slips in and she backs up, laughing harder until my grip finds her wrist and I pull, hard.

Her face slams into the glass, and I find this incredibly amusing, since my arm is literally reaching through this completely impermeable surface. I do it again twice, giggling at the shock in her expression. She tries to yank her hand from my grasp, but only succeeds in pulling me further in. I lift my other hand to brace myself from smacking my own face on the glass, but then those fingers begin to slip through the surface as well.

I yank her toward me again, and punch her hard in the face. She bounces back, but not out of my grip, and blood begins to gush from her nose. It was a surprisingly square hit, given the awkwardness of this fight, but I do it again before she recovers her wit and starts to fight me.

She captures both of my hands and yanks me into the glass, but it is not solid for me, and my upper body slips into the reflection as if it were another room.

At this point, I realize I am clearly crazy and decide to just pummel that wicked whore to death on the other side. As I lunge toward her, she lands a good punch to my throat, knocking the wind out of me, and I fall back into my own bathroom, wheezing and lifting my bloody hand to my throat. I can smell the acrid tinge and wonder for a moment if this might actually be real. Am I fighting the bitch in the mirror.

I stand and stare at her, blood pouring from her broken nose down her chin onto my favorite blouse. “You’re ruining my shirt.”

The shock in her eyes is disarming, as she stares at my chest, and when I look down, it is clear why. I am bleeding too, and I reach up to feel my own broken nose, even though she never landed a punch anywhere but my neck. Realization dawns on us both, as she too is holding her own throat and wheezing. If we fight each other long enough, I will rip apart.

I stand and wonder if I could do that. Kill myself to silence the hate. Cause myself the greatest pain in order to end all pain.

I lean down against the vanity on my elbows and revel in the silence of her contemplating my ability to end my own life in order to end her. My blood drips into the sink but then suddenly stops, and as I stand upright and look at my reflection again, I see that nothing has happened. It wasn’t real. But one tiny drop of blood remains, on the edge of the sink, daunting me.

A reminder? I can beat myself senseless over the reflection in the mirror. I can beat myself to death, if I’m not careful.

I look again at the girl in that glass. A sight that normally fills me with ‘not enoughs’. Because I will forever be not pretty enough or sexy enough or thin enough or smart enough or sweet enough or good enough… This time, the girl I see is just enough.

Enough to keep me from pummeling myself to death.

That girl in the reflection, that girl who plenty of people DO think is enough… Maybe it’s time she accepted that perfection is unattainable. And that today, at least today, I am enough.

Selective Focus

Deadly Siren Black & White by temariataje via DeviantArt.com
Deadly Siren Black & White by temariataje via DeviantArt.com

the big picture isn’t
always as important
as it seems
perception can be
narrowed
objection negotiated
because what’s in front
is what’s important
be present in the
present
hold the face of
destiny
and tell him
he is everything
feel the ferocity
of his response
because every man
needs to feel
that
we are the roles we play
he is my Captain
I am his mermaid
an ocean of truth
can’t change
my focus
because the future
is just us
alone in our ship
and even if
he is wrapped around
my finger
I am wrapped
around
his bow

Return

A Life in a Boat by onixa via DeviantArt.com

Not a boat, but a ship

Regal in your extravagance

Yet promising humble

Adventures

With each vowed sunrise

Glide through my waters

Where nothing

But pleasure

Hides beneath

Tame the storm that threatens

In the distance

And find a home

Within our eternal

Voyage

Render me soft as bathwater

As smooth as glass

When you plunge your way

To my depths

Take me

Dominate my seas

Float in bliss

Off my shores

Grant me only one thing

In exchange for my

Surrender

Return

To take me

Over

And

Over

As long as the sky remains

Above us

And your heart

Bound

To mine