These stories I posted in my previous blog, now lost in the Bermuda Triangle of “posts that came before.” Please to enjoy, or not.
The wind was bitter cold. Her cheeks burned, blazing a painful red. She tucked her chin into the collar of her coat, her breath steaming. She stepped carefully down the un-shoveled sidewalk, her entire body clenching in on itself in a futile effort to stay warm.
A part of her welcomed the cold. There was something sadly ironic about piling on thermals, sweaters, coats hats gloves and scarves – and still feeling the bite of wind down to her bones. No matter how she guarded, shielded herself, there was always cold. Always pain.
Her eyes glued to the beaten path before her. To her feet as they trudged on. She wished she had a good pair of boots; the Airwalks she wore were only a year old, but the thick rubberized fabric was already tearing, pulling away from the sole. He feet would be wet and cold all day. She’d stop in at the thrift store, but boots were hard to find. Everyone needed them – they sold as quickly as they were brought in.
Her eyes filled suddenly, and she gave a strong sniff, shaking her head. The last thing she needed was to be crying as she walked down the street. Not only would it be embarrassing to be seen in that state, but the tears would cloud her eyes, and she could step wrong, not seeing a patch of ice or a huge shard of broken glass (why did people feel the need to throw bottles onto sidewalks?). Then she’d be on her ass, crying and hurt with twisted ankle or deep cut. Why add to her problems?
She reached the bus stop without incident. And with ten minutes still to wait. She’d missed enough buses to know that it would be better to pace the corner for a few minutes than to face the decision to walk back home, knowing she’d have to make the trek again. So she paced, walking circles around a guard railing. She pulled her phone from her pocket to check the time. Eight minutes till the bus. Six minutes. Five.
She tried not to think, of anything. Being idle was cruelly anxious. Waiting was torture. Her mind wanted to wander, to touch on those random ideas that made pain flicker inside her, electric. She looked again at her phone. Three minutes. That was good. Maybe the bus would be early.
Traffic blew by her as she raised her eyes to the corner the bus would turn down. She felt embarrassed and exposed standing on the corner. She pulled her coat tighter around her. Her hands were clenched in her pockets, her toes curled in her shoes. Her hat – an old black knit Adidas cap – was pulled down just below her eyebrows, almost too low for her to see. She bounced on the balls of her feet, willing the bus to appear.
Finally! The white and blue monster grumbled around the corner, trailing a steam of exhaust. She groped in her jeans pocket for her bus money. She should really just buy a pass for convenience sake, but she somehow felt the physical presence of the dollar and quarter reassuring. She kicked the snow for her shoes before stepping up the blue treaded stairs. The bus hissed with heat, making her hands and feet ache with excruciating relief. After slipping her fare in the box, she settled into a middle seat. The bus roared, shook, and trundled down the busy street.
Brown eyes, shimmering slightly, took in the scene as it passed by the window. The dirty looking shops, the shoddy little houses. The gas station she was surprised still remained opened, after having been the site of so much violence over the years. The Walgreens she would walk to on days when she just needed to walk somewhere. Her whole life had been lived in this run-down part of town. She wondered if she’d ever escape it. If she even wanted to.
She closed her mind to the thought. Her eyes glazed over as she shut down. Enjoying the warmth of the bus, the satisfaction of being out in the world. The fear of being out in the world, however briefly. Maybe today, she’d smile at someone, and they’d smile back. They’d talk. They’d laugh. And that would be good. That would be good enough for today.
She smiled, and it hurt her wind-burnt cheeks.
Her heart ached. Literally.
The intensity of the feeling was so powerful, a physical blow that knocked her to her knees. She didn’t understand, couldn’t comprehend the feeling – the gnawing, burning pain in her chest. Her hands went to the spot, eyes wide as she looked down. She half expected to see blood seeping through her shirt, staining her hands.
Her confusion added to the pain, and she doubled over, gasping. A shudder passed through her, chilling her even as her chest caught fire, exploding. Freezing, shivering while she burned with agony.
The fire found her face, her eyes, and they stung bitterly as they filled. At once, a dam burst, and she buried her face in her hands as tears poured from her. Sobs wrenched her body. From head to toe she burned hot and cold. Her muscles clenched uncontrollably, locking her into a tortured caricature of a human being.
She felt she couldn’t breathe, the pain was too great, her cries too overpowering. She gasped, and the feeling of drawing a breath made her throat raw. She coughed, then gagged. It was all too much. The tears pouring from her eyes, the seeping of her nose, the incredible pain in her chest.
What was this? If this was heartache, heartbreak, she hadn’t though it would be anything this physical. Her body convulsed, and fresh sobs poured anew. Uncontrollable. Every nerve in her body sizzled. Her veins throbbed with the maddening, wrenching beat of her heart.
Kneeling on the floor, her stomach clenched then turned. Acid boiled up her throat. She reached around blindly, finding a nearby trash-can and dragging it over just in time to empty her stomach. A blinding pain seared around her midsection as she heaved repeatedly. Dry retches followed, and coughs that tore at her throat. She moaned, her head hanging, the smell of vomit and bile burning her nose.
She collapsed onto her side, drained and exhausted. The tears, never ending, leaked across the bridge of her nose, pooling in the cup of her ear before spilling and soaking into the carpet beneath her. A feeling of heaviness settled over her like a concrete blanket. Like a lead casing. The fire still burned in her chest, but it had reduced from an all-out inferno the the dull steady heat of a blacksmith’s forge. She closed her eyes, wanting nothing more than an end.
She awoke hours later, maybe days. Laying prone on the cold floor, every muscle cramped and sore. Her eyes felt thick and gummy, eyelashes clinging to each other with every blink. The room was dark, night had fallen, and she somehow felt relieved by the company of shadows.
Slowly she sat up, propping herself on one arm. Her hand rubbed roughly at her eyes, grinding the salt crust from them; wiping her hand down her face, grimy from all the tears. Looking around the grey-shaded room, she felt dazed, disconnected. She felt strangely calm, and utterly empty.
Shakily, she got to her feet. She just stood there, unsure of what her next action should be. She felt like a robot whose programming had been wiped. The irony lifted the corner of her mouth – the slightest movement – before disappearing beneath a wave of vacuity.
She was vaguely aware of the sick smell in the room, and mechanically set to emptying the trash, opening a window, and setting her apartment to rights. Collecting the cell phone she’d dropped after receiving the call, setting it into its changer. Sweeping the contents of her purse back into the leather bag: her keys, lipgloss, a hand-full of loose change, a wallet open to a picture of a striking man with auburn hair and laughing hazel eyes.
Alone in the darkness, the quiet, she wondered briefly if a heart could grow back. After being so thoroughly removed. The thought passed.