James had heard the screen door creak somewhere in the middle of the night. He wasn’t worried, for Bess wandered. When he awoke at dawn and she had not returned, he knew she was gone. She had appeared a few months before, stopping to admire his farm house, and stayed. They had shared time and space, he never asked questions and she never offered any answers. Although strangers, they were connected; reflections of themselves recognized in the other. As he scanned the room, everything she had traveled with, which wasn’t much, was gone. All that remained was the leather bound journal that was never far from her reach. She had left it for him on the kitchen table, where his cat now lazily slept on it. He had expected she would move on, he just never knew when. He would find her between the journal’s covers. A couple of weeks after she left, on a dark night after finishing the better part of a fifth of whiskey, he turned to the back of the journal. The page was bookmarked with a blue bird feather, gently touching the pages with his calloused fingers, he read her words.
I crave the moment that can be found somewhere between shot number 4 and 5 of tequila, the place where I can close my eyes and feel the world spinning out of control. This is the point where the music no longer rings in my ears but pumps through my veins. The heat of the dance floor does nothing to ward off what has turned cold within me. After shot number 5, I can reopen my eyes and my most expensive boots are replaced with size 8 red sneakers. At shot number 6, the bar bathroom seems more like the small farmhouse I knew as a child with its threadbare towels and toothpaste stained sink. The child in me sinks to the floor, consumed by sobs, the gut wrenching dry heaves and the understanding that the only reason my sensible mother let me pick out red sneakers earlier in the day was because my life was going to be destroyed later that night.
Abandonment as a child led to my personal solitary confinement. So many strangers fed on the blush of my youth. Our lives quietly intersected like a nightmare, the time we shared crushed my spirit, my truth reduced to the glimpses of life I choose to remember, or desperately try to forget. Ultimately, in their world I never existed. Because of this I see people for who they are; mostly simple rats in a maze, searching for rewards in a pathetic shallow world of conformity. They ignore that true originality is sparked by risk, igniting the true fire within.
I sat in the same pew most Sundays, never expecting a miracle, just hoping to be heard. As years passed, prayers were never answered but my tears flowed from my tarnished soul. Out of habit, I would close my eyes and silently plead, “God hear me now, please take my pain and shame, for I am not like you, I can no longer carry the weight of their sin and mine.”
But tonight is different. I sense the deep cracks in my soul, the damage, the loss and fear are finally silent. As I stare at my reflection in the mirror, I am eyeing a stranger, unrecognizable. My soul is cracking open, the light shining in is illuminating the dark corners, my fear and doubt, usually real and present seems tamed.
He had stopped reading, there was more, but he knew how the story ended. As he closed the journal, a picture floated to the floor. It was of Bess, he figured she was 11 or 12, an old soul in red sneakers. As he flipped the picture over, the handwriting matched that in the journal. This was her gift to him, a few words that he would forever treasure, “In the light of your corner of the world, I am found and forever free.”