Blink

She lay there completely drained, unable to speak, but also not feeling the need to. Exhaustion had robbed the strength necessary to keep her eyes open. Throughout the night she fought hard but, by the third time the staff rushed in, summoned by the blaring alarms, she felt herself slipping. Wearily, she turned her face in his direction. In the rush of doctors, he had been driven to the far corner of the hospital room. His face showed fear she’d never seen before . He looks stricken, she thought. Through her new calm, she felt only briefly sorry for him. She grew detached and he grew dim as she began that exquisite surrender. The hands of the people working on her body grew faint. Their voices took on a distant tinny sound.

There was no fear. That surprised her. How many times had she begged for this moment of release but backed off, fearful of what lies beyond? At last, she found herself wrapped in comfort and, with a growing sense of disengagement, she thought, how ironichow peculiar that my old prayer would be honored now, when I no longer plead for escape. Be careful what you wish for.

She vaguely felt her body moving. Her eyes blinked open to her doctor’s hovering face, asking questions she couldn’t respond to. They blinked open to lights flashing past overhead, then open again when a mask was placed over her face. They finally opened to him, his forehead resting against hers, his eyes full of worry. He squeezed her hand and she felt that.

On the verge of surrender, the first cry of their son touched her ears. She thanked God for his life, grateful for that piece of her that would remain with her husband.

Then she closed her eyes.

This week The Red Dress Club’s Red Writing Hood prompt was for a flash fiction piece inspired by the word LIFE. The story needed to be told in 300 words or less. Mine is precisely 300 words and based on the birth of my son. Every single word is true, except for the part where I died, of course.

I Remember the Dancing Dust – A Writing Prompt

This week’s memoir prompt asked you to dig deep to find what, from your childhood, you still know from heart.

I still remember all those rhymes you did while slapping hands with a friend, like Miss Mary Mack Mack Mack all dressed in black black black.

What do YOU remember? 600 word limit

The parking lot’s gravel crunched beneath my feet as I followed my father toward the door. The mid-day sun threw a glare off the rear windows of the handful of cars parked outside the quiet building. I wondered why this place was always our secret. He’d slapped my knee in the car and given it a light, tickling squeeze. “Remember…don’t tell mommy that we came here, K-Belle.” he instructed. Why wasn’t I supposed to tell Mommy? Through the screen of trees I could hear the cars on Route 6, but we were hidden from view in the parking lot of this dead end road, cloaked by the trees that seemed eager to help keep our secret. I would do anything for him, anything to stay with him forever even if it meant lying to my mother.

He pulled the door open onto a darkened room. From the outside, I could vaguely make out the tables and empty red vinyl chairs. The familiar smell of stale cigarette smoke and beer wafting into the daylight reminded me that this was a tavern. My sneakered foot crossed over the threshold and entered the cool, darkened cave of a room. To the right I saw the long bar with its rows of bottles lining the wall. A yellow-haired woman stood behind the bar, tending to a handful of men, each sitting alone and hunched over a glass. I knew who they were. They were the nice old men who suddenly talked to me in the voice of Donald Duck after they’d gone to the bathroom two or three times. Their faces bore silvering whiskers and deeply lined creases. Their good humor seemed forced and unreal. There was nearly always one who would speak to me through reddened eyes full of water. He’d lean in too close, too eager to ask me questions that didn’t make sense and I would wonder why his eyes were so filled with tears that never fell. Was it my fault? Was it my presence that reminded him that he was lonely? Was he sad because his little girl wasn’t sitting at the bar next to him?

Those men bothered me with the way that they waited until my father left for the bathroom to approach me. I’m sure that their intent was to care for the little girl sitting at the bar alone under the temporary care of the barmaid, but they left me unsettled. When I spotted a man who had the potential to become too interested in me, I always chose the barstool on the other side of my father, creating a barrier against men with rheumy eyes. Why was it that I was always the only one who noticed them? Everyone else seemed to look through the watery ghost men.

I knew one of them would keep me rich with maraschino cherries and orange wedges while I sat with my daddy. Sometimes, they’d buy me a Shirley Temple and tip their hats in my direction. I learned to hold my drink up and say thank you, like all the ladies in the bars did. I didn’t want to stand out.

When I was a little girl, I spent a considerable amount of time in bars learning to play pinball and read the words in the jukebox. This piece is an excerpt from the memoir I am working on in my MFA program. It is only a portion of what I so vividly remember.

This ain’t your home…

We bought that house together months before our wedding but it was never really mine. In his mind, he did all the work so he became the sole owner and he made that clear. I didn’t care. In the end, I just walked away from it all and threw everyone into a state of confusion. Who walks away like that unless there’s another man?

I do.

I tried to be like them and, in conforming, I began to drown. In the end, I went back to get my things. I left half of everything – half of the towels, half the dishes, half the sheets, I left the bed, I took the couch, and I left the house. It was never mine. I cleaned it. I cooked his dinner in it. I tried to be his wife in it. I wanted to die in it.

One night I went back to pick up my cat. His new girlfriend, the Bud Girl from Vegas, was allergic. The dog was off limits though, because she liked Jack. He’d left her picture at my sister’s house. Had he planted it there as if accidentally, so that I’d see his new girlfriend? She was cute. She wore her Bud Girl uniform proudly and stood beaming next to a hairy overweight and heavily bearded biker. I think his planted photo scheme bombed. I simultaneously thought it was funny, sad and desperate.

The night I picked up my cat, I stood in the living room and he moved closer to me, trying to pull me into an embrace that I didn’t want when the telephone began to ring. My telephone number, my telephone, my answering machine. “Hi, Baby it’s me…” my eyebrows rose as I spun back to look at his face. I stared at the person who had been accusing me of cheating for a month and a half. I glared at the person who threatened to change the locks on our house before we were divorced because his father told him to – the person who was just trying to pull me into an embrace. I moved to pick up my telephone and say hello. “Wait!” he pleaded, “Don’t.” My hand hovered over the cradled telephone as I weighed the importance of picking it up. What did she know about me? Did she know I hadn’t even moved out yet? That we weren’t divorced? Did she know that he was trying to sleep with me while I picked up the cat? Did I really care enough to tell her?

 No.

I took a step back and listened to the disembodied voice calling my husband ‘Baby’. I looked around the room that I hated and my eyes finally came to rest on him. He had no idea what to do. Was he waiting for me to confront him? Was he waiting for me to retaliate after the accusations that I’d cheated? Did he need me to explain again that sometimes people leave because they’re drowning? Should I scream that I’d slept in my car because of him? That my own family stepped away from me because of my alleged cheating?

 No.

I stepped away from the telephone and picked up the crate holding Rosie. He reached for me again as she hung up, trying to pull me closer but I resisted. “I’ll be here with the moving truck in two weeks.”

She moved in a month later. I moved to Greenwich and a house full of single girls.