“There’s a place in Chicago where it only rains from one place in the sky,” she hummed, sipping her lukewarm coffee, pieces of ash flecked the table. She tapped out a cigarette and brought it to her mouth. She ripped it from her lips as she took her first drag.

“Weird,” I replied. Rain pattered against the window. The grey sky flooded in through the side window. The wind whistled. She put out her half smoked cigarette and winced as she got up from the table. She plopped herself down on the couch. Cigarette burns lined the cushions. Old pillows.

“It’s time.” She spoke, pain in her voice. I walked over to her, removed the bandage over the place they cut open her chest. I jumped when I saw her wound. Teary eyed, she looked away as I placed a new bandage over her heart. A place where only part of her heart works. 


A Notebook.

Day twenty – the things we treasure. I decided to skip day nineteen because I’m really not into my free writing lately. My head is entirely too clouded for that kind of thing. In the interest of writing about a prized possession, I’m not going to participate in the twist this time. I think overall, people usually don’t read long form pieces and I find when I try and write long form, it seems rushed. So – short form for me. 

My most prized possession? That’s a toughie. I usually consider my books my most prized possession, but if I had to nail it down to one item, it would have to be my grandma’s notebook that she recently gave me. My grandma is many things. Among them: a voracious reader, a spirited debater and an all around kind human being. She keeps a notebook with her to write down all her favourite quotes from the books she reads. She recently got a new notebook and gave me her old one. To keep forever. It’s a small glimpse into what my grandmother deems important. Many of them pieces of advice, sad moments from a gloomy tale or funny short sentences that made her giggle. All of them equally important. Here’s a couple of my favorites:

The air was so quiet, he could hear the broken pieces of the sun knocking in the water.

-Flannery O’Connor, The River

Howard thumped the window lightly and then a little harder. He was having an odd parental rush, a blood surge that was also about blood and was presently hunting through Howard’s expansive intelligence to find words that would more effectively express something like don’t walk in front of cars take care and be good and don’t hurt or be hurt and don’t live in a way that makes you feel dead and don’t betray anybody or yourself and take care of what matters and please don’t and please remember and make sure. 

-Zadie Smith, On Beauty

He remembered a phrase in Saint Augustine, which had been his only available reading for so long, about the City of God, which he took to be located in the next world: “There our being will have no death, our knowledge no error, our love no mishap.” In that world, if he had understood the saint correctly, suffering would be transfused with moral meaning and converted into joy. In the last hour before dawn he longed to believe this, and he even attempted a prayer, attempted in his mind to knock on the doors of the great silent universe and shout, “Is there anyone there?” Nothing answered him, and as the light of morning slowly flooded his cell, he wondered ruefully why it is those who believe most passionately in a merciful deity who are themselves most murderous and cruel. 

-Jill Paton Walsh, Knowledge of Angels 

My grandma. The Stephen Harper hating, God questioning, truth revelling woman from a small town in a small place. The questionably honest, hilariously robust woman that raised me to believe – and also know – that reading can bring the most joy in an otherwise dull life. Who leaves me handwritten pages of quotes to remind me of books I’ve long since forgotten. Who brings me stacks of novels every time she comes down to visit us. Oh this is a good story. She’d say with a warm smile on her face. It is this woman, that taught me to believe in whats right, and what’s humble. Whats natural and whats most pure. This is the woman that taught me the importance of not compromising convictions, ideals. Her notebook, used books with spines cracked and pages bent. These are the things that remind me – when I’ve seem to have forgotten – that there are parts of life that are overflowing with beauty. Rich in history. These are the things that remind me that there is good left. Good people. Good storytellers. Good mothers, good fathers. A collection of people doing their best to figure it all out. People yearning to have a voice, and have it be heard. To share in the unique, sometimes soul sucking, experience it is to be human and to live a human life.

The Space That Strength Occupied.

“The neighbourhood has seen better days, but Mrs. Pauley has lived there since before anyone can remember. She raised a family of six boys, who‘ve all grown up and moved away. Since Mr. Pauley died three months ago, she’d had no income. She’s fallen behind in the rent. The landlord, accompanied by the police, have come to evict Mrs. Pauley from the house she’s lived in for forty years.”

“Ooh boy..” my mother cooed as she looked out the window. Yellowed drapes pulled back by her strong hands. “That Mrs. Pauley been livin’ here since I was a girl,” she sighed, “shown me how to hem a dress, collect eggs from the coop. Awful.” She closed the blind and shook her head as she dragged her feet to the next room. I creeped toward the door and blinked as I saw the men in black uniforms stopped in front of her house. We were taught to be wary of the men in uniform. Them folks aren’t on your side, love. Strange world we be livin’ in. I heard my mothers voice in my head. Carefully, I opened the door and slinked outside. I plopped my unusually round bottom down on the cold pavement. I played with the untied laces on my shoes. The ends of the laces black from being drug through mud. My cheeks felt hot. Watching Mrs. Pauley’s house, I felt like an intruder, but I couldn’t look away.

The men in the black uniforms stepped out of the white car. Adjusting their belts around their waist, I saw the reflection of silver. One of them tipped their hat at me. Flushed, I turned away. I heard my mother through the screen door,

“Lord knows if a rich ol’ white woman be livin’ in that house, they’d be leavin’ her alone.” Must be talking to Aunt Liza again. They squawk on the phone with each other all day. Before daddy left he used to roll his eyes at my mother, lips glistening from his drink.

“You know if she did somethin’ other than talk on that dang phone all day, we’d get somethin’ done ’round here.” he’d exhale and return to his can.

What sounded like screams brought my gaze back to Mrs. Pauley’s house. Through the red front door I heard the muffled shouts of the men in the black uniforms, the helpless cries of Mrs. Pauley. Don’t ever let anyone control you, Miss Sandra. Once they control you, they own you. She had told me that while we picked onions in the garden a few years ago. And she’d tell me again and again. Don’t let them control you, Mrs. Pauley, I whispered to myself. Don’t let them take you.

The door opened slowly. Mrs. Pauley appeared in the front door, dwarfed by the men in the black uniforms. Her hands were behind her back. She tried to struggle, but was quickly defeated. In anguish I ran over to her. I heard the screams of my mother from the kitchen window.

“Mrs. Pauley! Mrs. Pauley! Dont let them control you!” I screamed as I approached her. She looked up at me with weary, defiant eyes.

“Go on now! Go!” She shouted back at me. Terrified, I slowly backed away back toward my front step. She didn’t look at me as she was escorted to the white car. The men in the black uniforms pushed down hard on her head and she fell into the back seat of the car. I saw her face in the back window as the car drove into the street. Her hand on the glass. Don’t let them control you. I saw her mouth move as she said the words she’d so often had said to me before.

I won’t Mrs. Pauley. I won’t.


Day Seventeen: Address one of your worst fears.

My worst fear would have to be the fear of feeling trapped, emotionally and metaphorically – not literally. Although, being literally trapped would be awful too, but you know what I mean. Before I found myself in my relationship, I was perpetually single. Usually after a couple weeks, I would lose interest. This would happen by me finding a personality trait that turned me off, which turned me off completely. This was mostly because I value my personal freedom, and didn’t enjoy the thought of someone else needing my time. Then I met my husband. We fell so fast in love with each other  I didn’t really have time to stop and think about how this would change who I am as a person. I didn’t have time to question if moving in after a month was a good idea, or if confessing our love for each other in that same time period was a good idea either. But it felt right. So I went with the flow. Now we’re in a good place, we’ve found a rhythm and we’re finally starting to flow naturally as a couple. I do what I want and he does what he wants and we’re always sure to make time for each other.

But. I’m persistently haunted by the notion that I have lost my freedom and that I’m trapped. Metaphorically. My husband is very aware and cautious to make me feel like I have endless amounts of freedom. Which I do. He’s very encouraging in making sure that I go out with friends, take time off, do things for myself. One of the reasons I fell in love with him is because he’s so supportive. However, if I ever get the feeling that I’m stuck or in a position where I can’t do what I want, I freak out like a cat in water. Seriously! I’ll get entirely too passive aggressive and become anxious all the time. It looms over our relationship like a black cloud.

So what do I do? I teach myself to become calm, to release control. (It’s a process, trust me!) I take time off from work and my life to go on trips with my girlfriends or go out for wine. I take time for myself, without neglecting my husband. It seems to be working. It’s a constant struggle, but I’m learning to let it go, be calm. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

A Stranger.

Day sixteen: Imagine a job in which  you had to sift through forgotten or lost belongings. I’m back with hopefully more inspiration. So sorry for being late on the Writing 101 posts, I’m catching up now! 

I was going to do a third installment on the how the flood affected my family and I’s life, but I didn’t like the direction it was taking and it started to fizzle out. Surprisingly, day 16’s prompt reminded me of a time where I actually had to sift through someone’s belongings.

Years ago, I used to work for an individual that owned several rental properties around the town I lived in. Due to his lack of time, he often didn’t have time to conduct in depth interviews and background checks of this tennants. Because of this, he was often left with renters that didn’t pay rent on time or trashed his properties. Whenever he had a tenant turnover, it was my job to clean the place to that it would be ready for the new occupant. He had one particular delinquent tenant at his rental close to my own house, and though I don’t know the details, they were more or less forced out of the home from services that took children away from unfit parents.

It was a sad house, when I first arrived. The air was dank. Dishes were still in the sink, food left on the counter. It appeared as though they were forcibly removed from the house in the middle of dinner.  A coffee filter with grounds still in it was left on the edge of the sink and had hardened leaving a circular stain. In the master bedroom, there was a double mattress on the floor, old coke cans everywhere and cigarette butts sprinkled all over the floor. There was a child’s room down the hall, crayon photos taped to the walls. Old stuffed animals with the stuffing coming out. One single bathroom, a spare room filled with anonymous things that didn’t have a place. The basement was worse. An entire room filled from floor to the ceiling with old toys, clothes and camping items. You couldn’t even walk on the floor from all the loose stuff.

The first task was to throw everything away. A dumpster arrived and was placed on the driveway. I spent a full day throwing items into trash bags and hauling them out to the dumpster. I found myself sitting in the middle of the living room floor, going through an entire lives worth of items. Old photos with the corners torn, birth certificate of their child, pay stubs, christmas cards. A family’s entire existence filtering through my fingers and into the trash. From all the paperwork, I deduced where the mother had worked. I wondered what had became of them. Where did they end up? Where was the child? From the room it appeared it was a little boy. Did he hurt? Was he lonely? The questions rattled around my brain and left me nauseous. I set aside a few things I didn’t have the heart to toss. The birth certificate, a couple of photos of the family, a small toy. I kept them, unsure of what I was going to do with them.

The landlord wanted to strip the house and renovate it completely. After dragging all the items, clothes, toys, kitchen appliances into the trash, I was tasked with removing tiles, stripping hardwood and removing cupboards. It didn’t last very long. If anyone knows me, they know I’m not so good with the manual labor. The task of stripping was contracted out to a crew of men, and I was left alone with these few belongings that weren’t mine. They weighed heavy in my hands. What was I to do with them?

I drove to the mothers work. I sat in my car and stared at the photos I had set aside. A picture of an older lady, I assumed a grandmother. Maybe this was the only photo left of her? Another picture of what I was assuming was the mother and a little child, strung around her hip. Mother smiling at son. Gathering the things, I walked to the door with a heavy heart. I asked for the mother by name, but the lady behind the counter told me that she wasn’t in until a few hours later. Better, I thought. I couldn’t answer any questions. I pulled aside the lady behind the counter, and quietly asked if she could return these items to the rightful owner. She looked at me with defensive eyes.

“Where did you get these?” she accused, almost angry that I had come to have them in my possession. I told her that I was sorry, and that I couldn’t say how I got them.

“I just thought it was important that she have them,” I stammered, looking down as I placed them into her hands. Turning around, I walked out of the store and back to my car. A little lighter, somewhat disheartened and still wondering what had become of them.