Monday, June 4, 2012

Short Story: Second Chances

This is a story I wrote last December. It's very, very short. It was born out of a place of heartache and pain, and trying to make sense of a world that wasn't making much sense at all at the time.

Pain is transformative, and can often turn us into something we never knew was possible.

In my case, pain became such a part of my soul that I did not know how to separate it from the thing that was me.

My husband had cheated, my best friend lied and betrayed me.

I was angry, lost, and alone. My ability to always express my feelings, my thoughts, my desires cohesively and comprehensively had fled.  I was left with a shell of a woman that I did not recognize.

Pain. It gnawed at me.

I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t think of anything but the massive sense of betrayal I felt. I had done everything right, hadn’t I? Hadn’t I?

I would ask myself this question multitudes of times over the next year.

I would lash out, puzzling through the same things over and over again.  Countless text messages, emails, IM’s, phone calls, tearful voice messages…would be left for him, only to be skimmed or ignored completely.  He couldn’t deal with my pain. He couldn’t deal with my anger.

I couldn’t deal with my anger.

On the eve of one of the days where the pain was so intense, where my heart felt like it was shattered in a million pieces at my feet, I was walking aimlessly in circles around my block, hoping for some clarity, some ‘aha’ moment where everything would just fall into place and my heart would find some measure of peace.
Again came the thoughts of ‘What if I had done something different….”

When behind me, I finally heard a man talking to me.  “Ma’am?  Ma’am?”

I turned around, and behind me was a homeless man.  Someone who had nothing, and likely wanted money for booze – after all, his choices had led him to the streets, surely.

“Ma’am.” He pointed to a black car over his shoulder. “You might want to be careful.  That car has been following you for quite some time.  I wanted to make sure you were ok.”

I took another look at the man – dirty, bedraggled, gaunt.  Obviously hungry, obviously downtrodden. Yet he had taken the time and made the effort to reach out to me to ensure my safety.

I smiled at him, and looked at the car.  I didn’t recognize it.  Why was it following me?

I reached into my pocket and pulled out some money.  “Here, let me give you something, please.”

He smiled at me, and beneath the dirt and grime, I could see that he had once been beautiful. I wondered what had brought him to this low point in his life.  He shook his head.  “No thank you. I get along just fine. Just keep yourself safe, that is all the reward that I need.”

He patted me on the shoulder once, then turned and shuffled back the way he had come, not glancing at the car, nor back at me.  I watched him go, and the car pulled away as the man turned the corner.

As I walked back to my home, again lost in thoughts of anger and pain, I stumbled across a book lying on the sidewalk. It had a plain red cover, no title, no markings on the binding.  It was dirty but not torn.  Had the man dropped it? I opened it carefully, looking for any inscription of ownership, but the first few pages were completely blank.

As I turned to the first written page, beautiful script unfolded before my eyes.  It was obviously someone’s treasured journal or diary.

The first line: “Jane was sad.”

I didn’t read any further, but snapped the book shut.  My name was Jane.  I tucked the book under my arm and continued home, setting it on the coffee table when I entered.

My cat, Sampson, jumped up onto the table and purred at me, wanting attention.  I scratched his head absent-mindedly, already having forgotten about the book, and thinking back on my pain and anger.  It was like a hot coal in my chest, this feeling like I was going to explode in anger.

Instead, I sat down on my couch and cried.  And cried.  For hours, I sat there.  My cat eventually crawling into my lap, and when I was finally exhausted, I fell asleep. Another day lost in pain and anger.


The next morning when I woke, the book I had found was the first thing I saw.  Before the anger and pain set in, I shuffled over to the coffee table and picked it up.  It was heavier than I remembered, but I just shook my head and walked over to the couch.  I curled my feet up, and Sampson jumped into my lap.
I opened to the first page again, and began to read.

Jane was sad. Her heart had been broken into a million pieces by the actions of others. She was filled with anger, pain, and grief.

The people she trusted most had betrayed her – her husband, her best friend. The friend who she’d discussed all the troubles in her marriage with, the person she’d trusted with her confidences, her dissatisfaction – was also screwing her husband.

I looked up, then back down at the book.  What the hell?

Jane’s anger consumed her.  Her days were filled with grief. Months passed, in which she begged, pleaded, and asked for her life back.  She wanted to fix it, she wanted to know where things had gone wrong.  She wanted him to admit his mistakes, to see that she was worthy of his love.

My eyes filled with tears.

She reached out to him, again and again. Each time, he shunned her.  Each time he gave her false hope and a patronizing pat on the head. And each time her heart broke a little more.  The pieces were being ground into dust. Each day her bitterness and anger grew. Each day she tried to talk to him, each day she failed.

Was this really what I had become?

One day, Jane was walking aimlessly on her block. Her anger and grief blinded her, and she did not see the danger of a stranger following her. Jane was pulled into the black car, and her body was never found.

I stopped crying, my hand on my mouth. My fingers were shaking, tears were still in my eyes.
I turned the page.

Jane, do you believe in angels? You should. This isn’t how your life is meant to end.  Let go. Be free. And recognize that you have been given a second chance. Don’t waste it.

I set the book aside and rushed into the bathroom to wash my face. I leaned over the sink and stared at myself in the mirror.  Puffy eyes, scraggly hair, worn and stained clothes that hadn’t been changed for days.

What had happened to me?

I returned to the couch, but the book was gone.

The lesson wasn’t.

My second chance. Never taken for granted.

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