Questions for answers that don’t exist/ Answers for questions unasked

 

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“What? What do you want me to do?”

The mother shook the baby. She had been crying for the past ten minutes with no sign of letting the tears stop their sliding down her smooth cheeks. Her nose was running, but all the tissues had been used up by her mother the night before, when something, only God knows, made her cry just as much.

So while the mother cursed the ceiling for conjuring a life of pain and confusion for her alone and screamed at the flesh and blood that stole her smooth skin, the universe listened to the sound no one could hear- the churning of a baby’s empty stomach.

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“I something in something? What does that mean, Emma? What are you saying?”

The girl fidgeted in her feet. She mumbled and stared at the lines between the tiles on the floor and thought about how they’d make perfect streets for ants.

“What are these marks on your arms? Huh- I guess you just need a bath to scrub them off.”

My teacher is weird, the girl thought to herself. Purple was her favorite color, mommy said so. She even liked purple more than the color of the sky. Emma couldn’t wait for purple day. That’s when she got to go home from school and stare at the ceiling that mommy painted purple while mommy painted her with purple polka dots. Mommy makes the best polka dots, Emma thought. The universe thought so too.

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“Are you okay? I love and miss you.”

Emma opened her phone and read the message on the screen. She got one just like it almost everyday from her new parents. They were really her aunt and uncle, but the social worker explained that every family is a royal family; when someone is done with the job, they pass it to the next person in line.

“Everything ok?”

They didn’t like it when she didn’t respond correctly. It was never enough to say okay. Everything must be explicit, they say. Who, what, when, where, why, how, and then some. It is never enough to not know. You must always know Emma. You must always know.

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“It looks like it says ‘I breathe in…’ but I can’t figure out the rest. What happened? Do you want to talk about it? I’m here for you.”

She had gotten used to seeing these similar words pop up on her phone. Ever since she stopped talking, Emma carried around a notepad and pen and left scribbles she called notes for people to read her thoughts rather than hear them. It didn’t really sacrifice the clarity of her messages, although that’s how people perceived it- since they couldn’t read her chicken scratch. Just because she was audible before doesn’t mean she was clear to begin with, she thought to herself. She felt confused like the eyebrows that twitched when they read what she wrote. It doesn’t make sense for a mouth to speak when it doesn’t know what to say or what it’s saying.

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“Eh. I don’t really care.”

Sometimes Emma purposefully made notes difficult to read. She felt that the ones that took the time to understand her lines rather than glance at the notes were worth her time. That’s why codes exist. Some messages are only meant for certain eyes. The people who cared not to bother with her words didn’t worry her. In fact, it eased her mind knowing that she could easily sort the seedlings from the weeds.

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“Does that say I believe in sadness?”

Emma didn’t know who this was. Her rule was to only give notes to people she knew, and this was a random number. Was it an old friend? Someone playing detective? Either way, it didn’t matter. The unfamiliarity, strangely, lifted away the vulnerability that texting gave her. She didn’t mind if a stranger was able to read her thoughts. The universe knew her mind and more.

“So what if I do? What if I’m wrong?” she asked in return.

“Then I am too,” replied the stranger.

“Can I ask you something?”

“Anything.”

“If the mind confuses a burden for an inconvenience or anything other than what it truly is, is that wrong?”

“That’s life.”

“So then it doesn’t matter? You just go on?”

“I suppose.”

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I recently experienced a period of confusion and uncertainty within myself. However, despite feeling the inability to see in the darkness, there was never a moment in which I was alone in the abyss. The quotes in this story are all quotes from the people who reached out to me at a time where I felt blind but decided to reach out for something, even though I didn’t know what exactly. Thank you to everyone that was willing to support me or just ponder along with me. Although I didn’t have any answers to give or didn’t know how to give them, I’m grateful for every question asked. 

**Disclaimer: The story itself is fiction.

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A Mental Picture Portrait

“What are you thinking about?”

“I don’t know. Nothing really.”

But I was lying. I’m not stupid; I know exactly what I’m thinking about.

I’m thinking about how I was just zoning out a few seconds earlier and re-imagining the entire scenario in my head. For a few short moments, the grass we were standing on became concrete, and the sky was closed out by the walls of an abandoned building. Then the park bench we were sitting on turned into multiple pews. Out of nowhere, we were surrounded by people, specifically the people I had seen in church yesterday. There was a couple in front of me holding a sleeping kid, and there was a dad and his two daughters sitting in the pew behind us. Then for some reason you disappeared, and the mysterious, abandoned pews gave me so many splinters that the man in front of me became bug-eyed. His eyes actually turned into abnormally large eyes that could’ve belonged to a bug from Jumanji except they couldn’t have because the eyes had pupils and irises and human bewilderment.

Of course the kid that was in his lap started crying cartoon tears afterward. Who wouldn’t? Then again, I didn’t in the situation because I was now staring at my cartoon splintered hands. The splinters were cartoons, not my hands. My hands were still mine; I guess that’s a good sign. Unfortunately, one of the little girls behind me transformed into a tiny monkey with a huge temper. While beating her sister to the rhythm of “We Are Young” by Fun, I proceeded to teleport to the only corner in the round room. Once there, I started vomiting, but it was only cartoon vomit so I didn’t really feel it. What I did feel was the screaming in my mind (the mind of my zoned out self, not my actual self…or maybe it was… I couldn’t tell) as fireworks shot out from my fingertips. During the time that I was vomiting in the corner, I came to the conclusion that the fireworks were red, since after all they were protruding from the inside of my human body, a mostly red object because of muscle tissue and blood.

All of a sudden, the walls started shaking with debris as a booming voice pounded from the unknown outside, so I took it as a sign to snap back into reality.

“Sorry, what did you say?”

“Oh I was asking if you wanted to get out of here and go someplace else.”

“Sure. Let’s do that.”

 

**DISCLAIMER: This story is entirely fictional.**

Middle School House Wife

Sometimes I want the world to storm and the ground to rupture. Instead, it’s sunny outside with light rain. There’s a saying over here that when it rains with the sun out, the devil is beating his wife. I don’t know if I believe it or not. Personally, I don’t think anyone would want to marry the devil. He’s probably beating someone else.

That being said, they didn’t cancel the football game for tonight. Unfortunately, it means that my white cheer shoes are going to transform into this murky brown color. It’s not unfortunate for me though. I’d do anything to avoid having my mom force me into high school cheer next year.

Honestly, I just want to stay home. I don’t want to do anything special with my life. To me, the idea of being a house wife with an unused bachelor’s degree sounds like music to my ears. All I’d have to do is marry rich, hire a maid, and bake some cookies every now and then. I’ll tell my husband that I’m allergic to kids so that we won’t have to get any, and then we can spend their theoretical college tuition on luxurious vacations or as many tubs of cookie dough as we please.

Therefore, I’m going to ruin my shoes as much as possible. I’ll cheer as much as I can while looking happy about it before I “accidentally” slip in the mud of our run down field. Hopefully, Cole’s leg is still broken. That means he’ll be on the same side of the field as me, but on the bench rather than on the field. I wouldn’t want my future cookie dough provider to see me make a mess of myself.

Of course, true love is blind and all that other trash people say, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to look good in front of the man I’m meant to marry. Just because he’s seen me in diapers doesn’t mean I’m going to roll out of bed and not put on any makeup before leaving the house. He could pop up anywhere, so I must be ready whenever the opportunity for me to talk to him  presents itself.

Unfortunately for me, that opportunity does not come often, especially since after my mother told me that the doctor told her that I needed braces. That was the day I decided I was going to hate my mother. It was the day before the spring formal that she decided to take me dress shopping and to the orthodontist. I was in so much pain and embarrassment because of her. It’s her fault that I was the first girl in the sixth grade to get braces at my school. It’s because of her that Cole stopped talking to me as much as he used to.

Two years later, I’m still stuck in the same spot. Braces, cheer, and no Cole. I haven’t given up hope yet. I believe that his broken leg is a sign. It means that he is meant to end his football career in middle school and begin following a noble pursuit, such as medicine or law. That way, he will be able to provide for the both of us. Vacations, cookie dough, and all.

 

The Things He Could Never Tell Her

The morning faded in with a tender kiss on the cheek and her hair draped across my eyelids. Through the auburn strands I could make out the curled lashes and the glisten of chap stick on her lips. She only kissed me that way when it rained.

Her name was Juliana and we had been together for the past two years. I knew her favorite song to hear on long car rides after getting carsick. I knew that when she said no she meant it, unless of course she didn’t look me in the eye crossly. That’s when she meant the exact opposite. And there are all the memories: watching TV and taking her to shows and buttoning each other’s hard to reach buttons. She only kissed me goodbye on her way to work when it rained.

Juliana was an artist who took care of other people’s art for a living. No matter the exquisiteness of her drawings, the museum two blocks over never displayed them. Instead it showed off fancy, colorful paintings and Juliana in all black when her favorite color was yellow. But she had to wear black. The museum was a contemporary building with glass for walls so it made sure that all visible personnel looked professional without standing out. Yet, that didn’t matter when it rained. On those days she got to wear her yellow raincoat, so for the first few seconds of her walking through the door she stood out like a sore thumb, a sore thumb with silky hair and curves and eyes that continuously gleamed with wonder of life.  

Apparently strange guys like sore thumbs. I don’t know why and I wish they wouldn’t but they do. She was my sore thumb and after the morning led into the afternoon I couldn’t wait for her to walk through the door and toss her wet, yellow raincoat onto the couch we bought together. I wanted to show her the new song on the radio and all the old ones, too. I wanted to hold her hand again and tell her about my horrible boss because I knew she would listen and understand and agree and disagree all at the same time. I wanted to watch her eyelids flutter before she woke up because the past two years I had wasted my time sleeping in.

I wanted to yell at her for not coming back even though it wasn’t her fault because yelling at her would mean that she was real and alive and here and able to yell back at me with her auburn hair and yellow raincoat and black dress that I didn’t have to help her button because it had a zipper.
But I never could. I just hugged the pillow that was supposed to be hers tonight like it was last night because it had been her pillow for two years. It wasn’t the same.

 

This short story was inspired by the following writing prompts:

  • The three things he could never tell her
  • She walked outside into the rain and never came back
  • She cried for him- the boy who never existed