(would you buy a used car from this city? Yes, Detroit)
Kristine Starr is my secret weapon. A superb editor from Columbia University, Kristine tag-teams with me for professional editing services that are available here at the towers that are A Word with You Press.
She figgered she would enter something light-hearted for our contest, as our mission statement remains “Putting Gravitas on a lo-carb Diet.” This makes #5 of 24 to post since the countdown began yesterday.
Because she is staff here, she is disqualified from winning the $500 except if by prior agreement she shares it with me.
Here is her offering to the contest. She forgot to give it a title, so I provided one for her.
I agree to share the $500 with Thorn if I win
by Kristine Starr
The coffee is brewing. I can smell it from where I am leaning as I wake up. Even though I am grateful enough to simply be awake for one more day, the smell of something so wonderfully normal still brings sharp tears to my eyes and makes me sad.
I inhale deeply, rub my face and tie a wet rag around my nose, and mouth, and head into the light.
The worst thing about the days is that the sky never changes. It’s like all the color is drained out of the world. Despite that, the most annoying thing is that there is no break in days. One turns into three into thirty into thousands. Unbroken days of white skies and a black world.
When I close my eyes, I can find the brilliant reds, blues and oranges of the world before, but they are fading. The key to memory is reliving all of the experiences so that they never fade. Setting yourself apart from the world, apart from stimulants and distractions and light and walking through your head.
I can do it when I try…
…Red. Blue. Dark blue. Tiny specks of stars in a deep sapphire sky. Pink clouds still reflecting the sunlight as the world turned. Little clouds fighting against the inevitable slip into darkness…fighting just like we fight, hanging to the last shred of normal, hanging onto the last scraps of the light, of the color, of the good–
My walk into the past was shattered by a dripping cup of weak coffee shoved in my hand by someone whose face was obscured by cloth also.
“Thanks.” Even weak, thin and from a stranger, a warm cup of coffee was a luxury too rare to pass up. I didn’t even want to drink it. I just held the cup and let the warmth seep into my body.
“Not like its too tasty anyway. At least you have the coffee.”
“Look, I have to get going. Thanks for letting me sleep. And thanks for the coffee.”
“For sure. Good luck.”
I begin the process of securing my pack to my body with straps reinforced with kevlar bands stolen from a dead fighter’s armor. Waist, shoulders, chest. Finally, I wet my rag again and shove my machete between the pack and my body. Easily accessible but hidden. I don’t want to invite trouble.
It’s not that it’s dangerous, you know? Walking? It’s that everything is dangerous, really, when you think about it. So it doesn’t matter if you walk or stay still. It’s all bad for you. Trouble will find you regardless.
This is no quest. There’s no magical point, no shining object I am tasked with bringing to an ivory tower on a hill. I’ve already failed at protecting. Now I’m just working on persevering. Basic survival is always harder than you first think.
I’m not special. None of us are. But, if given another chance to be, I would try. I hope. I just can’t think of anything to do besides walking.
I guess it numbs the shame I feel for the current state of affairs.
It gets colder, but the landscape is always the same. Shadows chasing varying shades of grey. Black and white blending in different ways to create the same horrible outcome.
Like a scratched record that keeps skipping in the same spot.
I like having you to talk to as I walk. The moon in my pocket that I couldn’t lose, even when I tried. I don’t remember the last time I saw you.
That’s a lie.
I remember everything, right down to the speckled formica countertop, the yellow lights, and the cup of coffee I held very tightly in my right hand. I know it happened, I just can’t remember when.
Besides, I miss you. I have so much to tell you.
When walking gets tiring, I stop. Post up somewhere hidden. I take deep, wet breaths and with my index finger trace the words and shapes that are so carefully carved into my arms and legs. Scarred tissue that once was open wounds created in my skin with an extremely sharp knife in order to protect me…
…Red. Blue. Black. Blue. The way I was bruised and bleeding. Your skin was dirty and tasted like salt…
…I walk through the memories to keep them alive…
…Steam from the black water as it hits the cold air. Your deep, brown eyes staring at me from the middle of that hot pool ringed with azure tiles and the purple shadows of mountains…
I have to keep you alive. Even if it’s only for the moon right here in my pocket. I know that if I can keep you alive, then you will give me a reason to keep walking. Maybe if I keep walking, I will find the ending, the point to the struggle and the journey. Maybe if I get to the end, the ending will be different. I will open my eyes and the world will be full of color and you will be right here next to me; warm and soft, dirty and salty, alive and witty and then all the good will come flooding back-
I have to keep walking.
Now I have to find it. I don’t know what I have been looking for this entire time, but I will know it when I find it.
And once I do, I promise that this time I will drag my bleeding body to the top of the rocky ridge, slam my last clip into my Kalashnikov, look over the chaos that fills the valley below, and this time – this time – I swear it’s not too late. This time I will fight harder and the good will win.
And then I will give the world back to you.
I wet my rag, blink back tears and listen.
Nothing. No response from the moon, no animal noises, no wind, not anything.
Standing, I adjust my machete and take the next step back into the grey and black world.