God, the Bully

The birds chirped and fluttered about as the wind rustled the leaves of the trees stretched above the framed sidewalk. A woman walked along, the heels of her shoes clicking against the smoothly worn pavement. She walked down the mostly uncrowded sidewalk, past the bank, across the street from hotel that overlooked the park. She could hear the din of a jackhammer and other tools being used as she turned the corner onto the next street. Wearing a black and white textured jacket over a silk button-down blouse and a skirt, she must have been on her way to work. She came near the construction site she heard earlier, right across the street from where she was waiting at the crosswalk. The wind flapped through her jacket, showing a few more centimeters of skin that was already being exposed with her cleavage and uncovered legs. The men working across the street stopped what they were doing and the noise died out a little. Before she glanced over at them, one of them hollered, “Hey mami, what’s up?” The woman smiled to herself as the crosswalk sign changed to ‘walk’. She crossed the street, away from the men and slowly out of their sight. The men resumed working, starting the jackhammer again and returning the neighborhood to the faded sounds of construction. Timothy paused for a moment, though, still gazing down the street before somebody tapped him on the shoulder to hand him a hammer. Timothy had seen the woman, and thought she was beautiful. Perhaps even the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. He couldn’t manage an outburst like Juan just had, but she definitely caught his attention before the guys had decided to return to their work.

Timothy liked his boss, Juan, and respected him a great deal. He was constantly amazed how Juan had the cojones to talk to beautiful women wherever he was, including at work. Timothy was raised by both his parents, but as a child he adhered to certain unwritten rules learned from his household at a young age. His father would often have friends and guests over either to discuss business or to watch a game on the 12” television set in the living room, which was just out of Timothy’s reach on its varnished stand. Timothy would go fetch them tea from the dining room table when asked to, and in the meantime he would play on the rug with his toys, while the men talked about money or yelled at the players on television. When the men came over, sometimes they brought their wives along. The wives would all herd off to mingle in the ‘guest room’, the yellow walls echoed their chattering amongst themselves, fussing over one another’s youth or age, sometimes dropping their voices to a whisper to delve into gossip. The women took care of their own hospitality, Timothy’s younger sister boiling the water and preparing the tea leaves for the group. The women never interfered in the men’s business, and even when one of their curious daughters would poke her head into the living room, Timothy knew better than to look at the young girl.

This was part of the reason he admired Juan so. Even in Timothy’s adult life, he had maintained the same level of formality toward women ingrained from his youth. He had friends, and they had girlfriends, but Timothy never greeted the women in public before shaking his friend’s hand or kissing him on the cheek. He always asserted that male bond first, and it made him a more respected friend for that. Juan was different, though. Juan was a good friend, too, but the moment any woman was in his vicinity, his eyes would become glazed with the hunt, hollering his war cries of “Hey baby!” reckless to any other man. Juan always had hated the, “I have a boyfriend,” line when women would politely turn him away. His response was always something along the lines of, “Well, where is he now?” or “I’m just trying to get to know you.” He would become giddy when rewarded with a smile, and that would egg him on, filling him with courage and helping him produce the romantic phrases he had used on countless other women. Juan could be bitter when rejected, though. “Bitch. Don’t pretend like you can’t hear me,” if they ignored him or just continued to walk away. Juan was a type of guy that Timothy enjoyed hanging around and working with, but who was quite different from himself. Maybe that’s where the phrase ‘opposites attract’ gathers its meaning.

Timothy’s biggest problems with the opposite sex stemmed from his inability to speak. Timothy became mute at a young age, dating after the memories of playing on the rug around his fathers’ friends. Timothy’s father left to go fight in the war around that time, so Timothy had nobody at home except for his mother and sister. He contentedly sat on the rug in the living room and played with his toys in those days, mostly by himself. His mother and his sister were at home, too, but were usually hysterically concerned with Timothy’s father and the war’s effect on the community. You see, the war was not war as most people know it. Timothy’s family lived near the border, along the eastern front of the war. Right outside the family’s home was an intermittent barrage of explosions, gunfire, or wounded men being dragged to safety. Enemy forces were advancing westward, too, and sometimes would seek quarter in the homes of widows and spouses whose husbands had gone off to fight the war. On one such occasion, two enemy soldiers banged on the door to Timothy’s house, shaking paintings hanging on the walls of the house. Timothy’s mother began crying from the other room and of course his sister started in, too. Timothy, unperturbed by the noise and the violence, went to open the door. The two men rushed in, one scooping Timothy up in his arms and placing a hand over his mouth. Ignoring the two women’s sobs from the other room he threw Timothy on the couch and the other man demanded harshly, “Where’s your father!?” Timothy looked up at the men, thought for a moment, then started to yell, “Mom, where’s…” before the man with the demands forced a hand back over Timothy’s mouth. The man spat on the floor. “If you open your mouth again, I will cut your tongue out,” the man smiled at Timothy with broken teeth. The man slowly removed his hand from Timothy’s mouth while the other peeked around the corner into the dining room. “There’s nobody here,” the man informed his partner. The women must have stopped sobbing. The man with the broken smile asked Timothy again, “Where’s your father?” Timothy looked up at the family photo on the wall, then back at the man, “I don’t know.” The man sneered. “I told you what would happen if you opened your mouth again. Come here,” the man said as he grabbed Timothy’s jaw with his strong hand to pry it open. He reached for his knife with his other hand, placed it into Timothy’s mouth, half-sawed, then flung the a chunk of the bloody muscle to the floor. The man’s partner tapped him on the arm, “That’s enough, let’s go.” The assailants partner looked at Timothy, then both men headed out the front door, slamming it behind themselves. Timothy’s mother peeked in from her hiding place in the guest room, face awash with tears. She looked down and saw the bloody mess on the floor. “Timothy, why are you just sitting there? Look at the mess you made! Clean it up or I’ll tell your father!” Timothy kept his mouth slightly agape, creating a pool for the blood filling his mouth, and made his way to pick up the other half of the tongue. He went to the kitchen to rinse his mouth out and clean up the best he could.

Years later, hanging out with Juan at work, it was all behind him. Timothy loved to hear Juan’s dirty jokes, his stories about the women he supposedly took home, “every night.” Timothy enjoyed Juan’s company, appreciated his sense of humor and irony. He just wished he could do more than just laugh and smile at his jokes. Juan didn’t seem to mind, though. A captive audience was all his ego needed. “…I was trying to get bitches to buy me a drink for my birthday. Not a single one said yes. It was my birthday, man!” All of the joking stopped whenever a woman walked by the construction site. “Hey, honey!” Juan yelled to the first thing with two legs and boobs to walk by today. The woman looked over, and as soon as Juan began slapping his hands together while thrusting his hips, she frowned at him with a disgusted sigh and quickly walked away. It was supposed to be a hot summer day, and as the day wore on, the heat index indeed rose, causing the men to sweat and take off their shirts. Juan was short, with a little muscle but not much definition, and when Timothy took off his shirt Juan pointed him out to the guys and laughed, “Look at Timmy Two-Tone!” The other men laughed, too, before getting back to work. Timothy was pasty white, face and hands a shade darker from the sun, but his chest pale as a an unhealthy ghost. It didn’t help that Timothy was skinny to boot, adding to the visual amusement for his colleagues. “Somebody get that bird out of here!” Juan continued with a chuckle from the crowd. It was all in good fun, though. As the day got hotter, fewer people were out in the streets, the day slowly grinding on the workers with nothing to distract them. Especially Juan. Finally, though, after the midday sun had peaked, a woman in a white blouse and a black skirt could be heard clicking her heels as she walked along the sidewalk. The men stopped to look up, Timothy as well. It was the same woman he had noticed days before. As she walked by and looked at the group of men briefly, Timothy wanted to tell her how beautiful she was, how she made his heart jump with just a look. He knew his heart would pound through his chest if she got any closer. Luckily for him, she didn’t. He didn’t have health insurance anyways. Juan looked at Timothy and smiled at the latter’s puppy dog gaze, actually keeping his mouth shut for once. Though he couldn’t resist a low whistle. Timothy wanted to tell the woman how he felt, the explosion of emotions that was fighting its way out of him as she walked away. This too would culminate into nothing, though. Timothy knew he couldn’t speak, no matter how hard he tried. That had been with him since years ago. So instead of words, poetries, and the like that would flow from an enamored’s lips, Timothy said nothing as the woman continued to walk away. Nothing he could do would stop her. Even if she did stop, just for a moment, what would Timothy do? He couldn’t say, “hi,” “hello,” “how are you?” “I think you’re beautiful,” “do you want to hang out sometime?” “I’d like to get to know you.” He couldn’t say anything at all, opposite of everything that would spew from Juan’s lips were he in the same situation. Timothy was helplessly mute, destined to fail at any such venture. As the woman slowly slinked out of view, Timothy gave her one last plea with his eyes to just connect. She looked back briefly, then disappeared out of view. Timothy knew things could be different. He couldn’t speak, but he could at least try to show her how he felt. If she were his, he could shower her with gifts, surprise her every day, translate every ounce of his unfettered affection into symbols of love that he was not able to put into words. It would never become, though, because Timothy had nothing to start with, no way to initially tell her how he felt inside. He could only plead with his eyes that she’d understand, but he knew she never would.

Timothy kept working for Juan, saving up enough money to eventually buy himself a car. No longer would he have to get rides from his mother to work, and endure the harassment from the guys it garnered. Timothy looked all over for used cars, because he couldn’t afford anything new (though he desired). He finally settled on a car from a nice old lady who lived in the countryside. The car was an upmarket mid-size sedan. At least it would have been ten years ago when it was new. This was Timothy’s first car and gave him a sense of independence and freedom. Timothy was scared to drive on the highway because the cars drove so fast and recklessly, so he took the city streets to work every day. In those summer months it was hot, especially with a broken air-conditioning unit. Juan told him it just needed to be ‘re-charged’, but Timothy didn’t know how. Of course, he couldn’t ask anybody because he was unable to speak. Timothy drove to work every day. In the mornings the temperatures were cool enough, but in the afternoons following work the heat became decidedly unbearable in his drive home. Timothy refused to give up his freedom, though, for the minor discomfort on the drive home. At least the driver’s side power window worked. Except that wasn’t a viable solution when it rained. Driving home one day in the heated atmosphere of his car because of the downpour of rain that had begun before Timothy began his drive home, Timothy sweated throughout the ride home, dabbing perspiration from his forehead while holding the steering wheel with one hand. As the rain drummed on the roof, and the windshield wipers feebly exerted themselves to clear the windshield, squeaking with each pass, Timothy passed through a green light not seen fifty meters before, and suddenly he heard the door crunch and felt the impact of another car slowly pushing him to the right, away from his forward momentum. Timothy tried to exclaim something to express his surprise, but nothing came out. Both cars skidded to a halt in the intersection. Timothy couldn’t see much because of the rain, and tried to get out of his vehicle, but the door was heavily indented and lodged shut. Timothy blacked out and awoke to the screeching of the metal hinges of his driver’s side door being torn away from his car. He was rescued. As they pulled him out of the car, he could see the flashing yellow lights of the tow truck, and realized that the rain had slowed to a light drizzle. He saw the other driver standing outside her vehicle, a woman holding a child, crying hysterically. A police officer was questioning her. Timothy was loaded onto a stretcher, somebody was trying to ask him if he was alright, but Timothy couldn’t respond. He was loaded into the ambulance on the other side of his vehicle and taken to the local hospital. Somehow, his mother was there and the crew let her ride with him in the ambulance.

When Timothy awoke in the hospital, he immediately felt stiffness in his neck and realized it had been immobilized with a brace. He tried to look around the best he could, but all he could see was his feet. His mother noticed him stirring, and from out of view she asked, “Honey, how are you feeling?” He could feel his mother grip his hand. Timothy heard soft footsteps walk into the room, and shortly a nurse appeared at his feet. “Are you ready to go?” the nurse asked him. Timothy couldn’t speak, and couldn’t nod his head to a simple question, so he gave the nurse a thumbs up with his free hand. The nurse smiled. “Okay, let’s help you out of this bed. See how it feels to walk.” Timothy didn’t respond. The nurse moved around to his side to place a hand behind his back, and his mother did the same. “Let’s try to sit up, okay?” the nurse asked him. With the assistance from his mother and the nurse, Timothy was able to sit up. He turned so his feet dangled off the bed. The nurse moved around to this side of the bed, and continued to help him up. She gently grabbed his wrist, his mother already holding onto the other, and gave him a smile of reassurance that he couldn’t see because he was staring at the floor. The women gently helped pull him out of bed, his feet touching the floor delicately, uncertain of whether his legs were capable of supporting or balancing him. They were, and he successfully stood on his own, the nurse and his mother there for stability if needed. Timothy tried to look up at the nurse to thank her, but he couldn’t. His neck brace prevented him from moving his head, forcing him to stare at the floor. Reassured of his legs’ usefulness, he began to shuffle forward. Timothy, with his mother and the nurse helping him along, made it into the hallway for a test walk. Other patients were in the hall, wheelchair bound or with walkers. Timothy could not see them. He could only look at the tiles beneath his feet. As the three moved down the hall together, Timothy’s feet shuffling along, others looked at him with pity. Some of the more physically capable looked at him with relief. Thank God I don’t have to suffer such a condition. Timothy didn’t know their thoughts, and was quite content with the accomplishment of being able to walk again. He tried to smile, but of course nobody could see it with his neck twisted in that manner. They left the hospital, Timothy trying to smile at everyone who offered sympathy to his mother on their way home. He wanted to show that nothing was wrong, that he was okay and everything was normal. Without words to bridge that gap, and since his eyes could no longer reach a friendly face, he had no way to communicate to people that he was going to be alright.

It would take weeks for Timothy to become functionally capable again with simple tasks many folks take for granted, and his return to compromised normality was a relief of burden for Timothy. He was told by the doctors he would no longer be able to work, and that he would receive a portion of his father’s pension, as well as payment from the insurance company to compensate him for his condition. Timothy still wanted the formality of closure with his employer, though, and told his mother he wanted to go visit Juan and the guys at work to update them on his progress and to share the sad news that he wouldn’t be able to work with them anymore. On one of the last warm summer days of the year, Timothy’s mother took him to visit Juan and the guys. Timothy was excited to see them again. When his mother pulled up to the site, the guys stopped their hammering and shoveling. They were all surprised to see Timothy as he was slowly helped out of the car. Timothy’s mother escorted him as he shuffled his way over to them. Looking at the ground, Timothy couldn’t see the expressions on their faces, but began a smile to the ground as he stood there. Timothy’s mother stepped away to answer her phone. Juan was the first to break the silence. “Hey Timmy, welcome back.” He dropped his voice to a whisper, glanced at Timothy’s mom on the other side of the car, and told him, “Wait ‘til I tell you about this fine ass bitch I met last week. She was a dime, man.” Timothy grinned even wider. A couple other guys walked over to him, Timothy only hearing their footsteps as they approached, and they patted him on the shoulder. Timothy wanted to say something to the guys, tell them how he’d miss working with them, hearing their stories, sharing laughter, but everyone understood he couldn’t speak. Timothy continued to stare at the ground, the others staring back at him. Timothy’s mother returned and spoke instead. “The doctors said Timothy won’t be able to work anymore. We just wanted to come tell you.” Timothy heard the familiar clicking of heels on the sidewalk across the street. Juan looked up and whistled. Timothy couldn’t see what was going on, just staring at the ground, but he instinctively turned to face the familiar sound. Then he remembered. Tidal waves of emotion. His feelings that he would never share with such a beautiful woman. The idea that he would never be able to experience the love that so many others had already experienced, things he had seen in movies but would never become a fairy-tale ending for him. The hunchback can’t save the gypsy girl, the beast won’t be transformed by the merchant’s daughter, the frog will never be befriended by the princess. Long suffering and alone. Fact or fate, he could not tell the future, but the dismal frustration left him no recompense. Life’s cruel and sadistic ways had robbed him of the ability to speak, and now he had lost the ability to bridge any connection with his eyes. All he could do was feel helpless against unvoiced emotions, stare at the ground, not even able to gaze longingly in hopes of a catching a look or precious smile. The only noise he made and what he saw was the shuffling of his feet as his mother helped him return to the car. They left the site, a woman he would never know, and the men whose company he had grown to enjoy in order to return home and resume the limits of his life.

Timothy didn’t have many friends, to be honest, but one would be remiss to say Timothy had none. He stayed in contact with friends from high school, guys he’d partied with, and co-workers he’d met. Everyone used to hang out, before Timothy’s accident. After, though, Timothy did his best to stay in touch. He always enjoyed being up-to-date with his friends’ lives, loved to hear their stories of love, loss, success, heartache, a new job, a newborn child, a marriage, an engagement, and anything else they’d celebrate or lament in their lives. He loved to share every moment with them, to experience all of life’s ups and downs, be there as a friend to congratulate and console them as good friends are supposed to. Over the years, some of those friendships waned, as people moved away, or no longer carried common interests, or became simply too busy and caught up in their own lives to make time for past connections. Timothy didn’t mind, though. He believed that a friendship lost meant a person was strong and fulfilled, and if they didn’t need Timothy anymore, that was good for them at least.

Timothy told himself that he wasn’t the type of person who needed friends. He thought it was enough for him to be there for someone else if they needed him, and if they didn’t, so be it. When Timothy moved out of his mother’s house and into his own apartment, confident with his independence now after some months of recovery, Timothy realized friends were all he really needed. For a person who doesn’t speak, and a person who can’t look another in the eyes, it is tough to make new friends. Timothy hadn’t realized it before, when his only misfortune was an inability to speak. Caring eyes and a sincere smile still allowed him to show his worth as a friend. When he lost the ability to speak with his eyes, though, that set him back considerably. He was disabled now from using the two most common connections people make with each other. Without the ability to speak, but unhindered by his permanently twisted neck, Timothy began to rely more heavily upon text messaging to retain those friendships he soon realized he needed. He had gone downtown to facilitate this better, buying himself a new phone with his settlement money. It was the kind of phone he thought businessmen used. It made him feel important.

Timothy returned home, sat on the couch in his apartment, with the chandelier lighting the room, and began inputting the contacts he wanted from his old phone. Once he had stored everyone’s information that he thought he needed, Timothy started sending text messages to his friends. “This is my new number. Text me if you ever need anything.” A sincere message, an outstretched hand from Timothy, who valued friendship more those days than some people would understand. He texted a girl from high school, one he’d partied with a few times. And a friend from another country he’d met while traveling on a family vacation. And another number he’d gotten while traveling alone in his own country. He texted another girl from class, some sort of project partner. And he didn’t forget his family either, his mother, and sister, and even uncles and aunts who had long ago moved away and started families. “This is my new number. Text me if you ever need anything.” Timothy didn’t care if people used him. He even texted a girl he thought hated him in high school, the one who always frowned at him despite his smiles. Timothy understood that she probably just needed someone to vent to. And he texted some of his younger friends, too, those a grade or two behind him that he’d met playing sports at the playground. He hoped they looked up to him as an older brother. “This is my new number. Text me if you ever need anything.” Of course Timothy texted his best friends, too. He missed them the most, the guys he’d shared his most important life moments with. He knew they’d text him back and make him laugh or smile, or alternately that he’d be there to allay their concerns with life, “Dude, that shit is whack,” he’d text back. Best friends are always great for unconditional moral support. Even the friends who were just plain sad, Timothy wanted them to text him, too. Whether former supervisors were feeling down in the dumps, or his emotional sister was having a breakup with her boyfriend, Timothy was ready to be there for whoever need it. “This is my new number. Text me if you ever need anything.” Timothy stopped for a moment. He realized he wished he could text his father, too. The man was gone now, but he was supposed to be here through all of this, to support Timothy through his own tribulations. Due to the circumstances of lives, and those that the war took, his father couldn’t never be there for Timothy, no matter how much Timothy needed him sometimes. That’s what Timothy friends were for, and part of the reason why Timothy offered himself so freely to be a friend especially during others’ times of need. Timothy enjoyed providing a positive perspective for his friends, giving them motivation when they needed it. That’s why he texted the foreign exchange student who had started a new life here, giving him encouragement Timothy thought he’d appreciate being in a new place away from family, trying to make a better life. “This is my new number, text me if you ever need anything.” Of course Timothy texted Juan. And the girl who took over for Timothy at the construction site. He texted her first-line leader as well, the guy who was supposed to be helping her learn on-the-job. In fact, he texted most of his co-workers from the construction site, being such recent friendships that he feared to break so soon. Again, Timothy paused. He wished he could text his grandfather also. Maybe he’d go pay his respects at the war memorial later this week. Such an influential man, Timothy thought. Mourning could be done later, though, during his own private time. He returned to texting more people, not wanting to leave anyone out. After all, he wanted to hear all about wives and kids, and celebrate current lives.

Once Timothy was finished texting, he set his phone on the table, then got up to get a snack from the kitchen. He came back, sat on the couch, and looked around the floor. He was waiting for someone to text him back. He was going to venture into public in a little while, but he wanted to reconnect with at least some of his friends first. He knew that would put him in a good mood before he went out, and maybe somehow that mood would reverberate into others, helping him make even more friends. He sat there, looking left, then right, slightly impatient but knowing that someone would text him back any moment now. Did it just vibrate? Timothy checked his phone. No, nothing. He set his phone back down. Timothy started drumming his fingers against the table as he waited. He checked his phone again. Nothing. Timothy got up, shuffled to the bathroom, came back and sat down on the couch again. He started thinking about what he wanted to get done today. Timothy wasn’t working at the moment, though he wouldn’t mind starting up again sometime. For now, he just spent his days doing various things to spend his time away. He started eating healthier, so he spent long trips at the grocery store, reading labels and buying the most caloric-appropriate foods he thought his body would need. On other days he made plans to go visit a museum or an aquarium. He usually arranged in advance for guided tours so as not to strain his neck too much. He would get something accomplished today, certainly, just as soon as someone texted him back. He wouldn’t put his life on hold, but he just wanted someone to text him back.

Nobody ever texted Timothy back that day. Timothy continued his life, though, only checking his phone once the next day. When still nobody had texted him, he left his phone on the dresser, undisturbed for a week. He checked it again that next week, and still nobody had texted him. Timothy turned his phone off. He continued along, grocery shopping every so often, and visiting places in the city that seemed nice and peaceful and uncomplicated for a man with his visual and speech impairments. After a month, Timothy turned his phone back on. He hoped someone had tried to call him, or text him back. He pressed the power button, waited for the phone to boot up, then waited another minute more to give the phone time to notify him of any attempted contact. He waited some more. There was nothing, no activity at all. Timothy quietly put the phone away in his pocket, and made his way to his apartment door to leave. He shuffled down the stairs and outside. Along the sidewalk he took to downtown, he stopped. There was a large boulder in the grass next to him. Timothy reached down, placed both hands on the boulder, and heaved with his weakening strength. The boulder rose few inches. Timothy propped a knee against it, and reached into his pocket to pull out his phone. He tossed it underneath the boulder, then moved away so the boulder would drop. Timothy brushed his pant leg, then returned to the sidewalk and continued his walk downtown.

That year, Timothy slowly lost his hearing. Though he knew that the slow loss of hearing occurs as people get older, he also knew that it was supposed to occur slowly over time. Timothy did not have any medical conditions that can cause hearing loss, and he was aware that there is no cure for age-related hearing loss. Doctors say that age-related hearing loss is progressive, which means it slowly gets worse. Timothy’s hearing loss needed to be evaluated as soon as possible to rule out potentially reversible causes such as too much wax in the ear or medication side effects, so he went to the hospital to see his doctor, the same doctor that he hadn’t seen since pediatric care years ago. Timothy walked to the hospital, signed in, and waited in the waiting room. A nurse came out to get him and run a few preliminary tests, and once they finished he had to wait for the doctor. Timothy’s doctor came into the room, sat down, and began to explain everything to him in hand-written notes. “Tiny hairs inside your ear help you hear. They pick up sound waves and change them into the nerve signals that the brain interprets as sound. Hearing loss occurs when the tiny hairs inside the ear are damaged or die. The hair cells do not regrow, so most hearing loss is permanent.” Timothy was distraught at this point. He began to cry. The doctor looked at him, but downcast eyes and a twisted neck hid the tears well. The doctor continued scribbling on his notepad. “There is no known single cause for age-related hearing loss. Most commonly, it is caused by changes in the inner ear that occur as you grow older. However, your genes and loud noises (such as from rock concerts or music headphones) may play a large role.” When the doctor was finished, Timothy went back to the reception area, paid his copay, and left the hospital.

Whichever king decreed that silence is golden surely never experienced being deaf. Timothy thought he knew solitude before, but a world without sound was another world, one without life. He couldn’t hear the shuffling of his feet anymore, though he watched them in silence as he slowly moved along the sidewalks beneath his feet. He could feel the breeze, but couldn’t hear it rustling the branches of the trees around him, or the birds chirping as he walked along. If he were to walk into the street, he wouldn’t hear a car honk at him. Thank God he could still see, even if his neck was twisted to look only at his own feet. People didn’t talk to Timothy anymore, but now Timothy couldn’t experience bits of people’s lives as he walked near, he couldn’t overhear neighbors conversing, couples arguing, friends discussing shared interests. He walked into the grocery store, and couldn’t hear the squeaking of carts, parents scolding children, or the voice over the loudspeaker that he knew was happening around him. Timothy purchased a few items before heading to the cashier at the “10 Items or Less” line. He watched the cashier scan his items silently, paid her in cash, and in his condition Timothy couldn’t see her smile at him, and he never heard her kind words as he walked away. Timothy went straight home, and couldn’t hear his keys when he pulled them out, or the sound of his apartment door closing. He put the groceries away without a sound. He couldn’t hear the humming of the refrigerator, not even the rustle of the bag as he put it away. He finished and sat on the couch in complete silence, nothing but the sound of his own voice inside his head.

With nobody to spend time with, Timothy started eating less. He still went out to restaurants, asked for a table for two, trying to be the polite patron and not inconvenience small families or large groups of friends by taking up too much space. He wouldn’t notice the wait staff until someone tapped him on the shoulder, impatient already to take his order and move on to tables that were worth their time. Timothy liked to tip excessively well as reward for a kind server, but they anticipated larger sums from more significant gatherings of people. Since there was nobody for Timothy to share his meals, he ate quickly. At moments Timothy was almost tempted into pretending that he was one of those other people with friends, who took bites between exuberant stories and tales. Timothy could engage in neither listening or telling any such tale, and quickly gave up such a fancy. Timothy sat alone, with nobody to talk to, and his meals were routine and boring. Sometimes he would skip meals altogether for fear of going out to eat and being reminded of loneliness. Eventually Timothy stopped eating at all. He knew that everyone else ate meals with smiles and conversations, and belonged to groups of people who laughed and enjoyed life in public while he sat alone.

Saint Timothy (ortodox icon)

Timothy’s increasingly poor diet did affected his health. At some point, and this must have occurred before he stopped eating, Timothy stopped caring. He knew he would never be able to speak, he couldn’t look people in the eye, and there was nothing that would bring back his hearing. What did it matter if he ate healthy? His body adapted to his condition by demanding more sleep, making Timothy drowsy and able to sleep for days at a time. When he woke up, he felt weak, and his lack of coordination made trips to the bathroom painfully dangerous. His body was easily bruised, and he was covered in them after repeated attempts at ‘independence’. His skin grew pale because he refused to go out during the day. He was confused most of the time, experiencing difficulty with keeping track of the day or the time. When he went to lay back down, he covered himself with blankets because of uncontrollable shivering. His heart slowed to less than one beat per second, and his breath became shallow. Stubborn though, in a state of delirium, Timothy struggled out of his bed. He went to the apartment door and let himself out. Outside was a cold, winter day, a few inches of snow covering the ground. Timothy began to walk along the shoveled sidewalk, not knowing where he was going. He felt pins and needles followed by numbness. His skin grew hard and pale, colder than the snow on the ground. His whole body ached yet he could feel no sensation as watched his feet shuffle along the ground. Timothy continued to shuffle along the cold, lonesome street, not knowing the time because he could not ask, and not feeling the frostbite set in and slowly bring his lonesome experience of life to its death.

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The General's daughter

US Army General of the Army rank insignia.

Ingrid was beautiful, someone Paul thought he’d seen in a magazine somewhere. But she couldn’t be. Ingrid was the General‘s daughter, not some model. But Paul though he loved her, anyways. And he didn’t even know she was the General’s daughter. Her dark hair was past her shoulders and her smile lit her face, just like the model she could have been. Her aura was that of an angel’s grace. Paul brushed past her for the first time on his way to play basketball with the guys. “I like your shoes,” Ingrid said as he started past her up the stairs. He looked down at the old basketball shoes on his feet, smirked to himself and stopped just long enough to turn around and say “Thanks,” with a smile. But Paul couldn’t help it when he tried to turn back and continue on, because he couldn’t turn his lingering gaze away from Ingrid. Unwillingly, he tried to tear his eyes away from her, so he could head to the basketball courts where everyone would be waiting if he took too long, but he couldn’t pull himself away from her. Finally, he felt slightly guilty when his gaze awkwardly lingered for too long, and then he was able to leave. As he started up the stairs again, Ingrid called out to him, “What’s your name?” He responded, “Paul,” with a quick turn of his head. “Do you want to hang out tomorrow?” Ingrid asked. Saturday, Paul thought. “Sure…” Paul started. Ingrid interrupted, “What’s your number?” she asked. So Paul headed back down the stairs as Ingrid pulled out her cell phone. The two exchanged numbers, and Paul headed off to the basketball courts.

Paul arrived to the courts early, as usual, and began to shoot around to warm up. More people gradually showed up, some with their own balls and some sharing, and they shot around, too. Eventually, when enough people were there, somebody suggested they start up a game. They agreed on teams, and Paul was one of those on the court first. His team wasn’t assembled very well, but Paul started off quickly, handling the ball well for most of their possessions, and scoring most of the teams points. Paul continued to take the ball, and ended up scoring 81 points before the game was called. His team stayed on the court, as the losing team switched out for the bench. Paul’s team won again, with him scoring the majority of the points, and his team went on to keep winning, the next 16 games in a row, until the complaining from the other teams and the players from the bench forced Paul’s team to disband. Paul continued to shoot around at another basket during that first game he sat out, practicing more innovative dunks, and later stepping behind the three-point line consecutively hitting threes until it was his turn to play again. He continued playing the games he was allowed to play late into the evening, until the players started to go their separate ways home. When everyone was finally done and had said their final “good game,” Paul stayed to shoot around a little while longer.

The next day, Paul had off. He spent it waiting, sat staring at the phone, waiting for it to ring so he could answer. He anticipated the moment, what to say when she called, how to react, cool, calm, maybe excited or perhaps with a little delight in his voice. And while he waited, Ingrid sat at home doing the same. She sat there, too scared, too shy to pick up the cell phone she too watched anxiously. Despite her bravery with Paul shown the day before to get her to this point, now she became timid again, and hoped Paul would be the man, the pursuer, and call her like he was supposed to. The phone never rang for either Paul or Ingrid, forever though they both seemed to wait. Not knowing what to think, but nothing new to Paul, he at least moved on.

We know this because Paul continued his little basketball outings, competing against teams and players and striving to make himself better. And as ironically imbalanced as the world is, as it occurs for all successful people, more good gets piled on top of everything else already. Eventually Paul’s abilities became known to others, and as a visibly successful man, he soon gathered a small following of autograph-seekers, to include his own personal cheerleading section whose presence grew at each game.

But unknown to others, for Paul, living on a military installation did actually cause a slight imbalance in his life. You see, Paul worked with only males, as the nature of combat forces goes. Quite a convenience really, when dealing with internal issues. But what’s more to that is the installation population consisted so heavily of males that the remainder of those seen on the installation were spouses and children. So of course he did not allow himself to look at women, or even address them in public. It was unwritten code, and kept him well away from drama and problems. But Paul couldn’t fight nature, his instincts, forever. And when it was discovered that Paul was single, his reproductive stock was sought out. Not by the women, because Paul would never permit that. But once fathers were done having their share of daughters’ boyfriends to deal with, the worthless, abusive, and just plain unworthy to pay attentions and carry on the family line with their daughters, they honed in on Paul, though respectful just like he had been, and offered him their daughters’ hands in marriage.

Because of the way rank works, because some decisions are worth more than others, of course the General had a say in all of this. “How dare my men offer their daughters to this man like they are no more than whores or prostitutes?” he asked his advisors, ever present in every matter to support his decisions. “What do they want from this poor overwhelmed soul other than the reap benefits by association?” So as the General says, it must happen. The General also learned of Ingred’s interest in Paul through sources unrevealed (because generals know EVERYTHING). When the General first learned of Ingred’s fondness for this Paul fellow, the General set forth policies that prohibited fathers from further arranging any sorts of excursions between Paul and their daughters. The daughters would have to pursue him of their own accord, or otherwise leave Paul alone.

The new policies helped free Paul from the lesser of the resource-seeking wenches, allowing him pursuit now by those of more pure hearts. This included Ingrid, and others, but once Paul discovered Ingrid was the General’s daughter, he became entirely infatuated with her. Because her father wore tabs, badges, and awards that made his uniform heavy, yet his strong shoulders and set jaw made him an imposing figure of a man. What Paul wouldn’t give to follow in the footsteps of such a man. So he decided to marry Ingrid. Not without pomp and circumstance would be the wedding of a general’s daughter, so Ingrid received the wedding of her dreams, fulfilling her every imagination. She picked the location, the wedding theme, the crowd that would attend, all paid for in full by the General’s kind heart. And when Paul swore his vows, promised to cherish her in sickness and in health, Ingrid was beyond her own joys. And Paul realized, too, that now whatever dreams he could not accomplish, he could live vicariously through the General, his father-in-law. Of course he loved Ingrid, and he now knew that their children would be even greater than he could be. So they lived happily ever after.

The Quiet Professional

Ranger Hall of Honor 01, Ranger Tab

I wish that I could be someone like you.

Instead of being someone I became.

‘Cause nobody cheers when I finish first.

When they do I don’t, or I finish last.

I can’t move boulders like I’m really strong.

With my puny arms and my smaller heart.

I can’t take punches and just keep going.

Not like you. They hurt; gasp and wince from pain.

I can’t tell jokes and make everyone smile.

My jokes aren’t funny, and they think I’m mean.

You are so much better than I can be.

So you’ll propagate life while I die out.

As it should be, since you’ve proven your worth.

I used to dream, before I fell behind.

So when you wake tomorrow, enjoy it.

Because I probably won’t make it that far.

Life has been hard, and I am unfulfilled.

I’ve come up short when you could just push through.

So many grueling tests, God’s mockery.

I’ve grown stronger, but my burden is great.

Have you ever grown weary from the world?

I think inside me is a good person.

But he has hidden from the world’s cruel ways.

My skin is thin, and I’m a coward man.

100 years of love and war

She rewarded him for waiting so long. It had been 100 years. Sure she had been unfaithful, but now they could be together again at last! It had been during the last war of 100 years, their love separated by nations, separated by war. She said she would wait for him forever. But that couldn’t happen. Because as she waited, she grew restless, because she was yet courted as though her husband no longer existed, though he did. Her suitors pried and questioned, probed until she was molested, asking for her hand in a literal moment, with perhaps more to follow. And she couldn’t resist. Weak without her husband’s arms to fall into each and every night, she succumbed to the embraces of others. She welcomed them into her home, without ill intent, to paint the house, or move furniture, or help her perform any number of her former’s husbandly tasks. And they took advantage. Licentious, vile men, with no considerations for others’ claims, desires or needs. They behaved upon their instincts, reckless, careless, inconsiderate of what relations they could destroy. But she let it happen. She provoked them with her clothing, her exposed flesh, that those undisciplined creatures could not control themselves. She accepted their initial advances, afraid to withstand what her lonesomeness feared for lack. And she allowed their touches to wander, placed hands and closened bodies with parts that her husband could not accept, though understanding he could sometimes be. It is difficult to wait 100 years with so many pursuits waiting to offend. And once one entered, he paved that wrongful path for others. There was no stopping them now. Pursuit and coyness, contact and acceptance, lustful thrusts at the end of once inadvertent paths. There was no turning back. She had betrayed him through faults, and others through the same.

But he had waited 100 years. Hundreds of miles and an international boundary apart, he would hop on a rocket to fly back to her, if he could. At the start of the war, he had been sent to the northern border, tensions with every flinch or flicker, a hair-trigger ready to resume the war. And there he waited, not a movement, not a sound. And when his rest cycle came, he wrote to her. How much he loved her and missed her and wished they would be together again. And his luck would find such a reward, initial though it would be. He was granted mid-tour leave, and traveled home, full of elation, and all the anticipated pleasures of holding her in his arms again. Waiting for a shared embrace, and wondering if it would lead to romance, or even love-making. It could happen a thousand ways, and he imagined every possibility, lost in his fantasies the entire flight home, only interrupted by such lesser stewardesses than the steward of his cupid’s heart. And when he finally departed the plane, his elation wasn’t intervened by her absence, because he knew her limitations. And that couldn’t stop his love. So he continued headstrong to her supposed waiting embrace and met her at their lovely home. Somebody’s car was in the driveway. They were pulling away. He went up to the door and knocked. She yelled to him to “just come in.” She smiled nervously when he saw her, and continued washing the dishes in the sink. “It’s hot,” was how she explained her clothing. He didn’t care. He started to kiss her, and pauses for slight words led them eventually to bed where they made love. She made a comment when he finished, and their joyous reunion was complete, discussions returning to the material for the remainder of his visit, until he had to return to his employ and obligations.

Montage of Iran-Iraq War He was returned to the eastern front of the war. His efforts there would lead to an eventual accumulation of awards, medals and promotions to rival Audie Murphy himself. He was the most competent private, executing every assigned task or detail to perfection, pleasing his NCOs beyond delight. But he still managed his recovery time well, with a “Sergeant, can I write home to my wife tonight?” These same NCOs became his senior NCOs when he finally joined their corps. Nobody was more professional than he. All his soldiers loved him, and that helped his senior leadership by allowing him and his men to accomplish every mission successfully. And when he grew into the ranks of senior NCO, all of his wisdom earned over half the war earned him the respect of his subordinates, and great trust and confidence placed in him by the officers appointed over him. In the second half of the war he earned a battlefield commission, and though overtasked as he was, he still managed sit down after meetings following meetings before meetings, and wrote to his wife love letters or poems. He never heard back from her. He continued to work, expend every energy save for that one letter back home, and eventually he took command. As a commander he won every decisive engagement in the field, and some not so decisive back in garrison. And by the time he had commanded units through flawless campaigns, they decided to make him a general. He wrote home to tell his wife about his new positions, how it bothered him that they wasted and entire PSD team on just him, and that they even assigned him personnel to take care of his laundry. His secretary followed him around and scheduled and took notes for his mind to be free for decisions. He knew he could do everything himself, yet his wife never wrote back to tell him whether she agreed.

When he returned after 100 years, things were strange. He tried to resume where they left off. It began with that first embrace, the heart-pounding thrill of holding the woman who loved him, the pure elation of holding her tight in his arms again, swinging her around and around, then setting her down and peppering her face with kisses, her soft cheeks, her lips, eyes closed, the reckless abandon of unfettered love. Eventually, though, they had to leave the airport. Dismay. But not before long they were back home, mere steps inside the doorway before they started again, passion overtaking 100 years’ worth of cares and worries, every kiss worth 1,000 ‘I miss you’. Her warmth and her soft skin rekindled a fire that was burning furiously for her now. But she made him stop. They had to bring in his bags from the car. Quickly completing tedious hindrances, that first night back with her awoke his full passions once more, never alight but wrought through 100 years of sufferance that could finally be appeased. Their renewed honeymoon would not sustain though, and could not last. He tried to buy her things like before, and spend more time together as well, but he would start to see that she was different now. Lovers once, lovers always, but not forever, no. He took her out, tried to begin life anew, though it was not. 100 years had changed the both of them, irreconciled them for eternity, whether they realized it or not. He tried to involve her in his life, and she a little him in hers, but they were two separate lives now, having been experienced as strangers, with others, but never each other. Yet every fool is taught to believe in impossible, to believe in what we know cannot be true. Truly, 100 years? How absurd. But he refused to believe so. And he didn’t realize until it was too late. He tried to pamper the woman who wasn’t anymore his, and she tried to accept him. But after 100 years, the best answer wasn’t ‘forever’. It was never, outrageous though it may seem to erase their history of 100 years.

My Prison of Mistakes

Prison bars

Why can’t I just be good at something? At anything? I could have started before the age of two, been a child prodigy because nobody knows what children are capable of until they try. I could have been on television, in magazines, the cute little child with extraordinary talent. All because of parents that started early and believed in their child. I could’ve won tournaments, made everyone talk about my ‘skills’ and ‘potential’. Potential’s such a funny thing. Because you never can truly gauge what it might be and if you don’t harness it you risk capping it beneath its true value. How many youth so full of potential never amount to anything? Well, every single one without the opportunities afforded the others, or additionally lacking something that conflicts with potential. How many “Mostly Likely to Succeed” titulars failed their voters? Too many, I do believe. But I reached certain measures of success by age two. That is, I had teeth and I could walk. How impressive relative to all my contemporaries. But my behavioral shadows were overcast. I only played by myself, and I could become frustrated easily. I threw temper tantrums, and was extremely defiant and resistant to change. Those issues were enough to handle, without my parents ever worrying about what more I could start to become.

Maybe if my temper tantrums weren’t so excessive, I might have had more friends. But even as I grew older my expressions of frustration alienated me from my peers. Since it always had to be ‘my way’, nobody wanted to play with me anymore. So, just as before, I continued to play by myself. I tried making friends, but they just wouldn’t stick around. Who knew that life could be so difficult at such a young age? I mean nobody wants to be alone, but what to do have to have things my way? It’s not that I didn’t have friends. Well maybe it is, if you’d more appropriately call them acquaintances. Because all of the sleepovers and birthday parties I was never invited to made for some lonesome times with ‘friends’.

So as I became more isolated from the world, my behavior got worse. At home it’s one thing, but school is an environment in which bad behavior is apparently less tolerable. Maybe the teachers wanted to demonstrate control of the classroom, and didn’t want children running home to tell their parents more about my disruptions instead of sharing what they had learned. Because then parents would contact the school, and inquire as to why their child wasn’t receiving the privilege of education that they deserved. And the teacher would be evaluated as unsuccessful and eventually be fired. After all, self-preservation is a requisite to maintain contractual agreements. That’s when it was decided that I would be sent away to a more disciplinary institution, which means I never really got to experience the formative high school years where more normal children teenagers learned many life lessons that I did not.

But I graduated anyways, and found a job afterwards. Wage labor was my life from the day’s start to finish. I worked harder than anyone, because I had energy and much to prove. I did not revel in wage labor, but sought furtherance in the form of additional duties that became additional responsibilities and were supposed to lead to titles and positions of authority. But it never happened. They said I wasn’t mature enough, that maybe I should move on to other things because it just wasn’t suitable for me at this time. Thanks, come again. So I reviled the wage labor until my frustrations boiled onto my co-workers. I had to leave, but not before they told me not to come back.

I eventually found other positions of labor from which to earn wages, and accumulated enough funds in my bank account to fix all my problems. Maybe if I just had someone else in my life it would be more tolerable. Maybe I would then be able to wash away everything with emotions of happiness, blissful days full of thoughts of a significant other who loved me. So I started with a tummy tuck, to reshape and firm my abs. I had already tried every instant ab workout, but they never worked for me. I must just be big-boned or something. I also got butt implants, because a butt lift would make me more appealing to the opposite sex. I then got a nose job, because I just can’t stand an imperfect nose. It’s so distracting! Then I got a face lift because I think wrinkles were starting to form in the corners of my eyes and mouth. And to finish off my new face, I got a chin implant to compensate my overbite and cheek implants to give me high cheek bones like all of the models. But the surgeries didn’t work out for me like they did for everyone else. I never found my significant other, never got the person of my dreams to come into my life. And people never complimented my purchased beauty enhancements. In fact, they thought and weren’t afraid to tell me that I was hideously disfigured. All of that work, and nobody yet to tell me I’m beautiful just like they did before the surgeries.

But all was not for naught, because I did get married to one of my co-workers. That’s about as romantic as it can get, right? Such exhaustive searches for people to marry models and athletes, that’s not for everyone. Why not reproduce with the closest of kin, from your own hometown? That was my fairy tale. We even had a child together, though it died in childbirth. Still-born. Such an overwhelming sight. Your beautiful child lying there, still, motionless, lifeless. That’s not what’s supposed to happen. You’re supposed to celebrate, to cry tears of joy, not floods of anguish. A parent shouldn’t have to bury their own child, and certainly not so near what was supposed to be a joyous celebration of life.

And years later here now I sit. I was found guilty for the murder of my spouse. My defense was supposed to be insanity, but it was not heard. So I was sentenced to 100 years without the opportunity of parole. And as I sit here, I start to wonder. Is it too late to start over? God, would you be willing to do for me what you have never done for anyone else in the history of mankind? Can’t you just erase my mistakes and let me try again? Please? I promise I’ll do it right next time. Just give me a chance. Don’t make me suffer. Just let me forget everything that has ever happened and be born anew. No regrets and no mistakes, just a chance please. Let me start over and live life just like everyone else. I promise I’ll do it right, next time.

My Wife and Kids

marriage license

When I was eighteen years old, I married my high school sweetheart, Maribel. I was determined to love her, comfort her, honor and keep her, in sickness and in health. I took her to be my lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until death do us part. I asked God for wisdom and devotion in the ordering of our common life, that each of us may be to the other a strength in need, a counselor in complexity, a comfort in sorrow, and a companion in joy. That He give us grace, when we hurt each other, to recognize and acknowledge our faults, and to seek each others’ forgiveness. I wanted to allow our love for each other to be a seal upon our hearts, a mantle about our shoulders, and a crown upon our foreheads. So we appeared in person before a Clerk at the County Marriage Bureau location, filled in our names exactly as they appeared on the identification presented, completed the known information of our parents, and reviewed the documents for accuracy. We left for the County Office of the Civil Marriage Commisioner, where we verified our commitments with a sixty-dollar fee, which I paid in full myself.

We cancelled our honeymoon because Maribel wanted me to buy her a ‘Hello Kitty’ small black patent embossed handbag, with a matching necklace. Since the store was on New York 5thAvenue, I fueled up my Chrysler Lebaron and set to head off on the thousand-mile journey, but something was wrong. I couldn’t see, because the sun was in my eyes. So I went back inside the gas station to purchase a pair of sunglasses to safely make my trip. The attendant rang up the pair, but my card was rejected. “Do you have any cash?” he asked. I did not. After a couple of phone calls I discovered that a hold had been placed on my account. Apparently, Maribel had already reserved her purchase with my card. So I drove off into the sunset, hoping not to go blind along the way. Luckily, the passenger’s side sun visor still worked, with its vanity mirror’s flip-up cover stuck in the upright position.

Throughout our high school years, I had been a successful athlete. With dreams of playing professional sports, I traveled around to team tryouts after high school, hoping to earn a minor-league contract. A couple of tryout rejections and the anticipation of more wracked Maribel to the point when I decided to give up and just find a stable job. Maribel wanted to start saving for our kids’ collegiate futures now, and I couldn’t let her worry about our future children all alone. A few weeks after my job started, I received a phone call from one of the developmental league teams requesting a personal interview. My big break? I talked to Maribel about it later that night, but we both decided it would be best for me to turn it down.

As my minimum-wage job became less promising, I attempted to move on to greener pastures. I had put in a few applications, and finally received an interview in regards to a mid-level management position I had applied for. I had just spent our paycheck on the shoes I had begun buying for Maribel each pay period. I had agreed to buy her at least seven pairs each month (because one per day was just unaffordable), and her collection had grown considerable since then. At least she was happy, but not having any more paycheck this week meant I couldn’t afford a haircut before my new interview. So once I told Maribel our exciting news, she decided to try to cut my hair for me. And it was horrible. What’s worse is that I couldn’t fix the problem in time for my interview. It broke my spirit and induced anxiety, but I had to continue through for us.

This wasn’t the first time I had done something for Maribel. I also bought her new dresses (albeit at a slower accumulation than the shoes), and later our daughter would come with the same demands as her mother. And instead of haircuts I learned that Maribel was much more successful at painting nails and sampling perfumes. Both of which she decided were much better done by a professional. So I took both of the ladies of the household out on a regular basis for them to ‘gets pretties’, as our daughter called it. And I learned that a haircut wasn’t all that important. Especially once I began to develop male-pattern baldness. As long as the women of the house were satisfied, I didn’t need to ‘gets pretties’ with them.

But before our daughter was a young lady she was just a baby. Her and her little brother. It was easy at first, because Maribel was adamant about breast feeding. But when funds did not allow our diets to be as nutritious as they should, we talked about switching to Similac. Then we realized our new house did not afford us potable water, and she continued to breast feed. Once the children got older and began eating solid foods, Maribel insisted on cooking. She assured us of her talents, which consisted of a few recipes from her mother, but she wasn’t really all that good at it. But what else could we do? Often times, I would skip meals entirely, not because of Maribel’s cooking, but in order to save on groceries.

When the kids started school, my first school shopping experience wasn’t pleasant. Needing a new suit to comply with the new policy at work, I hadn’t realized how expensive kid’s clothes could be. Not that the individual items were draining my wallet, but all of the outfits Maribel was picking out slowly piled into the cart, filling it up until she made me go get a second one. She wanted to make sure the kids were popular, and since they were going to attend a private school that did not require a school uniform, she made sure to get shirts of popular video games, vintage tees, colorful tops for our daughter Cassie, preppy shirts for Alex, and of course gym clothes too, other assorted screen and graphic tees, with all of the clever phrases proclaiming girls better than boys, along with a few one-liners for boys as well, and all of their favorite animals. And of course Maribel had to include with each outfit matching hoodies, button-fronts, layered looks, dress shirts, polos, blouses, pullovers, ponhos, tank tops, tunics, camisoles, cardigans, and mock turtlenecks. When we finally completed and moved to the men’s department, having totaled all of the items in the cart, I had just enough to purchase a $1 ‘Cloak of Invisibility’ for sale.

Black Friday shoppers at Walmart

Midway through the school year, all of my savings having been put aside in the meantime, was our first significant Christmas. Not significant because of Jesus and all of that stuff, because we had celebrated like that already. It was significant because the children were now older, and had the outside influences from school and after-school television to tell them what toys and games were going to be fun. And of course I had to surprise Maribel with new furniture and a remodeled bathroom, Alex wanted the new video game system that had just been released in time for holiday shopping, and Cassie wanted toy jewelry because she was started to imitate her mother. I had to buy Maribel precious stones and semi-precious gemstones, but luckily I could get away with the plastic versions for Cassie. And both girls wanted clothes as well. Cassie because she insisted that she couldn’t be seen wearing the same clothes she wore the first half of the school year, and Maribel pleaded the same case for her work, to include the continued purchasing of the seven pairs of shoes monthly. I wanted a watch to go with the borrowed suit I was now wearing to work, but instead the kids got me toys that they could play with when I wasn’t home. When I was younger, I collected model trains, and this was their justification, that giving me the newest toys would replace the train collection I had to sell in a garage sale once Alex was born.

Because Maribel is extra special to me, I had to get her something extra special as well. I needed a cellular phone that had been mandated by work, but I refused to ruin her holidays because of selfishness. So instead I spent the last moneys on my debit card on a coupon for a “week’s worth of relaxation and rejuvenation” as the coupon stated. Funny how they call it a coupon. I didn’t save any money at all. But I knew Maribel would be happy. I just didn’t know how happy. Apparently I hadn’t read all the print to my surprise, because I had actually purchased a package for two. When Maribel saw this little bonus, she exclaimed, “How romantic, honey, thank you! Now I can take Cassie and show her how to be treated like a woman!” And with that she gave me a peck on the cheek. Apparently she didn’t mind the consideration she must have made that Cassie hates anything to do with “yucky,” to include any mud or other minerals used on the facial scrubs they would surely get. But other than that I was sure they would both enjoy the massages, the floating candles like my wife always used at home, and the neat little rocks that would heat their escape.

Swagger Wagon

And of course I couldn’t skimp on Alex. Boys are too often forgotten in this age, abandoned from a lifestyle that truly interests them less, in this era of things and stuff. But Alex had just developed a newfound taste in music, listening to artists who spoke to the urban in his suburban upbringing. About how life was about money and cars and hoes (or bitches, depending on which term the listener prefers). How these musicians are so tough, not because they were raised in a third world country ravaged by war and had to starve through most of their childhood. No, they are tough because they were raised in government subsidized housing; not because they had no housing. But this was what Alex identified with, because all the children at school looked at these musicians as role models, possessing every ounce of ‘hip’ that one naturally could. So when the musicians talked about being shot or selling drugs, that was what Alex’s identity wanted to become. So, having no money remaining, I gathered up my literature collection accrued over the years. We had a library of sorts in the spare bedroom, bookshelves lining the walls and each reaching to the ceiling, books placed as they should be, and then more when there was no room left. I began packing them into boxes and loading them into the minivan. (The kids call it the ‘swagger wagon’.) I loaded last one up and drove off to the rare book store that had become my salvation in order to sell back all that was once mine, but I hit a curve too fast and the minivan went through a guard rail and over a cliff.

King Nothing

Coat of Arms of King Richard III of England

I used to be king. I don’t know what happened, though. The seditious rose and stole my crown, and now sit upon my once hallowed throne. I have done nothing but serve my people, and this is how they repay me. Traitors! What devil to whisper in man’s ear that the holy scepter be thieved in spite of all that is righteousness! Alas, though the crime be against God’s kingdom, there is no more to mourn. All has been said and done, and now they must live with their own consequences! I suppose I wish them spared of God’s wrath for the desecration of the charge that once he had given me alone! I mourn my kingdom’s loss for those who will now suffer under a liege unproven, unworthy, and unholy in his right. Yes, I may have made mistakes, but it is God’s right alone to force me to suffer for such a fate I have yet unearned in his eyes. Oh, the shame! For what was not mine has been taken from me though righteous I once was!

Sure, I fucked my brother’s wife. But she needed it! There she was, sitting all alone on their wedding day, weeping torturedly in her wedding dress. Her gartered thighs suddenly awoke in me a passion that we both knew we must release! Impassioned moments brought upon us by such a God that is wise yet merciful! Oh, how regret never seeped into our thoughts, though sinful other think they must be! For I was king! How should I be punished for allowing my seed to flow on through history, not regretting my inevitable demise, but celebrating that life brought forth once more to rule His kingdom! But my brother was not so understanding of God’s wishes, and called me things for which I surely cannot be called guilty! Oh, such pity I feel for men who lack the understanding of powers greater than themselves. That their small minds should allow for thoughts traitorous to God’s own commands makes me weep internal for such sacrilege.

My usurpers also claimed, as is the hest of those whom have earned legitimacy none, that I was lazy, of all things! Yes, it is true that some days following other days, I would lie in my chambers asleep (and provedly uncareful of wretched dogs!), waiting for God’s guidance in such matters that my common folks cannot begin to comprehend! I have a kingdom to oversee, and those duties would overwhelm such ordinary minds! So I must rest, as God may will it, perhaps for weeks on end if needed, so that my people do not suffer by mistaken battles and taxes they needn’t afford! That is why I must vacation often as well, to remove myself from a sanctitious lifestyle and visit a more common footing on sandy beach resorts, in my private condominium of lucidity, still struggling with decisions for my people, all whilst I put on a frontage of relaxation, so as not to worry my loyal (hah!) subjects! And usurpation is the outlandish price I must afford for such dedication to my people?!

So at times I grew sick of my subjects, many of whom would abuse my place of privilege for their own reckless gains! Asking for food from the mouths of those blessed enough to eat at my table! Or wanting me to soil my robes and build a roof, simply because a husband was too weak to work (such sloth in common men!). But never once did these beggars consider that their ‘families’ were not divined as was I, and did not deserve such things if God did not will it! So I began to spit on my subjects who dared such behests in defiance of all that was holy! But they misunderstood my tempers, and glaringly called me ‘hoarder’, or ‘keeper of things of wont’, amongst other viler names indeed! Yet the solitary souls who called me such things could be forgiven by a mere wave of my mighty hand. So when such names became commonplace in my public showings, when I gave up my own personal safety in order to explain to the common folks what was happening in the kingdom, I could not help but to piss on them!

St. Edwards Crown

That is when I ordered bodyguards placed at every entrance. We wasted no man who could exchange for my life, though! We only used women and children, because their lives are worth oh so much less than ours. What a wonderful idea of mine that was, to take up all of society’s wastefulness and re-employ them in the service of my great kingdom! Human shields they would perform at all of my events, feet shuffling to ensure coverage of my most valued humanly assets. Those vagrants should have recognized the blessing God gave by allowing them to protect his very own charge! And I was merciful as well. Each time I was saved from an assassination attempt, from a knife in the dark or a poisoned drink that was intercepted from my treasonous citizens, I disposed of the body in what their families must surely recognize in its glorious fashion as the ‘pit of martyrs’. Yes, I, their great king, was generous enough to provide for the disposal of their bodies, instead of just allowing them to lie around and rot!

With all of the cruel methods devised for the reduction to rubble of my grandiose kingdom, never would I stoop to the level of such common thieves. For I would demand hold trial, and execute those who would attempt to take from me what is rightfully mine! The survival of my legacy depends upon it, so I can be none too careful and took to execute all suspects within a fortnight! None shall make the people suffer so for my loss, so I ordered every house searched for debauchery, and every person of interest seized for summary execution! What a waste of time to trial all of these unworthy souls! The people want blood to sanctify my kingdom as safe haven from harm, and so they must receive them in the plazas, beheaded for all to know my might and power, my will to be known as God’s one and the same! The only shame was the too late devisal of a plan to increase the effectiveness of my scourge by employing executions within the households of such traitors!

Never would I have needed to falsify such charges, as they claimed! Why should I have to protect a kingdom when it is plainly in sight that it is God’s will alone! Sure, I told them taxes would not be raised before I was advised that they must be, but surely they must know the difference to leverage such a bold claim against the very hand that feeds them and gives them their pathetic lives to cherish! I told them wars would be waged in interests other than mine own, but that is not indication of untruth against the lesser residents of my kingdom! My words only serve to alleviate the pressures of the truth that should not be placed upon such weak shoulders, unstrong like mine own to carry such a burden! Such things should be kept from simple minds, who simply cannot fathom the meanings of all things divine that are mine alone to understand! So know that what I have told cannot be rescinded, because the interest of the people was always in consideration for the best!

The Sovereign's Orb of the United Kingdom, whi...

In the final days of my rule of law, as it invisibly approached, I found myself more and more cautious as I should have been. But ‘twas not caution enough from those wretched fools who would challenge the hand of God and steal the scepter assigned by Him! Though I chose to hide away my days, bringing food from only my loyalist subjects to feast me cross-legged under my bed, those miserables still managed to execute their unholy schemes upon me! Though I allowed none to enter but my subjects most similar in mind to the kingdom, though one light never faded from the day, they still somehow managed to defy God and annex His kingdom with my usurpation! I should have hid deeper, that could have saved my people from such a fate! Down below the dungeons of my castle, deep in the moldy trenches of war against my kingdom, I should have hidden from all of those who wished ill upon my subjects, who would suffer once my flawlessness was no longer theirs to behold!

Forever Hold Your Peace

Maia Engagement Ring

She had to make a decision, and she chose to stay with you forever. She promised to remain faithful and not to succumb to temptation ever. She reaffirmed her love with a feeling gesture that would come to mean nothing at all in the end. Delilah gave you all her love, and you gave her everything in return, but it would not be enough. She refused temptation, and that is when the bond was broken. As soon as she placed that mantle of trust upon her own shoulders, she turned to dust in your embrace. You lost her through no fault of your own, just a futile battle against the inevitable.

Had you kept her things may have been different, but not as you’d imagine. Once she succumbed to temptation, you would know a different Delilah. A monster. Her embrace would make you suffocate, and your skin writhe. Pleasantries start arguments, and love leads to war. So it must have been written, or else it could not be. There is nothing you can do now. You must leave. It is too late. The Delilah you knew before is gone forever. Now you must suffer for what you have done, for what she did. You can’t escape the end, because it was always meant to be.

Dead rose with fresh sprout

You will always be reminded of what happened, with no recompense for your love. It cannot be erased, it cannot be undone. Mistakes made are lessons learned, and thus can never be replaced by perfection lest you must be taught everything anew. Everything you gave her will sting again for eternity. And now all you can do is fight to make things right once more. Yet you shall never find the justice you seek. She loved you and you so much her. But now you must fight with the emptiness. It drains your energy and disrupts every comfort with pain. But you must continue to fight.

But don’t allow a certainly uncertain future dissuade you now, for the feelings you will receive in prolonged moments of forever will either subside or subsist at the whim of random memories. These are the chances of remembrance for which you strive. Allow your butterfly heart free to flutter and chance upon delights yet unknown. And should they be forgotten, you’ll be able to accept that they were once fleeting memories. Live for the day, the hour, the minute, every second you would never trade for anyone, for any place, any idea of any thing that may be valued.

Catocala delilah

Later, you will regret, and swear that never should it have been so. But it was, and should you honestly deceive your former selves in each of those moments in time, you shall know it for false that your former selves revealed untruths. But am I not a changed man? You’ll ask yourself. That former self is no longer the latter I am. He shall be forgiven his sins, but I am unable to forgive one who is not me but may once have been. For it is I who now bear the burden, and regret is mine to hoard, to keep, to allow to fester and rot apart my insides until something bursts, something changes, and everything can, for once and for all, let go, be forgotten, released from the torment that mocks me so. It must be forgiven, yes, but it is not me who has the power to do so. No, that is the hest of a soul much more pure than my own wretched state of man.