If the day were any other, Connie would be spending her time at the
beach buying fun and relaxation. Today, though, her mind was tired and, listless, heavy with
memories of long ago. Disappointments, after being buried again and again in her mind,
resurrected themselves with each sip of coffee. She wanted to obey every fiber of her body
which cried out for soothing, restful sleep, but knew that her sleep would be full of fitful
episodes of pain. Pills would not help this kind of pain. She was also afraid that if she
held the bottle in her hands then it might be all too easy to remove pain forever with a few
quick swallows. More than once she thought of this endless sleep which brought death and
nothingness. Courage she lacked because she was afraid of that kind of sleep which might
bring more terrors with no way for escape. She was also afraid of the monster that lived
in the valley with her. She did not want to meet her problems again and again, and again.
In her deepest heart, she wanted to develop the courage necessary to keep fighting. She
did not want to miss tomorrow's victory, if there ever would be one.
The aroma of the hot coffee she inhaled reminded her of her unspoken, albeit unwilling, submission to life everlasting, especially when that life represented pain, monstrous memories, disappointments, horrors, separations, and misery. The inner dialogue between which method to accomplish a quick passing to the other side was her daily banter several years ago. She did not succumb because she was terrified that her problems would follow her to the other side, or worse, that she would wander for a millennium in an indescribable wasteland horror. Her existence was now a low, arduous, drawn out demise. This passive act of dying, though, held the promise of hope and it was this that she would comfort herself with in times of justification for the long, arduous journey of towards her end. Somehow, she developed a curious bent to her imagination which would only be quelled if she met the next day, no matter what the day brought. She had an insatiable curiosity to know what tomorrow would bring, knowing that if she were not there, it would come anyway without her. She wanted to be a part of tomorrow no matter how difficult today was.
She was already remembering her grandmother's neighbors. To the South was Mrs. Stewart, the North, Mrs. C, and the three sisters who lived on the corner. Connie was remembering years as an eight-year-old and what some considered, child prodigy. She was asked regularly to come and play the piano for her neighbors. The people across the street and up a house were a strange pair. Their back yard was full of rabbit hutches. Many times Connie would help the old couple feed the rabbits and ask what they were for and why did they have them. Her eight-year-old curiosity made her a lot of older friends in the neighborhood, all except for the neighbor directly across the street next to the rabbit people. She rented out rooms. In the evenings, her tenants would sit on the front porch and simply stare at the non-activity around them. Sometimes they would stare at her playing in her yard which made her feel self-conscious. This confused her because she didn't know if they were friendly or not.
She looked at her rumpled bed and thought that maybe she could lay down for just a short time. Then again, she thought, what if she would lie down and dream the awful dreams again, the horrifying visions that she couldn't wake up from. Her soul would awaken in a terrifying, paralytic, hallucinating body. She would sometimes wake up and not be able to breathe and feel a crushing weight around her ribs. The feeling was more pressure than pain. Other times she would partially awake and be in a total black nothingness and not be able to remember who she was or where she came from. At still other times when she awoke in the black darkness she would forget how to take a breath and panic when her lungs began to gasp for air that never rushed in. The darkness was unlike any darkness she had experienced when awake.
She poured herself another cup of coffee and the fresh aroma brought her mind back to more pleasant thoughts. Mrs. Stewart, so kind and gentle, was on her mind now. She had wanted so much to be like her, a woman with a quiet, gentle spirit. Connie's vision of her good self was that when she would grow old, she would have this same serene, beautifully ageing countenance, which was surrounded by fluffy, loosely curled white hair.
A smile joyfully surprised Connie's expression. Mrs. Stewart is sitting in her rocker with Connie snuggled safely in her lap. She rocks Connie as though she were living the grace of all her past, present, and future dreams.
Mrs. S's home was immaculately clean. All of the screens well painted with the same small-town immaculate white as the rest of the house and porch. The wrap around semi-screened porch so cozy that people were immediately put at ease as they approached the door at the corner of the house. The house itself was on a corner lot so that the back door entrance could be seen from the south sidewalk. A delicate brick cobblestone walk leading to the garage divided the lot filled with flowers calmly swaying to the music of the gentle breezes. Some of the flowers would eventually grace the table at the entranceway or at the dining table, and maybe at the table in front of the bay window which faced the south sidewalk.
Mrs. Stewart loved her flowers, her home, and she also loved to rock the children of the neighborhood one by one, whispering confidence and assurance into their tiny ears. Connie was one of those children. Hugs and snuggles were generously woven into the whispers.
When Mrs. S prepared her flowers for the vases, Connie was always close by. With water running and stove burner on, Mrs. S. would begin the preparation.
"Connie," she warned on at least one occasion, "you must always cut the flower stems or else they won't last. Don't tear them or break them. And you must cut the stems at an angle with a sharp knife or scissors to lessen the pain of their being cut. Don't forget to sear the open wound with the hot stove, but lightly, to heal the wound of the cut. That will help them stay fresher longer."
The memory of that conversation would make Connie forever question why the important lessons of Life had to be taught by flowers. Reality, the offspring of a four letter word, REAL, was the most monstrous gift life had so far blessed her with. Her memories were not of gentle, pleasant flowers soothing her soul. Her memories were jagged cuts and tears which cut to the bones.
"Sleep!" she began to entertain again. "Sleep, if I could only lie down and hide myself," she agonized, "then life would not or could not seem like the only reality." The pain of the jagged cuts and tears might be soothed for the short period of sleep. She wondered why the day was so painful.
She began to let her thoughts turn again to the small town of her childhood. She remembered another woman whose husband was the town's funeral home proprietor. That woman had to deal with another reality, death. In spite of constantly being surrounded by the end-of-all life as we know it, Mrs. Chittenden was the exact opposite. Even her energy was energetic. She was a bouncing bundle of organization which showed in her walk and her talk, both of which were in short, brisk bounces of activity and sound. At the same time she appeared to be balancing an imaginary tea-cup on her head. When she talked, the activity of her mind was transparent as she formed her words and sentences. Her listener could almost feel the effects of a full day of exercising because of the energy expended by having to concentrate on absorbing her conversation. One would not dare retreat into their home if they saw her coming, though. Community people lived by an unwritten behavior which required them to be available to answer anyone's polite barrage of questions.
"How are you today?" "Feeling well, today?" Or "Oh your flowers are so lovely, how to make them grow so well?" These leading questions, however, needed to be answered skillfully, lest the one questioned would be trapped in the prison of time flying by. Sometimes her questions bordered on embarrassment, not because of the intimate value of the questions, but rather, because of the center stage she gave you in her praise. The attention seemed like a floodlight at times and an eternity of a polite inquisition. One must never think, however, for a moment that this interest was unwelcome. Mrs. C. had the uncanny gift to make a person like the most important person in the world. For one brief moment the person had the center stage of life all to herself and it felt good.
But that was then, and Connie was in the now. She still felt as though she was in the center stage, but this time the object of humiliation, filth; a person living the reward of her fulfilled foolishness and negative self prophecies. Sleep, how that would solve everything. She was so tired of fighting her memories, of fighting the enemy of her hopes and dreams.
Once she had been to the mountaintop in a moment of ecstatic joy during a moment of epiphany when she believed that she was saved from all this foolishness and humiliation. She would never forget that experience. It was difficult to stay on the mountain forever, though. It required more energy than she had available. She liked the valley more in spite of the monster which lived there, too. In the valley, there was a small streamlet running through and every rare once in a while she could overcome the monster long enough to get a drink of cold, sweet refreshing water. She mostly drank of the green, slimy back water that collected after the rains. The water at the beach was far too salty for her to drink, yet she enjoyed the pleasure it gave as she splashed and swam.
Yes, sleep is what she would do, but later. Today she had the courage to leave the bottles alone.
"Maybe someday the monster will be dead." She continued to hope.