Doors We Don’t Open

Feelings start in the

stomach

where they bubble and

stab

before they float up to the

brain.

They start grabbing at the wires and twisting

everything.

Then they turn off

the lights.

 

Sometimes I descend

into

the madness and let it

C O N S U M E

ME.

So much hurt and fear and anger and worry and pain and panic and sadness

and it builds into a tsunami,

drowning me

before I shut it up again.

Before I rejoin reality,

the shallow end where that blind limitless emotion

can’t exist.

The Hallway of the Afterlife

I looked down for a second to reply to a text, and when I looked up, headlights blinded me. The next thing I knew I woke to a horrible stench, like rotten milk mixed with burning flesh. Cool marble pressed against my back. Plaque coated the ceiling and clung to the walls. As I sat up, a shadow in the corner of the room rustled. “Hello?” Am I in a coma? 

“Rise,” the shadow’s voice came out garbled.

I stood, the joints in my legs popping. The woman shuffled forward out of the darkness, revealing bluish green skin and a black smock dress. The smell grew stronger the closer she got to me. God, am I dead? 

“Yes.” The woman held out her bloated arm to me. “But I’m not Him.”

The dark room around me couldn’t be Heaven, but it also wasn’t hot. So, could it be hell?

“This is not Heaven or Hell or Purgatory. This is eternity.”

“So this is all there is?” All of those Sundays in church for nothing?

“It wasn’t for nothing. There are other worlds. Maybe your God has a kingdom in one of them.”

“And how do I get to those other worlds?”

The woman took a few steps closer. “Take my hand. My mansion has many halls, many doors. Behind one of them you may find what you seek.”

“And if I refuse to go with you?”

Her hand fell to her side. “Then that is your choice.”

“But what will happen?”

The lights flickered and the woman turned to leave. “Eternal darkness. An eternity of nothing.”

“Wait.”

She didn’t.

I tried to walk towards her, but my legs wouldn’t move. “I haven’t chosen yet.”

The plaque ran down the walls and spread across the floor towards me. Solid darkness descended from the ceiling. I felt her voice whispering inside my head, Remember when you wanted everything to stop? When you crashed your car on purpose but woke up in the hospital? In your heart, you decided a long time ago. 

 

How Can You Promise Me Forever?

We try to control

everything.

We pretend that if we plan enough then we’re prepared for

anything.

 

Tell me,

how do you know what we should do?

If you’re not scared,

you’re doing it wrong.

 

How can you be so

sure?

How can you make promises

that are worlds away?

 

What’s your reasoning?

I have mine.

I will do whatever it takes, and when I can’t do more,

have faith.

The Good Kid

Once upon a time, the bully broke every one of Sasha’s crayons. Luckily, crayons still color no matter how many times they break.

Once upon a time, she was forced to sit next to him while they built with blocks. She was minding her own business. He knocked her tower down and went back to building his own. Did he want her blocks? She stood up and kicked his tower over. He cried. Guess who got in trouble?

Stupid, meaningless things can stick with you. Sasha still remembers that bully, the way he made her feel like the whole class was against her. You probably feel like you were the Sasha when you were little. But in someone else’s story, Sasha is the bully. You’re the bully.

She had a best friend back then. Once upon a time, Sasha and her friend had pretended to cut each other’s hair. Kids do things without thinking; don’t judge them. So, her friend went to the bathroom, but Sasha didn’t know that. She walked around the whole classroom with her scissors up, cutting the air. When she sat back down, the teacher found brown hair all over the floor. Only two girls had brown hair, and Sasha was the one with scissors.

“Sasha, did you cut your hair?” The teacher already knew the answer.

Sasha put down the scissors, afraid to get in trouble. “No, it was Melody.” Melody’s hair was lighter than the hair on the  floor.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

The teacher put Melody in the corner even though Melody swore she didn’t do it. Kids can be mean.

Do It For You

My heels echo down the empty corridors

in my old high school.

I shouldn’t miss this.

I don’t miss this.

Now I don’t have to talk to anyone

that I don’t want to.

But I remember meeting you.

I remember my hopes and dreams exactly as I felt them,

back when the world seemed so small.

The truth is, none of it matters and no one cares.

But these halls shaped me.

These memories dig into my heart and choke me.

My Darling Adriana

It’s said that evil breeds evil, and I believe that’s what happened on that fateful day thirty years ago. I was there, right there in the back row of the play watching the beautiful Adriana dance across the stage. Yes, I was in love with her. Her strawberry blonde curls are only second best to my own ringlets. We were both beautiful, and beautiful people love other beautiful people. It’s the law of attraction.

Well, I was going to confess my feelings that night, but when I went backstage after the performance, she was groggy and crying. She kept rambling about some man, some secrete admirer. My cheeks flushed. Instead of concern, I felt jealousy. So, I left the flowers with her and went home. It wasn’t until the next morning that I heard she had died. Pills, they said. She was “sad.”

I couldn’t investigate further without revealing my feelings for her. Affection is one thing, but admitting love is another. It wouldn’t do. I let it go.

How could I live so heartbroken? What’s the secrete to moving on? I got married. The first man who looked my way had my heart, or what was left of it. I took in his affection and twisted it. I convinced myself that he loved me enough for the both of us, that his love was so important that it had to be requited. It was only bearable because he indulged me. I had the best sewn dresses in the city, and he enjoyed flaunting me almost as much as I did.

But I grew bored and one day, he mentioned Adriana. At first he said that he knew her. I might’ve poured him more brandy. He said he had been her admirer. He said he ended things because she’d been with others before. How could he marry her after that? He said she was the love of his life. I might’ve poured him too much brandy.

People are kind and forgiving to grieving widows. Maybe love breeds evil.

The Sweetest Rotten Milk

Flowers fell from my locker and all

eyes

locked on

me.

A white paper bag sat on top

of                                  my books.

“Open it.” “Open it.” “Open it.”

I opened it.

Six pink sugar cookies stared up at me:   P R O M ?

The tap on my shoulder shouldn’t

have surprised me.

My high school sweetheart smiled his sweet smile wanting me to accept his sweet cookies, his sweet promposal.

Why the hell do promposals exist?

Mythroatwastootight.

“So, will you go with me?”

Their eyes pressure me to accept. How

can I say no to someone who cares so much?

Plus, we’re dating.

Why are we dating again?

The cookies turn my stomach before

I even eat them.

“Yes.”

Isn’t this a fairytale?

What Good Girls Do

Disclaimer: The following short story involves adult topics.

Jasmine’s legs stuck to the leather seats of Ricky’s car. With the windows down, they zipped past the neon lights of fast food joints until they were on the back roads. Ricky pulled over and cut the lights. Jasmine checked the time on her phone. “Why did we stop driving? I have a final tomorrow morning.”

Ricky took off his glasses, put them in the glove compartment, and grabbed something small. “Well, we went to dinner and a movie.” He reached his arm around her. “You’ve been leading me on all night.”

“I lead you on every night; I like flirting.”

“When people go on dates, they usually want more than flirting.”

“So this is a date now?”

“You don’t want this?” Ricky winked at her, and she cringed.

Laughing, he moved back and held up a small baggie of Adderall. “Relax.”

She grabbed it from him and examined the round, orange pills closer. “What’s the dosage?”

“45 mg.”

“That’s more than usual.”

Ricky shrugged. “I got a good deal on them.”

“Thanks.”

“Big chemistry final tomorrow?”

Jasmine nodded, shoving the pills in her purse. “I need to get back to study.”

Ricky turned off the car.

“What the hell?”

“I thought maybe I could help you study.”

Jasmine rolled her eyes. “Ricky, I’m gay.”

“I know, but you gotta be careful with those pills.”

“Okay, Mom. After chemistry I’m done with them. Can we go?”

“Promise me.”

Jasmine raised an eyebrow. “Are you serious? You’re my supplier. If you wanted to cut me off, you would have.”

“I’m looking out for you. If I would’ve let you go to the sellers, they’d have screwed you over.”

“Fair enough. I promise. Now let’s go.” Jasmine was already swallowing the first pill dry before Ricky started driving.

Rules of Love 101

It’s not always easy.

You can’t force what isn’t there.

If you don’t like kissing him, you don’t like him.

 

Don’t rush.

A promise ring won’t stop her from leaving you.

If he wants to cheat, he will cheat. You can’t stop him.

 

Love can change your perspective.

Love will change your perspective.

Love can make life complicated.

 

Sometimes you deserve better.

Sometimes she deserves better.

 

Opposites attract if they are complimentary.

Similar people attract if they are diverse enough.

Love happens.

Adulting

I switch the radio over to my mix CD from high school, boy bands and sad country songs, as I pull off the highway into my hometown. It’s not small or anything. It’s a suburb. But it’s called the Island. For the most part people grow up here and stay here. That won’t be me.

With the windows rolled down, I pull off onto the back roads. They’re paved. I didn’t grow up in the sticks.

My high school is the same brick that it was when my parents went there. Marching band music floats into my car from the football field. My throat tightens. It’s been two years and I still can’t look that way without remembering. By the time I reach my childhood home, I can’t breathe.

Nostalgia hangs in the humidity. Ghosts of memories pass up and down the road: playing kickball with the neighbors, selling lemonade, riding my scooter. I block it all out as I go up to the front door. The doorknob is silver instead of gold. Some things do change.

But the little things aren’t big enough. It’s the same street with the same people. I could start a game of kickball again. I could jump off the garden wall with a plastic bag as a parachute. It would be like nothing’s changed.

***
I’m not a child.

I refuse to feel like a child.

***

I load up my car for my last semester at college. The panic settling on my chest has been building for a year. What am I going to do after I graduate? I have a plan, but doesn’t everyone?

I don’t care if you’re going into the medical field, there’s no foolproof plan for your life.

Pulling onto the highway, I blast my radio to drown out the screaming fear in my chest.