She had the hair like the sun, eyes like the trees, and a mouth pink like a rose. She never carried herself right, beaten down by the world, the minute she left the hillside. The green pastures, the star filled nights, the crickets almost on the clock every single night provided a comfort she now longed for. Busy city streets, busy lights, and busy faces everywhere. No time to slow down. No time to speed up. No time for anything but work and sleep. That’s how she always felt. Life was always a struggle. Never a blessing. Always a fight, without the encore.
And recognition was rare in busy city life. So many people, they all seemed to blend into a vortex of nothingness together. To create one force of nothingness. Some convincing themselves it is something, while they poured that dirty regulars coffee for the 18th billionth time. Some realizing how little their existence meant, carrying themselves with at least a kind of admirable humility. Some wallowing in their own misery, clearly taking it out on everyone else.
The way she saw it was you had three choices to be; ignorant, intelligent, or angry. There was no other choice when doing mundane jobs. It was, play one of those parts or starve.
Deep down she knew it was time to evolve. Time to break away from the role partially. Time to think about some way out of the cycle of work without passion. She was done listening and ready to go out and fight down life again.
For awhile she spent time being purposely mundane, blending in, and going along with the motions of the majority. No one cared. She didn’t mind at the time, but the hole in her chest cut deeper as each day of meaningless existence passed on.
One night, she made a big mistake. She calls it an accident to this day, but the truth remains inside of her; like a haunting vessel at sea, it provokes her thought processes. Every dryer, every tub, every story like hers still subtly struck.a nerve. A tub, a plugged in phone dumped into it, and a complex without power was the scene. Crying parents, her lifeless-like body lifted from the water, while her burned wrists looked like some kind of sacrifice was the scene. She, of course, doesn’t remember anything but waking up in the hospital.
They thought she did it on purpose, so she had to say it was an accident.
Why am I still here? I wasn’t supposed to live?! Now I’ll have twice the bull crap if I admit to anything. Yup! Total accident! Geez. I really screwed this up. Can I go back? Undo this? Nope, haha! Of course not! She thought.
The nurse was intuitive, knew something was off about the situation but her hands were tied without proof. The cellphone accident was plausible as well, so it was written up as a mistake on reports.
I guess this is my second chance at life created out of death.
The thought was strangely comforting. Perhaps she needed to look death in the eye to be back to life.
For years she spent life reaching for a dream. Perhaps, even a stepping stone into another dream. Anything was better than looking forward to what felt like endless days of going through motions. Like a lifeless being eventually she moved, her mind always thinking: there is more to life than this.
And she knew, everyone felt the same but not everyone could always escape. So she judged those on character, not financial success. Judged based upon intellect, not credentials. And she thought oftentimes alone:
Sometimes, the most intelligent run out out money. Sometimes, life doesn’t make sense. Sometimes, we are just stopped dead in our tracks by too many obstacles alone; that survival is the only focus. We look at others as if they are lucky to have more than us so their bodies and minds don’t suffer as much. They walk in the clouds, blissfully ignorant others fought half a battle already just to compete. The thought made her smile, knowing that there would always be these types of people in world. It could be uplifting. It could actually set her apart in the end. Struggle does build character. She thought.
“Suz! What are you so intensely thinking about? This is work! If you can’t focus, let me know!” Her boss exclaims. “It’s rush hour, get it together! Late night? Too bad!”
“Yes, Sir! So sorry. I didn’t mean to…”
“You don’t have to call me Sir. Just focus on the now.”
“Will do!” Suz attempted to say with enthusiasm and humility.
She hangs up her coat. Her feet are sore, hands are tired, mind stressed, and she realizes she fought all this way for what? To be yelled at by someone all day?
This isn’t for me. I just can’t keep doing this forever. There is a way out of it. Other people have made it. I will do! I will do something that means more to others! Something! Something is out there for me.
She decides on a much needed night out. Calls a friend she barely hung out recently with. She understood though. A lot had been going on in Suzy’s life.
“So where we headed first?! Boone’s?” Cheryl asked.
“I suppose. That’s the only place around here I know.” Suzy admits.
“Geez, you haven’t been out for awhile then.”
“Well yeah. Wasn’t on the priority list. Getting my crap together was.”
“Well welcome back to society Suz.” Cheryl said with great sarcasm.
“Thanks.” Suz replied with just as much sarcasm.
“Let’s see what is going on in here.” Cheryl said with curiousity.
After a few drinks, Suz unwound. Everything seemed like a blur of bliss. Lights, music, and smiling faces lot up the dancefloor. Suz felt relaxed, happy, and then she saw him. A face she never wanted to see again.
“He’s… he’s…here. Cheryl, he’s right there. I.. I.. should go.”
“Wait… let’s go outside. Lose him.”
She grabbed her arm and they went upstairs. Down the back stairs to behind the building. Cheryl lit her cigarette.
“You think he’ll leave you alone?” She asked.
“I hope so. God I hope so.”
But just as she was finishing her sentence, a shadow emerged behind her.
“Suz….. he’s right behind you.” Cheryl gasps.
Suz doesn’t move. Her eyes staring into Cheryl’s as if she is silently trying to communicate how much fear is in them. Cheryl knows this expression all too well. She knows she has to react for her.
“What do you want?” Cheryl asks him. “Look, I don’t know you but my friend here doesn’t seem comfortable. There are other people out there who could like you. If I were you I’d go back inside and move on with your life.”
“Well I don’t know who you are but you should mind your own business?! She’s going with me. We need to talk.” He said with a stern look.
“Suz, you want to speak with him alone?” Cheryl asks.
“No.” Suz replied with her eyes on the pavement.
“There you go. There’s your answer. Life told you to move on. It is actually quite simple. Humans complicate it at times, like now.” Cheryl insists.
“I suggest you say less. Just because your a woman doesn’t mean I won’t slap you.” He said with a grin.
“I dare you. How many convictions do you already have buddy? I can find out for $8.99. And I’m sure we can add another to it and some fines, sitting in court, etc…if you wish. You see in my world the law still exists. In yours, you think you are the law. Get your ego to step down and maybe you can keep a woman around. Or even just people. That’d be a start, right?!”
He takes a swing at her. Not a slap, but a full out swing like Thor would have without his hammer. Admittingly, Cheryl was surprised but never is unprepared. Miraculously because of her sober state verses his drunk state, she was able to dodge his fist like something out of the Matrix. Gasps were heard from all the drunk, uncoordinated, silly minds in the background.
She pulled out her mace from her wrist, rapidly. Aimed it, aligned perfectly with his eyes.
“You coward! You maced me!”
“Sure did. Be happy I’m not the type to kick you when you’re down.” Cheryl said with a sinister grin.
“You better run before I get up!” He exclaimed.
By this time, a group was watching. A man shouted:
“You get up and touch those women I’ll hold you down while they kick you!”
After he somehow gained his sight back, he stood up for a minute analyzing his odds of defeat.
“Fine, you win this time girls!”
“Win what? You won really because I’m not calling the police. Your background check came up. I think you may still be on some kind of probation based upon what I see. I’m sure Suz here could connect the dots for me. I suggest you take this as a second chance we both gave you. She won’t even speak in your presence, which indicates to me you must have forced power over her. Take that elsewhere in a corner with yourself and deal with it. Leave people alone for awhile. Probation would like that too I’m sure. Go watch little house on the prairie or something..”
“Thanks for the so called second chance but I still don’t have to like you.”
“I’m sure you don’t like anyone who questions your ego. Your cab awaits out front. The one I called for you to leave. No wait..it’s invisible. Call it yourself. I’ve done enough already. Don’t come near my friend or I like that again. Thanks.”
He slowly and agressively made his way to the cab. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief.
“Thanks Cheryl. I never had someone stand up for me like that.” Suz admits.
“What did they do then?” Cheryl asks.
“Well that half the problem then. Your friendship standards must be too low. Welcome to having a real friend.” Cheryl says as she chuckles.
“Same to you. I owe you after that brilliant exhibition of realness.”
Cheryl was a perfect friend for Suz. She clashed with Suz’s meek nature. She was a protector when Suz felt the need to venture. She was her voice when she couldn’t speak, and her eyes when they failed to see obstacles before her.
In return, Suz was the perfect friend for Cheryl. She reminded her of the good qualities left in humanity, provided hope, and caused her to introspect when it was necessary. Suz brought out Cheryl’s hidden soft interior, while Cheryl attempted to bring out Suz’s hidden tough interior. They complemented one another and sent an unspoken message to others; their friendship was one of a kind.
They met in the morning for breakfast. A cheap, dainty diner that was the cheapest in the area; neither one had much money after bills were paid.
“So what should we do today? I don’t have much money truthfully Suz.”
“Me either. The park is free.”
“Alright, let’s go. Free is always cool with me.” Cheryl said.
“True. I hope someday though I can go somewhere and order the most expensive meal on the menu just because I could. But then again, I’d feel bad wasting money.”
“Exactly why I adore you Suz. Takes you two seconds to think morally, ethically, socially, or financially. I definitely could use more of that in my life. Haven’t made the best decisions in life.” Cheryl admits.
“Neither have I. It’s just about learning day by day; a lesson or a fact. No one is born perfect or will die perfect.” Suz admits.
“You always find a way to turn my negative thoughts around. Thanks Suz.”
“Don’t thank me. It’s what humanity should do for one another. Existence is difficult enough. To live costs money every single day; to die even costs money. Might as well enjoy it as much as we can. Whether it be wet socks or a filet mignon.”
“Haha! You’re so right! You always have the right thing to say, in your own kind of way. A way I definitely understand. I do worry though about you sometimes. Are you okay?” Like, really okay?”
“I try to be. That’s all that matters. I’m not rolling in a ditch giving up or failing to see a future anymore. I know some people judge and think:
Oh, she could do so much more than wait tables right now!
“But I just cannot do more right now. I went from nothing to having a job and income at least. Not fighting some abusive boyfriend or fighting to live on ramen during college. I can just be for right now. Maybe other people take that for granted: to just be. Fortunately I built up nothing so much I have too many options. I haven’t had children yet so I guess my life is like an open playground now. And I guess this overwhelms me….”
“Stop thinking so much sometimes Suz. Don’t get me wrong but it is your best quality at times and your worst. You need to learn how to manage it though. Think with more focus. If that means writing a list of stuff you should think about, do it! I’m not trying to sound cheesey, like a life coach but Suz…you are different. You do have more potential than you perhaps realize. Put it to use eventually, when you are ready. I know you need time to just be. Just don’t take forever moving on from the past either.”
“I understand what you’re saying. I really don’t think I am anyone special though but thank you. We all are truthfully special in some way. I’m just one human on this planet and there could be other planets full of other species nonetheless. I’m just someone looking for a real reason to exist like everyone else.” Suz said with a serious tone.
“The fact you realize all this with your ego aside is what sets you apart from most people. You need to realize it is what attracts darkness as well. Envy of what you have that is authentic. The smile, the opinions, the way you move so naive-like. You have to protect your own mind Suz. It’s beautiful. Don’t let anyone ruin it by projecting their own anger and sadness upon you anymore. You deserve more.” Cheryl insisted.
“Those were some of the kindest words ever spoken to me. I truly appreciate it more than you could ever know. Thanks Cheryl. I’ll get somewhere whether in the slow or fast lane. Especially if people like you stick around.”
Their eyes met with the same enthusiasm as it did when they first became friends. They strolled through the park reminiscing about old times, and feeling content just being in the moment with one another.
“Well we’re done with the park and it’s getting late. What now? Should we find a random pub? Have a couple for old times sake? You really haven’t had a couple in peace. Our first excursion wasn’t the best, thanks to your old friend. Heh.” Cheryl said with a concerned voice.
They enter a local pub around the corner. Mostly full of middle aged workers, having one after a long day. It felt out of place but in a good way to Suz. She wanted to challenge her overwhelming fear of uncomfortable situations.
“You look like you need to talk, so shoot!”
“Truthfully Cheryl, I don’t think people understand me right now. I felt like I was under a microscope for years now by someone. I didn’t leave the house. You know why. You know my situation after situation the past few years was like. Like an A&E crime show episode. Except I statistically should be dead. I’m like the survivor who shouldn’t exist. There aren’t many of us to this degree. I don’t expect people to not think I am crazy. I act like an agoraphobic, bipolar, empty vessel right now.” Suz admits with shame in her voice.
“But you are aware and awake somehow. You are fighting internally for your own identity back. Maybe I know more about it than you think, thanks to my mother. I’m sure just like she did, you still hear his voice and everything he said to demean you over and over. Like a drunk at a jukebox, playing the same song over and over. Except, it’s in your head and no one even hears it or knows. And if you told them, you’d be labeled schizo by ignorant people who aren’t psychiatrists. I know. It’s a common issue after extremely controlling relationships actually.”
“It feels like someone beat words into my head to the point where I could only think about myself in the manipulated way they wanted me to. All for control. All because of either fear or envy. Why not just love? Why is love not good enough for some people Cheryl?”
“Suz, I don’t know. But I do know it’s something inside of themselves that desires more. The ego drives a lot of beings in this world. That’s why it seems so dark. I feel humanity has to reconnect with certain things to salvage their empathy for not just one another but this physical planet and everything upon it. You bring that kind of light to this world. Even when you feel dark. That’s intense for those who are halfway there from your kind of transcendence.”
“You outdid your last compliment. I need to hang around you more. I’m really not used to this at all. Being complemented, being able to socialize, get into the car without the feeling of wrongdoing. I wish I could embrace it all better and not seem unappreciative. But I’ve forgotten what it feels like to receive real help and love. I want to remember right now, but I know time is the only thing that can help.”
“Indeed it is. You have to reconnect with yourself. Stop worrying about everyone else. You’ve done that enough to lift others up, but what have you done for yourself Suz? I say you draw a bath when you get home. Watch something you like for a change. Do something for yourself. One day at a time.”
“Sounds good to me. I don’t remember the last time I did anything for myself. You’re right but I still feel selfish.”
“Rid of the shame. Your heart will beat better without it. And go watch some Gabor Mate. Find anything or any voice that contradicts his annoying, looming one inside your head. Think of it like reprogramming. I’ll see you tomorrow or the next day. Soon. Take care of yourself tonight, Suz.”
That night Suz ran a bath, polished her nails, watched all the things people around her didn’t show interest in. She was self indulgent. Noticing every scar upon her body, remembering what happened while washing it away.
How could I have let this body suffer so much?! All those who came before me to bring me to this moment of time. I owe myself time.
The next day at work was gut wrenching.
“Suz! Get I go that pan cleaned up for me as soon as you can!” Her boss said while throwing it into the hours worth of a pile.
I hate my life right now. All I’ve been through and I end up back here, cleaning the filth of society or being a modernized servant. She thought.
“Do you think that’ll wash itself Suz?”
“No boss. I’m sorry.”
Am I a whiner right now? They all look at me oddly when I cannot focus upon mundane tasks because my brain is constantly thinking of philosophical questions without answers.
Even when Suz thought she wasn’t moving fast enough, she was. The looks she received seemed to be mostly admiration, envy, or nothing deep at all. Suz seemed to think everyone wasn’t on her side until they proved otherwise though. A skeptic of most; a lover of a few worthwhile.
I can’t wait to get out of here. Anything is better than having my hands burning in hot filth dish water. She thinks.
“Good job today.” Her boss said with half the meaning behind it.
“Thanks.” Suz attempted to reply genuinely to the disingenuous tone.
The smell of fresh air ignited her senses like a match to a gas stove. She always would stroll into a nearby park, escaping the busy streets and reminiscing about the way the corn fields smelled. The sounds of birds chirping in the morning and the crickets at night. It all gave her a kind of peace, nothing or nobody could. The park was an escape, her drug compared to everyone else’s usually toxic choice.
“Suz! Suz!” A familiar voice yelled, disturbing her peace.
“I thought that was you!”
“Oh hello Ciera! It has been a long time! How are you?” Suz asked, hoping she wouldn’t ask her too much.
“Same old. Going to college. Parents paid up my apartment for a few months, so just catching up on studies. They seem to think I should have a 3.5 but this was their idea to send me here. I’m just going through the motions to appease them for now. Haha.” Ciera admits.
“Well I guess that’s better than not being in school.”
“I suppose. I’d rather be out working sometimes, but I know they’d give up on me if I dropped out. So feels like I have no choice.” Ciera said while looking depressed.
“You could trade lives with me? Haha! Want to wash dishes and try to go to college? I feel like a crane lifted me and kept dropping me up and down all day. I’ve change in my car, slept on benches, carried 10 hours of classes worth of books. And I don’t even have if it’ll be worth the investment? Haha! All I can do is hope. And hope sometimes isn’t enough.”
“That’s definitely deep Suz. I’m sorry I forgot how much you’ve been the recently, with the hospital and all? I don’t want to upset you by mentioning it but I was worried. Look if you ever need anything, like a night out.. it’s on me. Well, my parents really. Haha! That sounds horrible but I sometimes forget how well I have it. It’d definitely make me feel less selfish to do something nice for someone else. Plus, I can tell you need it more than me.”
“I truthfully don’t know what I need. I don’t think anyone can give me what I need either. I just want to get to a point where I can give and give. It’s so much better for those in this world who have more to give. They have a choice; give or be self absorbed. It is actually quite a powerful one. I hope I can get there someday and be a positive influence. I don’t think anyone can help me but myself Ciera. But, thank you. If anything I need quiet nights. I have a world to compete with. And I’ve taken some steps backwards then forwards, then backwards again.”
“Gotta make up for lost time. I understand. Been there. My parents helped me so much out of troubles, I can’t imagine facing the world without them.” Ciera admits.
“We all have to eventually. We all become similar in the end. All that is known disappears and we must stand alone with what strength we have left. Your parents just want to see you stand, not lie down. Take it as a good thing. Some of us have felt like we walked through life alone since the day we were born.” Suz says with a strange accepting-like tone.
“Never thought of it that way. You really do put things into perspective. What I’ve always adored about you as a friend. You’re a rare friend Suz. Thank for that. I have to run to class or I’d stay.”
“It’s okay. I need to walk off work stress and study myself. I hope I run into you again.”
“I’m sure we will. Bye Suz. I’ve missed your face.”
“Yours as well. Bye.”
Suz felt overwhelmed secretly after the interaction with Ciera. More like drained. She knew she didn’t mean to be a burden upon her but her presence just was.
Ciera came from an unknown world to Suz. One filled with support, love, money, and opportunities. It was all in front of her; but it seemed Ciera could not stick to something. Oftentimes, she would complain to Suz she had no passion for anything and just wanted to hang around until her parents passed. They wanted her to be somebody though. She wanted to be a nobody.
The situation sickened Suz because she would have killed for her opportunities. She fought for anything that came her way. Even the jobs no one wanted. She told herself it’d mean something to someone, someday. Suz knew if she were in Ciera’s shoes, her parents would have been proud. She would have been successful. Money had ALWAYS been a like an invisible blade poking between her rib cage. No one saw it. No doctor could find it. No wealthy friend could understand it. It was always there though; waiting in the dark before she shut her eyes every night.
I feel like I gave someone free therapy right now. I like her but I don’t think she understands struggle enough. Maybe her parents should cut back her shopping sprees. I feel like I’m in a totally different world than her. She wakes up and is worried about her outfit like in High school. I wake up worrying about becoming homeless because I never have enough money to just live. To live and make something of myself. Why do I have to pay a house worth of debt for an education? Why?! I get paying some money but I feel like I was sold a false dream wrapped in a perfect package to take advantage of the middle class. I’m living a game that had so many barriers to begin with; I’ve let myself become shackled though. How do I escape this? She thinks.
Her eyes transition over to a happy family. They are unaware of her presence, as she admires their careful and tender qualities. She can tell that child will be the next Ciera of the world. She hopes though it has enough ambition unlike Ciera to become someone worth being around.
Are they too protective of their child? Enabling? Perhaps not. At some point people make a decision to give up. Ciera gave up on everything she ever started. It was in her nature at a young age. I remember. This kid over here though could become the next Elon Musk. Who knows. Maybe just a piano prodigy. Whatever it is, it can be terrific at because of the love and support of their family. I need to stop assigning destiny’s to children. Haha. I guess I’m just afraid of what is to come in this world. I guess sometimes it’s hard to see the love, support, and open-mindedness on this planet when people are only concerned it seems with themselves.
The walk was a tough one. A conversation inside her mind, leading to conclusions she felt like she once came to anyway.
I can’t help but feel like I’m always fighting the world out there. I try to be myself but people want me to be like them. I don’t ask anyone to change. I love the difference between each person I know. If we were all the same everything would be boring. Why do people care so much about opinions? Why do they try to mold others rather than focus the parts of one another that are in common? Why is there this underlying narcissist culture? Since when did people become even more this way?
Suz pondered this question often and attributed it to internet culture, the educational institutions, curriculums, rural vs urban background, lack of mental health access and research, work related stress, divorce… She found it seemed a lot of factors contributes to an “all about me” culture. Nothing was really about helping bring people up. Something major was always bringing down narcissistic people. Something deep inside was chewing up their insides. But to Suz, to lose all empathy is to lose oneself. She could never understand not helping someone else even if she really couldn’t. Each person that walked away from helping someone to her was just as bad as being the person who made you lose your empathy in the first place.
No religion taught her this either. Nothing she read. This was taught through hours of loneliness, staring at floorboards, walls, ceilings, just thinking. This was said over and over to herself everytime she lost hope in the human race. And it slowly helped. Slowly, she noticed smiles more often. Slowly, she noticed the person who put their cart back perfectly (Not the one scrapping a car, then leaving theirs in the parking lot). Slowly, the rude people in the world disintegrated into nothingness inside her mind. And all those who shined, shined ever so brightly; that it blocked out all the cloudly-like faces.
Perception. It’s all about perception. She thought. Then finally let out a smile.