A close friend of mine is getting married in a couple of weeks. A long time ago, they asked me to write a poem for their wedding. I thought I’d share it here.
They walk in beauty
With stars up above,
Hearts glazed in light
And overflowing with love.
She carries her life
A budding rose of white
Tinted blue from the gaze
Of her gentle-eyed knight.
What is stronger than death,
More fragile than a bud
Than the hearts of two children
Bound together by God’s love?
(Photo: Pablo Heimplatz)
I say to him, “I know she has some sort of dark past. Something bad or…” And I catch myself.
Jason laughs. “Don’t you already know?”
Don’t you know everything?
I hate him. I can only reach the first layer of his thoughts and it’s always dripping with sarcasm.
“In one memory, I saw you, Jason.”
“Did you?” His eyes grow shiny. They look like dew drops reflecting the color of the brown earth beneath, but it’s still misleading as to what I actually see.
“What do you know?” I pry, but Jason says nothing. He knows how to block me out. I can’t read him, and he’s just about the only person who can do that.
It’s easy, after all, to slip myself into the mind of another. I can’t take over. Nothing of that sort. I can’t even make them aware of my presence, but I can sift through their memories and watch through their eyes.
But there’s too many memories, and it drains my strength. A few minutes is all I can stand before my head is ready to split open.
“Jason, you sent me with her because you didn’t trust her fully. Was that a lie?”
I hate him.
“Why are you so guarded around me? It’s not like I’m going to use anything against you or the guild.”
“No, but you’re annoying. Like a kid brother. Who knows when you might let something slip.”
I stare at Jason for a few more minutes, but he gives no signs of letting up. When he gets too tired of blocking me out, he’ll just leave his office to go to his quarters or something. I can’t follow.
I close my eyes and try to exit my mind. I see myself inside the room. It gives off a dark, static energy with vague outlines for Jason’s desk and chairs. I see Jason’s energy, a bright red and orange, like a glowing fire in the midst of this shadow world. I manage a wobbly step towards him before I feel like I’ve been axed in the head. My energy crumples to the ground and dissipates back into my body.
“Hey, you okay?” Jason’s voice rings in my ears. Tears have actually gathered in my eyes. My face has contorted to keep back the pain. How could I be so weak!
I never imagined a true mindreader’s power until encountering Niles.
I was just walking on the street, head down, doing my best to block out the voices around me, till I heard a distinct Hello.
The voice sounded like it was right in my ear. A lot of people around me looked around, some glancing as they walked, some turning around at vendor’s booths, asking if others had also heard, but I made the mistake of knowing exactly where to look. I should’ve known better. Stupid.
He was across the road. Clear blue eyes, peppered hair, and a neatly trimmed, silver shadow.
You’re a mindreader? I asked.
His laughter resounded in my mind, but not the slightest trace of a smile emerged on his face.
You’ve never heard of mindreader traps, kid? You fell right in!
My mind felt fuzzy. The soft fur of my brain was gently petted and poked by a stranger as if it were a bunny’s corpse. My insides curl in on themselves at the memory. Is that what it feels like? I shuddered violently.
You’ve never met another mindreader? Kyle? That’s your name?
I’d never met another mindreader, but I knew there had to be a way for me to kick him out of my mind. We both went still until I heard his laughter in my mind again.
That’s the best you can do?
“Get out,” I muttered audibly. Sweat was gathering on my forehead, back, and palms.
I’ve not met another mindreader in a long time… He began casually looking around and walking down the street. Across from me! He didn’t even have his gaze fixed on me!
Wait – what are you doing!
And at that moment I realized that other people had heard his Hello. I’d never been able to speak to anyone else from my mind. Let alone more than one person. I didn’t even know it was possible!
Kyle, you’re going to hurt yourself. Stop fighting my presence.
He stopped walking when he reached the point straight across from me and leaned over, pretending to look at some vendor’s wares.
Who… who are you!
Wow, kid you are pathetic. He laughed again. My name is Niles. So you didn’t even know mindreaders could communicate with other people?
How could he have known my thoughts when I wasn’t thinking them at that moment? I didn’t understand, and frankly, I was terrified.
“Hey, dude… you okay?” I glanced to the side at a guy with a pulled back afro staring at me from behind neon yellow glasses. The guy looked several times across the street to where I’d been staring and back to me. “…Something wrong?”
You going to say something, Kyle?
“Uh, it’s nothing. I was just thinking.”
“Ha! Okay, chillax dude. No demons on this street. I’ve been living here for twelve years.” He lightly punched my shoulder and kept walking.
Out of habit, I tried to slip into this guy’s mind, but this freak Niles was holding me hostage in my own. Yellow glasses was probably thinking that I was a freak.
You need to work on your poker face, kid.
Why can’t I push you out of my mind! You’re not even looking at me.
You’re far too weak… I’m impressed. And by impressed, I mean utterly shocked at how weak you perceive your powers to be. Well, potential powers. We’ll say that. I can’t remember the last time I was actually as weak as you. Maybe five years of age? And you’re… seventeen.
He’d been there a while, and I assumed he would soon get tired.
On the contrary, Kyle. I could stay here all day. I could go to the park, catch a movie, be on a train to a different city, and so long as I’m aware of your location, I can slip into your mind.
I focused. I wasn’t going to let him know any more about me by being carelessly allowing memories to slip into the forefront of my mind. I could somehow guard myself the same way Jason does.
Ha! Really Kyle?
The scorn in his voice was sickening, and as hard as I concentrated, I could still feel him going through my mind like it was a filing cabinet. Picking out memories here and there then putting them back. What was this guy!
Hm… pretty girl, that pathfinder, Leilani. Oh, you don’t want to invade her privacy. How adorable.
I had to get away from him! I thought that if I could just get far enough away to where he couldn’t find me…
As I was running, my body came to an abrupt halt. My heart pounded against my chest, and my mind screamed out at the rest of my body, but it wouldn’t listen. The cold sweat on my body grew profusely worse. I had only made it a few steps up the street.
I turned around to see Niles standing up straight, his back to me, fists clenched, finally appearing to be concentrating on something.
You can’t run. And you’re not even strong enough to fight this.
My legs started moving. I walked into the road, turned my head back and forth, and walked right up to Niles. My insides were panicking and trembling, but they had no choice but to obey him. He turned slightly and opened his eyes. They narrowed on me.
You think that they would want to kill you? No. When you think of people hunting mindreaders, they’re talking about people like me. You’re so weak that no one would ever bother with you. Niles closed his eyes. His sigh echoes through my mind. But what should I expect from someone who does everything they can to suppress their power.
You can… control my body?
The corner of his mouth curved upward. He wore a dark, long coat and dark pants. Tall. He was a stereotype for a detective.
Think I’m a stereotype do you? He laughed again. A very degrading laugh. That might be so, but you’re such a typical modern specimen that I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve been jumped in an alley several times and always look over your shoulder in a dark parking lot.
He was an attractive older man. I could only hope resemble him when I reached my fifties or however old he is. Thank goodness I was too freaked out to think this at the time.
Child’s play. I can do much more terrifying things.
We both turned and began walking up the street. We turned down an alley. I still didn’t have control of my legs.
Anything you can imagine that someone with access to the mind can do. Rewrite your memories. Convince your mind that certain parts of the body no longer function. Turn your nightmares into a reality, at least on a mental dreamscape. They call us mindreaders because there exists a misconception for where our powers truly lie. No one knows. Because if they did… well…
We stopped in the middle of the alley before it opened into another vending street. This one primarily for selling clothes.
I can imagine why people would want to kill you.
His half smile resurfaced. If I were someone else, I would probably want to kill me, too. He glanced around. Kyle, do you wish to remain pathetic the rest of your life? I know you use your powers to help people. And something you should consider, with more power comes more control. I never have to worry about the overwhelming voices around me. Let me teach you.
I… I don’t know.
Kid, this power isn’t going to show up all at once. It takes years of painful practice. You have to master your own mind to begin mastering others, a feat nearly impossible in itself… But I understand. The prospect of having such power is a bit terrifying.
“Stop resisting,” he said aloud, grabbing my head, his thumb on the center of my forehead. “Stop…” His timid voice was nearly identical to the one that’d been echoing around in my mind.
I slowly lowered my guard. It happened in an instant, like he took a computer chip out of his mind and stuck it in the hardwiring of my brain. I fell backwards. I blinked away the fuzzy vision to see him standing over me with an expression that blended well with other faces… unless looking closely at his eyes. The pale blue was piercing, though it was protected by a glossiness. Once past the glossy outercoat, I could see that his eyes were analyzing every fiber of my being.
I felt normal. A little dizzy, but at least he was out of my mind.
“What did you do?”
“Nothing much. Now I’ll be able to communicate with you from abroad.”
He told me to contact him if I ever wanted to learn. It’s been three days. Maybe if I could just get control of my own mind.
“Weren’t you ever afraid of all that power corrupting you?”
Niles never answered. Did that mean he was evil? But he had acknowledged me using my power to help Jason and the guild. We walked back out of the alley together.
I’ll give you one week to decide if you want to be my pupil.
And what after that?
You’ll come with me. And learn.
I’ll leave my –
And if I refuse?
I’ll erase your memory of our encounter.
How long will it take? You know, to –
That depends on your abilities. He looked at me, and I could tell by his face that it wasn’t going to be a weekend. Or even a month vacation… or even a year of training.
Was I really willing to give up everything I had just because I let some guy get to me about being weak? But if I could just control my own mind without feeling like my head was splitting in half! I wasn’t worried with Leilani anymore… and that concerned me. Because being more concerned with power than other things in life is a very worrying situation. But what if this was my only chance! But after he erases the memory, it won’t even matter. I’ll never know the true extent of a mindreader’s abilities.
I wish I could talk to Jason about this. I mean… I know I could, but… I’m actually afraid of what he might say.
“Welp, guess it’s time for me to go in here.” Jason closed his book and got up.
“Jason, can I talk to you about something?”
“I’m not going to tell you about –”
“No. Not that. Um…”
“What?” He crossed his arms.
“I met another mindreader the other day.”
Jason’s dark eyes widened.
(Photo: Frankie Cordoba)
This is a part 2 to an earlier story “Ash and Snow.”
I just felt like continuing it because the main character in my cousin’s book has similar powers to Niles.
Something is wrong with my mother.
When I heard the glass shatter, my eyes burst open. I rolled and stumbled to my feet, blinking away the burning in my eyes.
“Mom,” I mumbled. The thoughts threw themselves together, and I remembered my encounter with Maxton. “Mom!”
I found her staring at the ceiling. Wide, glowing eyes. Hands still partially out where a still empty cup had been resting. The mark near her shoulder has spread across her chest, arms, up her neck, and down her stomach and legs. Glowing lines, like those on a sheet of music, only these twirl and quiver as if they are alive, as if they are veins filled with fluorescent blood, stretching even to the tips of her fingertips.
I glanced around nervously when I first saw her, but yes, our curtains are closed and cover every inch of the windows. I still wish they were thicker.
So it wasn’t Maxton, the supposed hunter. It was something else.
I sit down and watch her. Talking does nothing, and if I accidentally break her connection to whoever is on the other side, she’ll pass out. I watch the spinning lines emerging from her mark. They fan out and even have little notes like budded flowers forming in some places. Music that only my mother can hear. Music is her gift, after all. My father’s had been art. She told me that his mark created swirling patterns of what looked like clouds, waves, and wind.
Part of me hopes that I never get a gift, but I’m still curious for what it could be.
I close my eyes, but I can still see the limbs of the mark, even with their glow already partially covered by her tank top and pajama pants. Her root mark is the same as mine and all the other Gatekeepers’ marks. Something that looks like a sun, circled once with a full circle and extra lines partially forming a circle on the four corners of the mark, supposedly representing an opened gate.
Opening a gate is a forbidden practice.
I close my eyes and remember my first teacher. Ms. Sonata and her somber gray eyes. Why? Why is it forbidden? I don’t remember what an original mark looks like before the transformation.
It can only be done by certain people. Forbidden people.
Her gray eyes had shined. What did she think about it? Forbidding people from existing because they served a different God than the Ruler of the World Empire.
I didn’t know what it would mean to become a Gatekeeper. It just… happened. But there’s no reversing the transformation.
Did they know that? We can’t change back even if all we want is to be normal? To stop hiding?
I’m probably the only Gatekeeper who thinks this way. Most embrace their power.
But what good is power if they kill us for using it?
I remember when Alexa Solomon showed me traces of her gifted mark.
I can use some of it when I wear this navy sweater. It doesn’t show through. See?
She didn’t know what her gift was exactly. Her mark’s limbs were jagged lines like lightning. It wasn’t as bright as my mothers.
I can help people without them even knowing it.
Thinking of her smile makes my insides crawl uncomfortably. That’s the only point of Gatekeeper’s power. To help others see past the Gates put up by the Ruler of this world to the King of the other, so they can pass through and become citizens of this other Kingdom.
At the time of my transformation, I agreed that this Ruler was not a just one, that I would rather serve another, that I would rather be free and pass through the Gate. But now, I don’t even see the point of becoming a citizen of a different world, and it’s not like things in this world are so bad… besides us Gatekeepers being hunted and executed.
I want to ask my mom about it all, but I’m afraid of what she’ll think of me. I hate talking about it. It makes me so uncomfortable when she tries to talk to me about it.
I think the point is that when there are enough of us Gatekeepers, the Gate to the Spirit world will completely open, and the King will come through and take over this one. But I can’t really remember.
My mother inhales sharply. I don’t get up and grab her in time. She falls to her knees in a coughing fit. Trembling.
“Mom?” I rub her shoulders. She covers her eyes. The message must’ve been bad.
“It was Tracey Solomon,” she heaves. “Apparently… apparently a family here in the capital has been discovered and captured… and they had a daughter at the Academy.” She turns sideways to me as my heart begins to throb. The mark’s limbs have begun to fade. “She was making sure we’re okay.”
I help my mom get into the armchair. I offer to make coffee. It’s four in the morning, but I don’t think I’ll sleep any more, even with the presentation being due tomorrow.
“Thalia honey, do you have any idea who it would’ve been?”
I try to imagine anyone who didn’t fit it, who was a little too kind, too bright-eyed, like my mom, but no one stands out. Then again, I probably don’t stand out either.
“No… but we’ll find out tomorrow.”
“Doubtfully. They won’t want it getting out that they had someone like us at their Academy.”
Only the second week of classes, and they’ve already caught someone. How many of us are there? Surely there can’t be that many.
I want to tell her that we should just leave. That I’ll fake getting sick and miss a bunch of classes. I’ll do bad on my presentation… pretend to forget my lines or something. Anything to get kicked out.
But what if they study you when you get kicked out to figure out the reason for why you failed? What should I do?
Sweat forms on my palms and forehead.
She laughs. “You have nothing to worry about.” She closes her eyes, smiling. Always so cheery, even with our lives potentially on the line.
I don’t say anything because I know she’ll say something like how the King will take us through a particular Gate into his world, so we have nothing to fear in death. It seems so dumb, but the powers Gatekeepers have are nothing to laugh at. And my mom is one of the strongest. She has one of the closest relationships with the King. Basically his daughter.
My mark is barely visible.
All the limbs from my mom’s root mark have faded. I wish she would wear a thicker shirt to bed, or at least one with sleeves, in case our house was ever searched or broken into.
“I wonder how they were caught.”
“They weren’t as smart as you.” My mom grins. She cracks her eyes open to look at me then closes them again. “But don’t worry about that now. I know you have a big day tomorrow.”
I kiss her cheek, and she kisses mine.
“Goodnight, love you.”
“Love you too.”
But I don’t sleep. I stare at the ceiling and think of all the ways I can subtly end my friendship with Maxton Locksey.
(Photo: Christopher Burns)
I need you to write what you know.
Her eyes had leveled with mine.
I need you to be raw and unforgiving. None of this stuff about elves or outer space. That’s not what we need right now.
“I can’t believe she said that to you.” Keisha’s eyes narrow. “Who does that woman think she is?”
“Kinda stupid,” Andy adds. “She’s like opposite side of the spectrum from you. She’s writing about cocaine dealers sleeping with touch-hungry girls.”
“All writing’s subjective,” I say before Keisha has a fit. “She just doesn’t like mine.”
“It makes me so mad how they will praise something that’s absolute garbage to the high heavens, and they don’t say a word to those other writers about the ‘strong female character trope.’ I almost screamed.”
“It’s crazy how different you are outside of class, Keisha.” Andy laughs
I like talking to them. They say all the crude, brutally honest things that I’m thinking. We’re all in our own worlds. Andy weaves poetry into his tales about live paintings and ancient Japanese myths. Keisha puts a new spin on Poe stories with broken-necked birds penetrating the neck to pluck out the arteries. And me? I write what I want.
I don’t write for the world. I write for me, what I need.
“Guys, I hate stories with sad endings.” I stir my lemon water until all the seeds and fibrous tissue have floated off the bottom of my glass.
“Yeah, but that’s what real life is.”
“Maybe her life,” Keisha growls.
“We should’ve done this more often. Going out to eat after class? I wish we’d done this sooner than the last day of class,” I say.
“Yeah…” Andy’s too busy going through his comment sheets to be paying much attention.
“Don’t listen to any of them. I really like your writing.”
I return Keisha’s smile. “Yeah, I’m not changing. I’m not worried about what they think.”
“And the real endings where everyone dies, or they’re all alone or – Wow…” Keisha puts her head in her hands. “I mean I can’t say much because my characters always die.”
“Unless they’re already dead,” Andy mutters.
“Yep. Exactly.” Keisha and I laugh.
“I’m not worried about it.”
I’m truly not. I never say anything but smile and take whatever criticism is thrown my way. Keisha does the same, though she has a very fiery opinion outside of class.
“Guys, I think I come off as cocky when someone criticizes me,” Andy says, looking up. We finished our burritos nearly an hour ago, but none of us have anything better to do than mull over the biases of others. “You know, because I always laugh and say ‘okay.'”
“You do,” I say as Keisha nods. “No one says anything much to you because you seem so arrogant about it.”
Andy laughs but doesn’t correct me. He was, after all, voted the best writer in our class.
He glances at me. “Hey if you get up, will you get me some more water.”
“I’m not getting up, Andy.”
It truly doesn’t bother me, but I like when my friends agree when I say, “I mean, I don’t like reading about eating disorders and kids sneaking into bars, but I’m careful not to be opinionated about that. I just talk about the style and what could be done to make me care about the characters.”
I like it when my friends get angry when I say, “You know, I’ve never even written about elves or outer space.”
“You’re just the opposite of her,” Andy says. “So she’ll probably hate whatever you do.”
“I just hate people,” Keisha adds.
“We need to hang out more,” I say. “Keep up with each other even after we graduate.”
“Yeah, start our own writing group. With our own calligraphy pen. You know I still cannot believe–”
“You’re so sassy.” Andy laughs, nearly choking on his water. “I’ve never seen this side of you.”
(Photo: Toa Heftiba)
“I think… I might cut off all of my hair and become a fairy. What do you think of that, Locksey”
“I think you’ve had too much to drink.”
He takes the pink and green drink out my hands.
“I don’t remember what happened at school today.”
“Somehow, I believe that.” His smile looks very forced, and I find myself leaning towards him, giggling. I want to kiss him. I want to lean close to his ear and ask him about his mark. Just the thought of such a forbidden action makes my cheeks burn.
“Can you believe I’ve never kissed anyone?”
“I haven’t either,” he says with an unblinking, unashamed gaze. The confession startles some of the buzz out my head. That’s not something guys admit, is it?
I glance around. Some of the other kids from our study group are dancing. Where are we? We’d left the library to get food, and I just followed the group. Had I remembered to call and tell my mom? It was the first day of class – just one class – all day with Mrs. Crowley, and she assigned a research project presentation with an essay due in two days.
“Hey…” I turn to look at the half-eaten fish and sweet potato fires, not knowing what I should ask first. “What time is it?”
It’s not as late as I thought, but school has been out for nearly five hours.
“Did I remember to call my mom?”
When I look back at him, his face has paled somewhat.
“Okay.” He moves the drink farther away from me. “I knew ordering this drink would be a bad idea.”
“You did? And I ordered it anyway?” I pull my hands up to my pockets only to realize I don’t have any, and my heart falls into my stomach. “Do I have money to pay for this?”
“Yes, you already paid for it. And no, I… didn’t tell you. I didn’t figure they would put alcohol in it.”
I stare at him. The boy with blonde hair and dark green eyes. What is his name? It has an “L” in it, I’m pretty sure.
“I’m only fifteen.”
“I know. And you’re wearing your uniform. I figured they would have given you the virgin drink or I would’ve said something.”
I feel nauseous. “I drank alcohol,” I mutter. “Anything could’ve happened.”
“It’s okay, I think Jareth and Alexander did, too. Alexander probably bribes them. I think he comes here a lot.” He’s looking at the other kids, and I turn to look at them, too. They’re dancing with some girls I don’t recognize.
Wait, I knew that.
“I thought we had more than one class at school,” I say. “Did I already ask that?”
“Not the first week.” He looks at me. “And no, you didn’t.”
“It’s the first week, and I’m going to get kicked out.” I lay my head down on my arms. But maybe that would be a good thing. My heart starts pounding to a point that I think I might throw up. Maybe then my mom and I can get away. I don’t remember why we would need to, but it’s dangerous here for us. I think.
“No you won’t. Everyone celebrates getting accepted into the Academy. Some people have been going at it for way longer than us. At least we got some work out of the way. It’s because we’re the preeminent group.”
“What?” I glance at him. “Why am I in this group?”
“You’re apparently very talented.”
“And you’re a Locksey.”
I remember! He’s – oh no! He could be a Hunter!
My heart starts to pound, but it quickly calms because Maxton seems okay. He seems nice even.
“Maxton, is this a pub?” I glance around. “I don’t remember what our assignment is about.”
His face turns pale again. “Thalia, you barely had five sips. Are you that sensitive to alcohol?”
“We should be friends. I need a friend, do you have friends, I think…” I rub my eyes when I notice his expression. “I mean… I’m sorry. I’m not thinking. I don’t know what I’m saying.”
His face returns to its normal, tired state, but he smiles. “It’s okay.” He glances back at the dancers. “They’re going to be here for a while probably. At least till curfew. There was a girl back at the library who said you could stay in her dorm. A Marlein, I believe. If not, we should probably get you home.”
“Did I call my mom?” I look down and notice I’m squeezing his arm. I pull my hand away. “Would you remember that? If I did that.”
“Um, I think so. Do you need to call her again?”
“Where are we in the Capital? Is it safe to walk home this late?”
“Don’t you live here, Thalia.”
“I do, but I haven’t for very long.”
“Okay.” He hops off his stool and partially pulls me off mine, holding my arm to steady me. He walks me toward the door.
“Wait, did I pay –”
“Do I have a coat –”
“Do we need to tell –”
“No, don’t worry about them.”
We step outside. It’s cooler, but it’s not cold. It’s dark. A nervous feeling bounces around in my stomach. Don’t Hunters patrol Capital streets at night?
“Do you know where you are, Thalia?”
I glance around. “Do you have a phone I can borrow, Locksey? I mean Maxton. Sorry.”
“I’ll just walk you back to the library.”
Could I trust him? It doesn’t seem like he could let something bad happen to me. He needs me for the presentation after all. Some memories from the library come back, but all I can remember is my first class with Mrs. Crowley. Maybe she will get better once half of the students are kicked out. Maybe I will get to be one of them.
“There seems to be a lot of people still out on the streets.”
“Yeah, it isn’t that late.”
“I heard that Hunters patrol the streets at night.” The statement just came out of my mouth. I don’t look at Maxton to make it less obvious, but he doesn’t seem to mind.
His nonchalance takes me by surprise. “Are we allowed to talk about this?”
“Yeah? We learn about it in school. Didn’t you learn anything about them at your old school?”
“Not really,” I mumble. I wait for his disbelief, his questions. I start formulating answers.
But he never asks.
Before I know it, we’re at the steps of the library.
“Okay, your mom can find you here, right?”
“Yeah, do you have a phone?”
He starts to reach for his back pocket, but I think better of it.
“I can just use the library’s payphone… Do you remember what I did with my extra money?”
His eyes widen. “Oh you gave it to me to hold. Hang on.” He handed me five currents and some coins.
He stares at the ground. “Do you want me to wait with you for your mom?”
“Oh, thank you. I think I’ll be okay though. I don’t want you to have to do that. But thanks.”
He smiles, and it perhaps looks relieved?
“Alright, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
(Photo: Oladimeji Odunsi)
I know I have not been giving this the attention it needs, but I had a ton of ideas that just needed time to simmer. Here are the other chapters, and here is where you can read about what I’m trying to do.
I’ve been neglecting this for grander schemes, but summer break is in two weeks! Then I’ll plan to add a chapter every week along with other writing-practice content.
You think that we are small and delicate
With dust in our wings and petals as our walls,
But we have more power than your mind could bear,
More wealth than a Pharaoh or all the banks of Ophir.
You think we live to dance and leave dew on the grass,
But we do more than make children fly.
We have raised up kings and knights,
Determining the fate of whom we love and hate.
We can change our shape to be what we will,
Fragile and gentle in the eyes of a child
But as fair as the moon and as clear as the sun,
Turning tides, giving light, creating life
In a never ending chase around an unsearchable earthen heart.
We have the beauty of roses as delicate as the petals
Where you imagine we spend our days pruning our wings,
But our thorns are as terrible as an army with banners.
(Photo: Lawrence Green)
gazing at ground between his feet
the world nearly tipped
the nations battled for the third time
lust bloodshed and cruelty
for the sake of their vanities
their governments religions and economies
he grew weary
their speeches of hope
made him groan
their battle cries
punctured his skin
their weapons of free radicals
burned his hands
and he could bear it no longer.
when the world grew dark
the wars stopped
but fear grew stronger
people came together
when the death stench was strong
looking everywhere for the cause
except their own hands
but the world had ended
because the one who bore them
could bear them no more.
(Photo: Mads Schmidt Rasmussen)
I love how when I walk into a crowded room, I suddenly exist. Our colors blend together creating something new. We become part of the organism that exists only at that place at that time.
Yesterday Jules told me to stop dating that married doctor, but I hadn’t known he was married. I also hadn’t known he was a doctor. I’ve never seen him on my floor, but it would make sense how he could afford to pay for a hotel room for me so easily after learning that I was sleeping in my car. He never believed me when I told him that I liked sleeping in my car, curled up on my side with a blanket and the seat all the way back like someone was holding me cradled against their chest.
I’ve never much liked working twelve-hour shifts. I like it even less now that I have to spend my time bathing people, mopping up “accidents,” and arguing with addicts about their pain med schedule. I’m just thankful they hired Cathy as my assistant. Without her, I could never survive having eight patients.
I close my eyes, and the music washes over me. I don’t know what music this is, and I don’t care. Megan, Jules, and Brenda brought me here. They want to buy me drinks, but I don’t drink. They want me to dance, but I don’t dance. I just want to stand amidst the movement and watch people and live out a tiny piece of their lives through their motions and noises as the lights flash and the phones are held high in the signature recording stance. And my friends are okay with that because I’m their safe ride home.
This morning I asked the doctor if he was married, and he smiled at me sheepishly and said he was in the middle of a divorce. I knew what that meant. I deleted his contact.
Lunch today had a little buffet because Stanley brought chili, Brenda brought hot dogs, Jules brought potato salad, and I brought baked beans. We sat together eating for the first ten minutes in silence before Jeremy told a story of how the “old man” thought he could bandage one of the patients himself and used a handful of cotton balls with not even enough wrap to go around the patient’s stomach. Jeremy said it looked like a murder scene with blood squirting out every time the patient moved. We all laughed and shared stores of having the “old man’s” patients and how he was so nice but really needed to retire because his practices were almost as outdated as the days of Regan’s presidency. Megan showed up late with cupcakes for dessert.
The musician sounds like he has a trace of an accent. I examine his shadowed appearance and try to decide where he’s from and how old he must be. Megan is partially dancing with a dark-haired man and is telling him how she hates orthos because they don’t know about anything other than cutting open a knee and tying some ligaments back. She’s probably had too much because she only talks about work, and a lot of times it’s enough to make even the most desperate guys squeamish.
The head ortho at our hospital is named Wilkins. Today I shadowed him to take orders. He spoke to a new doctor who interrupted to ask if he should help me first because there was probably a lot that I needed to do. Wilkins laughed. He explained to the new doctor that we were a dime a dozen, a helpful ant army always available and where one falls another takes its place. So I didn’t have anywhere that I absolutely had to be. The new doctor stared at him stunned. He turned to me and smiled, explaining how nurses were like dornicks, little rocks used to prop doors open that you never notice or appreciate until there isn’t one around. So that’s why he always likes to keep nurses around.
I said nothing and walked away.
The guitar solo washes over the crowd smoothly, and everyone sways in the same direction. I too join this dance of new and different organism men and women and teachers and college students and lawyers and starving artists and bums and exhausted parents and dornicks.
(Photo: Alexander Popov)
We, rebels, we
In the smoke in the fog
In the streets in the dark
Run for cover, run for love.
Heresy, they cry, heresy
In the world in our hearts
In the sky on the throne
Breaking all bonds of trust.
We, men and women,
Haters of gray and lies and half-hearts,
Lovers of truth and life and battle scars,
Couriers of black red yellow and white
Against shadows of truths
We fight we fight.