Tempest in a teacup

She’s no tempest in a teacup
She’s more storm in a shot glass
With winds that can toss
The very structure of you
Tears that fill the clouds
To overflow with rain
And needs that thunder
Across your sky
Give me the wind
Give me the rain
Give me the thunder
For my foundation is so deep
I will not crack or tumble
And the promise in the passing
Of the clouds in her eyes
Is the sunset
That you can only find
In her embrace

It’s just you

They had been fighting lately. So many pressures of daily life crushing down upon them individually, that the tense time they spent together just seemed to add even more to the weight. There had been fights before, they got through them. But this time…it was different.

He’d lost his job, and with it, his identity as the head of the house. It had been months now and he’d had no luck even securing an interview. As the bills fell further and further behind, the tension just increased with each passing month until finally, they broke under the strain.

It had to happen, it seemed. She just wished it hadn’t happened in front of the children during dinner. The slamming hands of their father on the table shocked the children to tears and their mother screamed at them to go upstairs. As the kids huddled together upstairs, they listened to their parents say things to each other.

Terrible things.

A door slams, and silence. The oldest made his way to the stairs and could see his mother sitting on the sofa in the living room, her head in her hands. He stepped on a squeaky step and the tear-filled eyes of his mother sought him out in the dark. She ordered him to go back upstairs and get ready for bed.

The next day, after dropping the children off at school, she headed to work in quiet. Silently thinking about the night before, the bills, the things they said to each other. She was at a stop light when her phone chimed. An email from him. She looked around and pulled over into a parking lot next to the road.

I drove all night last night. I didn’t stop. I left the house last night so angry at you, I almost hit you. That’s why I left. I had promised you that I would never do that, never be like the others. I drove around trying to understand why I would even think that. And I couldn’t, until it dawned on me it wasn’t you I was mad at, it’s me. 

It came to me that I’ve failed you because when we were fighting, I saw it in your eyes. And for that instant, I hated that I had caused that look. I hated it because you’re the one person I cannot let down. Ever. 

And last night, I did. By leaving.

I need you to understand something. I left because that look of disappointment was more than I could stand. And understand this, too. It’s just you. It’ll always be just you. I ran and I’m sorry, but I can’t think of anything else right now except holding you. I’m at home.

All my love

She sat for a minute, the tears wetting her cheeks. She wiped her eyes and called work. She wasn’t feeling well and would see them tomorrow. As she pulled out of the parking lot, headed in the opposite direction from before, she heard the ringing of the home line and his voice quietly saying “Hello”.

At the sound of that quiet voice, she knew that he had coffee made and was waiting.

I met a girl by the side of the road

I met a girl sitting beside the road, crying. I asked her what she was crying about and she looked at me with the most beautiful green eyes, but right now they were red from crying so much. “Boys lie.” I shook my head saying, “Not all boys.” She bowed her head back down and started crying again, “They all do to me.” I sat down next to her on the side of the road and thought for a minute.

Finally, I said, “I won’t lie to you. Ask me anything.” She sniffed and wiped her nose. “You’ll lie. All boys lie. You’ll tell me something to protect me, or to hurt me, or to keep me in my place. But you won’t tell me the truth.” I kicked at the dirt by the side of the road, “Nope. I’ll always tell you the truth.” The girl shook her head and sighed, “You’ll lie.” I poked her in the side a little. “C’mon, try me.” She giggled. It was a beautiful giggle. It was a sound made of spirit and things joyful.

“Okay. Do you love me?”, she eyed me warily. She smiled, thinking she’d caught me. I smiled back. “Yes.”, I said. The girl by the side of the road stopped and looked at me with a puzzled look. “How do you know you love me? You just met me.” I shrugged and said, “I just know.” She shook her head, slightly irritated, “But how do you know?” She stressed the “how” in her question, dragging it out of her lips. I shrugged again. “I just know. I knew the second I laid eyes on you.”, I said matter-of-factly.

The girl by the side of the road paced back and forth in front of me, thinking over my answers very carefully in her head. Then she stopped and looked at me. “I think you’re lying. All boys lie.” I took a step closer to the girl. “I’m not all boys.” She took a step forward, too, putting her hands on her hips, “You’re not?” I took another step forward towards the girl by the side of the road and I noticed something new about her. She had stopped crying and I saw all the little smile lines that had been hidden by the tears. I saw that she was beautiful in her imperfection, that if I were to hold them out, she would fit perfectly in my arms. “No. I’m not.”

The girl by the side of the road took another step towards me, now she was only inches from me. Something was happening to her. She was fading, disappearing in front of me. I began to see through her so I reached out. My hands went through the image of the girl but I felt nothing. She smiled at me, “Do you love me?” I looked in her eyes, “Yes.” The girl by the side of the road giggled, then said, “Will you love me for the rest of my life?”

“No.”

The girl’s smile dropped and she started to say something until I held up my hand. “I’ll love you for the rest of mine.”, I said quietly. The girl’s smile returned and just before she faded from sight, I heard her whisper.

“I believe you.”

So hard to love me, so damn easy to love you

“I met her just before I shipped out. Eighteen years old and full of spit and piss I was.”

The old man was slumped in his wheelchair, his US Navy hat sitting awkwardly on his head. One of the last WWII vets left at the VA I was volunteering at. Once a month, I would come in on the weekend and sit with the veterans that we were told no longer had any family. His name was Joseph and had no one left, he said. So, on this weekend’s visit I sat with him. Our conversation started about me, ironically. He asked me if I had a girlfriend. And in a show of how up to date Joseph was, he added “Or boyfriend. If you swing that way, that is.”

I chuckled and said, “Ahh no. Neither one. I’m into the ladies though, for future reference.” He patted me on the hand and cracked this huge smile. “I like the ladies, too.” I asked him if he had been married and the light turned off in his eyes suddenly. He leaned forward in the wheelchair and locked his shaky fingers together in front of him.

“I had a girl once. Prettiest little thing you ever saw. She had a laugh that was contagious. And boobs.” I burst out laughing and he smiled. “Some things you never forget, you know?” “Indeed”, I replied. He leaned back and looked up, as if seeing her again.

“I met her just before I shipped out. Eighteen years old and full of spit and piss I was. I got mad at the drop of a hat in them days. But not with her, never with her. I loved that girl from the moment I laid eyes on her. She told me she loved me too. When we went out on the town, I tried to keep a hand on her all the time. You know, cause I wanted the other boys to know she belonged to me, right? Even with me there, she still got hit on. But she always turned ’em down. Cause she was with me. Damn, I loved knowing that. You know, one time we went to a picture show and she let me put my hand on her leg for the whole movie. Now, that may not mean much nowadays, but back then, hell, we might as well have been married.”

He took his Navy hat off and a shaky hand scratched the top of his head slowly.

“She was the light of my life. I would drop her off after a date and I couldn’t wait to see her again. I probably drove her crazy trying to get over to her place and see her. I mean I was hooked on this girl. Bad hooked.”

He put the hat back on his head.

“She wrote me while I was out at sea that she had met somebody else. Said she didn’t want to see me anymore. Kind of matter-of-fact like that. Didn’t say nothing else. I wrote her back that I wanted to see her on my next leave but she didn’t answer. Well, my next leave I went straight to her house from the boat. I had been gone 6 months, hadn’t heard from her in 3. I walked up the steps, shaking like a leaf. I’d been to war but I was scared of this little girl more than anything I’d seen out on that ocean. I think I was scared of rejection more than anything.”

I noticed he looked on the verge of tears. I thought to myself, how many years had it been since all of this happened? And it still affected him this way.

“I set my duffle down and knocked on that door. It was a boarding house for young ladies so the woman who ran the place answers the door. I ask for my girl and she called out to her. When I saw her coming down the front stairs, my stomach flipped. Six months since I last saw her and she hadn’t changed a bit, except for one thing. She was pregnant. Pretty far along from the look of it. I started doing the math in my head. I’d been gone 6 months and she looked to be about 8 months along. The problem, you see, was that she and I had never done ‘it’. And if she had two months before I left, then that could only mean one thing.”

His voice was shakier now and I held his ice water glass with a straw in it out to him. He sipped at it then continued on with his story.

“You shoulda seen the look on her face when she saw me. The lady who ran the boarding house said we could sit in the front room and talk. Fact, she kinda insisted on it. We sat there, kinda quiet at first, then she started telling me how sorry she was and all. That it wasn’t something she’d planned, it just kinda happened. I told her it was okay, I was a man of the world now. In truth, I didn’t know shit but I didn’t want her to know that. I don’t think she bought it anyway. I think she could see it in my eyes how hurt I was. I thought about showing her the ring I’d brought her but decided probably wasn’t a good idea, considering. I told her I hoped she was happy with him and she said he’d run off when he found out she was pregnant. I told her I was sorry to hear that but I still loved her and I didn’t care who’s kid it was, it was hers and that was all that mattered to me. She said, no, it was not my responsibility and that she would take care of it. We talked for a while longer. Even got her to laugh a little. But then I had to go.”

He just stopped talking and kept looking down at his hands, crossed in his lap in front of him. We sat in silence, the question burning in my brain. Finally, I had to ask him.

“So, what happened?”

His glistening eyes raised to meet mine.

“I never saw her again. We wrote each other every now and then for years after that but I never did see her again. She eventually found a guy and got married. We lost touch after that.”

I held his ice water out again.

“You married though, right?”

He smacked his lips from the ice water.

“No. I told ya she was the light of my life. Loved her more than you can know. But what’re you gonna do? You can’t make someone love you back. You throw your heart out there and you hope someone catches it but you just never know. One of my letters, years later, I told her that I never understood why it was so hard for her to love me, but so damn easy for me to love her. I never did figure that out. I think about that little girl every day.”

Then I saw the twinkle return to those gray eyes of his.

“And those boobs.”

We both laughed out loud and I looked at my watch. It was time for me to move on to another patient. I thanked him for sharing his story with me.

“Sure, son. You take care and get yourself a girlfriend.”

I patted him on the leg as I stood.

“Yes, sir.”

Later that afternoon, as I was driving back to my apartment, I thought about his story and the love he felt for her. He never found that again with anyone else. She must have been someone very special. Then I wondered if she knew how much she had meant to him. I felt a pain deep in my chest when I thought she might not have.

I hope she did. That kind of love doesn’t happen often.

The Gift

All his life there was music. He sang along with his mother to country songs on the radio when he was little. He didn’t know the words but he raised his voice alongside hers because he loved her. It made her happy, and that made him happy as well. He sang mostly at his family’s church. The choir, being mostly older people, appreciated a younger member who could handle the tenor parts. Most of the men were of the bass persuasion and there are always too many sopranos.

As he grew, so did the quality of his voice. Even though his tastes had changed from country and church hymns to rock, his voice maintained that choirboy quality. People told him he had a “gift” and a “talent”. He just liked to sing.

Actually, he loved to sing.

Music was never far from him, it filled his mind. If the radio was on, even if it was a song he didn’t know, he sang along. Just to sing. Just to raise his voice as he always had. He never felt more….complete, than when a note was held just right.

He challenged himself constantly to improve but he didn’t take lessons. He bought cds of singers he liked and emulated them. He began to harmonize with them, testing how high he could push his range and still sound like that choirboy. Sometimes, he impressed even himself, but then the voice would crack, and he knew it was a one-time thing.

There were times in his life when he felt like God had blessed him and then there were times when he wished he didn’t have that particular blessing. Like God was keeping the things he wanted at bay so the voice would remain intact. He tried to destroy it a couple of times, by smoking, screaming, whatever means he could think of short of drinking acid. But the throat would always heal.

Always.

Like it had a purpose.

But damned if he knew what that purpose was. He tried to bargain with God.
“Take it. Give me what I want. You can have this gift back, I don’t want it, I want the other thing.”

God, in His wisdom, didn’t answer.

Years passed and he sang his heart out in his car to and from work. “What a waste”, he would think to himself if he had a good session of singing. He began to wonder what the hell was the gift for if it wasn’t going to make him famous or wealthy. It just seemed all so…pointless.

One day, he got the phone call he had been dreading for years.

As he entered the small room and saw his mother laying on the bed, he felt helpless. So helpless. What family had come was gathered around the room and watched him cross to the bed. The tears from his eyes flowed freely at the thought of this cornerstone of his life leaving him. She was in pain, he knew it. He could see it in her eyes. Her lips trembled with it.

He sat on the edge of her bed and gently took the hand that had raised him, punished him, and loved him throughout his life. Then he knew.

He knew why he had the gift.

Softly, he sang to his mother the old hymns in the choirboy voice that he had been blessed with. All his life had led to this one moment. He realized then, there are no mistakes, no meaningless things. Everything matters to someone.

So, he sang.

He sang every song he knew by heart to her. Her hand, frail but still strong, gripped his. And she smiled.

Then the pain was gone.

When she hurts

When you know someone really well, and you know she’s in pain, how do you know what she needs to hear?  Sometimes, “it’ll be okay” just doesn’t sound…enough. The things that you love about her, all those little details…like the way she scrunches her nose, or can’t speak without her hands, that stuff…also include the things that make her cry. When you love someone, truly love someone, it’s hard to separate out the things that make her insecure from the things she knows she rocks.

So, when she hurts, you feel it digging away at you. You want it to stop, you don’t care how. If you have any illusions that she can’t take care of herself, ask a strong, independent woman if there’s anything you can do to help. The answer will be direct and terse.

Just another thing about her you love.

But when she hurts, all you want to do is take it away. You want to hold her and with those magical “it’ll be okay” words, you want it to just stop hurting. Because when she hurts, you hurt too. And you’d do anything, even take it upon yourself, to save her that pain.

Because you could take it so much better than her? Doubtful. That woman you love shoulders more pain than you can imagine, sometimes. Maybe the solution then is not to try to take the pain, she’s got that. She’ll handle that just fine with or without you, because she has been this whole time. No, maybe what you need to do…is give her a reason to smile. We all need that, when we hurt.