SHE TURNED THE LIGHTS OFF – ONE BY ONE

She wrote him a note on a day much like any other day before that. She nervously slipped it in underneath the door of the boy who had lived next door to her for almost all her life. With her trembling hands, she wrote him that she’d grow up soon, and she asked him to wait for her, until she does. She said that she was a little shy, but that she was sure he was the boy she would love for the rest of her life. She told him that she was saving her heart just for him, and she signed the letter with love, from the girl next door.

He smiled when he read her note, and after he read it one more time, he slowly made his way over to the house next door. Her tears rolled callously down her cheeks when he told her that he was leaving their little hometown, and that he just couldn’t wait for her to grow up. He reminded her that she was only sixteen, he twenty-four, and he assured her that she would forget him soon. As he turned to leave, he told her to leave a light on for him, perhaps he would have one more last chance someday. Maybe when she had grown up and perhaps, if his heart brought him home to her.

It was on the day he left that she turned the front porch light on. She wrote him a letter and told him that she was turning the backlight on too, she would hate for him to get lost, if he ever wanted to return to her.

As the years slowly passed by, every light in her house was turned on, one by one. She was afraid that he might get lost while looking for her, and she wrote him to tell him that her backyard was as bright as the crack of dawn, and the front of her house looked as though it had runway lights. She told him that it looked like noon in the dead of night just for him, if ever he decided he was tired of being gone from her. She signed her letters with love, from the girl next door.

As he lay in bed on a cold, winter’s night, he re-read her letters and with a pounding heart, he understood for the first time, how her words and promises were haunting his dreams of her. He wondered if her porch light was still burning as he climbed out of bed and packed his bags to catch the first flight out, and back to the house next door.

But, in the days before he would return, one by one, she began turning the lights off. First, when she met another for their first date, she turned off a bright light she had kept burning, inside of her house. When her new love stayed over for the first time, she turned off another bright light. When she said yes to her new forever, she smiled sadly as she turned off the light in the backyard. When he placed a ring on her finger, she turned off one more light, and when he carried her over the threshold, she finally turned off the last of her burning lights, the light on the porch that would show him his way back to her.

He hurriedly ran all the way to the house next door, and as he stood in front of her house, he was just in time to notice her turning off the last of the lights she had sworn to keep burning for him. He wanted to beg for one more last chance as he frantically knocked on her front door. His tears rolled indignantly from his eyes when he heard that her name was not like it was before. She told him that his one more last chance had ended that very day, and that he had been gone for too long. She just couldn’t wait for him. She told him that he had been gone for ten years, but just as he once swore to her, she promised him that he would forget her soon. She told him that she had pledged herself to another, and that she had turned the lights off, one by one.

SHE SEARCHES FOR HIS SOUL IN SOMEONE ELSE’S BODY

She walks the streets at night as though she’s the crusader of her heart, her body and her soul. But all she rules is a dark and murky empire where stale tobacco smoke fills the air. In her kingdom are stains on the bar counter, surround by stools reserved for the lonely. When she takes her seat on her throne, her wine glass becomes her magic wand. Each night she arrives just as the darkest of the night sets in, dressed in a silky dress, sparkling jewels and shoes that are slightly frayed.

All night long, men flock around her hoping to win her hand and her body as prize for the loneliest of hearts. But, as she swallows back on her wine before she points to the winner, they can’t know the many roads she has travelled on, or the many paths she has wandered along to find his soul in someone else’s body. They can’t know that she was once just an ordinary girl, living in an ordinary world, and in love with an ordinary man. As they gather around her, she gazes desperately into their eyes, anxious to find him there. She searches for a sign, a smile, a frown, or a hand that tells her he has been looking for her too. She frantically hunts for anything to tell her that she has finally found his soul in someone else’s body.

In this world, his skin can no longer press against hers. He can no longer run his fingers lovingly over her hand. He can no longer touch her neck or place a hand on her back, overcome with a burning desire for her. There is no beginning and no end for him anymore. With each touch on her face, she could feel his warmth seep over into her. Without saying a word, he would comfort her. She belonged to him, and he belonged to her. Each time he would step out from the shadows, he stole her breath, and he embezzled the warmth of her skin. She could barely breathe in just enough air each time he placed his arms around her. And, as his hands would fold around her back, he would draw her in closer. 

So, she lets the strangers of the night touch her and hold her as she tries to find his soul in someone else’s body. As she frantically searches for a sign of oblivious confusion in their eyes, she tries to breathe him in and smell the familiarity of him. She feels their lips press against hers, and when her tears scold her for her carelessness, she realizes they aren’t the lips her heart is dying for. From the shadowy darkness, she can almost hear his voice reprimanding her. She closes her eyes for a moment and evokes his once-familiar face illuminated by the flickering lights as her emotions turn from near-elation to utter horror. She steps back, and with a faltering voice and unintelligible croak, she whispers that she just can’t find him.

Suspended by grief, she stares at the stranger’s face in front of her. He isn’t the one in the picture she keeps beside her bed. Her heart does not recognize him. The stranger stares back at her and frowns, mystified by the confusion she is trapped in. He is sure that the pain in her eyes must be the ruins of a lifetime of dread. He lowers his head, suddenly fraught to reach the scars of her heart, and spend one night with her as he walks with her in her pain. Her suffering reminds him of a teddy bear formed from shards of glass. He looks up at her again, and realizes that the tighter she clings to it, the deeper it cuts into her. Before he walks away from her, he hopes that someday she will swap her razor-sharp teddy bear for a softer, warmer one that will keep her safe and cozy under the stars.

As she watches him leave, she is beleaguered by the reality that each moment spent with her love had turned into nothing more than painful memories. Sharp and merciless as it cuts right through her soul each time she thinks of him. His leaving pierced her soul and stripped her of the ability to celebrate their memories. Memories she had become deathly afraid of. A broken mess is all he had left her with, and as a picture of his face flashes before her, she wants to scream out in unbearable pain. Her life is no longer her favorite book. Instead, she is sure that someone else’s story has spilled over into hers, and she is left to simply play her part as though there is no greater meaning anymore.

When the night is over and the men have left her kingdom, she knows that she is still searching for his soul in someone else’s body. She crawls into her big, empty bed, tired of trying to fill the void he had left her with. She pulls her knees to her chest and clings to the pillow beside her. She no longer wants to face another day without him. She no longer wants to live with herself or the extremes she goes to, to find his soul in someone else’s body. She no longer wants to be haunted by the memories of him swirling around inside her head.

To the world, she is mediocre and purposeless. They see the Queen of the night as she wins the favor of the lonely. But all she is, is a splintered soul desperate to find the missing parts of her. All she needs is the warmth of his breath as he whispers in her ear. All she asks for is the eyes she’s looked into a hundred times before, to be returned to her. He had figured out his heart long before she could ever set her own. Without him, her life had become nothing more than a blur. If only he could see how broken she was without him.

Her story had changed. Her normal had been altered and her extraordinary had left her crushed and alone in a world he no longer has a connection to. How does she go on without him, when her love for him penetrates through time and distance? Or, has it simply raised the vibration in her longing for him? She awakes each morning, distraught and deeply wounded by the brutality of the universe. She feels betrayed when she considers their unfinished love, their fragmentary life and their incomplete story. His absence profoundly incapacitates her. Her dreams cling to her like shrapnel while she walks around feeling numb, empty and lost.

She has become the pain she feels. Each day, it reveals the pieces of her that are shattered as it slowly strips away all that she once was. She wakes up feeling robbed, as though something irreplaceably valuable had been stolen from her. She feels as though her body is being torn to pieces when the pain becomes dreadfully physical. With each step forward, she crashes into the soreness that has become the most heart-wrenching loss of her life. He is gone. The better part of her has left. The couple they were was gone forever, and it left her feeling dazed and insecure. She didn’t want to face this universe without him. She was deficient without him, while overcome with loneliness.

Each night, she goes looking for a haven as she continues to mourn him. It is the driving force that keeps her locked away in her grief, and unable to breathe without a dagger piercing through her heart. She climbs the bus to her shadowy kingdom with renewed exhilaration, while the sense of danger engulfs her. Perhaps tonight she will find him again. Perhaps he will be there waiting for her as the sounds of the piano drowns out the noises of the lonely when she walks in.

She knows that the memories of her nights are formed each time she strolls into the realm of the lost and the lonely. She knows it would come back to haunt her for years to come. She has seen things. She has done things that has revolted and shocked her, things that would follow her for the rest of her life and ultimately leave her with so much more pain. There would be no escape from the agony, and she would accept the torment as punishment for all she had done in her quest to find him.

Perhaps tonight it will be his eyes she sees, his touch she feels and his warm breath on her. Perhaps, when the night is over, she could kick off her shoes and hang up her dress forever. Perhaps, after tonight, she will no longer search for his soul in someone else’s body. Perhaps tonight, her search will be over.

THE WORLD IN MY NOTEBOOK

Life has always been a stranger to me. My heart doesn’t have a connection to it anymore, and most likely never did. My soul has always placed a great distance between me and life. Life, and the world we’re living in, has always seemed a little upside down.

I see others embracing wrong as right. What is right, isn’t anymore, and we’re punished for it. I see evil seeping into the world, like a dark fog hanging over us. I see good men having to do really bad things for good to prevail. I see bad men pushing the limits of evil, brazenly. I see people like you and me who cannot see. Afraid of seeing. Afraid of acknowledging. Afraid of what it might mean if we do. We can’t tell the difference anymore. I see some who have lost the sparkle in their eyes, that has been replaced by puddles that seep out through the corner of their eyes.

I see a noisy world, drowning out traditions and culture. I see some surrendering to the darkness. They are tired. Outnumbered. Alone. Lost. Caught between right and wrong, evil and good. I see hopelessness. Sadness. Ugly. Hard hearts. Suffering. Persecutions. It is blatant. There is no longer a need to hide injustice.

When the world feels far too busy, and piercingly noisy, I lock myself away in a cocoon of silence, and spend my days writing about all the characters living in my head, fighting to be liberated from my mind. There, where I can create worlds of love, peace and beauty, while giving them a home where I can live with them for a while. There where I stumble on characters and incessantly fantasize about them, planning an unspoiled life and a fairy tale ending for them.

Above all, it allows me to escape reality, and fling myself into a world I can invent and crawl into whenever the world around me becomes too thunderous. It’s a world that makes sense when this one no longer does.

It is a portal to a world that allows me to live without a reality that has turned out to be my great sadness, even if only for a while. It is where I can find beauty again, waiting for me. It is where I can find peace and love that no longer waits for me in the real world.

In conjuring up stories in chapters of a book, there’s much in the lives of these characters that is contagious. Addictive. Unlike the real world that has become mostly bad. Mostly crippling. Mostly heartbreaking. Mostly leaving us desolated and alone. Addictions that break others. Crushes families. Shatters hearts. Discourages souls. Contagious habits that are mostly, our enemy. Our downfall. Shame. Regret. Our own demons. This world is one I’ve had to live in fear, sadness and cruelty. One where I’ve had to hide my fears and bypass my tears. One that crushes my soul and shatters my heart. A world that has let me down and stolen my joy.

But, in these pages there is good. There’s love. There’s kindness. There’s compassion. Empathy. A smile. Laughter. Joy. With my pen and my notebook, I can submerge myself into an alternate reality, ready to fly away, when the storms of this world is never far off. It’s the place I go to, when I dream with my eyes open, and my mouth closed. There where hearts are courageous, struggling to be brave, but still are. A broken spirit, clawing a way out with a smile and great determination. A great sadness hiding behind a sparkle, a gentle hug or a shoulder for someone else. A hand reaching out to a stranger, even though he himself desperately needs another’s hand to hold onto. An eye brimming with tears, yet still shimmering with hope.

In a world that leaves me feeling so far removed from where love lives, escaping to another by the mere strokes of a pen, brings me home again. There where love is, and there where I make sense again. It’s a place between here and there, where an ancient love comes home to me. Where all other worlds die, and this one lets me live again.

In the pages of my stories, make plans again. A world that does not let me forget to dream. There, where I can breathe again. A universe between chapters where love and kindness has never left and was never gone. There, where I can find peace when I no longer want to be awake in this world. A world I can conjure up and go to anytime I want to.

It’s better there. It’s better there in the pages of my notebook.

THE PRAYER IN THE RED BALLOON

She held onto the string that carefully tied and secured the red balloon she had slipped a note into only moments before she had filled it with kisses of air and hugs of love. A gentle breeze had begun to blow when she looked up into the overcast, cloudy sky. She waited for the sun to set just a little more, and she waited for a gust of wind to sweep in just as the sun was about to whisper goodnight.

Her timing had to be flawless. Her prayer in the red balloon was crucial. As the wind began howling around her, she smiled up at the balloon before she released it into the almost dark skies. She prayed that it would reach Heaven safely as it begun its journey of a thousand tears. She watched it go higher and higher, until she could no longer see her red balloon, and the heart it was carrying. She closed her eyes and asked God to keep a lookout for a delivery, for the man she was sending a prayer and a million hugs to. In her note, she asked God to tell him that she could never have known that their last night would be their last walk in the rain.

She said that if she had only known, she’d keep him out in the storm for a few hours more, while she held his hand tighter as though it was a lifeline to his heart. She said that if only she had known she would never hear his voice again, she’d listen more attentively to each word he had ever said to her. She told Him that lately, on the loneliest of nights, she hears him, and she keeps his voice and his words alive in her mind. She asked God to tell him that he was her greatest treasure, and that she now sees how he so passionately loved her.

As a tear fell onto her prayer, she told God that she never thought he would leave. She never thought he would swap their world for Heaven, but that she was sure he’d always be there with her, and until the end of time. She asked God to tell him how sorry she was that she had turned her head for just a moment, before he quietly and unexpectedly, slipped away into the next world. She said that if only she had known that it would be her last night by his side, she would plead and beg to stop the morning light and rather, linger in the darkness with him forever. She would give up the sun, the birds and the beauty of her days, to live with him in one long night until she could leave with him.

She said that all she wanted was to see his smile and pay closer attention to how he used to look into her eyes. She missed him in the mornings, and by the time the stars were out at night, the ache in her heart would debilitate and cripple her. Before signing off her prayer, she told Gold how she prays He will give her love the red balloon, but that He be careful when He opened it. She said she tried to fit in all the hugs and all the kisses she had missed in the days that followed his leaving, and those she would miss in the days that were to come. She said that she was not yet ready to say goodbye, and that there were still so many things she wished she had told him.

She said that it was hard to hold back the tears, when she thought of the precious years, she had spent in bliss with him. The same tears that would silence her when she thought of the years to come that she would spend without him. She wrote that there was nothing in the world she wouldn’t give, just to see his face and hold his hand, even only one more time. She asked God if they could spend just one more day together, even though it was against the rules. She said that her life would just never be the same, and she needed just a little more time. She told God that she needed to catch her breath, and lift the weight from her heart, even for just a moment. She said that if He could just look into her heart, and see how broken it was, He might consider giving her five more minutes with him. She promised Him that she would tell nobody, and that no-one would see. Just this once. Just for her. Just to survive. Just to feel something other than excruciating soul and heartbreak.

She told Him that her soul was in so much pain, and that breathing hurt with each breath she took. She said that she was struggling to pick up the pieces, and she asked God to show her, and teach her how to live out the rest of her life, without him, because she did not want to. She wondered for a moment whether he was ready to leave, and whether he was ready to let her go. She wondered if he had perhaps, negotiated with God as she had. She wondered for just a moment, if the stars hadn’t perhaps, made a mistake. She wanted to ask God to check his paperwork, perhaps an angel had gotten the address and the name wrong. Perhaps it was as simple as their clock that was set wrong, and perhaps, their timing was just totally off. She wanted to know the name of the angel that so carelessly and mercilessly destroyed her heart, and she wanted to ask God to check, because it just could not be.

It had to be a mistake. It had to be the wrong soul. It had to be the wrong time. Was the angel perhaps there for the previous tenant? There was no warning, no indication and nothing to say that an angel was on his way to their home. There was not enough time. She needed more time. She needed him to have more time. Her heart needed more of him. Her soul needed his. For more. For longer. She wanted to whisper in God’s ear that if it were a mistake, she would never tell anyone if He would just bring her love back to her. She wouldn’t tell a soul, and she would never say a word. As though it had never happened, she would simply live out the rest of her days quietly with him.

Instead, she asked God again to carefully open the red balloon, and hand her shattered heart over to her love, because she knows His angels follow His plans flawlessly.

WHEN HE SLIPS BACK IN

Every once in a while, she is wonderfully sure that a portal opens between the life she finds herself trapped in, and his, the next. She hears a song on the radio play more frequently than other days, and she smells his cologne in the strangest of places, at the oddest of times, surrounded by unfamiliar faces and unknown voices. She abruptly awakens in the middle of the night, sure that she felt his hand clutch hers, as he delicately whispers her name.

She knows it’s him. She knows his voice and she recalls his familiar, pacifying touch. Her heart at once recognizes how his hand used to feel in hers, and she dawdles in the sensation she has so dreadfully missed. She searches for him in a crowd when she feels him brush past her, and she closes her eyes to linger in the breath-taking familiarity of what was once him. She unintentionally checks her watch at exactly the same time each day, and when she recognizes the pattern, she knows that he is close. She knows that he is reaching out to her. She knows that he has slipped back in, even if only for a while. She knows his heart needs hers almost as much as her heart needs his. She knows that somehow; he’s tricked the stars and conspired against the universe for just one more moment with her.

She is flung into an unresponsive haze as she clings to him once more, and she lives it all, one more time. It had to have been a fault in the universe’s plan. Her heart wasn’t the same anymore. Her soul speaks differently, and she no longer fits in or belongs. She wanders through this universe with a world full of people who are all a little strange to her. She is different. She is an outsider to this world. There had to have been a fault.

She pines for him and now she is reasonably certain that he misses her too. Her sorrow is still only love. Unspent love that has nowhere to go anymore, so when her world creates a portal for him to come back through to her, her love finally escapes from the corner of her eyes. She begins to whisper when she really wants to shout. She wholeheartedly welcomes and embraces the opening when she should surely walk away from it.

She becomes quiet as she stops her shuddering voice from speaking and she just feels. For a while, she can’t move forward, and she lingers in the opening of the portal with him, just one more time. Those are the days that matter. Those are the days that keep her heart from dying. They are the days that allow her to breathe for just a little while longer. She no longer needs people. All she wants is him and the beauty of his love for her. She hunts his strength because she no longer feels much of anything else, other than intense hankering and excruciating anguish.

When the portal closes again, she passes her days waiting for the gateway to him to open once more, so that they can dance and splash around in the puddles of one another’s hearts again. Without the portal, the world she is stuck in, is simply a life she needs to get away from. She can’t hear much of anything, and there is barely space for her to breathe as she drowns in the silence.

She rambles around purposelessly through this life, waiting and begging for a miracle to release all the caged love in her heart, so that she can see the beauty in her world, and not crave the healing in the next. She wants her second chance in her world. She wants someone in her world, to touch her again. She wants to forget, but only, until that portal opens again.

She will never say goodbye to him. She will never let him go. But, if you stumble across her, just hold her close and love her when the portal to him, closes again.

WHAT IF?

What if you once giddily stood at the altar, before your family and all your friends, and vowed that you’d love only your chosen him? That there would never be anyone else again, and that you’d love only him until the day you died? What if you wore your gown of white as proof of your undying love for him, and you swore to the legitimacy of the promise you were making to only him? What if you faithfully and staunchly undertook to remain by his side, through all the good and all the bad, the up’s and all the down’s?

What if you convinced yourself that through sickness and health, poverty or wealth, you would stand up straight and remain loyal and devoted, and by his side? What if you pledged to love and cherish him, and only him for the rest of your life? What if you believed that you got all you could get and, in the process, you unintentionally deceived your very own heart?

What if you were burying the hopes of finding a kind of a love you are not sure exists, and what if your soul rebels against your mind, and does not allow you to live anything lesser than truly-madly-deeply? What if you were flouting its gentle nudges and tender whispers as your mind frantically scolded and silenced it? What if you thought that love was an effortless and simple decision that you were capable of making without your heart’s approval or permission?

What if you mistakenly thought that your mind was smarter and far braver than your heart? What if, years after that moment, you awake in the middle of night, terrified by the unexpected thumping and vulnerability of your heart? Unsettled and desperately afraid, you sit up and try to identify what it is that so brusquely awoke and unnerved you. Your heart races, and your hands begin to tremble as an unidentified fear grips at it, almost as though being squeezed by two remorseless hands.

What if you look around you and for a moment, you are not quite sure you are where you should be? What if you feel like an imposter, looking in on a stranger’s life, a life you don’t want? And, while the world is asleep, while the humming of the birds are quiet and the sounds of the day has been silenced, the stillness begins to haunt and taunt you, as the battering of your own heart continues to demoralize and terrify you. What if, and for just an instant, you feel as though you don’t really belong in that very moment, and that it was all an enormous mistake right from the very start?

What if you scrutinize your surroundings and in disbelief, you discover that you just don’t fit in, you never really did? What if all it ever was, was a determined need to belong and to fit in with someone you like and are safe with?

As you try to recover from your rude awakening, you are left staring miserably at the ring on your finger and you are left glaring questioningly at the furrows on your face. What if the gold has turned cold in your wedding band, and the lines on your face was supposed to be someone else’s story to tell? What if the walls begin to cave in around you, the same walls you desperately tried to make a home in, but are now a prisoner in? What if you feel secluded and trapped, and you begin to wonder if your footprints have been covered up by the sand, or by the snow?

What if you feel finished in an unfinished life? What if he is no longer home to you, and never really was? What if his fingerprints on your heart are wiped clean and all traces of him, have disappeared from your heart? What if his name has been drowned out by the noises of your world, and his eyes have disappeared from your mind? What if your light for him has slowly burnt out, yet there is a fire that still burns inside of you? What if there are arms out there that fit flawlessly around you? What if you thought you were slightly broken, but forgot that you were worth loving? What if you took just what you thought you could get?

What if you thought you were slightly off-center? Like a clock that is not perfectly set, but would still chime and tell the time, even if it was five minutes too early or ten minutes too late? What if you forgot to value you and accept you for all that you are? What if you were so busy trying to make sense of your past and map out your future, that you missed the one your soul loves? What if you chose wrong? What if you were so desperate to rip apart from your unique self that in the end, you ripped a part from you? What if trying to repair you, finally broke you?

What if one day you wake up and your heart hurts? You feel unexpected anguish. You need never-before-needed validation of your place in the world. You need to matter more. You need to love, to truly-madly-deeply and ridiculously-foolishly-blindly love. Your loneliness is unpredictably excruciating. What if you realize that you chose to be loved, rather than to love, and now being loved is no longer as important as it once was? What if there is still evidence of your worth in a heart still searching for yours? What if a song might be playing right now, and that heart stops, because he misses you, even though he’s not quite sure who it is that he longs for? It might be that the winds carry the whispers of your name to him, and as he hauntingly stops to find you, he frantically gasps for air. What if he dreams of you, the girl whose face he can’t see, but whose soul misses yours?

What if you are still thriving in another’s dreams? What if he longs for a place, he’s not sure exists anymore, and has no idea if he will ever find you there? What if he is stuck in a moment, holding his breath, afraid that he might miss you? Anxious that he might never find you, terrified that you might have passed him by forever. So, beautiful and deserving soul, wake up and be true and faithful to your heart. Don’t hold hostage a heart that does not belong to you. Let him go and let him find the soul that misses his. Be loyal to your Spirit.

Your what-if’s are closer than you think, and time is shorter than you will ever know. Don’t be safe. Don’t search for stability or comfort. How can your dreams come true while your eyes are closed, or while you settle for a good-enough fit? Look for the magic of the one that is searching for you, the one that fits you like a glove. Look for the miracles heading in your direction and hear the gentle nudging of your soul. Don’t sidestep them, and never hide from them. Don’t allow your mind the power your heart is trained for. Don’t be the girl who stares at those walls blankly someday, the one who does not have a story for the lines on her face. Meet love halfway. Don’t wake up in the darkest of nights, tormented by all your should-have-been’s and never, ever allow for what-if’s.

Throw out any reservations your mind, your might have been’s, rake up and discard all sense, shelter and reasoning, and make space for the instinctive messages between your heart, your soul and your mind. There is never a do-over for any of us, and time is too short for anything less than a magnificent, delightful and an exhilarating kind of love with no regrets.

THE HOUSE WHERE LOVE ONCE LIVED

She began to tremble slightly as she stood in the shade of an almost fifty-year-old oak tree and eyed the old white house on the hill. She felt a gentle breeze submerge her, before a mild shudder ran down her spine, almost as though it was welcoming her back, but at the same time, scolding her for being gone for far too long. She could have sworn that the old oak was much smaller when she used to stand at that very same spot and call out his name, not too long ago.

She could clearly remember how they carved their initials in that very same tree, and when she looked closely, she could see traces of what was once written and promised in the bark. Her eyes followed the trail that leads up the stairs, and onto the porch that wrapped itself around the entire house. He wouldn’t be home, but she had to return one last time. She had to come and ask for her soul back. She was ready to plead, beg and negotiate, so she opened the gate, and walked up the path she had walked a million times before. She looked down and wondered if her footprints were perhaps burnt in somewhere underneath her, below a thousand others that walked that same pathway after her.

She wondered if the walls would remember her, and if the rose shrubs would perhaps recognize her after all these years? She beamed slightly when she saw the age-old garden swing, one she could barely remember not being there. Were they four, or were they five when they sat there together, for the very first time? Before she sat down, she gently pressed her hands down on the scuffed and worn swing. She couldn’t help but wonder if her handprints were still hidden beneath his. The front door was closed, the windows were shut, and the curtains were all drawn. Almost as though it was defending and preserving the memories that were once there for the world to see. Almost as though it was shielding outsiders from the sacredness of a kind of love that no longer lives there.

Her eyes caught the upstairs window to the bedroom right at the end of the hall. How often had she strolled down that passage and into that bedroom where he would be playing the guitar or waiting for her to do their homework. She wondered if those four walls ever whispered their stories to anyone else? Stories they were dreaming of when they were seven, eleven, fourteen or seventeen. How many secrets had they branded into the walls of that very same bedroom?

She looked over at the Fraser Fir she was sure seemed bigger when she was younger. Was that where her love for Christmas trees and their magic began? She frowned just a little when she remembered how his beloved dog was buried right below that beautiful tree, and how they both thought that he would live on in that very same tree, forever. She noticed the latch of a hallway window still broken. She grinned when she thought back to how it accidentally broke when he snuck out one night. He just had to see her before the morning light. He had to tell her to be still, and that everything will be alright. Before her nightmares closed in on her, he had to wrap his arms around her, and make her feel safe one more time. They must have been nine or ten.

She looked out over the town below the big, white house on the hill, and at once recognized the road they had walked each day, hand in hand. She wondered how often he sat there and watched her walk the same streets that leads to the house, where love once lived. She lowered her head, and replayed memories of what felt like a thousand years, and a million heartbeats ago. She thought that if she could be there, where love once lived, she could conquer her brokenness, and collect up all the ruins of her broken heart. She thought that if she could feel him once more, there where her love once lived, her crushed pieces would mend, and her heart would feel less numb.

She slowly made her way to the front door, and she wondered how many times she had knocked on that very same door? She was sure that if she listened closely, she might hear the sounds on the other side echo down the hallway, just as she had so many times before. She placed her ear against that heavy, wooden door when she was sure she could hear his laughter on the other side. She closed her eyes when she heard the ghosts of her past still run wild on the other side of those walls.

She could not ignore the sounds her haunting memories of unspoiled and untainted love made, or the promises of forever she could still hear from the house where love once lived. As she made her way down the path and back to the gate, she quickly swabbed at the tears that were threatening to gush from her eyes. It would be her last visit to the house where love once lived. It would be one final struggle to free her heart, still coldly imprisoned between those walls and under that roof. It would be her one last chance to walk away, without leaving her soul behind. There, where it continued to dwell in the house where love once lived.

When she reached the gate, she turned around one last time. She whispered a silent goodbye to what was left of the house where she knew, her soul would be trapped in forever. A house that no longer had any stories to tell, except for the collection of souls it refuses to set free. A home that has grown cold, abandoned and silenced. The memories of love, laughter and joy that once roamed freely in every room of this home, was now carved into the foundation and forsaken. No-one wants the house where love once lived. Nobody wants to be reminded of the sorrow or the anguish that came in as an uninvited guest and left a path of destruction on its way out. As though it stands on sacred ground, the house is left untouched. Nobody dares to walk through that gate anymore.

Nobody wants to walk up the trail to the house where love once lived. Nobody wants to forget the anguish of the broken hearts that were left behind, and nobody can fix the fragmented wreck that was once a house where love lived. The skies turned dark, and the wind howled through the large oak tree as she waved the house goodbye, one last time.

“Keep my heart … my soul still lives there …”

THE PHOTOGRAPH

She keeps a photograph of him hidden in a memory box lovingly carved in wood she buries deep in the back of her closet. What was once just another ordinary photograph, has turned into a token of validation for her, as the years passed her by. The heart-shaped locket carrying the treasured photograph is a reminder of a man and a moment she should have disregarded, and left tucked away in the past. A simple photograph that wonderfully freezes time for her and distances the voices around her whenever she looks at it.

A photograph she tells no-one of but holds to value above all the treasures in the world. She fits in right amongst us, and mostly, she goes unnoticed. There is nothing spectacular, unusual or bizarre about her as she goes about her day-to-day life as any mother and wife would. She invites her friends over for coffee, or she runs her errands just as any other person does. She kisses her man when he leaves for work each morning, and she waves the children goodbye as they rush off to school. If you saw her, you would never know about the photograph that she keeps hidden and buried in a heart-shaped locket in her closet.

You will never know that every once in a while, when she is alone with her thoughts, when nobody calls for her and nobody needs her, she closes her bedroom door, and carefully takes out the locket where that photograph of him is kept under a shroud of secrecy.

The corners of the photograph are beginning to fray, and the aging ink is beginning to fade. There is evidence that the photograph was once torn in resentment or fury, or perhaps while overwhelmed by the shatters of a broken heart. If you turn it over, you will notice how it was then desperately glued and taped back together. You are convinced that the wrinkles and folds on that photograph was because it was once crumpled, and impulsively banished into a waste bin. If you look closely, you will see stains you would swear, are from teardrops that once fell onto it.

She slowly and carefully traces his face with her fingertips, as he looks back at her. She gazes into the eyes that looked back at her a thousand times before. In his eyes, she finds a million stories. Each time she joins him in that photograph, she sees something different. Sometimes, there are stories of pain, suffering and sadness, but at other times, there are stories of uncertainty, confusion, fear, frustration and desperation. Mostly, his eyes let her know of the love there once was for her, and only for her. When her eyes trail down to his mouth, she achingly touches them, and she smiles sadly, as though she can feel them at her fingertips. She can’t stop her bottom lip from quivering, when she remembers how his lips felt against hers, almost a lifetime ago.

She remembers the way they kissed her, and she can once more hear their messages to her heart. Her eyes begin to scrutinize every inch of his face, and when they detect that all-too-familiar dimple around his mouth just below his cheek, she beams when she remembers how he once, laughed from the very hub of his stomach. She can so vividly recall how it would begin with a smile and a frown all at the same time. Then, almost as though a countdown to an explosion begins, he would erupt into a laughter that could silence the entire world, as strangers search for the happiest and most beautiful sound in the biosphere. She pauses when her eyes rests on his hair. She gazes with sadness at his dark, not quite black hair that is wildly blowing in the wind, and she remembers how he used to run his fingers through them when they argued. She can so easily evoke the memory of how he used to sit quietly while deep in thought as his elbows rested on his knees, and twirled a lock of his own hair with his index finger.

For a few moments, that photograph of him reminds her of love. An honest, crazy and mad kind of love she thought, she would know forever. That photograph hidden in a heart-shaped locket is what tells her where and when she was introduced to a kind of love, she never thought she would find. It was a love that trapped her beneath his eyes and kept her from seeing others around her. It is a photograph of a man she knows she will miss for the remainder of her life. A photograph of a place and a time where fairy tales were real, and butterflies lived inside of her. When that photograph quietens her heartache once more, she buries the heart-shaped locked at the deepest part of her cherished memory box.

Her eyes begin to sparkle, and as a lost tear rolls down her cheek, she whispers how her heart misses his. She once again hides her memories, her tears, and her greatest sadness in the darkest corner of her closet before she returns to the chaos of the world around her. There where there are no traces of him or the moment they were once spellbound in. A photograph she clings to. A validation that shows her the proof that he was once real, even though their moment was fleeting. It hands her the evidence she needs to know that he loved her madly, and that their love was once captured and would remain timeless in a heart-shaped locket, ready for her to evoke, whenever she wanted to.