by: Blake Ainsley
A lifetime of yearning. An existence replete with unfulfilled dreams and false hopes. Until that one day when everything changes…
I fled with my beloved teddy bear in tow, while the fleeting echoes of arguments pursued me. The blows weren’t directed at me, but they still landed nonetheless. I collapsed in a nearby meadow, my sanctuary from our decaying house of tornadoes and broken glass. Eyes closed, I ran my fingers across the ground, grasping for a grass sword topped with snowflake petals, my good luck prayer. I took a deep breath and opened my eyes again, squinting through the sun’s rays, watching as dandelion seeds fell through the air, optimistic with promises of future weeds. I wished for my family to be whole again in a home with windows that weren’t shattered. It never happened.
My first love was as romantic as a relationship with an eighteen-year-old boy could be. I fell in love with his shaggy brown hair and wrinkled collared shirts that hid graphic tees. He arrived with candied bouquets and love letters. We were children swept away by the magic of first love, fueled by an adoration of George Orwell’s 1984 and heroic-feeling chicken saving heists at the McClellan farm. When he took me to my first food and music festival, he told me the he was going to marry me one day. Among a tent-shop village rife with food-truck versions of other cultures and various Bluegrass bands, we sat on the curb eating arepas, belgian waffles, and a peppery thing neither of us could pronounce. He wasn’t superstitious, but still, he caressed my face and retrieved an eyelash that fell on my cheek. I wished our love would last forever, where harmony was happiness. It never happened.
I married the fifth person I fell for, a coal miner with a degree in philosophy. We found fault in each others beliefs, and faith in being able to argue why we knew ours to be true, the antidote to the each other’s poison. Thanks to some friends, we attended a play, one that I loved and he hated. During the intermission, we argued about the validity of cilantro as an herb. After the play, we tangoed in the garden, arguing about the play’s character Roxy’s effectiveness and about which one of us would win in a pie-eating contest. I spun away and threw a silver coin in the aged-stone well; he dropped to one knee and held up a silver ring. I wished we would become rich, able to visit any play we could ever want to argue about. It never happened.
The first Christmas after my parents passed away, my husband and I asked our three kids to join us again for the holidays. Our children grew up and then apart from us decades ago, chasing educations and jobs elsewhere, and then settling down with their own families and traditions. Our second-hand table supported a feast of discounted groceries and vegetables we had grown. Our grandchildren knew the difference between bay and oregano from lessons I believed their parents didn’t listen to. My husband and I broke the turkey’s wishbone and argued about who had cheated, though we both knew he had let me win. I wished that our children would stay in our lives, so I could teach theirs about all I’d learned about gardening. That didn’t happen.
Two recycled candles rested on a cake, their flames licking lamely, burning out the last of their short lives.. My husband and I sat, surrounded by orchids, and he sang. He had recently received his sentence from the hospital, and already his ailment was wearing down his will. I knew that supermarket eggs were bleached, but he insisted that they maintained the color they were when they were laid and that it all depended on the chicken. But our arguing felt forced, like he wanted to humor me rather than feeling like fighting. So, I let him win since he had let me dream. When his singing reached an end, the only noise came from his wheezing and the songs on the television, ones he loved and I tolerated. I wished he would live longer, so we could walk through the mountains and argue about which version of its history was true. That didn’t happen.
The unadorned room breathes only by the sounds of The Price is Right on the small television and the rhythmic heartbeat of a single tone that my fingers tap to. I lie in a metal bed with thin sheets cold from a permeating chill. George Orwell tells me tales of familiarity in a room that is anything but. Two of my children came down to see me yesterday, bringing wilted flowers from the gift shop below. They’re on an understood schedule of “who’s going to visit today?,” an adult imitation of their childhood game of “you’re it.” On the days when I am a victim of miscommunication, I tell stories to my smiling nurses playing guest. Through the curtainless window, a star chases moonlight through the sky. I wish to join my husband again. I do.