What We Have Left

The first time your heart shatters, you become one woman or another.

The first can only ever love the broken after that. She sees damage as her canvas, and she spends the rest of her life trying to make it beautiful. Cobbling together the lost and fragmented, soothing their sadness and their grief. She creates a mosaic from their stories and their sorrow, mends the pieces into something whole again. Because if she can love something back together, it means nothing, no one is too far gone for saving.

The other starts to sees damage as inevitable. So she strikes first, destroys anything that comes too close. This kind of woman will sabotage her own happiness, snap it clean in two, rather than let someone or some thing surprise her again. Her heart inured, she will be the one to lay siege from now on. For her, it is obvious people were never meant to stay whole. And to survive this world, we must learn to live with what we have left.

What We Have Left (A Novel)

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Photo by Paweł L. on Pexels.com

 

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The quiet rage of women

Someone organizes a candlelight vigil at the park. News of the intended gathering is shared on social media, and on the night, more than 3,000 people make their way south, down to the fields near the pier. Mostly New Yorkers, but some women come from other cities, from their own dark places, called forth to memorialize one of their ilk, one who didn’t, couldn’t make it. The crowd is punctuated by these survivors, their pain red-tipped, fierce, as the faithful from many denominations hold forth, one grasp at comfort after another offered into the night. Candles quiver, wave, and when the talking stops, someone steps forward and softy sings Amazing Grace into the silent, head-bowed congregation.

From a distance, 3,000 candles held high is a beautiful thing to observe. A glow of stars drawn down into people’s hands. Faces are soft, warm, as people lean one lit candle into the wick of another, connecting each new flame until the whole field flickers. Until the crowd appears to breathe light, a collective inhale-exhale of grief and prayer.

There is no name for the girl they mourn here, but she is known to every woman present, clasped around their lifted hands, heavy on their hearts. She is their fears, and their lucky escapes, and their anger, and their wariness. She is their vigilance and their yesterdays, the shadow version of themselves on all those nights they have spent looking over their shoulders, or twining keys through their fingers. A man speaks to the crowd, entreats his fellow men to do better, and people clap, cheer, but it is the silence of the women that binds up the candlelight, sends it skyward, a flare in search of every sister who never made it home. So that when the politics and passion are spent, it is the quiet rage of women that lingers, can be seen glittering from above. Long after all the little fires have been snuffed out, and the people moved on.

Elliott does not attend my vigil. She sits in her studio a few city blocks from the park. She has lit her own candle here, one lone flame weaving, pulsing in the dark. Cross-legged on the bed, she stares at this candle and feels nothing. Grief, she is learning, can be as quiet as a whisper when it wants to be. When it all roils inside her, when it spills out like a swollen river breaching its banks, or when the waters still and she floats upon the surface, numbed – it is all the same feeling in the end. One of utter helplessness. Knowing that so little is in your control, knowing that you cannot claw your way back to the ignorance of safety. Sometimes she rages against this loss. Tonight she acquiesces. She is alone in a lonely city, and – this part Elliott is ashamed to admit – lodged in her stomach, nearly as deep as her sorrow for an unnamed dead girl, is the realization that she herself might just as easily lay unclaimed one day. Because no one will think to miss that she is gone.

~ Alice, What We Have Left

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Photo by Hakan Erenler on Pexels.com

To keep you

This, this was the day your life changed. Slowly, then all in a rush. You used to think it was the day before you met him. You used to think about the lack of hunger, the lack of yearning, the something missing-ness of your life. You got so used to recognizing him, the back of him, in any room, in any anecdote or situation that you forgot who you were the day before. Let me tell you. If I could sit down with you on that last day, when you did not know him, did not think of him in some way.

You were healing, piecing yourself back together. And it suited him to keep you broken.

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Full circle. Or something similar.

She forgot

The world has always looked different with him in it. When she saw him walking up the stairs, when she looked up from the text he’d just sent – I got lost. Bloody Melbourne alleyways! But I think I’m at the right place. Up on the roof, yeah? – and their eyes met, it was that same sudden, silver glow. Clouds moving away from the sun, and every particle of light directed at her.

She forgot, for a second, how to breathe.

Jacqueline Bublitz Writer at body, remember

(By the time she’s finished her third wine she’s taken to tilting her glass at him whenever she makes a point or declaration, flirting over her nervousness, drinking it away)

It’s that kind of morning, yeah 😉

Resolution revisited

You can be half a planet, half a country, half a block – or half a room away, and still hurt me with the arms that you impose.

I no longer wish to be part of the distance that you make.

Happy Holidays. Happy New Year. Happy Birthday. Happy every anniversary of every happy any thing that means something or no thing at all to you.

Happy any day that I’m not in, let’s say.

I will read your obituary and cry myself to sleep one day. But while you’re still here, alive, you get nothing from me. Ever again.

(I think they made resolutions for this).

Whiskey

A toast to getting where you need to go. No matter how long it takes you. 

(you can start your new year any time)

What he felt about me

He answered.

Valued. Understood.

When I asked him what he felt about me.

He said so many tiny things I somehow made bigger. If I were to lay these little words out now you’d no doubt see – sooner than me – how little he ever saw of me. See how I clung for years to an autobiography, let him write his narcissistic stories all over me.

I believed myself to be the shore for this man, his brink, his haven.

Brave. Free.

But this is not what he felt about me.

I’ve been looking for answers the wrong way around it seems. Wondering what I could have should have did not could not-

Stop! See!

The truth outs eventually: For years I loved a hollow man. One who wounds with silence and dishonesty.

This was never, ever about me.

RockyShore

Wisdom is hard won. Clarity often requires you search and search and search that rocky shore. You crawl on your hands and knees to find what they buried so deep. Knowledge painfully extracted from the chest.

♥♦ The treasure always, darling, is you ♥♦

Three years past pretty

Maggie Valentine has no idea how old she is. Not in the sense of calendars and birthdays, these details she of course knows well enough, marked as they are with parties, and resolutions, and the requisite attention to the big years. Rather, it is the final number that doesn’t make sense to her, the tally of her years as if the age she has landed at is a place, irrefutable, like the next city plotted on a map. She does not feel 37. She sometimes experiences a jolt of surprise to hear this actress, or that singer, someone she sees the details of regularly, is a particular, much younger age than that. When she would swear these women are contemporaries, older even, than she is. It is as if she has the wrong idea about everything now.

In truth, Maggie Valentine is approximately three years past pretty. Though filters and animal ears hide this in her most commonly shared photographs, it is a reality she sees in the mirror every morning. The slacked jaw, the fold-down corners of her mouth, the stomach rounded and hips fleshed. She has not grown old with someone, has only herself to wake up to each morning, and this is what she sees. A woman well past pretty, still sexy, even beautiful at times, but there is little youth to be found in her features now. This, she has to accept.

But how to be 37? How to understand in her bones what that means, when it is nothing that they told her it would be (They. Her mother. Women’s magazines. People who should have known better).

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I missed Maggie V. So I’m revising her at a different time. Just to see where she’ll take me 😉