The Store

was always cramped, especially during the holidays. Last minute shoppers rubbing elbows, eyebrows creased, gruff mumbling exchanged to one another over the cramped checkout lines. It is easy to lose one’s sanity during a holiday season when the pressure is ripe with tight budgets and growing prices.

But, there they were.

A father with his toddler tangled around his wrist, her small hand barely grasping his pinky as he raced down the aisle. She gasped at Santa, Rudolph, and chocolate covered cereal dawning fancy christmas packaging. She would slow topping at these things and he would gently pull her along, determination in every step.

At last, they made it. The jewelry station was glittering with expensive diamonds and a flashy attendant with a raspy smokers voice. He let go of his daughter’s hand, reaching up to shake the boney hand of the perfume ridden woman. His daughter quickly grasped at him, her dainty grip tugging at his damp jacket. He chuckled loudly as he became lost in the hunt for the perfect holiday surprise.

Her eyes wandered, sparkling at the rapid hubbub of the store while the faint Christmas jingles called to her from a distant aisle. She looked up, her soft hazel eyes focused on her father for a solid minute. She soaked up his excitement, drinking in his nervous gestures and quick words.

Her heart pounded.

She was wandering now.. her hand still cold from her father’s plaid coat. She was on a mission that mostly consisted of dodging inconsiderate customers and scouring for the best plush within reach.

The carols were louder now, a faint realization amongst the whirr of her excitable mind. Another child pointed at her, “Baby!” he shouted with a giggle. His mother shook her head curtly and pushed onward.

There was fear now.

Her heart pounded even faster as she looked over her shoulder. The glittering of the jewelry section had faded. So had her father. The impulse to cry was overwhelming and she almost started to when she heard it. Just there. From the corner.

Tall at once, there she was. A winter wonderland splayed before her like an endless forest of silver and gold. The carols rang all around her now. Her fear was doused with gentle raining snowflakes and pine trees that nearly touched the ceiling. Ribbons spiraled down their bristled branches, twirling into cascades of red rivers and green streams.

She began to dance. She imagined the elves leapt from their protective posts next to the giant presents and joined in with her. The bells rang from their tasseled hats and the drums they had carefully crafted beat out a special rhythm just for her. She spun in circles, grasping their hands and giggling as her hat fell to the floor. Hoofbeats sounded from the rooftop and she knew all at once that Santa was here.

She found shimmering ornaments and a lanky elf helped her shimmy up his shoulders to reach a high branch. Stuffed animals burst from their designated boxes and clapped as she place a crystal ball particularly perfectly next to an icicle. Lights blinked and flashed as a chubby elf plugged in the tree, just in time for Santa’s arrival.

There he is!

He used a gloved hand to dust off a hefty velvet chair and took his seat amongst the joyous events. His eyes lit up and he motioned to her to deftly, a warm smile barely peaking from underneath a long white beard.

“Hi, Mister Claus!” she shouted as she ran to his chair. Her little legs tripping over one another from boots that were one size too big.

“Ho Ho Ho! Merry Christmas!” He chuckled, “What a beautiful tree! Did you help do that?”

“Yes! They helped me too!” She was at his feet now, dancing in place as she pointed over her shoulder to her elf friends.

“Well, now I say that-” he scooped her up gently, placing her on one knee. “-deserves a very good present, indeed. What would you like for Christmas this year?”

“Anything?”

“Well, yes of course.”

“I want daddy to find the perfect thing over with that silly lady by the necklaces,” she whispered in his ear, her tiny fingers cupped around her mouth.

“A thing?”

“For mommy!” She nodded tightly, crossing her arms now.

“Piper!” Her father shouted, his chest heaving as he approached from behind a large snowman. “What- where have you been? How could you run off? Come here!”

She leapt from Santa’s lap, relief washing over her. She was ready to go home.

“Bye Santa!” She waved as she turned to race away, sliding to a stop at her father’s feet. She smiled up at him causing his worried expression to lessen slightly. She reached up for his hand, a puzzled look crossing her face as she noticed he was clutching something.

A small box, neatly topped off with a blue bow seemingly floated just above her father’s calloused hand as he outstretched it towards her.

He bent down slowly, “Piper.. look what I got for mommy.”

Her eyes widened.

From just behind them, Santa smiled.

 

Caitie

A Spiritual Anchor

Tucked away in a forgotten closet. A musty basement kept closed away from the world.

This is where he resides now.

He paced the dark and lengthy basement that never saw a crack of sunlight due to poor planning by an apprentice builder. A vast room with no windows; only dangling exposed lights with broken strings that were once tugged every day, but, now hung in despair. Posters clung loosely around the room, unkempt and struggling to cling to the withered textured walls with cracking tape.

He traced his invisible hands along the piano keys of the overused keyboard against the wall. The solitude ringing in his ears like a dancing melody from an old instrument, an old and well versed friend. His breast ached and for a moment he suspected it was his heart, but, shook his head finding solace in an empty chest cavity.

He opens his mouth to speak-

A creaking emanated from the staircase.

The door leading to the basement opened slowly.

She blinked quickly, giving her eyes a chance to adjust to the darkness. Before she can fathom stepping onto the cracked staircase she takes in a sharp, deep breath. The dust filling her lungs in a way that was almost as painful as opening the door. She wished for strength, she willed herself to walk down the stairs to investigate.

The silence is deafening.

She could have sworn she heard a basement ghost.. singing.

Was it only just a memory? One she could not shake, one that was unbearable and almost tangible if only her fumbling hand could find the light switch.

No.

She takes a step back, choking on stale air and tears.

He’s not here anymore.

The door closed once more as a ghostly apparition fell to it’s knees. Trapped forever, it was shackled to this world by a guitar with frayed strings that would never be held again.

Part I

The Swallows Song

From this perch
I can see
All of the addicts
That walk these endless streets

I hear whispers
From the clouds above
Calls from
A broken turtle-dove

I fly upon
Your day dreams
On and on
This is my only song6c214acfb09a2e785a63ff60105478c5--tattoo-swallow-tree-swallow

He stepped

out into the cold, the margarita sloshing over the edges of the fragile glass. It ran over his fingers, causing him to cuss and switch hands quickly. He wiped his now sticky hand on his right pant leg, looking around in the dim light of the house to find her. His best friend had designated the him the task of making her another drink. Although, he did it begrudgingly since he was sure she had one too many drinks already.

He stopped cold, the wind slapping him in the face and his eyes widening at the sight of her still body slumped on the deck. He tossed the drink without thinking, the glass shattering on the steps that led to the front yard.

“Oh my God, are you okay?” he fumbled, grasping her slender shoulders and giving her a slight shake.

Ribbons of tears were hardening on her cheekbones in the bitter night and she blinked up at him through smudged mascara.

“What?” she whispered, clutching his wrist.

“Are you okay?” he asked again, kneeling down.

I don’t belong.”

He blinked, looking at her in the pale light. The sadness in her voice rang in his head, sending chills up his spine. Her face was flushed, and her eyes swimming; their deep blue taking him to the shore, a cool wave-filled beach. She was beautiful, stunning in a way he could never quite put his finger on. Their short, quiet talks had always grounded him. In her sober moments, he would delve into any light-hearted subject just to make a joke and hear her laugh.

She gripped his wrist tighter, “Say something. Tell me I belong here, somewhere, anywhere.”

“I know where you belong,” he croaked, his throat catching. “Where you’ve always belonged. I can see it in your eyes, it’s the constant flicker of a dying candle, but, I have no doubt that it could ignite and you would finally feel at home.”

She closed her eyes, turning her angled face away from him. More tears began pouring down her cheeks and her shallow breathing accentuated her broken state of mind.

He took a deep breath, glancing back at the doorway and biting his lip before leaning forward. He collected her in his arms in one fell swoop, one arm around her back and the other clutched under her legs.

“I know where you belong.”

He strode forward into the house, the music blasting in a deep melody that made him cringe. She gripped him suddenly, tightly, her fingers entwining with his jacket.

His best friend was laughing loudly, his arm strung around another girl. He glanced up after his ringing chuckle and caught sight of them in the doorway. He lifted his arm from the girl, who looked puzzled, and began walking quickly toward them.

“What happened? I thought she was having fun? What’re you doing? I’ll take her.”

I’ll take her.

He stepped back, “No. You won’t.”

“C’mon now. I know how to take care of her when she has one too many-”

He stepped forward, shouldering his friend and walking onward.

“What the-?”

“This isn’t the best side of her. This is when she feels the most alone. Can’t you see that? Of course not!” he yelled, tipsy party-goers now turning to look at them walking past. The music was still thumping, but, his ears were ringing from anger. Each step drew him closer to her room, the room she shared with her daughter. The small, dainty angel that was currently out of town visiting family. He had never seen such a perfect creation until he held her small hand to cross the street and heard her tiny voice shout with glee.

He pulled his mind from those happy memories, back to the task at hand. His best friend was shouting now, but, he didn’t care. He kicked the bedroom door shut with one decisive motion, and locked the door with a sharp click.

The room was a mess. There were books, clothes, toys, and electronics thrown about. Blankets were askew on the toddler’s crib, and there was a smell of flowers emanating from a large vase on the desk in the corner.

“Thank you.”

He looked down to see her blue eyes staring up at him.

“You’re welcome,” he whispered, laying her on the bed and untying her shoe laces.

“You need to know, you have to know something..” he started drawing back her bedding, sliding her legs into the cool sheets.

“What is it?” she said hesitantly, leaning back on her pillow, her hair falling in waves. The moonlight brought deep ambiance to the room. A surreal feeling of both sadness and joy. At least there was light, despite the dark.

“You belong. You have always belonged. I have always believed in you. And, I’ll tell you why..” he reached beside the bed.

Her eyes were closing now, her eyelashes fluttering with struggle as she forced them to stay open.

He had something in his hand now, he gripped it tightly for a brief moment. He ran his thumb over the soft fur, one corner of his mouth curling in a crooked smile.

He sat next to her on the bed, leaning forward and placing the item on her chest, right over her heart.

“Her.. it’s her favorite plush,” she whispered, “I miss her.”

“As you should.. She is your home, your beacon in the storm of life and she will always be where you belong.” He said firmly, running a thin finger along her hairline to sweep a long strand from her eyes and tuck it behind one ear. “Please, don’t ever wonder again.”

This was the best side of her. That small child was the best part of her.

Motherhood is raw, it’s real.

The only show worth watching.

Two heartbeats make one.

 

Caitie

She kicked

at the peeling paint on the old wooden stairs of the stoop. She stood there, cigarette gripped between her fingers as it burned slowly. The ash trickling down like miniature snowflakes, fluttering in and out of the porch light.

She shivered, the wind suddenly biting against her shoulders in a reverberating gust that drew her back to reality.

One too many drinks, she thought, I always have one too many drinks when there’s a party here. Her head was swimming.

The star-filled sky danced above her watery eyes, her cheeks freezing from unexpected tears.

She didn’t belong.

Within or without the world she wandered.

Laughter burst at the seams of the house, begging her to return. The party was alight with dancing and jokes were strewn about like the beer cans that toppled from the trash. She heard the faint whirring of a blinder, a delightful sound that beckoned her to gather up that unshakable facade and rejoin the masquerade.

She felt it strange, that no one had come looking for her. Surely her boyfriend would be out here soon, right?

Her stomach twisted in knots, a wave of nausea slowly curling up her chest.

Surely he would.

Her trembling hand discarded the dying cigarette.

She looked longingly at the door, not wanting to return while simultaneously wishing for the warmth beyond. As she strode forward, her feet tangled and a roller coaster of dizziness disoriented her. She turned and slid down the wall of the house that held the doorway, paint chips cascading into her long hair. Her boots made a final squeak of protest as her butt hit the cold, untreated wood of the deck.

I don’t belong.

The door creaked open, light spilling into the darkness.

 

Caitie

He turned

to his best friend and said in a deep tone, “The best side of her you can witness is that fumbling, tipsy side. The one that has had one too many drinks,” he emphasized with air quotations, his fingers trembling.

“The person that comes to light in a drunken state, the one who is utterly vibrant and free.”

He leaned back, his shoulders sinking into the old couch as he took a deep breath. His eyes closed for a moment, inhaling memories.

“She’s so close and intoxicating. Her motions become fluid and her hips rhythmic. You don’t have to have a single sip to become drunk off of her overwhelming ideas. Her absolute vulnerability, and all of the articulated movements of her mind. Her hands may clasp at your collar, drawing you in closer.. to her level.”

He leaned forward now, his hands coming up to his eyes as they gripped his brow for an anchor in the storm.

“I’m telling you man.. the best part of her spills forth.. splashing upon your shoes like the overtipped bottle on the table. You may feel a flash of anger, an impulse to wipe it all away. But, that hesitation.. that fleeting moment of frustration. It’s.. the best part of her.”

It’s the best part.. of her.

The shadows creep up and expose themselves.

Dancing across the floor in waves.

It’s raw. It’s real.

The only show worth watching.

“That maroon lipstick.. you will wash it away lovingly.”

 

Caitie

Bipolar Disorder

is very much a part of me. An old friend clasping their arms around me in the grocery store. The one I saw… the one I ducked behind a shelf to hide from unsuccessfully.

There are moments I fear that it consumes me. Mustering up the strength to sip my morning coffee. Fighting the urge to buy a plane ticket to nowhere. There is no in between. Just those fleeting moments where both parts consume me.

That is where I am. This is where I lay. Alongside the depression and pull of perfection into a whirlwind of anxiety.

I bury my face deep into the pillow of my emotions. Scared I will slip through the soft cracks; terrified that my fingers will fumble onto an unraveling thread. And I will yank. Draw back my hand… and sink into the hole beneath the bed of my mind.

What’s down there?

I don’t dare.

I don’t care.

I don’t leap from the fragile trembling tight rope to the building before me for fear of the darkness beneath me.

If I did, would I find the latch to the withered window? Or dangle my feet for an eternity?

This heart of mine aches… this is where I write my unremarkable words.

Mania is coming…

 

Caitie

Will the Sun

ever rise?

I stand earnestly, yearning for the glistening ribbons that give me life to tumble over the mountainside.

The wind whips against my face, my hands clench into fists and release once more. The cold air biting against my sweaty palms. I’m shaking, fear gripping my heart. This is a pain I have never known.. just waiting for the sunlight to give me strength.

My feet are planted, like thinly boned roots barely gripping the ground. My legs tremble and my chest barely rises and falls. My heart beating so softly I don’t even notice the blood pumping through my veins. I don’t feel alive.

I’m wishing. I’m waiting.. for the sun.

It’s just there, isn’t it?

It has to be.. don’t I see a faint glimmer? Isn’t that the horizon?

All at once, I realize my eyes are closed.

But why am I not warm? I feel afraid to open these baby-doll blue eyes.

I’m terrified.

Someone will them open.

For I cannot.

dream_by_sulamith-d2yvzyu

 

Caitie

I touched

my hand to my face.. my fingers sliding upward toward my eyes. I pulled back.

The tears glittered in the flickering light from my Christmas tree. The cool drops had spilled forth unexpectedly. Sweeping down my face and splashing onto my collar bone.

Had I really not noticed? This pain? Had I really not felt the tears coming again?

A chill climbed my spine and I wrapped my arms around my legs. The loss enveloping me into a bittersweet hug.

I have loved many times. Over and over I send my outstretched hand into the darkness, grasping for light.

It’s alright, I’m alright. Just thinking of you in the dim light tonight.

 

Caitie

Morning Cigarette

and I see a couple.. Pure grunge and simplicity wrapped underneath torn hoodies and disheveled band t-shirts. They both nod at me, almost approvingly, as they stroll past hand in hand.

They are a memory.. someone I once was and am often lost in reverie of being once more.

I think of the days when love was filled with small sharpie drawings on our hands, paper airplanes with unanswered questions scribbled within their folds, and looking into shop windows with dreams of a future we can share.

And my day is covered in sticky notes and ink, it’s all the same..

I am left wishing for you to share this moment with me.

 

Caitie