Eden: a Myth

I don’t know how to tell you this.

It’s not like you’d believe me or anything.

I once was, and before that, I was not.

If I told you I remembered the moment I was formed, you’d call me a liar, and I am anything but. A whooshing sound like a strong wind gusted over me, but this was before we knew wind. She told me it was formless when She began. She even described to me how she scooped the waters together in the cup of her hand and separated the liquid from the air- water from sky.

The next day, She gathered the waters to dwell in one place and then, distributed the land. She created trees and shrubbery and flowers and plants of all kind. She did not stop. Animals still needed to be shaped. As though She was molding clay, She formed all these things.

She explained that to create me, She used dust and the Breath of Life. Sometimes, I doubt She is capable of all this.

But to doubt is to show faith.

She told me to believe.

And so, I did.

After She explained my task-the maintenance of the garden, a deep longing for sleep consumed me. She warned me not to eat from a specific tree. That was easy. She told me to name the creatures. That, too, was easy. All the tasks seemed reasonable. The demands? Not the type to splinter my soul. But the ground was warm and soft, my head was heavy, and I slept.

The rays of sun warmed my naked ass, and yet, I feared nothing. She had created me from dust and the Breath of Life.

I did not feel it, but she opened my flesh, and from it, she stole a bone that was pleasing. This bone was called a rib, and when my flesh concealed the bones once more, I had not missed what was taken. This was the first time she had taken from me. She had given me so much. The least I could do was give a rib. In exchange, she gave me a companion.

I had never seen a beast like this: She told me the beast resembled me, but it was beautiful, and I was not beautiful. Her loveliness blistered me, yet I did not feel a warmth to my cheeks like the Creator Goddess described. I wanted to run my hands over her skin and feel its smoothness under my callouses. I longed to touch her bare flesh and feel it rise and fall beneath me.

It was though I was breaking into several pieces all at once because I wanted to teach her the animals I had named, but I also wanted to be very still and simply breathe with her.

I did not want to restrict her freedoms. She reminded me so much of the Creator Goddess. Their voices rose and fell in the same patterns. Though I had not seen the Creator Goddess yet, She was vast. (Much too vast for me to comprehend.) Subsequently, this beast was vast in her beauty. Understanding her was like trying to describe how the Creator Goddess separated the air from the water. This creature’s voice flowed over me like a babbling brook.

I let her explore. I wanted her to seek whatever it was she chose to seek. She reached her hands out to touch the animals, explore their furs and hides, and marvel at the beauty of plants. But she was the gift I never deserved but desired. I had never seen beauty like hers. Not in the peacock’s plumage or the giraffe’s great heights. The way her hips swayed when she walked? It was extraordinary.

I watched her, but I did not try to keep her like I kept the flowers.

I did not want to possess her. Own her.

The flowers I wanted to shower her with grew taller than both of us, demonstrating to me that I was not in charge. I never was. I was unable to hold the cool waters I wanted her to feel caress against her skin could not be contained, but it was right. It was good.

I walked without direction. I aimed without path. She traveled in one direction and I, the other. It was not intentional. If I had set forth intention, I would never be separated from her. Except that rib. That rib separated us. She came from me, not from the vast She who created everything else in this garden.

She went alone. I heard her speaking to one of the animals, and I thought this to be good. It was wise she learned their names and who better to teach them their names than the animals themselves?

I did not listen, but her voice floated, the syllables breaking apart and separating. I could not hear individual words, but these syllables were delicious, inviting. I wanted to learn her body as intimately as my own. There was a reason she was created.

I was not to be alone in this world.

She ran toward me, her legs flying up barely touching the earth. Her excitement was contagious. That laugh-luxurious. The way she threw her head back as she collided into me intoxicated me. I was under her spell. She thrust a small fruit into my hands. Its coloring was the color of the sky at night. I had not seen a fruit like it before, but I had not explored the same places as she. She found places deep within the garden I had not yet seen.

She fed it to me, its nectar sticky as it dribbled down our chins. We smiled, our gazes soft upon each other. The moment was blissful, but it was just that: a moment.

I wanted to devour her. Swallow her whole. I wanted to take back what was mine. This garden was not meant to be shared. She was never meant to be. Her voice? Far from melodious. It was the sound of claws scraping against my own flesh. She had destroyed me. She had stolen a rib from me, and the wretched woman bared her teeth to me in a smile like it was meant to be a forgiving feature. She was hideous.

I could not drag my nails against her skin nor could I flay her. She was not my creation. She was not mine to destroy. But she had slept against my skin: bone against bone. She had been my rib, and now, she was formed. A monstrosity.

Why did I ever find this repulsive creature to be attractive? I wanted to cover her. Throw leaves over her and create a pyre.

The vast She that created me did not make mistakes, then why was this woman looking at me with desire in her eyes? She had fed me the fruit of knowledge, and this was knowledge I could not untangle. I could not imagine touching her. Being so near her that I could smell the cologne of her musk made bile rise to my throat.

She was disgusting.

An Untitled Short Story

I was walking one way, and I walked past you. You were hand-in-hand with another girl, and I don’t even know if you noticed me. I had never seen you with that girl before, but she looked so happy. Who could blame her? You were holding hands with her. It probably felt as though time had stopped.

I always liked love stories.

I know whenever we held hands, whether it was in the courtyard or in the car, I felt like I was your girl. It felt as though time had stopped. I felt like the only girl in the world. I remember the way you talked about my eyes like they were the most magical thing you had ever seen. You talked about them like they were beautiful.

But we both know you hate eyes like mine.

I still remember the last time I saw you before I saw you with that girl, her nervous smile giving way to the fact that she liked you. The last time I saw you before that, you had told me you loved me. You had driven away in the rain. It was late at night, and we were happy.

All we have are our memories, and like most things, the memories are fading.

Some day, all I’ll have to remember you by is the faint smell of your soap and the scar on my finger.

Killing your Darlings

In the world of writing, Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch advised students to “murder their darlings” in a lecture, and as I revise, I find I am reluctant to murder my darlings, but I’m doing my best to be brutal.

Some lines, no matter how beautifully they’re phrased, must simply be abandoned.

I keep a small notebook with phrases I adore from my murdering stage of my writing. I call it my Homeless File. It’s where lines that are homeless lay their heads to rest, a small trashcan fire burning to keep them warm.

Today, as I revised my novel, I came across one:

Ghosts of an unremarkable past haunted her.

Those words are beautiful to me and conjure up images of a mundane life now gone, but alas, the sentence was unnecessary, so it goes into the Homeless File.

The beauty of the Homeless File is that I can discover other beautiful fragmentary thoughts that add to my appreciation of language and maybe some day, can incorporate into a story or poem.

Ribbon my soul/and graft/the missing pieces onto your heart.

These words, alone, might not sound like much, but they all hold a place in my heart because though I might have given up their ghosts in their earlier works, this does not mean they will not find a home elsewhere.

I have lived so many lives/you might as well call me/a matryoshka doll/(Stacked inside of each other/to keep warm & cozy/we can be our own best friends./Whoever needed anybody else?)

I feel every author should have a Homeless File.

What do you think? Do any of my fellow authors keep the darlings that they kill?

I’m starting to wonder if it’s more of a morgue than a Homeless File.

Afterglow: a Short Story

Warning: This short story is an abstract expression of what it feels like to survive domestic violence. If you find this subject matter potentially triggering, please do not continue reading.

Fingertips against cheekbones. The result? A bruise or a caress. Her flinch is noticeable but only if you look for it. A stained-glass heart shatters, and it could create a mosaic. A human heart breaks, and it could create lace of invisible scars.

Abused Woman

The door slams, and she trembles like a leaf before its descent to the ground. It’s the aftermath you expected but did not deserve. She tried to warn you that beauty like hers is a fragile kind. You did not listen. The words fell on empty ears. She may as well have been speaking into a conch.

Tell her she’s beautiful.

Woman With Red Bruise

Hold her close like a glass angel.

Whisper you love her just the way she is.

Will she ever learn that your love has no bounds, that bruises fade?

The scars are just as fabled as the laugh lines. This is all history, and you’re determined to turn the page.

“I’m scared,” she whispers, clinging to you in the dead of the night. You reach a hand up to stroke her hair, but she shudders as though she was left out in the cold.

Keep watch for progress.

Hope things will be different.

An entire year passes, and she still wears these scars as though announcing her surrender.

You beg that one day she will be strong enough to move on.

Her eyes widen like saucers and shimmer like broken glass.

“Do you remember what love really feels like,” you ask, but before the words are gutted from your lips, her chin trembles and tears trail down her cheeks.

You don’t expect her to reply, but she does. “Patching craters in the wall his fist made. The cracked dessert plates that only needed to be washed. Blood is red, violet is a bruise, I get the love I choose. Love is whispering and pleading, the tears no one saw.”

“You experienced love before him,” you insist.

Memory is a distortion. We exaggerate and undermine, even destroy events. Like the dodge-and-burn technique you learned in a high school darkroom years prior.

The stretch and pull makes memories as pliable as saltwater taffy.

Woman in White Crew Neck Shirt Saying No To Violence

“I once wore a hibiscus bloom in my hair. I felt like a flamenco dancer. He said the color made him sick. I think it was my happiness that revolted him.” She never speaks his name.

Not in all the time you two have been dating does she say his name aloud. Not in therapy. Certainly not to you. It creates a myth out of a coward. A villain worth noting, but not naming.

“Saying his name is like crunching through lightbulbs,” she admits, “fractured filaments split between my teeth.”

One morning, you notice the tissue-paper thin petals of a hot pink hibiscus on the dark hardwood.

Red Hibiscus in Bloom

You hear her humming her favorite song in the bathroom, her feet bare on the tile floor (not fearing shards of glass from a time past).

When you go to snake an arm around her waist, her skin feels warm. Inviting. In the past, your presence was an intrusion. You were as wanted as a closet monster. The hibiscus in her brown curls casts a rosy glow on her cheeks, and her eyes sparkle as though they were made of diamonds or stars.

Your insides feel as though they are fizzing over, effervescent like champagne bubbles.

This is what love feels like.

Although her heart is in repair, the pieces create a mosaic of beauty. Though the pieces are bright and glimmering, they are still broken. Still they have jagged edges. Yet you see the beauty in each individual piece.

Brown Low-top Sneakers

Repair this broken heart.

Mend these wounds.

Do not despair.

There is hope.

There is beauty in the afterglow.

If you or a loved one is in danger or is in an abusive relationship, there are resources. Please call the national domestic violence hotline at 800-799-7233. You are not alone. Please do everything you can to insure your or your loved one’s safety. You are stronger than you know. There is hope.