Deep from the Bottle

Tate looked at his watch. Any minute now his plane would be landing, and he would be back in his home town for the first time in ten years. A loud dinging filled his ears as the flight attendant announced their arrival in Cincinnati. He snapped his seatbelt into place and braced himself for the bumpy landing. As he stepped off the plane and into the terminal, he almost immediately heard the loud squeals of his mother as she came barreling towards him.

“My baby!” she cried, tears streaming from her bright blue eyes. Tate wiggled uncomfortably, trying his best to squeeze his way out of her tight grasp. She stepped back, wiped her eyes, and smiled a sad smile. “I’ve missed you so much,” she said in almost a whisper.

“I’ve missed you too, mom.”

Tate lugged his single suitcase behind him as his mom led him through the maze of people and back to her tiny bright green mini cooper. “Don’t you just love it?” She held out her arms towards the car as though she were Vanna White showing off her prize. The bold green color made him feel queasy, but he nodded his head and climbed inside.

As they rolled out of the airport parking lot, Tate’s mother chattered happily about all the things she had been up to since the last time they had talked. He only half listened as he peered out the window. The town that he had grown up in flew past him like scenes from an old movie. Each one brought back memories he had hoped to forget.

On the corner of the street at the shell station sat thirteen-year-old Tate, his hands clinched tightly. He shivered as a drop of sweat slithered down his spine. He looked as though he were waiting for someone and glanced suspiciously in every direction. Before he even had the chance to react, his friend Craig came bounding out of the store full speed. “Run!” he screamed, and the two of them took off towards the alleyways. Craig tossed him the stolen liquor and soon they were safely tucked away behind a dumpster. Tate took a sip and let himself slowly slip into bliss.

“So are you excited for your reunion?” His mother’s question pulled him out of his thoughts and brought him back to reality. Reunion? He had almost completely forgotten about that, but it was the only reason he had come back. Tomorrow was the day of his ten year high school reunion, the one he hadn’t even wanted to attend. However, his therapist had suggested that he go. “It will be good for you to face your past,” she had said. Tate wasn’t sure if he agreed with her, but decided to give it a try. As they pulled into the driveway of his childhood home, he was hit hard with a painful flashback.

There he was, only fifteen, holding a brown paper bag in between his shaking hands. It was a quarter past midnight, and he knew that he was way past his curfew. He took a deep drink from the bottle and tossed the bag out behind the bushes. As he stumbled into the house, the lights flicked on and his angry father sat menacingly on the couch. “Are you drunk?!” he barked as Tate fumbled into the room. Tate laughed and tripped over the rug.

“Earth to Tate!” His eyes blinked as his mother waved her hands in front of his face. “Come on inside! I’m making dinner.”

Up in his room, Tate glanced around at all of his old things. It was just as he had left it. A model airplane that he and his dad had started working on still laid half unfinished on his old desk. A pair of dusty sneakers were thrown lazily into the corner, and his pillows were tousled as though he had slept there the night before rather than ten years ago. “I wonder…” he said to no one in particular as he leaned down to feel underneath his bed. Just as he had suspected, his fingertips gently grazed the cool metal of an empty flask. As he pulled it out, he was hit with another memory.

Screaming. That’s all he heard as he angrily threw his things into his bag. He was eighteen. He was an adult. He wasn’t going to let them tell him what to do anymore. Tate took a swig from his flask as his mother continued to bang her fists into his locked bedroom door, demanding that he open it. He continued to pack his back, ignoring her furious cries. Suddenly, the door flew open, and his dad came barreling in. “Where the hell do you think you’re going?” Tate could smell the alcohol on his breath. He laughed. “As far away from you as I can,” he said smoothly as he stared deep into his father’s eyes. His father stumbled towards him, fists flying, but Tate dodged his swings and quickly ran out the door. “I don’t need him. I don’t need any of them!” he thought to himself, and soon he was flying down the highway.

The flask made a loud clang as it hit the hardwood floor. Tate blinked. He was back in his room. Back in his town. It was as though nothing had even changed. No. Something had changed. Someone was missing. Another flashback came.

The call had come late at night while his cellphone sat on the counter of the bar. It was a number he recognized. His mother’s. Tate ignored it and called to the bar attendant for another drink. His phone continued to buzz noisily. He continued to ignore it. The dinging sound let him know that he had a new voicemail. Should he even listen to it? He hesitated for a moment, but finally decided to press play. “Tate…” his mother said softly. “It’s your father. He’s dead.” Tate dropped the phone. He could hear it clang against the hard floor as he the threw his bottle of whiskey across the counter. It smashed against the wall sending tiny shards of glistening glass trickling around the room. The hot tears burned as they fell.

Liver disease. That’s what had killed him. His excessive drinking has finally caught up to him, sending him to the grave at only fifty years old. He was too young to die. Tate picked up the empty flask and threw it at the wall. After his father had died, he had stopped drinking altogether. It had been hard, but he knew he wasn’t ready to face his father’s same fate. It hadn’t been easy. How many times had the bottle called out to him, tempting him with just one tiny sip? He closed his eyes. The pain cut him deep. His father had tried to stop him. Tried to make him better. But his own abusive use of alcohol had lead Tate spiraling down the same path towards destruction.

The sound of his mother downstairs in the kitchen, the haunting chime of the clock in the hall, the creaking of the wooden floor beneath his feet. It was almost too much to bare. The memories. The heartache. The pain. He shouldn’t have come back. He shouldn’t be here. Tate flung open the door of his closet and desperately threw out all of his things. “Where the hell is it?!” he snarled between clenched teeth before feeling his hand touch the smooth surface of a well-hidden bottle. He grasped the bottle between his shaking hands and raised it towards the ceiling. He knew what he should do. He knew that he needed to smash it, to rid himself of this poison for good. But something inside of that bottle called out to him once more. His pain, too great to bare, threatened to break him, but the bottle, he knew what it could do. He knew it could make him forget all of this.

His sudden burst of energy now gone, Tate sank to the floor on his knees, cracked open the bottle, and took a deep drink. He felt the warmth of the liquor as the tears began to fall.

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Keeper of Memories

Collect things—that’s what I do. Yard sales, garage sales, thrift shops, consignment stores—these places are where I belong. There are so many treasures out there. So many things that people just want to throw away. Valuable things! Things that could use just a little bit of love. Some things just need a little paint. Sometimes its as simple as dusting them off and giving them a good cleaning before ta-da! They look brand new! Hoarder? No. No, I wouldn’t call myself that. I’m a collector. I collect things. That’s what I do! Who says I have a problem? I can see no issue with the way I live. These things, my things, they’re my treasures. Can you not see how each one of these items needs me? How I need them? Well, just let me tell you. Let me tell you, and then you will realize that I am not a hoarder. Oh no, I’ve never been a hoarder.

Ever since I was little, I have always held on to things: paper clips, receipts, dolls, stuffed animals, shoes, clothing, books, you name it. Why, you may ask? Well you see, each and every thing has value. You may think I’m a hoarder now, but just wait. I will show you how I am not a hoarder. I will show you how each and every item I own has meaning, or, a purpose if you will. Do you see this right here? This is the very first toothbrush that I ever bought. Garbage, you say? Blasphemy! You just don’t know how to repurpose it. Now think of it like this, and I swear you will understand why I must keep it. I may not be able to use this old thing for my teeth anymore, but what about cleaning other things? I can use it to scrub my watch collection, and to get into those tiny cracks in the floor. I can also use it to polish the dirt and dust off of my shoes! What do you think of that? Oh, well now you must be wondering why I need a whole collection of old toothbrushes. That’s simple! I don’t want to use the same toothbrush to scrub my watch collection that I used on the floor or my shoes! Are you finally beginning to understand? I am a collector! A treasure hunter! I have many titles, but I can assure you that hoarder is not one of them. “Oh, but look at all this mess!” You say. What mess? I see no mess! I only see possibilities. And memories. So many memories.

Do you see this porcelain doll? Her face may be broken, and she may be missing a limb–or two–but that’s not the point! I’ve had her since I was little. She was my best friend—my only friend. She may not look like much now, but at one point she was stunning! Her hair was a rich red, her eyes a brilliant blue. Her dress wasn’t a dingy shade of mustard like it is now, but a yellow as bright as the sun itself! She was there through it all, the sadness, the tears, the angry shouts emerging from my parents’ bedroom at two in the morning, the abuse that I watched my mother go through, and the abuse that was soon turned on me after she died. She was there for me when my father locked me in the closet for misbehaving, when he forced me to use my own toothbrush to clean the entire house on my hands and knees, when he told me I was worthless, selfish, and unworthy of any love from him, and even when he blamed me for the death of my mother. So you see, it was only fair of me to be there for her when my father pulled her from my arms and threw her against the wall, when her pretty little face shattered into a million tiny pieces across the kitchen floor. I picked up every little chip and placed them all into this plastic bag because it was my turn to take care of her.

I cannot let go of anything because each item I own represents a small part of who I am. So, think of me as a keeper of memories. A collector of all things that once were. The one who brings life to the things forgotten. But never, and I mean never, call me a hoarder.

Beautiful

“It’s a girl!” exclaimed the doctor with a smile as she pointed to the sepia toned lump on the monitor screen. I smiled too, shifting uncomfortably as she continued to press the cold transducer over my swollen stomach. Flash forward. My husband gripped my hand tightly as we walked out of the office, photos in hand.
A girl. I was going to have a girl.
The gender reveal party came and went with congrats, hugs, and tears of joy. Baby showers were held, corny games were played, and soon, diapers, bottles, and hoards of pink clothing began piling up in what would soon become the nursery. I refused to paint her room pink, to put her in a gender stereotyped room. Flash forward. We finally decided on light grey walls with teal polka-dotted accents.
Happy. Everyone was so happy.
As my stomach grew larger, I made more frequent trips to the bathroom. Pickles dipped in peanut butter became my new favorite food, and my husband was making constant late night trips to Walmart in an attempt to feed my crazy cravings. During the day I would sit on the porch looking out across the yard, watching as my neighbor’s daughters played tea party with their dolls and teddy bears. Flash forward. My mind began to wonder. My heart started to worry.
A girl. I was having a girl.
While preparations were being made, the due date drew nearer. Everyone was excited. Everyone was ready. Yet my mind still wondered. As my belly grew larger, my fear grew stronger. I was going to have a little girl. A girl! But what does that mean? What makes a girl, well…a girl? Flashback. Twelve year old me stands in front of a mirror staring down at my flat chest, hoping that at any moment breasts will magically appear. A single tear slips from my dark brown eyes and slides down my acne scarred face.
What makes a girl, well….a girl?
Is it her love of pink? Her well manicured nails? Her perfect hair? Or is it simply the fact that she was assigned a girl from birth? These questions plagued my mind as I began to remember my own childhood and what it was like to grow up as a girl. Flashback. Seven year old me stares down at my pretty blue church dress. It’s stained with red mud and dirt from a long afternoon spent making mud pies and rolling down hills. My furious mother looks at me sternly and says, “playing in the mud is not ladylike.” I avoid her eyes and stare shamefully at my dirt encrusted white shoes.
I never had been a very girly girl.
Growing up with two brothers had made me tough. I wrestled with them, played cowboys and Indians with them, and was never afraid to get dirty. My hair was usually chopped short and tied back away from my mud streaked face. My mother tried so desperately to instill in me her love of pink and all things girly, but my tom-boyish behavior continued all the way up until middle school. Flashback. I’m running to the girls bathroom, tears threatening to spill from the corners of my eyes, as a group of older girls chants at me from behind. “Tomboy, tomboy, you’re an ugly tomboy!” As I step into the stall, the hot tears begin to fall.
Middle school changes people.
It was a tough three years. My confidence in myself quickly faded, and I began to retreat away from the harsh reality known as middle school. I grew out my hair, painted my nails, and tried everything in my power to fit in with other girls. I started to talk like them, dress like them, act like them, until I had lost all sense of who I truly was. Flashback. Fourteen year old me stands looking in the mirror, makeup of all sorts spread awkwardly across the counter. In my mind, a soundtrack of insults begins to play. “Only filthy girls get pimples.” “Do you ever even wash your face?” “You look so gross!” “Thank God I don’t have acne.” The bright red acne scars soon disappear as I begin to smother my face with concealer for the first time.
I had so many worries.
Here I was, nine months pregnant and nearing the day in which I would meet my little girl for the first time. I wanted to be excited, I truly did. But I was so afraid, afraid of what she would have to go through, afraid of the bullies, the tears, and the heartache she would have to face. How would she be able to handle all of it? How could I help her in a world that was so cruel, in a society that rates women based on their beauty? I worried and I worried until…
Flash forward.
I peer down at the sleepy-eyed little girl cradled tenderly in my arms. Her eyes sparkle and, for the first time in a long time, I feel truly happy. She wraps her tiny little hand around my pale finger and lets out a small sigh.
“You’re beautiful,” I whisper as she drifts off to sleep. “You’re so beautiful.”

Memories: Part Three- Field Trip

It was a cold and dark morning. The sun was still fast sleep behind the misty mountaintops as we lined up outside of my middle school waiting for the Greyhound buses to arrive. On one side of me stood my mother, all wrapped up in a warm winter coat, trying her best to fight off the early morning chill. On the other side of me sat my suitcase, packed full with enough clothing to last me for the three-day, two-night field trip I was about to go on with my sixth grade class. In my arms was Mr. Bear. I had pulled his hood up onto his head in order to keep him warm, and I held him tightly against my chest. While most girls my age were embarrassed by their stuffed toys, I paraded mine around proudly. I had no shame and couldn’t care less if the others thought he was childish. There was no way that I was going to let him miss out on the exciting adventure I was about to have at the Atlanta Zoo.

When the busses finally arrived, the smell of exhaust filled my nostrils and nervousness began to creep through my veins. As a “grown-up” twelve year old, I felt as though it was childish for me to be feeling this way, so I did my best to put on a face of indifference as I shoved my suitcase into the bottom of the bus. My mother pulled me into a tight hug as the tears began to roll down her cheeks. “Your first time ever going away from home!” She said between sobs as I desperately tried to wiggle from her tight grasp. “Mom! People are beginning to stare!” I said as she held me tighter. “Let them stare!” She cried. “I don’t care! I’m going to miss you!”

When it was finally time to board the bus, I turned to look back at my mother. She was smiling as the tears continued to flow from her eyes. I smiled and waved back, trying my best to keep up my bravery charade. Once I was seated comfortably on the bus, I sat Mr. Bear snuggly in my lap and waved out the window to my mother one last time. Despite my valiant attempt to remain brave, a single tear still managed to escape from my eye as the bus began to make its way out of the parking lot.

Memories: Part Two- My Tenth Birthday

February 9th, 2004 was the day that I turned ten years old. My childlike mind was full of excitement over the fact that I was finally turning a two-digit number. “Turning ten is a big deal,” I remember my dad telling me. “You’re no longer a little kid anymore. You’ve officially joined the big kids club!” This, of course, filled my little heart with pride, and my excitement for the day only grew stronger. My mother was busily preparing for my party. I had invited all of my close friends and was waiting impatiently at the door for their arrival.

Finally the time had come, and one by one cars begin pulling into the driveway. Sleepovers had always been my favorite way to celebrate my birthday, so my party guests entered my house lugging sleeping bags and pillows in preparation to spend the night. The kitchen table slowly began to fill with brightly wrapped boxes and big, shiny bags tied tightly with colorful bows and twisty ribbon. The kitchen held a variety of smells: the savory aroma of pepperoni pizza stacked high in cardboard boxes on the counter, the sweet and familiar smell of cookie cake that my mother had bought every year for my birthday, and the faint smell of my friends’ houses that lingered on their pillows and bags.

After scarfing down my last slice of cookie cake, I ran to my mother, begging her to let me open my presents now. After some convincing, she finally gathered everyone in the living room, and one by one I began to unbox or unbag the various gifts I had been given. To this day, I still love the sound of ripping wrapping paper and the slight crunch it makes as it falls to the floor. As usual, my mother would make me pause after opening each gift, pose for a quick picture, and then thank the person from whom the gift was from. Gift after gift was opened and this routine continued. Pause, pose, thank. Pause, pose, thank. Finally the sad moment had come in which I had reached my last present. This present was in a brightly colored bag with a tag reading, To Lindsey, Love Mom. Slowly and carefully, I tugged at the purple and blue ribbons, until the bag was open. After tearing through towers of tissue paper, I could finally catch a glimpse of the furry white ears that poked up through the opening. With a burst of excitement, I pulled out the fluffy, white bear with the purple, draw-string hoodie and quickly ran to my mother for a warm and loving embrace. It was in that moment that my “creative” ten year old mind decided that the most appropriate name for my new friend would be Mr. Bear.

Memories: Part One- The assignment

“Choose a specific object that you’ve encountered throughout your life,” I read aloud from the paper that holds my assignment. “Write a brief series of descriptions of moments in which the object has played a role.” My mind begins to race. What is something that is important to me? I do a quick scan of the room, when suddenly, it hits me. My eyes begin to focus as I hone in on the object that has been with me since I was only ten years old: my stuffed bear. Once upon a time, this bear had been all white, fresh and new. However, now he’s beginning to grey with age. He’s wearing a purple draw-string hoodie with the words “LOVE U” right in the center in all caps. The strings that hang from his hoodie are beginning to fray, and his once fluffy fur is now matted and dirty from long nights and playful afternoons spent outside in the dirt. To others, this bear may seem like just another ratty old children’s toy, but to me, he is so much more.

As I slowly and carefully pick up my bear, memories of moments both happy and sad fill my mind. His familiar fur greets my fingers and sends my mind on a memory-filled rollercoaster. His dark round eyes stare back at me, and his face holds a comforting expression of understanding. How many nights have I hugged this bear, tearfully believing that he was the only one who truly understood me? How many times have I carried him along with me on long family vacations and reluctantly left him behind to wait in the hotel room as we went out to dinner? What is it about this bear, this stuffed animal that has brought me so much happiness? As I hold him in my arms as I have done so many times before, my mind begins to replay the day in which I first laid eyes on him.

Baptism

Today is the day of my Baptism. Nine year old me wiggles impatiently as my mother tries desperately to brush the knots out of my thick, tangled hair. I am wearing the shirt that she made me specifically for this occasion. It has a bright red heart painted on it and reads “I gave my heart to Jesus”. My nine year old mind is full of wonder and excitement. 

Me: So, tell me. How this is going to play out again?

Mom: Lindsey, I have already told you what’s going to happen. And besides that, you’ve seen it done many times before!

Me: Just tell me one more time…please? I promise I won’t ask again!

Mom: (Sighs) Okay. You’ll stand in line at the top of the stairs that lead into the tub. Pastor Roy will give his speech about how all of you have chosen to accept Jesus, and then one by one he will ask you to step down into the water with him.

Me: Will it be cold?

Mom: No, it’s warm like bath water. But remember to step in carefully because if you slip, you’ll fall in and it will be embarrassing.

Me: Okay….then what?

Mom: You’ll stand in front of him sideways and he will take your hands. That’s when he’ll announce to everyone that you have accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior.

I grip my face dramatically in an attempt to impersonate the victims on the late night horror movies I wasn’t supposed watch, and then let out my best and most award-winning gasp of terror.

Me: HE’S GOING TO TAKE MY HANDS?!?

Mom: Lindsey, for the love of God, you know what I mean!!

Me: You said it, not me….So after he gruesomely takes my hands from me, then does he dunk me?

Mom: Lindsey, stop fooling around. This is a serious matter! And no, not yet.

Me: Well then when does he dunk me?

She sighs and continues to yank at the stubborn knots in my thick red hair. 

Mom: Not until after he asks you if you have accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior.

Me: But wouldn’t he have just said that to everyone? Why would he tell everyone that I already have and then ask me?

Mom: (Clearly beginning to lose her patience) I don’t know, Lindsey! That’s just how it works!

Me: (Pause)…..And then he dunks me?

Mom: (Sighs) No. not yet. Not until you say yes…

Me: (Interrupting) But what if I say no?

She abruptly stops brushing my hair and sternly looks me in the eyes.

Mom: Why on Earth would you say that?!

Me: (Laughing) It sure would shock him! Ha! He wouldn’t see that coming!

Mom: (Angrily) Lindsey!

Me: Okay, geez I’m only kidding!

She stares at me, arms crossed over her chest, looking un-amused. 

Me: Soooo…I’ll say yes…and then he’ll dunk me!

Mom: No. Then he’ll say I now baptize you in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit…

Me: (Interrupting yet again) And theeeeen he’ll dunk me!

Mom: Not yet! He’ll ask quietly if you want to hold your nose…

Me: Which I’ll say yes….

Mom: And then….

Me: (excitedly) He’ll dunk me!

Earliest Memories

My eyes opened. I was completely and totally shrouded in darkness. Fear struck my heart as I reached out, searching for something, anything, to hold on to. In my mind, the monsters began to form. They growled from beneath my “big girl” bed and snarled from inside my closet. My heart was racing and my palms began to sweat. I could feel the railing that surrounded my bed, protecting me from their reach, but my fear grew stronger and stronger. I felt the sobs rising up through my throat until I released them with a vicious scream! My wailing continued until the light flicked on and the soothing voice I had come to know so well enveloped me in warmth and love.

Writing is Hard

Sometimes writing is hard.

You sit down at your desk, laptop on, Microsoft Word open, and you slowly place your fingers on the keys.

“Okay,” you say to yourself. “Let’s write something good.”

Now if only it were that easy.

The seconds fly by. Seconds turn to minutes, which turn into hours, until you finally shut your computer and stand up with a sad sigh. Another day spent staring at a blank computer screen.

Where’s the inspiration? Where’s the magic? Why can’t words just appear on the page and inspire any and everyone who reads them?

If only writing were that simple.

Sometimes, writing is hard.

But one day, something magical DOES happen.

You sit down at that same desk with your same old laptop, Microsoft word open, and you write. You write and you write and then you write some more! Words turn to sentences which turn to paragraphs that go on to fill pages!

And as the seconds turn into hours, you finally stand up with a satisfied smile and think to yourself, “THIS is what I live for. This is why I write.”

Sometimes all it takes is one day, but sometimes it will take years.

All you need is little time and a whole lot of patience.

Sometimes writing is hard. But that will never mean that it is not worth it.

The “not-so-simple” simple poem

Why can’t poetry sometimes be simple? Why can’t it simply say what it means and mean what it simply says? Why must there always be some hidden meaning behind it that one must discover through deep thought and contemplation?
This is a poem. 
It’s not a hard poem. 

It’s not a message in disguise.

It is simply a poem about a simple poem. 

Poems can have meaning without the use of fancy words that no one understands. 
Poems can give hope and peace and joy without having to be picked apart in a literature class. 

This poem is simple.

So what can be taken from such a simple poem?
Simply this: don’t feel as though you cannot write poetry just because you don’t have a large and confusing vocabulary or can’t write in a style such as Poe or Dickinson. 

Poetry should come from your heart and if what you have to say is simple, then simply say it. No extra words or confusing lines are needed.  

So simply speaking, this is a simple poem about a simple poem, and yet surprisingly, there’s still something not so simple about it.