In the darkness….

It is 10:30 at night on a warm May evening.  A woman has found a place to sit in a small architectural alcove on the outside of a church a block away from her residence.  She chose this spot not for any religious significance but because it faces a grassy area and the backs of other buildings.  In the darkness, it is unlikely anyone will see her there.  She weeps.

Why is she weeping?

29 responses to “In the darkness….

  1. She’s pregnant for the first time. This would be good news except she’s forty-seven years old. The risks are obvious. Abortion is illegal so she’ll be forced to go through with the pregnancy. Her husband is fifty-three and beginning to look forward to retirement. Despite the fact that they’ve both had careers, they’ve been barely scraping by for the past ten years due to job layoffs – first him, then her, now him again. The needs of a handicapped child, which she believes this will most certainly be, will likely reduce them to poverty level. She’s not a religious person so the thought of suicide is not daunting to her. But she loves her husband and doesn’t want to leave him alone. Without her, he has no family. She weighs the options. There would be insurance money. The house would be instantly paid for. She convinces herself he’d be okay. But how can she make it look like it wasn’t a suicide?

    • A dilemma for sure. Good writing about her thoughts. And I’m sure she doesn’t do it!

    • Good thoughtful piece. Hopefully, this situation never becomes a reality.

    • Sorry to be so long in responding. I lost my forgot my user name, then spent a week pouting about how I couldn’t get the dang site to open up. But I’m back . You came up with one of the most unlikely explanations I can think of! I’m a great fan of surprises, so this was definitely one to ponder. Thanks!

  2. The solitude of the night and the shadowy quiet of the buildings which surrounded her slumping form masked Ella’s tears and her terror of facing another night locked in her own mind, a solitary confinement of her own choosing. She had sat by herself in the alcove on numerous nights, twenty-three in a row if she remembered correctly, with her newest and dearest friend. The confined space blocked the wind on turbulent nights, but tonight there was not even a breeze, and the warmth of the city stifled her breath. She scuffed out her cigarette on the concrete structure.

    To someone passing by she might have looked oddly dressed. Ella wore denim shorts, cutoff really short, sandals, a red wifebeater-style T-shirt, and a long sleeve western shirt, unsnapped both on the front and at the sleeves. It hung loosely around her slim body. She sat on the ground with her knees drawn up to her chin, balancing her kit on her knees. Her left arm was tied off with surgical tubing, and with her the index finger of her right hand she searched her left arm for a segment of a vein which had not yet been punctured. “Please, God, just one more time,” she implored. She struck the flint wheel on her old Zippo and the flame sprang to life looking like a thousand devils dancing. Ella waved the flame beneath the spoon which cradled her evening’s relief and soon it was bubbling, letting her know it was time. “Don’t spill it tonight,” she told herself as she laid the spoon and its nectar on a concrete lip of the alcove.

    With the intensity of a wolf on the prowl and the jitters of a junkie past time for her relief, she pulled back on the plunger of her syringe, the needle sucked the clear liquid into the vial. “Almost there, she smiled, almost there.” Ella tipped the syringe upward and pushed the plunger in, watching to expel its trapped air without wasting any of its precious contents. She gave the vial a flick with her fingertip. A light from a window let her see just enough to tell her when to stop.

    She guided the tip to her extended arm. “Yes, there it is,” she sighed as she found the slight rise she was seeking. The needle slipped into the vein and carefully she pressed her arm with the syringe to her chest. With her right hand she pulled back on the plunger. It was too dark to see her crimson tide invade the vial, but she knew she had found her target. Her warm blood mixed with the cooling heroin. Ella exhaled as she pushed the plunger downward. “Slowly, slowly,” she reminded herself. “Slowly.”

    Her arm accepted her offering without question, and when she felt the plunger hit bottom she released her hand from the syringe. It dangled from her arm like a broken branch of a tree. Ella leaned back, her head rested against the wall behind her, an inner peace flowed throughout her body. She managed just the faintest smile.

    Her six year old daughter sat on the floor of their apartment looking at her, and held her teddy bear up. “Hey Momma, wanna play bears with me?” She saw her sister Anne boarding the bus with her, and she heard her sister say, “Emma, the city will be a good place for us – jobs, guys, we’ll have a blast.” Emma caught a glimpse of Frankie as he tied her off for the first time and said, “Baby, there ain’t nothing like this, nothing at all.” She heard the paramedic say, “Hurry up Charlie, we’re losing her.”

    Ella felt the presence of the angel who wrapped her arms around her lifeless body, and rose with her soul, above the street and the cars, over the buildings and the city, to the place where tears never fall.

    She heard a voice, without form, but with the love of the Universe say, “Hello Emma, welcome home.”

  3. Rubbing the small charm attached to her key ring with her back against the cool stone of the church Susan sucked in the night air like it was a cocktail. Tears tracked paths down her cheeks as she watched a young couple walk hand-in-hand in the grass. The girl, less than sixteen, with skinny jeans and flip-flops, the young man, holding her at the waist with his jeans bagging at the butt, thinking he was a gangster, laughed as they walked without noticing her in the shadows. It was nights like this, when sleep ran from her tired frame like frightened sheep, when she walked along the sidewalks and back alleys of the small town where everyone still whispered when she walked by, that the grief shadowed her like a starved dog waiting for her guard to be down before it pounced on her rotting flesh. The two kids made her reality worse as she watched their kisses in the street light, big light-crazed moths and May flies bounding and bumping up against the light pole in a flight of ecstasy above their heads, knowing one wrong flick of a rice-paper thin wing would be their last, but in their need, their addiction, they could not stop themselves just like the child-lovers she watched from the dark secret corner of the alcove.
    The walks did not work; she did not escape the disbelief. Anguish and horror of what she had done clung to her like hot tar and feathers and the scars it left bright beacons of incrimination which wrapped her soul with weariness. She prayed for God or Satan to come.
    “Take me, please.” She would say to no avail. “I am a coward and cannot do it.”
    She took the charm out. In the dim light, she could make out a faint outline of the photo in the childish grade-school Mother’s day frame. Handmade and written in indelible ink, one side said, “I love you, Mom,” the other a black and white photo of her namesake, her daughter Susie, with missing front teeth and a bow in her some-up, some-down hairstyle, faded from dangling on her key chain for twenty years.
    Arguing, “I don’t like this guy, he isn’t right for you.” Susan said, broaching the same touchy subject again that they talked about the last time they had lunch.
    “I don’t care, Mom,” she said accentuating Mom, “you aren’t going to be living with him. I am.”
    “Thanks exactly why I can’t stand it. He’s going to be living with you,” Susan said.
    Rolling her eyes, which was the indication that the conversation was just about over, Susie crossed her arms over her chest. “Can’t you give him a chance?”
    “I have, and he failed!” Susan said, clearing out the dregs of Merlot from the bottom of her glass.
    “Right!” Susie said and raised her hand in the air in the old “talk to the hand” gesture, because I’m done talking to you. “Let’s go.” She added gathering up her purse and pushing her sunglasses from her head down on the bridge of her nose.
    They drove without speaking, sitting at red-lights with silence between them, each mad, each unwilling to give in, mother and daughter at universal odds. Two blocks from home, Susan overcorrected into a street light. The cops saying she blew a 0.059, impaired and the passenger side of her Honda had evaporated like a morning dew lifting taking Susie with it.
    The two kids separated at the base of the light pole and holding hands they walked into the darkness.

  4. I caught the Ella / Emma faux paw after posting

  5. She was so stupid. How had she not seen it for what it was? She couldn’t go home to face her husband yet; he’d be furious. She would sit outside in the darkness of the church alcove for a while longer. She looked out to the buildings in the distance, their lights burning brightly, and wiped the shredded Kleenex she gripped in her hand over her swollen eyes. She hadn’t been able to stop crying since she figured it out. Maybe if the door to the church was open she’d go inside and pray. She needed all the help she could get.

    “Grandma, I’m in Canada and I’ve been arrested. I need you to wire money to me for bail. But please don’t tell Dad.”

    The telephone connection crackled. “Grandma, will you help me?” His voice was high and panicked.

    “What have you been arrested for, Josh?” Her only grandson lived with his dad across the country in Oregon. She hadn’t seen him since he started college two years ago.

    “They said they found drugs in the trunk of my car when they stopped me for going too fast. Grandma, I don’t do drugs and it was just 5 miles over the speed limit. I wasn’t paying attention.”

    She’d gone to the bank and wired $30,000 to her grandson in Canada. It was almost all they had in savings, but she had to help him. He promised she’d get it all back because the lawyer who was representing him told him he’d be able to get the charges dropped.

    After she had wired the money, she had second thoughts. Something just didn’t feel right. She called her son in Oregon and Josh answered the phone. “Canada? No Grandma. I’m home this weekend from college staying with dad.”

    She called the police and then Western Union. They took her information, but told her what she had already figured out. She’d given her money to a scam artist.

    Now she had to face her husband to tell him she had wired almost all of their savings to someone in Canada, and it was gone forever.

    She stood and walked to the door of the church. She’d go inside first and pray for some of that divine intervention.

    • This piece is so real to me, Parrot. My mom was the victim of scam artists using a slightly different scenario, but they took at least that much from her over decades (a little at first and much, much more near the end) until my sister and I found out about it. The worst part was we couldn’t get her to believe us that her ‘investments’ would never pay off. It was a struggle that lasted until her death. This kind of thing needs more coverage. Glad you wrote about it.

      • Barbara – I thought about what could make a woman my age cry by herself in an isolated place and listed several scenarios. This one bubbled to the top – maybe because I had just read about scams in the latest Consumer Reports. My heart goes out to the elderly especially, who get taken most often in these scams. I’m glad you had your mom’s back, even if she didn’t believe you. Thank God for daughters!

    • Great scenario and story. It wasn’t one I would have thought about since so often we write about relationships, life, and death. But money scams can sure result in high conflict. Well done!

  6. Earlier that day, Malinda accepted a job offer in Wisconsin. She wanted to be happy. After all, it’s what she’d worked for all her life. Unlike other computer programers, she had no desire to work in Silicon Valley. No, she wanted to make a difference, and she would be doing just that at Integra . True, the company was small, and her salary would be modest, but she assist in constructing the world’s first bionic eye. At first, she was excited. How could she not be? This was big!

    But by noon, reality hit her. She would have to pack her stuff, move cross country, and find a new place to live. Her cat wouldn’t like it, and neither would her boyfriend of two years. Joe had a life here in Tempha–his job, his friends, his family. Did he love her enough to move half way across the country with her, or would they have to break up?

    Suddenly, she was exhausted. She blew her nose one last time, and began walking home. She could have taken bus 32, but she needed the walk. She won’t tell him boyfriend about Wisconsin tonight, she decided. Instead, she’d eat her dinner and go to sleep early. Tomorrow, she’d deal with the fallout.

  7. Ugh. It needs editing. When am I going to learn to leave something be before I post it?

    Here’s the edited version:

    Earlier that day, Malinda accepted a job offer in Wisconsin. She was ecstatic–it was what she’d worked for all her life. Unlike other computer programers, she had no desire to work in Silicon Valley. No, she wanted to make a difference, and she would be doing just that at Integra. True, the company was small, and her salary would be modest, but she assist in constructing the world’s first bionic eye. At first, she was excited. How could she not be? This was big!

    But by noon, reality hit her. She would have to pack her stuff, move cross country, and find a new place to live. Her cat wouldn’t like it, and neither would her boyfriend of two years. Joe had a life here in Tempha–his job, his friends, his family. Did he love her enough to move half way across the country with her, or would they have to break up?

    Suddenly, she was exhausted. She blew her nose one last time, and began walking home. She could have taken bus 32, but she needed the walk. She won’t tell Joe Wisconsin tonight, she decided. Instead, she’d eat her dinner and turn in early. Tomorrow, she’d deal with the fallout.

  8. This a bit off-topic, but it is true and is why I would be sitting there crying.

    I was awakened yesterday by a most unwelcomed sound; my cell phone alerting me that my checking account had been overdrawn during the night. I knew that my balance was low, but I also knew that I had sufficient funds to cover my recent transactions. I signed into my online banking account and found out that a company that I’ve never heard of or done business with had presented a fraudulent check that caused my account go into the red.
    After talking with the fraud department at my bank, I spent the rest of the day freezing my accounts, opening a new account, changing the direct deposit information with Social Security Disability. I was furious, as there is little hope that I will be able to recover the lost funds.
    The Bible teaches us to pray for our enemies. I did just that. I prayed that the low-life crook was married to a harpy of a wife who will ride his sleazebag butt the rest of his days for only clearing $25.00 for his efforts. Not much pay for a day’s work. Perhaps he should consider a career change.
    I was reminded of a mandatory training session that my staff and I were forced to attend while I was in local government. The subject of the workshop was “What to do in case of a bomb threat.” Each attendee was given an instruction pamphlet that was to be kept by our phones in case we received a call from a terrorist or bomber. It was stressed that we were to remain calm while asking the perpetrator the following questions;
    What is your name?
    What does the bomb look like?
    Where did you place the bomb?
    When will the bomb explode?
    My only comment to the instructor of the session was…
    “Don’t you think a bomber who would answer any of these questions should find a different line of work?”

    • I have to hand it to you, Peanut. You can find humor in the worst situations. That simple phrase, “I spent the rest of the day…” is such an understatement. Life stopped completely while you took care of all that. Ugh ugh ugh! My simpathies.

      And all he got was $25? What a waste of a day for you. #$!+%#@&*!!

  9. Abby leans back against the rough stone of the alcove, pushing herself farther into the darkness. She pulls a tissue from her jeans pocket and wipes her sore, chapped nose. The tears start again.

    She slips her cell phone from her jacket pocket. It reads 10:26. Again. It’s been 10:25 for an hour, she thinks and shoves the phone in her pocket.

    She leans forward and scans the grounds in front of her. She lingers at every shadow, squints her eyes and focuses. On to the next shadow. Repeat.

    A dog barks incessantly at one of the houses on the far side of the grassy lawn that surrounds this cathedral, its noise covering any possible sound of approaching footfalls.

    She stands and rubs her eyes, pulls out the phone and checks. Still 10:26. She feels an urgent need for a bathroom but she doesn’t dare leave this spot. Again she scans the dark lawn, again lingering at the shadows. Nothing. There is no one moving.

    Still, she feels someone is watching her. She slips back into the alcove, relishing the darkness. It folds around her like a comforting coat of mail. She trembles, clenches her sphincter muscles and wills herself to think of anything other than her need.

    She thinks of Kenny, her beautiful blue-eyed four year old. He must be frightened beyond belief, she thinks and her eyes start stinging. No, no, she tells herself. Not again. I have to have a clear mind.

    She checks the time again. Finally it’s 10:27. Three minutes to go. Oh, my God, I hope he’s one time. She reaches inside her jacket to the chest pocket and feels the thick packet safe in the zippered pocket.

    “Do you have it?” She jumps at the sound of a man’s voice, the same one she’s heard on the telephone.

    “Yes,” she says, but even she can’t hear her voice. “Yes!”

    “All of it?”

    “Yes, all of it.”

    “Smart lady. Hand it over.”

    “No. I want to see Kenny first.” Her voice quavers and she hates that.

    “Lady, you’ll see your kid after I get the money. Not before.”

    “How can I be sure he’s still alive?”

    “What difference does it make? If he’s alive, you get him back. If he isn’t, you still get him back—just in a different condition. Makes no difference to me. Just give me the money and you’ll find out. Not before. It’s up to you, lady.”

  10. A ransom handoff! That’s another one I wouldn’t have thought of. Once again, you rise to the challenge and give us something very read-worthy.

  11. Tara’s unfocused stare scanned the grassy area between the buildings. She recalled the first sloppy kisses, urgent groping, fumbling with each other’s clothes and parts. It wasn’t the beautiful passionate act portrayed in movies but a hurried awkward display of young people eager for satisfaction. He had been her first and she his. Also the last for them both.

    She anguished over her decision to be with him. She knew it wouldn’t last. Now she was left with only regrets. She had stopped attending mass for some time now and went into seclusion. She prayed for absolution and release from her misery but none came.

    Tara’s nail beds whitened as she gripped the photo. She traced the almond shape of the girl’s blue eyes, “I miss you.”

    She heard the parishioners trickling from the church. “Good night, Father,” or “Your message hit home, Father,” or “Your words are always so comforting, Father.” She glared at them envious of the solace they found within the church’s walls and from the holy men within. She turned away, squeezed her eyes shut and swiped at the tears streaming down her cheeks. She sobbed then tensed when she felt a hand on her shoulder.

    She kept her head tilted downward and glimpsed a black garment floating above a pair of worn loafers. “Tara you can’t keep doing this. You need to move on.”

    He glimpsed the photo. Tears began to stream from his almond-shaped blue eyes. Tara released her hair from its binding, “That’s what I’ve decided to do.” Then she handed him her habit.

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