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A recurring dream: He is in some garden immemorial, colorless and long forsaken by its caretakers. He sits at the edge of a marble fountain. It is corroded from centuries of wind and rain, and the sludge within it, once freshwater, is now suffocated by a thousand withering leaves. There are no birds, no frogs, no butterflies, just him, a solitary wind, and the slow decay of what remains.
He waits. For what or whom, he cannot rightly guess. Here, time has made its pact with lethargy. The bat of an eyelash spans ten thousand years. Every breath, inhale, exhale. It is one life cycle made complete, another closer to eternal slumber. How many more cycles shall he pluck from the air before he is lulled into Death’s merciful embrace? Still, he waits.
A disturbance: There comes a hushed rustling in some nearby shrubbery. Waves of sound strain through the heaviness of the air, but in time, they are whispering in his ear like the voice of God. His gaze searches frantically, stumbling over root and vine in search of the source, in search of the divine who calls out to him. Where are you? Why do you hide?
An appearance: It is following an eternity that she finally emerges. She is, at first glance, no mightier than a faery, a dash of glitter which slips through the sun’s outstretched fingers. But as she falls to the ground, she takes root and begin to grow. A sprout, a sapling, and finally, a woman of unsurpassed beauty. Daughter of the sun, sister of the moon, a brilliant star wrenched from the sky’s cradle and brought into his undeserving midst. The white of her dress illuminates every neglected corner of the garden’s miserable confines, and clings to her body as a cool spring mist. The weeds cower and hurriedly shrink away from her gentle step. The flowers, long dead, now lift their weary heads to smile at her. The garden sighs in relief, for from its shoulders, she has alleviated its burden.
A reunion: She floats across the grass and take her rest at his side. Time throws off its shackles resolutely. Death shrivels up before her splendor. Through her, he takes back the present, that frame of existence which rightfully belongs to the living. It always has. The garden melts into an overwhelming green, the birdsong abounds, the frogs belch, and a swarm of butterflies graces the sky. He kisses your lips, and there upon them lingers the taste of fruit so sweetly redemptive. She is his Eden restored.
Bree gazed out the window in her living room, awaiting her sister Maeve’s arrival. She took a sip from her mug of tea, hoping it would warm her; you’d think she’d be used to fall on the east coast by now, considering she’d lived here her whole life. Her family owned the diner that served as the thriving hub of the small town’s rumor mill. Bree had spent more nights at The Bluebird than not over the last 15 years; the place felt like home to her more and more each day. The grease-stained walls in the kitchen, black and white checkered tiles on the floor, and vinyl booths in desperate need of a reupholster comforted her in a way her own home could no longer. They were familiar, warm, and welcoming. There was no sickness at the diner; no blood-spattered coughs either.
She took over The Bluebird temporarily when her father got sick, but for the last six months, it had been officially hers. It still felt surreal, although if she really thought about it, part of her always knew she’d end up wearing her father’s apron. She just didn’t expect it to happen so soon. Her father’s sickness had spread so quickly, she’d hardly had a chance to catch her breath. One day she found him doubled over in the kitchen, coughing uncontrollably; two months later, Maeve was insisting she should be able to sculpt his urn. She had taken a pottery class two summers ago, and just knew she’d be able to ‘capture his essence’. Whatever that meant.
With a shudder, Bree pulled her oversized cardigan tighter around herself. She glanced at the mug in her hands, the diner’s logo staring up at her. She couldn’t get away from that damn bird. It was a simple logo; the outline of a bluebird sitting perched atop the ‘D’ in ‘Diner’. I could change it now, she thought. The diner’s mine. Something more apropos…perhaps The Barnacle Diner? The Tortoise Diner? The Diner Where Nothing Ever Changes? She shrugged the thought aside; the town would all but revolt.
If she were completely honest with herself, as much as the diner felt like home, it also bored her. She pictured the regulars now, sitting at the counter in their usual spots. There was Dan (two eggs, over-medium, hash browns, bacon, sausage, black coffee) with his unpredictably predictable rotation of the same three stories. She could guess by the look on his face when he walked through the doors whether she was going to hear about the time he almost lost a finger at the steel mill, the time he caught his son and his friends sharing a couple beers they stole from his garage fridge, or the time he saw Richard Gere at the Sunoco off Highway 3. Dan occasionally brought along his wife Margie (short stack, side of bacon, coffee with cream and probably too much sugar, considering she was a diabetic). Margie was a Mary Kay lady and was always good for an underhanded compliment meant to convince Bree to buy whatever under-eye cream or concealer she was peddling that day. You’d be so much prettier if you tried just a little bit harder, Bree dear. This new shade of lipstick would perk your face right up!
Then there was Jake, oatmeal with blueberries, two slices of wheat bread, coffee with cream, who always sat as far from Dan and Margie as he could get, and who had never quite gotten over Maeve moving away. Jake, who had at one point settled for Bree. Jake, who broke Bree’s heart when she finally realized he still loved Maeve.
Maeve, who was everything Bree was not.
Maeve would swoop into their childhood home any minute now, smelling of lavender and lemon and happiness. Her curls would bounce right along with every step she took, as weightless and free as she was. Her smile would be wide and genuine, the result of a life spent in the pursuit of passion rather than a paycheck. Maeve left their hometown almost immediately after high school; she flew off to art school and flitted about from one place (and one man) to another, and recently had decided she was ready for motherhood. Maeve being Maeve, however, couldn’t just settle down with any one of the men she’d been with over the years. How traditional! How old-fashioned! How misogynistic!
Maeve told Bree she’d decided to do it on her own, and opted to choose a sperm donor from a catalog. Bree still couldn’t imagine Maeve a mother. She hoped, for the child’s sake, Maeve would at least wait until the child was grown before she decided she was tired of motherhood and move on to whatever sparked her interest next.
Their own mother died when the girls were sixteen and twelve, leaving their father alone to care for them and the diner. Bree went to work almost immediately, expecting Maeve to join them when she was old enough. Her father never felt she was old enough, however, and, looking back, Bree could see he had a point. While Bree was scrubbing tables and counting tips, Maeve was coercing their classmates into posing in odd costumes and locations around town, determined to become the next Annie Leibovitz. When that failed, she moved on to writing poetry, even hosting poetry readings in the diner on Friday nights. There were countless other pursuits…Maeve moved from project to project, and her father never had the heart to tell her to give it up. Fifteen years later and the pattern still continued: Bree left to do all of the work and Maeve free to do whatever she pleased.
Finally, she heard the sound of tires pulling into their long gravel driveway. Of course she would be late, Bree thought as she headed to greet her at the door. Maeve leaned in for a quick peck on the cheek. “I’m sorry I’m late! I stopped to photograph the trees off the highway and then I just HAD to have a cup of apple cider, so I drove around searching for an open stand. You know what it’s like!”
No, I don’t know what it’s like to be able to flit from one craving to the next, Bree thought, but she smiled carefully and replied, “I didn’t even notice! Come inside; you must be freezing.”
Bree went to the kitchen to fetch her sister a cup of tea and refresh her own. “I’m just going to the loo real quick,” Maeve sang down the hall. The loo? Bree wondered where (or from whom) she picked that up. Bree handed a steaming mug to Maeve as she floated back into the kitchen, hand resting atop her growing belly.
“I’ll be back in there again before long,” she joked as she sipped the tea. “Birdie loves to kick mama’s bladder.”
“Birdie? Is that what you’re naming her?”
“I thought it was fitting. You’ve got The Bluebird, and now I’ve got a little Birdie of my own.”
Bree forced a smile. She looked across the table at her sister, and wondered, not for the first time, how they could possibly have come from the same parents. It wasn’t just the physical traits, although those were astonishing enough: Maeve’s unruly curls to Bree’s sleek ponytail, Maeve’s freckles to Bree’s porcelain skin, Maeve’s wild green eyes to Bree’s brooding brown. They were opposites in every way, and yet they both grew up in this old, rickety house.
Surprisingly, pregnancy suited Maeve. She was wearing a cream bohemian top with brown leggings and boots, and as always, her bluebird necklace Dad had given her when she moved away. The necklace was pewter, nothing remarkable, but Bree found she could barely take her eyes off it. Maeve wore it now on a long chain, so that it rested just above her growing belly. This bird was mid-flight; wings spread as wide as they could be, ready to soar off as far as they would take the little bird.
She remembered the day their father had given her the necklace. It was early fall; Bree remembered it had just started to cool off in the afternoons a bit, the leaves were barely beginning change their hue. The three of them were at the bus stop, saying goodbye as Maeve left for art school, when their father pulled something out of his jacket pocket.
“This is for you, Maeve. Your mother would have wanted you girls to have it, and since you’re leaving, well, I just thought it might be nice for you to have a piece of her with you wherever you end up.” Bree knew right then she’d missed her chance; she’d never be able to leave now. Deep down they both knew only one of them could have ever left; they couldn’t both abandon their father. The problem lied in the fact that both sisters had just assumed they would be the one to leave, the one to follow her dreams. It’s too late, Bree thought as Maeve’s bus drove off, leaving her behind in a cloud of dust and forgotten daydreams.
“What have you been up to lately,” Maeve asked, startling Bree back to the present.
“Nothing out of the ordinary…just running the diner as usual. Business is starting to pick up a bit with the tourists coming in to see the leaves, but it’s mostly just the regular crowd.”
“You know, I think it’s so great you’ve got the diner. It must feel wonderful to have achieved that goal. Of course it’s terrible Dad is gone, but I think he’d be happy to see you so happy.”
Bree didn’t say anything. What could she say? If Maeve wanted to think she was happy, let her. Nothing would change if she knew the truth, if she knew that the only reason she stayed to run the diner was because Maeve had left her there.
“Have you eaten? I can make us something real quick. Little Birdie craving anything in particular?” She cringed inwardly a bit at the unfortunate name her poor niece had been given.
“Actually, I’m pretty tired. It was a long drive, you know? We have a full day tomorrow, don’t we?” Bree nodded. It had been six months since Dad had died, but he wanted the girls to spread his ashes up at Blue Hills when the leaves started to turn. The girls were heading up there in the morning to honor his last wish.
“Are you sure you’re going to be able to make the hike?” Bree wondered if she was going to end up having to do this alone, too.
“Oh I’ll be fine,” Maeve cooed. “As long as I can get a good night’s rest. I was at my friend’s art show until 2 last night, so I didn’t get much sleep. My room alright to crash in?”
“Yes of course. I made the bed for you earlier today.” Bree helped Maeve carry her bag upstairs, told her goodnight, and then headed into her own room. She wasn’t hungry either. She sunk into her armchair, tried to read her book (Colleen Hoover’s latest novel, which Margie had practically shoved into her hands last week), but after rereading the same paragraph three times, realized it was useless.
They were saying goodbye to their father tomorrow, and Maeve was acting like this was just another Sunday. Bree sighed. Of course this was different for her than for Bree. Monday morning, Maeve was going to head back to the city…away from this empty house full of memories, full of pain. She wasn’t the one who had cared for their father at the end; it was Bree who had wiped the blood from his lips, who had set up humidifiers and crocheted him blankets and made sure he stayed clean and comfortable in his last days. Maeve wasn’t trapped in this cage with the ghosts of their past; sleeping in the same room she had always slept in, pouring coffee for the same customers she had been for fifteen years. For her, it was one last weekend. One and done. One and gone.
Bree went to the bathroom the girls used to share to wash her face and get ready for bed. She paused at the door, remembering how Maeve used to hog all the hot water in the morning, and then bounce out of the bathroom, suffocating Bree with a cloud of steam when she finally opened the door. She splashed water on her face, avoiding her reflection in the mirror as she massaged her temples. She knew the dark circles and forehead creases were there; she didn’t need to look at them every day. She closed her eyes.
Her hands bumped against something as she reached for the towel and heard the sound of metal clanking against porcelain. Instinctively, she flattened her palm over the drain, stopping the long chain just in time. She pulled the chain up, knowing exactly what was at the end of it: the bluebird, seeming to fly forwards and backwards right there in the middle of her tiny bathroom. She hesitated, then undid the clasp. Reaching behind her neck, she refastened it and looked into the mirror.
She stared into her own eyes and barely recognized the woman looking back at her. How long had it been since she’d really looked at herself? She looked as tired as she felt, but somehow her eyes seemed brighter than she remembered, her wrinkles less pronounced. She reached up and pulled the ponytail holder out of her hair, running her fingers through the sleek strands and letting them fall loosely around her shoulders The pewter necklace impossibly complimented her premature grey hairs, making her feel regal and eclectic rather than worn and haggard. Somehow, this little necklace had made her feel alive again.
Bree tiptoed out of the bathroom and down the hall, hoping against all hope Maeve was asleep and wouldn’t catch her. She slowly opened the door and hopped down the steps, feeling like a teenager sneaking out to meet her boyfriend. Her heart a-flutter, she got into her car and started the engine. She drove down the driveway, still with no idea where she was heading. She kept her eyes straight ahead of her as she passed the diner; she knew that damn bird perched on the letter D would try to slow her down. She turned onto the highway, then the interstate, driving faster and faster, feeling her heart soar higher and higher with every mile. She smiled as she glimpsed the tiny lights of her town in the rearview mirror.
She knew full well she’d go back in the morning; she couldn’t abandon her father or his diner the way Maeve had. But tonight, oh tonight, she was free. Free to fly to wherever she wanted, to do whatever she wanted, to be with whomever she chose. This was her chance, and she wasn’t going to be left in the dust again.
Jazz music came from the radio
Its box placed onto the planks of a port in Moscow
By the pier shined a light
From a lamp post that showed the dark sea
Farther down, the sailors all stumbled into a bar
While the night echoed a lovely cry
A harmony of ecstatic cries
While a final note drifts from the radio
Eyes drifting silence shifting over the bar
Knuckles cracking smiles lacking in Moscow
American sailors stranded in an unfriendly sea
Scowls of native faces coming to light
The body language taunting yet obscured by light
Words slammed behind clenched teeth in the form of a cry
Bruised lips weep like the red sea
The fist shattered by like the cymbals from the jazz music on the radio
Creating a cacophony in Moscow
Bodies interlocked at attention in the bar
The entrance to the room barred
As other sailors broke the bottle of lite
Is this what it is like in Moscow?
Where winter winds can drown out a cry
And problems are catalyzed because jazz was on the radio
One sailor feeling lost at sea
Russia was not something to see too; it too fought back as you can see
Glass glittered the floor creating colored bars
That shimmered so elegantly he thought he could still hear jazz scatting on the radio
Breath staggered out so quickly his head felt light
A right hook made his eye swell and cry
He should’ve just finished his beloved Moscow; he should have gotten another assignment anywhere but in Moscow!
Instead, blows were reigning and Americans were ostracized in Moscow
The glances became the reagent that escalated within the bar’s sea
In the distance he heard the sea cry
It was filled with omnipotence bar
The sliver of moon that revealed a pale light
It superseded the radio
The tide swelled in Moscow and patterned itself after the bar
Causing the sea to present their chaos to light
Rash Russians and Americans echoed a cry as they became cemented to the waves
If only the jazz music never radioed in Moscow
Velvet paws on forest loam
Yellow eyes the forest roam
Mottled mask in harmony
With a coat of golden sheen
Darting eyes, prickling fur
Baring fangs in its purr
Queenly luster in its colors
More glorious than all others
Sultry ruler of the forest
Is the velvet-pawed tigress
Civil Rights Movement happened, yet we still fight to be civil.
I just hope we get to see the change soon and have society swivel.
Let’s continue to get involve and not send it like some drivel.
Let’s keep on fighting for what’s right and let the problems shrivel.
To start realizing it’s about the people and making difference in society.
And everything you do, you do it for your family.
To fight for our rights, our beliefs, and the civil of humanity.
The voice will never get heard, if we continue to speak quietly.
Let’s give a voice to the ones who don’t get heard.
They say let’s make change, but yet it’s been deferred.
We talk about the problem, but action is whats preferred.
It takes one to point out the issue, let the others be spurred.
“The power of the people is a lot stronger than the people in power.”
Let’s be honest and admit that the government knew about twin towers.
Like the Assassination of MLKJ, putting Ray “wanted” fliers.
Some Free Mason secrets, they’re careful on who gets hired.
Not to put their power in jeopardy and have minorities on higher.
Miracles happen in this world like concrete growing flowers.
Don’t make me mention that lending a hand costs nothing but time.
No matter your race and ethnicity, giving is no crime.
We need to stay together as one, don’t that sound divine.
Everybody help out your neighbors, let’s all make this climb.
From your hometown to the balcony of room 306.
“We should all overcome” have social construct fixed.
Don’t be fooled by fallacies and politics.
Black, Brown, and White skin, can all intermix.