When she finally stirred, light poured through the cheap blinds, draping the scratchy comforter on the hotel bed in even stripes of sunshine. Her head throbbed as the room spun around her. The stench of cheap bourbon and cigarettes hung in the air and mingled with something sweeter – like day old perfume or the lingering scent of shampoo on a pillow. It might have been mid-afternoon, but the clock next to the bed blinked 12:00 and gave no clues to the time of day.
Rolling onto her back and covering her head with a pillow, she groaned as snapshots of the night flashed in her head. A speakeasy with a password. A bartender with a crooked smile. And the darkest eyes she’d ever seen.
Trying to free herself from the memory of it all, she sprung up from the bed. Dropping two unsteady legs onto the floor and leaning on the doorway to the adjacent bathroom for support. She stumbled in, not quite willing to let go of the wall.
A shower. A shower would make her feel better. She turned on the water and sat dazed on the cool toilet seat as steam began to rise toward the hum of the fluorescent lights.
The water stung, pounding her shoulders in uneven bursts, but she didn’t budge as her wet skin turned pink in the heat. She looked unconvinced at the frail bar of cheap hotel soap. Surely it was going to take something much more substantial to wash it all away.
A good intention. A bad idea. A hotel with a room. A heart with a vacancy. And do not disturb. Do not disturb. Do not disturb.
But it was far too late for all that. She was more disturbed than ever before.
She tried to remember that saying about forbidden fruit, as she was fairly certain it would apply, but her mind was clouded and slow. All she could think of were the shape of the lips that bit into hers last night. The feeling of the tongue that swam inside her mouth. That made her body throb and her mind race. That made her want to somehow surrender and escape at the same time.
Stepping out of the shower she wrapped herself in a thin towel and avoided her reflection in the foggy mirror. She began piecing together her outfit, discarded haphazardly around the room. A black pump. A lacy bra. A braided gold hoop earring.
She spotted her top, halfway draped over the nightstand. As she grabbed it, a small piece of paper fluttered to the floor. Hesitantly, she bent down to retrieve it.
A receipt from the bar. With a note on the back in rushed red cursive.
We all make mistakes, love.
But please believe me when I tell you,
this is not one of them.
Weren’t we supposed to love each other? Weren’t we supposed to rub noses and dance in our underwear?
What happened to us? To forever and ever? To first and always? To brighter skies and better days?
We took turns tearing it down. Ripping apart the house that love built nail by nail. Shingle by shingle.
Maybe we were angry. Or lost. Maybe we were scared. Maybe we were even brave. But before we knew it, we were broken. We were broken beyond repair.
Scars grew around our wounds. Twisted like ivy. Heavy as an anchor. And so we sank together to the bottom of the sea.
At the end, I looked at you and us and yawned. I looked at the past and the future and winced. So I called you up. And I let you go.
Weren’t we supposed to love each other? We did. To rub noses and dance in our underwear? We did that too.
Then we lit our love on fire and watched it burn to the ground.
But from the ashes, something else grew. Not for us. No, no, no. We were long gone.
But among the wreckage and the mess, the smoke and the glowing embers, I learned a lot about love. I learned how to give. How to fall apart. How to hold back while still letting go. I learned love is neither a battle or a war. It does come easy. But it’s always hard work. I learned that even pain is beautiful. That the good memories are forever worth the bad.
There were six years. Many fights. Endless regrets. But I walked away with my heart in tact. And l have learned to love again.
Life was passing by much too fast. She was not making enough of each day. And their collective sums were lackluster and insignificant.
The sheer force of how fast each minute and day and week and month was sweeping by left her feeling shocked and choked.
Like the wind had been knocked out of her.
Like she couldn’t breathe.
But wanted to, more than anything else in the world.
Whoever said “actions speak louder than words” was not a writer.
I cannot overstate the importance of a moment. A brief hiatus to catch your breath. To let out a heavy sigh. To curl up in an oversized chair.
A moment with a fat round glass of red wine. A blank piece of paper and a favorite pen. A new page in a word document. A new font to go along with it.
A moment to gather your thoughts. To fumble through all the inspirations the day has gifted you. To jot down the starting points. The brilliant opening lines and character names. The underused words you stumbled upon like bacchanalia and davenport and euphonious.
A moment to capture all the details you can put to use. A short Brit with a lisp. A goldfish bowl filled with paper fortunes. A missing cat named Mosey. The sound of wiper blades on a dry windshield. A fleeting moment of déjà vu in the shower. A fading dream. A growing nightmare. An old email from when you first fell in love.
This will be the only time you have. To cater to your dream. To draft something delightful. To give yourself a chance.
You were meant to write the world a story. It’s time to create a moment for yourself.
On a record-breaking fiery day in early July, I came to the realization that I have a story to tell.
I will not take it to my grave. I’ll slit my wrist and let the words gush from my veins. I won’t stop until my body is bone dry. Until journals are busting at the seams. And cocktail napkins are wet with fresh ink. Until notebooks are overstuffed and bloated. And every last pencil is worn down to just a nub.
And this story, my story, is heard.