Love Will Break Your Heart

What’s wrong with the world is the romantic comedies, Aida thought.

She’d watched Moonstruck a million times. She loved when Ronnie said, “Love don’t make things nice. It breaks your heart. It ruins everything.” Because that’s what Aida thought about love. Of course, in the movie Ronnie and Loretta ended up together. It wasn’t like that in real life. Aida knew that much was true.

Gabe died on a Monday eighteen months before. He had been sick for years. And yet, Aida still thought about him all the time. In the shower, she washed her hair and had conversations with him. Shampoo. Gabe, I miss you, why’d you leave me? Rinse. Gabe’s answer: I didn’t have a choice. Conditioner. Come back to me. Rinse. Gabe’s answer: I can’t. Love will break your heart.

For a while, Aida thought she had gone crazy. And for a while, she thought maybe she was talking to herself. Then she started reading about telepathy. She and Gabe were connected by a string. String theory, she’d never learned that in college, but knew it didn’t involve talking to your dead boyfriend through your mind. Could you really have telepathy with someone who had already left the earth? Aida wasn’t so sure.

On a Friday night, she sat on her couch with a bowl of homemade popcorn, watching Moonstruck for the thousandth time.

“What I need is to break the connection,” she said aloud to her cat, Ringo, to the ghost of Gabe, and to Loretta on the T.V. screen.

In bed that night, she stared at the popcorn ceilings. She thought about how much Gabe hated those popcorn ceilings. We should smooth those down, he said. I don’t want a big project, she had said. Now his scorn of the popcorn ceilings blossomed in her heart. She thought of his face, the feel of his hands on her body, before he had left her. She imagined a silvery blue string, and she cut the string. She imagined him flying into outer space as if he were an astronaut free falling away from the spaceship, floating further and further into oblivion. As his face disappeared, she sobbed and cried herself to sleep.

She woke up looking at the popcorn ceilings, and promptly threw up, just barely making it to the bathroom in time. The scum on the toilet haunted her, but she didn’t have the energy to clean it. She crawled back into bed cocooning herself in the warmth of the comforter. Sometimes she thought she could smell Gave in the comforter still. Once she came across one of his half-eaten candy bars, hidden in the top of the kitchen cabinet, and she bit into it as if eating it could bring him back to her. That was when she first thought she was crazy.

She stayed in bed for three days, calling into work and working through delirium mixed with hysteria with a touch of vomit. On the fourth day, she woke up, showered, put on clothes, and pulled a brush through the rat’s nest that had become her hair. She drove over to the Home Depot on 51st Street and walked in. At first she didn’t know why she had driven there. It seemed as if some invisible force had led her to the Home-Do-It center.

“Hi, I’m Bryan, how can I help you?”

Bryan had sandy blonde hair, and blue eyes. He had a smile like Ronnie in Moonstruck. Aida smiled back at him.

“I need to get rid of my popcorn ceilings. Can you help me?”

“Sure, come with me.”

Aida opened her eyes and stared at the white expanse of smooth ceiling above her head. She turned over in her bed and put her arms around Bryan’s waist. He turned toward her, and he kissed her lips.

Thanks Gabe, for showing me how to wipe the slate clean, she thought, as she snuggled against Bryan and fell back into the arms of sleep.

Follow Lauren Greene:

Facebook: www.facebook.com\laurengreenewrites

Twitter: https://twitter.com/laurenegreene

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/109867402293227201728/posts

The Tree

Here’s another one from Chuck Wendig’s Terribleminds challenge of the week: write about a tree. I had a hard time with this, because I’m writing about a tree in my current novel. I wanted to share some of that novel, but I’m intent on having it published some day. At first, I thought I’d bypass this challenge, but this idea came to me. I hope you enjoy.

The Tree — 924 words. 

virginia-live-oak-440351_1920

Running. Feet pounding the ground. Ashton ended up where she always did, in front of the great big oak tree. The branches spread out like giants’ arms against the clear blue backdrop of the Southern sky. She placed her hand on the trunk and felt the warmth of the tree.

When she had been just a girl, her dad had strung a tire swing to the big horizontal branch. She had swung, laughing, and pushing her head back against the wind. She looked up at the green leaves as they danced in the sky. The tree held life. Her life, a memory of her fleeting childhood existence.

When she and Deke married, they took over the land. Then her dad got sick—lung cancer from too many cigs smoked as he herded cows into the dust. He held on for two weeks after the doctor diagnosed him. Ashton’s mom moved to the back room. She let Ashton, Deke, and their clan of little children take over the house. Ashton liked to listen to their bare feet on the wood floors. It reminded her of her childhood where there was always too much noise and clatter in the small farmhouse.

Ashton held her hands up to the tree. She rubbed the silkiness of the green leaves.


“You know, Ashton, this could all be yours one day,” her father had said, one day when he pushed her on the swing.

Ashton had laughed her high-pitched little girl laugh, tossing her blonde curls into the wind, feeling like she could fly away.

Her father stopped the swing. He kneeled down in front of her and took her small, soft hands into his rough, calloused ones. His blue eyes twinkled in the fading light of day. He smelled of Old Spice and cow manure, the smell of Ashton’s childhood.

“I mean it. You’re the one. This is the place.”

A rustle of wind blew through the tree, and it seemed to wave at Ashton. She looked up at the tree and could almost feel it wrapping its life-giving warmth around her. Her dad squeezed her hands, then hugged her. He started pushing the swing again.


“I want to put a tire swing up for the girls,” Ashton said.

“There?” Deke asked, pointing to the tree as they walked toward the wind.

The girls had stayed home with Ashton’s mom. The memorial service had been two weeks ago already. Ashton’s mom had taken to wearing only black and making pies: peach, apple, pecan. There were more pies than they could ever eat. The sting of Ashton’s father’s death still took her breath away. The tree gave her the air she needed to breathe again, to feel again.

“I was thinking about selling off this acreage to the Boyers’,” Deke said.

“Oh,” Ashton said. She looked at the tree, and it seemed to bow its head in sadness.

“We could make some money. Put it in a college fund for the girls. This farm just don’t produce as much as it used to.”

“You can’t.”

“Why can’t I?”

“Because that tree is important,” Ashton said, pointing to it. The tree seemed to stand up a little taller, the leaves danced against the bright light of the midday sun.

“Don’t be silly, Ashton.”

After dinner and the girls’ baths, Ashton sat in the living room with her mother while Deke read to the bouncing girls who had wired themselves up, slap-happy before bedtime. Ashton knitted while her mother ate a piece of peach pie a la mode. They conferred and agreed. Ashton kissed the urn on the mantle before heading off to bed.

The next morning, Ashton ran to the tree. Running made her feel so alive. She hugged it and swore it hugged her back.


“I met someone,” she said.

“Who?” her father asked.

She sat on the tire swing, holding the worn ropes, her keds firmly planted in the dip her bare childhood feet had made on the ground.

“His name is Deke Malloy.”

“Irish, is he?” her father had joked.

Ashton, in the full throes of adolescence, rolled her eyes.

“I think I’m in love, Dad.”

Her father smiled, held her hands, and gave her a kiss on the forehead.

“I think it’s about time we took down the tire swing,” he said.

“Oh Daddy, I love this old thing.”

They both looked up into the branches of the old oak tree. It had seen so much on this land for the last hundred years, so many people coming and going. Ashton could feel its spirit. The next day, Ashton’s father removed the tire swing. Five years later, Ashton and Deke married.


In the afternoon, they all dressed up. Ashton and her mother wore blue, the color of the sky, and her father’s favorite.

“I guess I didn’t realize how important the tree was to you,” Deke said.

Ashton’s mom held her hand. The little girls followed along, picking daisies they would later make daisy chains with. Ashton could almost see the outline of the tire swing. She looked at the tree, and she thought she saw her dad there waving at her. She smiled, and held up her hand. The tree waved back.

Under the tree’s shade, she and her mom struggled to open the urn.

“Ashes to ashes and dust to dust,” Ashton said.

She poured her father’s ashes into the dip her childhood feet had made. The leaves of the tree waved in the wind, and the ashes swirled a little then settled into dust. Ashton smiled, imagining her daddy standing there, her hand securely in his. She put her arms around her mother’s waist and around Deke’s squeezing them close to her and looking at the wonder of an old oak tree.

“Now about that tire swing…”

Follow Lauren Greene:

Facebook: www.facebook.com\laurengreenewrites

Twitter: https://twitter.com/laurenegreene

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/109867402293227201728/posts

Reflections on Death and Life

Recently I read an article about the importance of “me” time in everyone’s life. I also read an article about the importance of silence. I’ve been doing a lot of heavy thinking lately. I had a friend die suddenly about two weeks ago, and let’s face it when shocking events take place in our life it makes us look more closely at how we’re living.

I had a conversation with a co-worker at work about how I like to lock myself in the bathroom, take a bath, and read a book. This co-worker could not believe it, and it became the butt of all her jokes in regards to me. She’s probably reading this blog right now. But it griped me. Not because I don’t think I deserve the me-time (I do, and so do you), but because there is this perception in the United States that people don’t need, don’t deserve, or simply don’t have time for me-time. Well, this my friend, is a mistake, or even a travesty. Everyone needs alone time. Everyone needs me time. Everyone needs time to recharge. It doesn’t matter if you’re a working mother of three like me, a single parent, a non-parent, a man or woman. It’s simply a biological necessity. It’s as essential to humans as touch and love, but it’s something that we do not make time for in our chaotic world.

We’re constantly bombarded by information: cell phones, people, activities, kids. And because of that, sometimes we forget that we are connected human beings. When we feel overwhelmed or tired the best thing we can do for ourselves is stop and reflect. Stop and enjoy a little bit of solitude. Look for the inner peace that can keep us going.

Since my friend died I’ve been thinking a lot about the way we live. Our family lives are dictated by schedules and technology. I sit on the couch in the evening, and my kids stare at a television or their own handheld gadget. I write in the morning or at night, making the computer one of the main gadgets in my life. But we’re missing out on a huge part of human connection. As a mother, I want my children to remember that I took time to play UNO with them. I want them to remember that I laughed with them…and cried with them. I want them to remember my presence in their life, not that I was always staring at my phone, my computer, or that I was too busy to spend time with them.

The way I can best be there for my children is to be there for myself. I know that I don’t have a traditional family life. My husband works from home, so he’s capable of making dinner and picking up the kids, dealing with homework and doing most of the “traditional” housewife jobs. Since my job is away from home, I come home and get to be the “fun” parent, traditionally assigned to the “Dad” role. My husband and I both value our alone time, our rest and recoup time, as a time that we can sort out our feelings on life and come back to our children more well-prepared to handle them and all their idiosyncrasies.

As I process the emotions regarding my friend’s life and death, and help his wife—one of my good friends—find her new normal, I need my silence. I need the time in the evening when I lie in bed and try to figure it all out. Some people can put all their faith in God. But in times like this questions arise. Silence helps me sort through those tough questions. My alone time helps me come to terms with decisions I’ve made in the past and what decisions I need to make in the future. We all have a finite time on this earth, and we don’t know when our time is up. I want to live my life the best way possible and leave an impression on my children that I was there for them, because we never know when our time is up.

Follow Lauren Greene:

Facebook: www.facebook.com\laurengreenewrites

Twitter: https://twitter.com/laurenegreene

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/109867402293227201728/posts

 

Memories of Ed

This morning, I put in a Violent Femmes CD on the way to work. The only one I own. It is the self-titled album. I hadn’t listened to this album in years. It reminds me of Ed who I knew from church and then high school. Then he was simply gone.

When I was a kid I went to Holy Comforter, an Episcopal Church in Montgomery, Alabama. It’s still there. There were a ton of kids and one of those kids was a guy named Ed Pradot. He became my friend as we moved from children to the awkward pre-teen years and started participating in the youth program called EYC (Episcopal Young Churchpeople). We spent time at lock-ins together, playing BINGO in the church cafeteria, and stumbled through our developmental and adolescent years together.

I knew Ed pretty much my whole life. He had fluffy blonde hair, and a huge magnanimous personality. He was a grade below me in school, but that didn’t affect our friendship. One summer, our EYC group went down to Orange Beach for the weekend. Ed and I were in the back of a car with a girl named Deidra, and he put in the Violent Femmes CD. We sang the songs all the way down to Orange Beach (church appropriateness = questionable). That night, we decided we’d stay up all night: Ed, Deidra, and I. And we made it too. Only, we were too tired to go to the beach and slept through all of the next day. I think we made it down to the beach for about thirty minutes before sundown the following night. But we didn’t think the time had been wasted. We were young, and we’d stayed up through the whole night so we could talk, bond, and learn how to grow up and become adults.

Later, when I was in 11th grade, I transferred to the Catholic school in town. Ed went there, and we ended up in some classes together. Then we started carpooling. I picked him up every morning and we talked all the way to school.We often stopped at a Spectrum gas station on the Eastern Boulevard to get candy and junk for our day. We were such good friends, but nothing more. I never had thoughts of him as more than a friend, but I’ll never know whether he wanted more. It wasn’t something we discussed, but it wasn’t something I questioned either.

On one of these morning trips, Ed did not seem himself. I asked him about his history test, and he told me he didn’t have one. He stated he had a science test, but I knew that wasn’t true because we had discussed it the night before on our way home. I had also told him how in Health class we learned that when someone has a seizure you don’t put anything in their mouth. Instead you wait it out, and then sweep out their mouth afterwards to make sure they have a clear airway.

That morning, I had made it to the intersection of McGehee Rd and Troy Hwy and was about to turn onto Eastern Blvd, when he started having a seizure. I thought he was messing with me.

“Oh, c’mon Ed. I know you’re faking it, trying to see what I’m going to do.” I patted him, trying to get him to stop, but he continued seizing. His head hit up against the window of my Supra Celica. I learned at this particular moment in my life that I’m horrible in emergencies. I was at a stop light, and I beeped my horn trying to get people to move. I rolled down my windows and yelled that my friend was having a seizure. No one moved. And finally, after what seemed like an eternity the light changed. Ed was seizing still—I think. I drove like a bat out of hell to the Spectrum station. I left the car running, made sure that Ed was okay, and ran into the store.

Inside, I said, “My friend is having a seizure in the car. Call 911.” Six shocked faces turned to look at me, and six shocked people dropped their morning snacks and ran out to help me. Ed had stopped seizing by then, and the attendant called 911. A nice man straightened him up in the seat and swept his mouth. He was bleeding, because he’d bit his tongue. A nice woman held me, comforted me and told me Ed was going to be alright. I called Ed’s mom, but she didn’t arrive until after the ambulance had already loaded Ed into the back and taken off. The ambulance driver told me where they were taking him, and I relayed the information to his mother.

She said, “He’s never had a seizure before.”

I just shook, barely able to speak. Then I got in my car and drove to school. I attempted to take my Religion test, but Mrs. Toner my religion teacher walked me to the office, called my mom and sent me home. I was so shaken up.

Ed recovered. He told me the last thing he remembered was getting in the car, and then it was a blank, like he didn’t even exist until he woke up in the hospital feeling so tired with his tongue completely bitten through. He didn’t even remember the conversation we had that morning in the car.

Unfortunately, when I went to college Ed and I lost touch. And the summer before I went back for my sophomore year I thought about him. I called his house, but his little brother told me he was staying with his dad that summer. When I asked for the number, the little brother told me he didn’t have it.

A few months later, sitting in my dorm room at American University, I received a call from my childhood friend Hillary. She was sobbing. “Ed got hit by a car, Lauren. He was crossing the road. He’s dead.”

I was shocked. Because he had such a big personality that it didn’t seem possible his life could be snuffed out just like that. And I didn’t get to say goodbye. I wanted to see him that summer before my sophomore year and talk to him, pal around, and just be Lauren and Ed, but it never happened. My parents were in London when I received the call, and so I didn’t have the money to fly home from Washington D.C. to Alabama. I called my brother and sobbed on the phone to him. I felt life was unfair. I’d lost two friends at young ages by this time, and I just didn’t understand how that could happen. It took me a long time to wrap my head around losing Ed. More than anything, I wish I had insisted on getting his phone number from his brother and having one last conversation with him before he left this world.

Today in the car, listening to the Violent Femmes all the memories of Ed popped up making him feel alive again. I could see his kind eyes, his funny, fluffy hair, and the smile he always wore. I remembered all the nights we’d hung out together at EYC. I remember how loving and caring he was, and I’ll always treasure those moments I had with him, even though they were too few.

Follow Lauren Greene:

Facebook: www.facebook.com\laurengreenewrites

Twitter: https://twitter.com/laurenegreene

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/109867402293227201728/posts

 

Now…or Later

I met a woman over the weekend at a book club who had the gift for gab. She told me she had written a children’s book and four memoirs. She has this exuberant personality, go-getter attitude, and incredible energy. We went to lunch yesterday. This woman is in her 80s, and she wanted me to put some information together for her so she could try to have her non-fiction children’s book published. Talk about living your dreams at any age.

I’ve had a hard time lately, thinking I’m running out of time to become a serious writer. And I think this woman was sent to me to remind me that as long as I’m motivated I can achieve my dreams. She has done so much with her life, because she went for it when the time came. And she said something to me yesterday that made so much sense too. We were talking about my fear to speak in big groups, and she said, “Let the butterflies in your stomach drive you, because they’re energy. Don’t let them turn into anxiety that holds you back.” I think this can be applied to other situations. Often in writing, us authors get caught up in the thought of someone reading and critiquing our work. We get caught up in thinking about rejection after rejection from agents.We let these anxieties hold us back. We need to use our creative energy to propel us through that and not let the anxiety rein us in.

What drives you forward? What are some ways you can achieve your dreams?

And as a completely unrelated aside. Here’s a tribute to my dog Beasley who is being euthanized today. 14 1/2 years old. He was a wonderful Beagle pup we retrieved in the country of Maryland from a breeder who said he was defective because of an overbite. He lived with us for 5 years, and then resided with my parents when Rob and I moved to Montgomery and had to live in an apartment. He was always happy, smiling, and there never was a tail that wagged more. My mom fixed him some pizza in the Cuisinart last night, and he went to town. He has cancer, is blind, and deaf, and has started walking into walls, and acting like he doesn’t know where he is. So we know it’s time. Here’s to a sweet old dog as he travels across the rainbow bridge.

Beasley

Beasley – younger days

Follow Lauren Greene:

Facebook: www.facebook.com\laurengreenewrites

Twitter: https://twitter.com/laurenegreene

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/109867402293227201728/posts

 

 

Live Life to the Fullest

My car has been covered in pollen for the last week. I’m happy my doctor put me on Singular last week, because I haven’t had one headache. I’m feeling a little down today, because over the last few weeks several people I’ve known have died. People who died who shouldn’t have. Or people who died suddenly.

I love the spring time, because it’s a time of rebirth. And when I’m feeling the impermanence of life it makes me feel better when I see trees sprouting green leaves, flowers blooming, and even the pollen on my car. Spring, to me, always seems like the world is opening up to possibilities, giving birth to a new cycle of life.

Every day we have a choice in how we live our life. We can live our life in the past, hemming and hawing over things we cannot change. Or we can have anxiety about the future. But living in the present, being fully there for every moment is what we should strive for, even though it can be so hard to do. When we live in the present, we feel the most alive. When we find awe in everyday occurrences, look for the best in others our lives take on an intangible quality of happiness, pureness, excitement, but mostly contentedness.

The other day, I brought a magazine of bathing suits home to show my daughter. She’s five. She has enormous blue eyes and a smile that can light up any room. I fret over how she’s growing older, because I loved the baby days. I know she will grow up and become an intelligent, beautiful young woman, and she will no longer climb into my bed in the middle of the night, no longer cling to my neck with her dirty five-year-old hands, or look for my lap first thing in the morning. I try to be there for her, but as everyone know parenting is not easy in the busy world we live in.

But this particular day, I opened the magazine, and her eyes glinted with excitement. She pointed and said, with genuine excitement, “Oh my gosh. I love that bathing suit. It’s beautiful!” Her voice wavered at the excitement. And I thought, wow, she has such a lust and love for life. She’s only had five years of experience, and she makes the most of every moment because things to her are so vivid and new in her limited scope of experience. And that’s the kind of awe I’m talking about. A zest for life. The expression on her face that says she’s truly living in the moment, truly eating up what she’s experiencing. Wouldn’t it be great if most adults could do this too, instead of just going through the motions?

Children have a way of seeing the world that adults don’t. They see a sunrise and exclaim, “It’s so beautiful.” “That’s amazing.” They are in awe of the world. Awe-inspiring events happen every day. Don’t lose your awe. Look at the sunrise, think and reflect on the beauty, and live in the present for a happy, fulfilling life.

DSCN0296

Follow Lauren Greene:

Facebook: www.facebook.com\laurengreenewrites

Twitter: https://twitter.com/laurenegreene

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/109867402293227201728/posts

Salvation

Today I wrote for Mid-Week Blues-Buster. I skipped this one last week, because I just had so much going on. But I love Johnny Cash, and I couldn’t pass up a chance to let his music inspire me.  Today’s MWBB was inspired by the song, “Ain’t No Grave,” by Johnny Cash.

Salvation
@laurenegreene
618 words
The worms of cancer had spread through Dad’s body, wriggling their way through his intestines and then up to his brain before he even knew they existed. Simon said Mom fainted when the doctor gave him three weeks.

“Hell, three weeks and I’ll be up dancing a jig,” Dad said.

But, of course, he wasn’t. Hospice came with a hospital bed, and they set it up in the guest room. And a week later I took leave from work, and traveled the five hours to the town that held remnants of my childhood. I fell into my twin bed at midnight and turned out the lamp still adorned with a pink shade.  I dreamt about the bullies who used to live next door. I woke up with tears in my eyes, after dreaming about how Dad used to take Simon and me to get ice cream every Sunday after church.

As the colors of dawn were spreading through the sky, I tiptoed to my father’s room like a child just woken from a nightmare. Simon was sitting on the edge of Dad’s bed, and he turned and looked at me with a grimace on his face.

“The nurse had to go to the bathroom.”

“What’s the song?”

“Ain’t No Grave by Johnny Cash. Dad’s playing it on repeat. I guess he wants to be a zombie or something.”

I laughed at my little brother, and came up to sit next to him on my Dad’s bed. I glanced over at Dad’s sallow cheeks, and listened to his raspy breathing, noticing how his chest was still rising and falling like the waves of the ocean just outside our front door. He was asleep and soon he’d be asleep forever.

“The song’s about salvation. Dad wants Jesus to meet him in heaven.”

“The song’s about someone wanting to live forever. Big headed and all that,” Simon said.

Tears sprang to his eyes, and I wrapped my arms around him. We sat huddled together on the side of the bed as Dad’s breathing rattled on, listening to make sure it didn’t stop. The nurse came back in, and she nodded at us then parked herself in the corner chair with her knitting needles.

“How’s Mom taking it?”

“Best she can. She thought there would be more time.”

“Don’t we always?”

“The nurse,” Simon said, nodding toward the woman in the corner, “said it would be soon. He’s not doing well.”

“So no jig dancing for him?”

Simon laughed and we hugged each other harder. Silence descended on the room, as we sat there listening to the clock tick through the early morning. The birds came out and began singing their songs of spring. Dad opened his eyes.

“My little girl.”

I scooted toward him. He wrapped his bone thin arms around me, and I let him hold me. I stopped crying and pulled away.

“Remember that time you took Simon and I down to Cheaha to spend the night. Mom refused to come. It rained all weekend, and we were miserable, but you were intent on staying. You wanted to show her all the fun memories we were making?”

We talked all morning about memories from our youth. “Ain’t No Grave” played in the background of our words. Dad asked Mom to read John 3:16 from the Bible.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

“That’s what the song means,” Dad said to Simon and me. “No need to fight about it.”

Then he turned his face away from us, looked at the white wall, and the rise and fall of his chest ceased.