Hope Is Just Another Rope.

This should be simple, right?

She Has Feelings, You Know?

Take Her Seriously.

Grace Land.

It Takes a Carload of Faith to Get by.

A sudden blast of cold night air whipped through the shelter that stood by the curb, bathed in the sterile glow of a street light that hummed atop a nearby pole. The gust swept a discarded Styrofoam cup into the air and caught it again and again as it skipped along the sidewalk; it lifted several pages of newspaper from the gutter and pasted them momentarily against the upright panel of plexiglass at the far end of the bench before lodging them permanently in the doorway of a darkened building.

The corner of 79th and South Boulevard was deserted.

The sound of music and people shouting briefly filled the night each time someone opened the door of the tavern halfway down the block. A squad car passed and disappeared out of sight. The short brunette adjusted the collar of her coat. She had caught the news on her break—the weather report said it would dip into the thirties overnight. “No lie,” she thought. Under her coat, she wore the blue smock she used at work. “One more layer won't hurt.” She was adjusting to the city faster than she imagined she would. This new life left a lot to be desired, but she knew that what it lacked was more than made up for by what if offered. Gas-N-Go turned out to be a decent job; they gave her a chance even though she hadn't worked in years. The manager even tried to work with her when she had the grand kids. Her relief had a habit of coming in late; she welcomed the extra pay, but it was pushing midnight by the time she was able to clock out. Now she wished she'd grabbed a coffee from the store on the way out. A small sign on the pole creaked in the wind. “MetroBus. Eastbound to Transit Center. Owl Service: midnight to six AM. Thank you for riding.” Owl Service—that meant the bus ran once an hour this time of night. After the most recent set of cutbacks, some routes didn't run at all past ten. Hands in pockets, she hunched in the corner of the shelter, trying to stay inconspicuous, keeping an eye out for trouble. Deep in a pocket of her coat, her right hand gently touched something that she took with her wherever she went. “My precious cargo” she called it. Her reminder. Her cherished memory. Her way to hold on.

Everything in life, the short brunette had a habit of saying, fell neatly into two categories. There were all the things you knew you could do and all the things you knew you couldn't. If you were honest with yourself, she insisted, you could tell where something fit without having to spend a lot of time thinking about it. You just knew. “Maybe this is wrong,” she sighed, “but it's so much easier this way. No use taking chances. No use making a fool out of yourself. No use letting others in on the big secret.”

In the parenting classes her oldest daughter had to take, they said that “win-win” solutions were the best. What planet were those folks living on? In the world she knew, win-win didn't exist. It was more like get screwed bad or get screwed worse. You just had to take it. You just had to shut up and catch your breath after he passed out, and his hands were off your neck. It was one hell of a trap, she told anyone who would listen, living with somebody who pissed on your dignity and integrity all night long, and then you had to clean it up and get the kids ready for school before the bus hit the corner at seven fifteen.

She didn't pretend to have answers, but she had a plan that got her through from day to day. Doctors hand out pills like candy nowadays, the good kind and the ones you agree to take to get them to give you the good kind. They helped, some. Weed helped too—she grew up in the seventies. What do you expect? Now and then she had to resort to other means to take her mind off of what it sooner or later returned to, but the wounds always healed and she never cut too deep.

A time came when none of it worked. There was something she couldn't get past, she couldn't get over or out of her head. “What do you do when it isn't your neck his hands are on, when it isn't your life that's up for grabs, or your sanity that's swirling down the drain? What do you do when it hits you where it hurts the most? What do you do when it smashes the last dream you had, when it puts you in that place you can't get out of, a place where Xanax doesn't cut it and a bag of weed, well, the days when that made a difference are long gone anyway. What do you do when the answer is out of the question, and the only solution you can think of is as big as the problem you're faced with? What do you do when there is nothing you can do except something that you've never done before?”

She still can't explain how she got from “no freakin' way” to “gotta give it a try”. There was no chorus of angels, no moment of inspiration, no stirring music to set the scene. She saw that when things got bad enough, you changed, that's all. Some folks did, anyway. Some did, and some didn't. She never felt that her life was worth it, worth taking risks for, worth making a real effort, but this was different. She knew that the neat little line she drew between what she could and couldn't do had a hole in it you could drive a bus through. She remembered saying it out loud even, with a clarity that startled her. “Like it or not, see it or not, believe it or not, there are times when you have to do something you've never done before. You don't know if you can, but you do know that you can't live with yourself if you don't try.” It sounded bold, but she knew bold had a way of crumbling fast when push came to shove. Especially when others were indifferent or against you.

This was how it started. Tammy, her youngest, called from North Carolina. Said her old man had started in on her “the way dad always did you…” She had known something was wrong for a while. “Looking back the signs were there of course. They always are. It’s just that you want to believe that somehow it will be different this time, just this once. You don’t want to know what you already know inside. You want to hold on to hope, for when that goes, anything is possible.” Her old man had started hitting her, making her do things for his friends. “The way dad always did you,” Tammy said. “The son-of-a-bitch! He got her good too. Far away. No money. Trapped. No way to send her anything. Asshole only gives me enough to pay the bills. Nothing extra. It’s about control you see. It’s always about control.”

Her car was on its last legs. Asshole—the one she married—made sure of that. (Every winter was a nightmare. She had to get a jump each time or it wouldn't start at all.) Still, she knew there was only one way she could get Tammy out of there, and that was to go and get her. “I ain't afraid of her husband,” she said. “He's a shit. Any man that hits a woman is a shit. A coward. Wears a freakin' uniform—but that doesn't make him a man. Nothing ever will.” At the time her daughter called, it was still warm out, hot actually. She knew the car would start. (Sometimes it took a few tries, but it started.)

There were other problems though. Gas money for one. She sold a few things—the sewing machine she found in the alley. She had plugged it in, and it worked. “Can you believe somebody threw out a perfectly good sewing machine?” She got twenty-five dollars for it. (She hadn't sewn anything since the kids were little. Hers seized up years ago.) She asked around and borrowed some money here and there. She knew this dude across town. Ran a bookstore. Sold TOPS rolling papers, bongs too. A real relic! She heard he was in the Air Force once, a long time ago. Now he was just an old guy with a gray beard. Reminded her of step dad number three. The Good One. Gray beard helped her out the time there was a fire in the crib, and she had to take the grand kids to a motel for a few nights. She told him what was going on with Tammy, and he gave her two C-Notes. Said, “Use it in good health.” “At least he didn't expect nothing in return,” she thought.

Driving cross country? Now that scared her. She'd never done that before. "Since asshole cut the internet and smashed the computer, I couldn’t even print out directions, but I'm not as dumb as they think I am.” She went to the library and got online. “Mapquest. Google maps. You name it. Its all there.” A little pop up window kept asking, “Do you want to book a hotel room?” “Yeah right,” she thought. “Like we'd ever have enough for that.” She knew they'd be lucky to have enough for cigarettes, soda, and chips. They? The short brunette knew she needed a partner for this mission. “Like I know a lot of people who can drop what they're doing and take off on a moment's notice. Like asshole would let me go with anybody who actually cared enough to get involved with this.” There weren't many to choose from. “Beth's got a new baby, and besides she doesn't drive. Teena's got four of her own and lives out of state. Mom? The though of mom and I cooped up in a car—not pretty. Besides mom's too busy. Never was much good at rescuing us. Usually the reverse. I remember the time child welfare took us for a year. She almost signed over custody. To this day, mom's still all about mom and only about mom.” That left Sis. “Don't get me wrong. This isn't about preferences; it's about being practical. The kids get their checks on the first; I knew Sis would have some cash. She drives. We get along. We have our differences—big ones—but we get along. Sometimes at least. I figured maybe this would be one of those times.”

The trip started out without a hitch. Well maybe a few, but nothing fatal. "We got a late start. Stopped in bass-ackward Arkansas. Makes Oklahoma look good by comparison. Rested a few hours. Saw the babies and Teena. Except the babies aren't babies anymore. Well one is, but the rest—I was more a mom to them than... let's just put it this way. Child welfare would have had them years ago. Their mom was too busy stripping and getting high and going from guy to guy. Familiar story, another mom I know did that for a while too—my whole freakin' childhood. We said goodbye and left the kids—God I hated that—and drove on to Memphis. Got there late. Sis got us a room. The first thing you have to know is Memphis at that time of the morning is no good, especially for two women alone in a beat up car. Neither of us realized exactly where we were, right there on Elvis Presley Blvd at the Motel Seven Inn. Yes Motel Seven. We barely made it out of the car and they were hollering at us, "Get your white Okie asses out of here." Wrong place, wrong time. Or wrong place, right time. Whatever. We got a room on the first floor facing the pool. Or rather the cement space where the pool used to be before it was filled in. The door wouldn't lock right, so we pushed a chair and a table and the nightstand up against it. That worked. But the window latch was missing, and anybody could just slide the window over and climb in. Shit. Neither one of us slept much. Too paranoid over the situation outside and in. Besides, there was a pair of athletes having a marathon session in the room directly above us. They were so loud I learned his name was Martin. Well, I think “more” was actually his first name because all we heard was "More Martin, more Martin." The noise lasted almost all night. Guess the Viagra finally wore off. Or Martin got tired too.

Sis insisted we couldn't leave Memphis without seeing Graceland. Tammy knew we were on the way, but nobody had a clue when we'd arrive. It was beginning to seem like "if" we'd arrive and not "when". Now Sis just had to see Graceland. Damn it! Argue with her? Arguments get out of hand too quick in this family. Things get said. Things get done. People get hurt and stay hurt. Some stand up; others get trampled. When I was sixteen a counselor said I was the "peacemaker." Later another said I had no self esteem. Off to Graceland we went.

Let me tell you what a racket Graceland turned out to be. There's no place to park if you're not taking the tour. Paid ten dollars at the Park & Rob and walked around just seeing what we could. Took some pictures. Laughed and talked. Had the kind of time we never had when we were young, the kind we should have had all along. It's not like a few hours makes up for anything—all the sadness and the bitterness, the times I couldn't rescue her, couldn't save her, because I was too defenseless to save myself. I still am mostly. I would have traded places with her a hundred times over if that kind of thing were even possible. I can still hear her crying at night even after all these years. It's all in my head I know. That was then, way back then. But at Graceland she seemed happy, the happiest I've seen her in years. That was worth so much. Racket or not, Graceland is beautiful even if you're not a big fan of the man. When you get there you can't help be converted in some way or another. Sis spent twelve bucks on a pic—the two of us with Elvis! (What else?) She said later that she "looked stupid" but I thought she looked great. You see, that's Sis. Always putting herself down, finding fault with herself even when there's no fault to be found, even in the middle of a beautiful day. Always finding something wrong. A reason not to believe. Guess that's me too. We missed the shuttle for the Sun Studios tour. It was time to go, and we both knew it. Sometimes you can be sad and happy at the same time. Happy because you feel close and connected. Sad because you know how fragile that is, how it never seems to last, how it slips away no matter what you do. This was one of those times.

Back in the car, we took a right out of the lot and a few blocks down there was a freakin' Piggly Wiggly! I couldn't believe it. Thought they had gone out of business years ago. It's been that long since I even heard the name. What a flood of memories! I learned a few things at a Piggly Wiggly—things good and bad. I first saw my first Libby's label at a Piggly Wiggly. I remember seeing the commercial on TV as a kid. Over and over again. "If it says Libby's, Libby's, Libby's on the label, label, label, you will like it, like it, like it on your table, table, table." I used to ask my grandma to sing that to me at bedtime, like a lullaby. I remember a fight my parents had at a Piggly Wiggly. It's not the fight that mattered so much—they fought everywhere anyway so this was nothing special. It was the Superman peanut butter—I sat in the basket eating it with my fingers right out of the jar. I was too big for the basket, but they put me in there to shut me up, to get me out of the way. I remember sitting in the darkest corner of the Piggly Wiggly parking lot, sitting on grandpa's lap, hands clutching the wheel, while he... Like I said—some good and some bad. The rest I shook off. It's funny how many thoughts a person can have in a matter of seconds. Just by turning down a block. Just by running into something from the past.

A few more blocks and the car sputters. Two more and it dies. Shit! Had to get it off the street before the cops came by. Expired tags. The last thing we needed. Now we were sunk. Did I mention this was a rescue mission? To get my youngest girl. Jerk off husband hitting her, worse things even. For weeks she kept saying, "Wait 'til I get some money" or this and that. Making excuses. Hemming and hawing. Finally she says, "Come now." I did not wait. Got all that I could together. Grabbed my Sis and got going before anybody could change her mind—including my daughter Tammy. How can a man say "I love you" and then do you like that? They had only gotten married the year before. Come to think of it that's about how long it took for mine to let loose too. How could Tammy even consider staying? I will never understand. I say I don't, but I guess I really do, after all I am nobody to talk. I have stayed with the mess I'm in for twenty three years now. I know perfectly well why you stay—I'm a freakin' expert on it. Some folks might say it's all just a big excuse, but I say "Walk a mile in my life. See how it feels. See how fast you look for the nearest exit, screaming 'Let me out of here!'. Then ask me again. Better yet, ask yourself what else is there?"

When the motor quit, we rolled to a stop in the middle of a block, not far from the entrance to a parking lot. I bet you never saw two chicks push a beat up Toyota out of the way as fast as we did! We looked around. The area was rough. Breakdowns don't always happen on the good side of the tracks. I'm not saying we are privileged or gorgeous or anything, but what do you expect happened next? They started crawling out of the woodwork. Two women alone. Out of state plates. Call me paranoid. Whatever. I've lived enough places to know what danger looks like. It's a gut feeling, and it's no stranger. You can imagine the kind that approached. The guy that reeks of beer and cigarettes who offered to tow it to his house. You can imagine how many stopped. We were an instant sensation. Me the short brunette. Sis the tall blond. Real out of place, and everybody knew it. Everybody had a different idea as to what's the matter with the car. Someone gave us a jump, but the car died when the cables were disconnected. All the while the questions kept coming. "Where you two honeys going?" "If I was your old man, I'd get you a fine ride." "Got anyone in town you can call?" "Do you party?" I started to dread the rest of the trip. Was this the cast of characters we'd run into every time we needed a jump? My nerves were raw enough already. It's not like I am a stranger to any of this. Had these feelings before; they are familiar enough. Finally, the car started and stayed running. We got back on the interstate. Signs and exits and light poles and rest stops and mile markers came and went. We made it to Birmingham, desperately needing gas but scared to stop.

We decided it was best to look for a well lit area with lots of traffic. Easier to get a jump if needed. We found one of those huge convenience-store-on-the-inside-gas-station-on-the-outside places. We knew we were on fumes, but we left the car running for fear that it wouldn't start again. Sis went in to pay. She came back with a look on her face. They could not break a hundred. Could not or would not, same difference. Fifty cars in the parking lot and they couldn't break a hundred. Fine. The clerk pointed her to a a variety store kitty cornered from the gas station. "Maxway," said the sign. Not looking good, A lot with weeds on one side and all the other stores on the block empty and dark. Some were boarded up. Sis stays with the car, and I cross the street. I went in, looking for something cheap to buy just to break the bill. Picture postcards? A shot glass? Then I realized how crowded the store was. "OK," I said. "Go ahead. Just get in and and get out. Head up. Scan place. Be polite. Fine. You can do this." I took a deep breath. Nerves were choking me. Mouth so dry, and I swear, heart beating so loud everyone could hear it. I watched the two ladies up front behind the registers. Left and right. Change in hands. Big smiles. Wham! My turn! I smiled. Gulped. Asked "How are you?" No answer. Her eyes didn't flinch. Rang me up. Curtly told me the amount. Slammed my change on the counter. Crossed her arms over her chest and took a step back. Said, "You all done girl, now git!" Didn't have to tell me twice. Left as fast as I could. Two guys outside started talking shit when I hit the sidewalk. There wasn't any traffic, so I dashed across the street. Found Sis. Then Sis says that the clerk in the gas station told her that we should have waited—she would have had enough to make change after a while. Nervous as hell I sent Sis back inside to pay and filled the tank. "Your turn to drive," I told her when she returned. As we were leaving this big dude comes up and pokes his head through my window calling me "baby" and telling me he wants to show us a "good time." So what does Sis do? Put the car in drive and get the hell out of there? No. She sits still and asks him "What did you say?" and "Who were you talking to?" If I could have slugged her I would have. "You gotta be kidding me," I yelled. "What the hell's wrong with you? Just hit the gas and get outta here!" It's moments like these that I feel so alone. Nobody's on your side. Even those who know what you've been through—because they've been through it too—turn out to be useless. I've never had a protector. Someone I could count on. Guess it's not gonna start now. Sis finally pulls out of the lot when she's good and ready. Do you ever wish you had a gun? Maybe it wouldn't be a good idea for someone with my temper and paranoia. But one thing's for sure. If every girl had a gun, there would be no disrespect. There would be no rape. There would be no harassment. There would be no wife beaters. None breathing anyway. Maybe, just maybe, somebody would finally understand.

The rest of trip was the same. I don't pray much. Don't know how to really. Not sure what I believe I'm praying to. Sometimes it boils down to just asking for help. I figure I've never gotten much of that, so asking for more than that would be pointless. If He can't even deliver the basics, what's He good for. Maybe that prayer stuff's just bogus. Maybe it really works. I dunno. Maybe its all just an accident. Mom had a kid by every freakin' man she was with. Once she said we were all just accidents. So if it counts as prayer, then, yes I prayed a whole bunch on this trip. I prayed the car would start again. I prayed we wouldn't get stranded or worse. I prayed we would get there, and my daughter would come with me like she said she would and not change her mind. I wonder if she stayed with the sorry bastard because of me, because of the example I set. I don't know the answer to that. I don't want to know. I prayed that she forgave me.

I knew one thing though. I knew when I got there I had to keep my cool. Inside I was hoping he would give me an excuse—just one, any one—one that made it worth the body cavity search and lice spray dunk and the time alone to relish snuffing out the life of someone who hurt one of my babies. Yes, I would go that far. Wouldn't you? Tammy made me promise not to. I promised so what could I do? If I am worth anything to anybody, let it be for keeping my word. Besides, the last thing I needed was someone like his stupid ass pointing the finger at me, making me out to be the bad one, the unstable one, the one who's out of control and needs help. Asshole always did that every time the cops showed up on the front porch—me with bruises all over, and they're asking me "Did you take your meds today?" I could see it happenning—getting Tased or Tasered or something by the cops. All because I am passionate about getting my hands on the throat of the man who beat my daughter black and blue.

I guess the good behavior fairy was on his side. We got there and he loaded up her meager belongings while I took a tour of the battlefield, their apartment. Cracks in the wall. Dents where he pushed her through it. Bruises on her arms and cheeks. Seriously felt sick when I saw that. Wanted to make him pay. Funny thing is he never denied it. Like he was proud of it or something. That stuff about how “he will pay in loneliness when she's gone” doesn't cut it with me. I want him to feel the same fear, the same pain, the same animal caught in a trap feeling just like she did. Just like I did. But I knew somewhere inside that if I started I might not be able to stop, and that is also something I didn't want my girl to see. I came to get her to help, so that she can smile again and breathe a deep breath and know she is OK and will never have to do this shit anymore.

No looking back. No goodbye. No second thoughts. No regrets. Thank you. Prayers answered. Thank you. Got back in the car—every muscle is screaming at me at the thought of hours of cramped driving. Thank you. Ease out of parking lot. Thank you. Look over to see my girl and know she is OK. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Tammy set the GPS she took from his truck, and off we went. laughing to ease the tension, music turned up, car seat dancing, out of tune singing—we felt like we might even pull this off. We felt we were going to make it. I needed to stretch and just close my eyes, unwind a little. Told Sis it was her turn to drive and crawled into the backseat. Fumbled around and found a roach in cellophane in my pocket. Glanced both ways as she pulled onto the highway and lit it up. Just a little one—good for three or four hits—all I needed to drift off for an hour. Woke up to sound of my Sis and daughter arguing about the next exit. Wiped the spit from the corner of my mouth and sipped my hot soda. Back hurt. Everything hurt. From the looks of it I would have to do the driving if we were going to get anywhere close to home. Before the next exit I gave Sis the tag team slap and back in the driver's seat I went. If only in real life it was this easy to get behind the wheel, to stay in the drivers seat. Something always gets in the way. Something or someone cons you or threatens you and you give in, for the last time of course. Always the last time. That's what you tell yourself. And back you go to being a spectator, a passenger, a bystander. A victim.

Started getting dark, and I am once again seeing shit. Car's chugging bad. My blonde Sisters idea? To pull into a rest stop and sleep a bit. "Hell no," I told her. There were some things I swore we were not going to do. Pull off on a side road looking for gas. Follow any road that leads to Camp anything. Stop and sleep at a deserted rest stop. Lots of horror movies start that way. Some porns do too. (With my luck it would be the horror movie scenario.) I figured "Follow these rules" and our chances of survival would be better. By then, the car was chugging so bad I guessed there was nothing I could do but let it sit for a while. That usually seemed to help. Pooling our money together we limped into a motel. The car chugged one more time and died. Exhausted, we got a room. Took quick showers. Had enough for one pop each from the machine on the landing. We knew there wasn't enough for something to eat, because we needed the rest for gas. Learned a long time ago that food wasn't always necessary. Going to bed hungry isn't so bad. As tired as I was, I couldn't sleep. So much was keeping me up What if the car didn't start? That meant having to call asshole to come rescue me. Made me laugh to think he could ever rescue me with all that he has done to me. I wanted to get an early enough start so I could stop and see Teena and the kids on the way back. I could do without Teena; it's the kids I missed so much, how they greeted me, how they made me feel. They always come running into the room. When they see me, they stop dead in their tracks and start squealing my name. They're as much mine as they are hers.

I slept three or four hours tops. Tossed and turned. Legs bothering me. Back hurting. Got up to wash my face. Continental breakfast wasn’t fit for a dog—stale cereal, mushy spots on the overripe bananas, undrinkable coffee. Back on the road, it started to rain. My situational Tourette's kicked in—I could feel it coming. Sometimes it gets the best of me. I get stressed. Anxious. Desperate. Angry. This was no exception. We made it to see my babies. They scream and squeal. Seeing them again made my day. But then that same happy and sad feeling came back, just like before we left Graceland. I knew a storm was due to blow in—the opening scene in my life—a storm blowing in and never leaving. We say all the sad goodbyes and promises to "see you soon" and "I love you". Back on the road, I prayed the car wouldn't give out. I hollered at traffic lights. I hollered at other drivers to move out of the way. I put it in neutral each time I had to stop and gunned the engine to keep it going. All sung out and danced out, we finally pass through the Gate of Hell—the sign said Welcome to Oklahoma, but we all knew what it meant. We had to stop for gas one last time. There was just enough left for McDonald's.

Sis and Tammy hit the bathroom. I stood and watched the teenagers behind the counter. Five minutes goes by, and they did not even acknowledge my presence. Am I invisible or just not worth the time of day? When Sis and Tammy reappeared, the little perky blonde with the pony tail and the fake smile says "Welcome to McDonald's. May I take your order please?" Maybe I'm over sensitive—I get pissed off easily. No, I get hurt easily. Pissed off is a reaction to that—the protector I never had. I guess he's been there all along. He isn't graceful. More like The Incredible Hulk than The Jolly Green Giant. He gets set on autopilot or something. Seek and destroy. And there's no reverse. One big red panic button like on the TV commercial. Instead of panic, it says "Rescue Me". No off button. No kill switch. People need to be careful which button they push.

They got Sis's order wrong, three times. When you say no tomato because you're allergic to tomatoes, then there should be no tomato. And watch where you put those hands! Don't tell me I didn't see what I saw. That's another thing I can't stand—being doubted, like I am stupid or blind or have no voice. That chick behind the counter needed a lesson in hygiene. A little dab of hand sanitizer ain't gonna cut it. Like I said, I learned a long time ago it isn't always necessary to eat. Before our dining experience was over, I talked to the manager. And the situational Tourette's mentioned earlier? It just popped right out no matter how hard I tried to hold it back. The last scene in our little story could have been better. I saw that after the fact, not in time to do anything different. What was priceless was seeing the fat girl at the drive through laughing at little Miss-Fake-Smile-And-No-Hygiene. Maybe my protector is big enough for two. Hell, maybe he's big enough for twenty.

Steering my car onto the highway, making my way back toward the hell that I call home seemed to drag and drag. I just wanted to click my heels three times and be done with it. With only an hour to go, I watched my girl drift off to sleep again. Sleep, baby girl. Sleep. I was proud of myself. That's not something I feel very often. I could probably count the times on one hand. I won a prize once in a sewing contest, a long, long time ago. I worked as a waitress for three years—was good at that. I rescued my little girl. I made a trip that was almost three thousand miles long and didn't lose it completely. I never thought I could do something like that. No one ever did it for me. I just wanted her to have a real chance, the chance I never got, a chance in life. So that history doesn't have to repeat itself. Not this time. Not if I could help it. Soon I was pulling into the driveway with my precious cargo. I knew I was strong enough to do this, and now she knew it too. They all did. I wanted her to feel something I never felt. I wanted her to know something I never knew. Just this—no matter how crazy things get and how desperate you feel, somebody loves you no matter what, and there is a reason to hope and a place called home. They say you can't give others something you never got. Love. Respect. Dignity. They're wrong. I just did.

I put the souvenirs on my shelf. The brochures of attractions that we didn't see, the postcards, the shot glass, and the pic of Sis and me. The trip was good for both of us. Now we have some good memories to bury some of the bad ones with. It won't solve everything. I know that, and I'm not getting my hopes up, not too high at least. But it could be the start of something. Who knows?

The sound of air brakes and a bus door opening startled the short brunette. “You coming honey?” said the driver. She climbed the steps and fished her bus pass out of her coat pocket. The driver nodded her past and closed the door. As she sat down she stared for a moment at the item she always carried with her. Her precious cargo fit nicely in the same transparent plastic pouch that held her bus pass. Forever near. Forever safe.

“In Loving Memory,” it read. “Tammy Lynn, taken from the world too soon...”

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Scar.

It Helps More Than It Hurts.

Twinkle, twinkle, little scar,
You are my Savior.
Yes, you are.
I cut a line so straight and thin
To feel the darkness flow from within.
The anger, the hurt, the feelings that smother,
The heartache, the failure,
The longing for mother.
Silent and certain, the blade is my friend,
You won't disappoint me,
On you I depend.
You keep my mask in place,
You keep me calm,
But inside,
I know that hope is a lie,
Like smiles on faces,
And love that is promised,
The memories of places,
And people who hurt me
And left me.
So twinkle, twinkle, little scar,
Save me from myself,
You have so far.
The cries of a child alone and afraid,
The years have changed nothing,
My needs are the same.
The echoes of screams, the slamming of doors,
I pray "Cut again..." before I go there once more.

This is what love is.  This is what love is for. This is what love is.  This is what love is for. This is what love is.  This is what love is for.

This is what love is. This is what love is for.