pink heart

Sitting below the stairs in that grey, cold, inhabitable space, Charlotte recalled the sense of peace and calmness the cramped and lifeless space brought to her so many years ago.  It all started when Charlotte was seven years old and out of nowhere the eruption would happen.  Her parents would be screaming at each other at the top of their lungs and Charlotte couldn’t decide which behavioural method of her parents she preferred; the yelling and screaming or the quiet as a mouse nonsense that seemed to go on for days disrupting the whole house and always left Charlotte feeling bad about herself.

On this day, her parents were yelling and screaming and Charlotte found herself at the back door.  She opened the door and slipped out into the beautiful sunlight as if she was entering another dimension.  Slowly she walked down the pathway, paying attention to every stepping stone she stepped on, careful to make sure her whole foot fit into each stone and every step was taken with a painstaking effort to ensure that she never stepped on the cracks, surely this would “break her mother’s back.”  She found herself around the side of the house staring at her feet as she stepped on each stepping stone when suddenly she heard “are you alright sweetie?”  Charlotte looked up to see her sweet neighbour, Mr. Brown, looking over the fence at her with such concern in his face.

Charlotte instantly felt grateful as she was sure he could hear the yelling and screaming coming out of the open windows of the house.  Thankfully she was standing at the garage side of the house where there were no windows and the yelling and screaming sounded as if the fight was coming from a far off location.   She gave Mr. Brown the biggest smile she could, looked at him straight in the eyes and as confident as a seven-year old could be, she said; “thank you for asking Mr. Brown, everything is good and will get better soon.”  “If you ever want to talk sweetie you just say so.”  Off she skipped away like she hadn’t a care in the world, all the while feeling the stare of Mr. Brown on her back and even though she was not looking at him, she knew he was shaking his head in disgust.  Her parents were always fighting and it was obvious he knew all about it and he was concerned for his little neighbour.  Charlotte would never in a million years betray her parents but she appreciated Mr. Brown’s concern and his gesture gave the situation some lightness.  At least he cared, her parents had no idea where she was and at this moment they didn’t care; they were consumed by anger and jealousy.

Down to the end of the house, across the driveway and up the walkway she found herself at the front door of the house.  What she was doing there she had no idea, the last place she wanted to be was inside that house.  In the moment she was standing there she saw her father near the front window and in a panic she ran up the steps and under the stairway where she sat amongst stones, spiders, ants and dust.  Charlotte closed her eyes and tried to remember when her parents weren’t fighting.  If they weren’t fighting then they weren’t talking to each other, she couldn’t remember if they were ever happy, did they ever smile?  Not really, they never smiled, both of them seemed miserable.  Sitting underneath the stairs Charlotte tried to think of happy thoughts and smile.  It was tough to do because in order for her to have happy thoughts she had to block out all the yelling and screaming.

Charlotte’s desire to be happy was far stronger than her desire to listen to her parents stupid fights.  She would close her eyes and think about the time her daddy took her to a farm in the country and let her ride a horse.  That day her dad had the biggest smile she had ever seen.  She grabbed hold of those reigns and kicked that horse to get him going like she was an old pro, problem was she had no idea what she was doing and that old horse took off with her on it.  She fell off that horse and Charlotte’s anger gave away to all caution when she walked straight up to that old horse grabbed those reigns and got right back on as if nothing happened.  When she glanced over at her father he was smiling from ear to ear.  In the car on the way home, her father told her he was so proud of her for being so strong and confident.

She never forgot that moment  and now siting under the stairs she tried to be so strong and confident.  Charlotte imagined herself riding a beautiful black horse, with a white diamond fluff of fur on the top of his head, up and down the beach staring at the ocean and feeling like she could hear God talking to her in the roar of the waves.  She imagined God was telling her “Charlotte, everything is going to be alright, just keep listening to the universe.”  Charlotte opened her eyes and there in front of her by her feet was a stick of pink chalk.  She must have missed it when she first crawled underneath the stairs.  Charlotte picked up the pink chalk and drew a giant heart in the slanted concrete where on the other side the staircase came down to the walkway that opened up to the driveway.  In the middle of the heart she wrote “Charlotte and love”, she then went over the top of those two words with the pink chalk over and over again.

Thirty years later Charlotte was driving down that old street with her husband and children.  Charlotte asked Steve to stop the car and she found herself standing at the front door in front of that staircase.  In the background she could hear Steve and the children yelling out the car window; “Charlotte, mom, what are you doing?”  Charlotte had learned many moons ago to block out noise she did not want to hear.

As if in a trance, she walked toward the side of that staircase and pushed her way past the overgrown bushes, that were  just little twigs thirty years earlier, ducked her head underneath that staircase and sat with her legs crossed as if she was seven years old again.  Staring at the slanted piece of concrete she could see the faint pink chalk writing shaped like a heart and in the centre she could make out “Charlotte and Love.”   Closing her eyes she pictured herself on that beautiful black horse with the white diamond fluff of fur on the top of his head riding down the beach and she took a deep breath to smell the salted air feeling the mist of the sea dripping down her forehead, arms and legs.  Charlotte’s Mother and father were long dead and sitting under that staircase looking at her chalked heart, “Charlotte and love” she had written so many years ago, she realized the survivor tactics she taught herself so long ago had many times saved her from herself over the years.

Opening her eyes she could hear Steve’s footsteps, sensing the motion of Steve pushing away the overgrown shrubs, she waited for him to look in and find her in that grey, cold inhabitable space.  “Should I ask what it is that you are doing and why you are sitting under this staircase with your legs crossed as if you are practicing Yoga moves?”  Charlotte made a move toward Steve and gave him a big kiss on the lips and said “no honey, just know that I love you and the children more than anything on this earth and that love sprouted from this grey, cold inhabitable space many years ago.”

Johanne Fraser


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs she stood on the edge of the bridge staring into the depth of her soul watching the swirls of waves crashing against the rocks  hundreds of feet below her, all she could feel was empty.  She felt numb from the horror of watching her whole life walk out the door on her two weeks ago.   A couple of weeks of hell she thought, two weeks of questioning everything, did she know? How could she not know?  All those nights Steve said he was working, going out with a few of the guys from work for a drink.   “We will make up for it baby, I promise.”   She believed him and now felt extremely naive and stupid for trusting him.   She was actually happy for him as he seemed happier than he’d been in a few years.  The last few years Steve and Nora’s marriage had lost its spark as Steve suffered from depression.  It can be exhausting living with someone who is mentally ill and she had been so strong for him, constantly trying to lift him up, making him feel good about himself, believing in him, helping him believe in himself.    Now Nora was starting to wonder if maybe she did too good of a job.  Lifted his ego right up, he started dressing better, taking care of himself, gaining confidence.  Shit, he was even singing and here she was thanking the good Lord for his intervention and helping Steve out of his dark days.   Little did she know that the devil was helping Steve out and sent a messenger by the name of Clarissa.  Clarissa worked for Steve, she was his assistant and took care of his every needs.  His every needs she thought, not just drafting his letters, answering his phone, getting his coffee but Clarissa took care of Steve’s needs in the bedroom as well.  The woman looked like she belonged in a brothel rather than an office.   Why couldn’t Steve see through her manipulative ways, the phony  laugh and flash of her eyes at every man she encountered? Nora saw through her immediately, but Steve thought she was wonderful, making his days brighter at work he’d say; apparently making his nights brighter as well.

Staring at those rocks so far below all Nora could think of was how much work she had done over the years, work in the house while Steve sat in a chair staring at the floor,  waitressing to make ends meet when Steve couldn’t work, keeping everyone happy, the children, Steve, the dog and the bloody cat.  She hated cats but Steve wanted the cat and Nora did her best to ignore the hideous creature.   All she’s ever done is give, give, give and give some more, not asking for anything back.  Nora never complained, she prided herself on being a good wife and a good mom.  So how is it possible that she is standing on this lonely bridge staring down at cold, dark, slimy rocks?  Nora felt completely defeated and she knew if she jumped not one person would care.  Steve can move ahead and spend his life with that bitch Clarissa.  Only two things pulled at her heart and those tugs were her children.  They could take care of themselves now as  they were 18 and 25.  Sarah had always been a sensitive little girl and she had grown into a highly intelligent sensitive young woman.     Keegan just wanted to be a little boy, always wanted to play and he’s still like that, with that charming boyish grin and the little mischievous look in his eyes.    Sarah had a year left to finish up her schooling and she was looking forward to living her dream as a veterinarian.   Keegan just finished high school and was finding his way into the work world.  Nora figured  she’d be  a burden to the children; worrying about her being lonely and if she had a enough money.   This was  not what she signed up for when she married Steve,  so she was going to end it right now while she still had the chance.  Any more numbness setting in and she wouldn’t be able to move.

“Hey lady, are you ok?”  Who the hell asks a lady about to jump off a bridge if she was ok?   She turned and saw a rather portly man with glasses, that were too round, dressed in overalls that were covered in paint.  Lady what the hell are you doing up there?  Nora just turned and totally ignored him.  Lady you’re going to fall and if you don’t fall you’re going to catch yourself some pneumonia.  Wow, bright this one is Nora thought.  Look mister, I just want to be left alone if you don’t mind, just go along your merry way and pretend you never saw me.  I don’t think so lady, you look like you’re having a real bad day and maybe you need a shoulder to cry on.  No thanks mister, I’ve done enough crying in these last two weeks for the both of us, I’m all dried out, got no more tears left.   Lady whatever this is about, it’s not worth jumping off this bridge for, what if you don’t die lady, you would be one mess, with a lot of broken bones, internal bleeding,  shoot you’d be in rehab forever and if you were ever able to walk again you would probably have steel bars in your body everywhere.   Talk about being in pain for the rest of your life; is that what you want to be a burden to everyone? Not to mention the people that gotta come rescue you, the firemen are probably enjoying themselves with a nice dinner right now and then you come and long and do this?  Gonna piss them off some lady, you ever think about that.

Nora couldn’t believe this idiot.  Mister do  I look like someone who really gives a rat’s ass about some fireman sitting down to eat his dinner?   Well maybe that’s your problem mam, you gotta start caring and stop being so self-centred.   Mister what are you doing here?  This bridge is closed, that’s why I’m standing here so I can be left alone from idiots like you.  Well mam, I was driving around the bend in that lower road over there and looked up and saw you, now that’s not a sight you see every day now is it, a woman standing on the edge of a bridge?  Figured I better be driving over here to see if I could just help out in some way lady.  Whatever is going on with your life is not that bad.  This time Nora snapped at the man, “what the hell would you know, you married mister?”  Yes mam I’m married and I’ll be happily married for the rest of my life because nobody can replace my Lilly.  She was the most beautiful person ever to be put on this earth.  Was, did you say was mister?  Yes mam, four years ago Lilly and I got to take the vacation we long dreamed about,  down to the Caribbean, took one of those fancy cruises where everything is done for ya; my poor Lilly was sick the whole time.  When we got home from that trip it turned out that my Lilly had ovarian cancer; stage 4 and the doctors told us there was nothing they could do.  My poor little Lilly died a month later, just like that she did.  Did you have any children?   No mam we could never have children, it was the one thing Lilly and I wanted, never could, so we just got busy being happy and grateful for the wonderful blessings we had in our life from our family and friends. We never had a sad day and my Lilly used to say “every day that we’re  not six feet under is a good day.”  Little did we know that we were not that far from one of us being six feet under.  So lady let me say this again, no matter what you got going on, it ain’t that bad.  Just come down from that bridge lady.  What do you say we go for a drink to discuss our problems.    I really don’t want to talk to you mister, it’s none of your business, you sound like a nice guy and all but just go back to your life and leave me alone.  Can’t do that lady, can’t walk away from here and leave you like this, even if you decide to jump, then know you have a friend here with you.

Hearing this man offer himself as a friend when she didn’t feel like she had a friend in the world and Steve was with Clarissa in some cheap hotel not caring one ounce how Nora was doing.  Something in this man’s gesture broke her and she blurted out;   “he left me, he’s screwing around with his assistant and now he says he loves her and wants to marry her;” Nora blurted out between sobs.  “I’ve worked so hard at our marriage for the last 28 years, pulled him out of depression, worked two jobs to help us get by and now he slaps me in the face by running off with that woman!”  Well mam if you ask me your husband is stupid, aint no where is he gonna find your kinda woman.  You’re a pretty lady, a dedicated wife and mother, he’s gonna find out the hard way that the woman he’s with ain’t got your class.  Lady he should be standing on this bridge regrettin what he’s done not you; you’ve done nothing wrong.  Come on lady, you get down from here, let me buy you a drink and then I’ll drive you home.   You seem like a nice guy and all, but how do I know you’re not some kind of psycho killer?  At this the portly man with the too round glasses started laughing uncontrollably.  Nora thought maybe he was little off his rocker.  “What is so funny mister?”  Well lady you just said the funniest thing, if I was a psycho killer and you want to kill yourself, we’d be the perfect match don’t ya think!   Nora thought about everything she’d been going through the last few years, the pain of the last two weeks and she realized how deranged she had become to be standing on this bridge contemplating jumping to her death.  The appearance of this stranger and her ridiculous statement of him being a possible psycho killer made her laugh and once she started she couldn’t stop, all the last two weeks of pain and hurt turned into hysterics.  The portly man came running over to her because he was afraid she was going to fall from the laughing.  Give me your hand and let me help you off the bridge.  Nora complied without incident, she was ready to get off of that cold and lonely bridge.   There they stood laughing and when the laughing subsided they stared at one another and Nora thought; two souls in the depth of such great pain came together to help each other out.  God was listening and this man was right; tragic things could happen and this wasn’t tragic.  Sad ending it was but not tragic.  Mam I would like to drive you home.  No mister, if you don’t mind walking me to my car, I’ll be alright.

An ironic thought occurred to Nora as they walked toward her car;  Steve would have snubbed this man, his appearance, his job.  Steve was always a snob that way; thought he was above the average worker and his attitude use to make Nora cringe because she was a big believer of people.   She really doubted Steve would have gone out of his way if he saw someone standing on a closed bridge and she doubted he would have offered his friendship to someone about to kill themselves. Small miracles she thought, God sent her a small miracle in this portly man with too round glasses dressed in dirty overalls.