Pictures and scenery from years gone by flash before my eyes as I’m lying here on my deathbed. I’m simultaneously smiling and crying, wishing to be back in those memories as a more willing participant rather than just as a casual observer.
Who would have ever thought that the desire to experience those times again would creep into my psyche? Weren’t those experiences hard the first time? Now lying here, I realize accepting this unfulfilled life is much harder to endure than all the things I had to go through while I was still young or even middle-aged.
Before withering away to my end, I had only watched the days go by without me really participating in them or enjoying sharing good times with others. Now, it’s an even lonelier existence. A hospital bed and my dreams give me my only real comfort now; closing my eyes makes me an audience of one to my past.
I experience a rare joy when nurses or doctors come to call. I can smile a bit with them and forget the sadness I feel. Then they leave, and once again, I am by myself, alone with my physical pain and my emotional sorrow. The tears flow silently, streaking my face like tiny little rivers through the cracks of my aged appearance.
Looking up, the ceiling offers no hope for some sort of release. I find the only way to escape this dreary loneliness is to sleep and join those characters that brought me what was, in hindsight, the most joy throughout my life. Experiences that I didn’t really know how to appreciate or even understand at the time. Simple pleasures like just being with someone I cared about and truly enjoying the time spent together. Looking at the sunset and its beautiful shades of color as it dipped down below the tree line. Feeling the wind blowing and licking my skin with its light, feathery touch. The little tingles of love and appreciation I should have felt when my children looked at me adoringly. If only I had taken the time to really let all those good things resonate in me deeply. If only I had been an active participant in my life while I had the chance, then maybe the sadness now wouldn’t be so profoundly devastating.
I built a lifetime of feeling alone and preoccupied. Connecting to my existence, fully engulfing my experiences could have – oh, they would have – made for a richer takeaway than what I chose to be left with at that time. So now I’ll exit this world with only memories, their impact and meaning only now being revealed; a lesson of life learned much too late.
April short but mighty we have no peach flowers only ads promising youth Spring in the city without much ado we wait
August heavy like old carpet we have nothing to say watching her burn in metaphor of history our skin dry like sand
December mild like tea lights on palm trees snow on Hallmark cards Christ on Broadway no wisemen found nights are longer like our hunger
One Good Man
When I ran, I would run to MacArthur Park. At the foot of Downtown split into two by Wilshire Boulevard. When I was a little girl, my grandfather used to take me to MacArthur Park. And after we were done walking around feeding ducks, he would take me to Langer’s for a pastrami sandwich on rye with a kosher pickle. We did not talk much. In between searching his pockets for our bus transfers back home, Opa would pause, smile at the sky, pull the transfers from his coat pocket, and cup my chin with his left hand comforting me.
Chipped China cup with rubbed-off pale pink, lilac rosettes, and red hearts. Thin, tender green leaves on stems support the bouquet. Inside black coffee with molasses, lukewarm on the edge of cold. I relished flipping radio stations while blanking out my mind. Looking for a message from the great beyond, periodically a cricket or bird chirp would break the spell. Mattresses on sale, car insurance, KPFK Patty Hearst soundbites. The hardened rye toast on the table smelled familiar and a thick sadness overwhelmed me. No tears from downcast eyes. In the soul an increasing yearning for my mother’s voice.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, mb writes about the downtown urban life experience. Inspired by personal events, mental illness, and working with vulnerable communities. mb has been published by Indie Blu(e) Publishing, 2020 and 2021; The Short of It, 2020; Newington Blue Press, 2021; Prolific Pulse Press, 2021. Marisela’s piece, Fulfillment, featured in the first anthology – was selected for the Pushcart Prize.
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I want to thank my friend Chuck for reblogging some of my much earlier thoughts from my old blog – PhiloSusi. This piece from 2015 highlighted how far I’ve come since those years of my childhood but also what followed in the lessons I learned. I’m glad I went back and reread it. It reminds me how much my world has gotten better. With slight revisions, I hope you enjoy it.
When I look in the mirror now, I see the beauty within and on the surface of the creation, which was initially out of my hands.
It wasn’t always that way.
“You’re so fat.” “Can’t you be smarter?” “Just stop, I’ll do it. You’re doing it wrong!” “You’re not good enough!” “Why can’t you do better?” “Only angry people are crazy!” “No one will want to date you.” “You’re so stupid!” “Can’t you do anything right?”
The words were repeated often enough and fell easily into my psyche, stuck there for a long time.
I never realized when I was younger it was a sick and twisted game initiated by someone who was supposed to just love me. I didn’t know how to maneuver a win against someone I looked up to. The person who made me feel low and afraid to achieve had an agenda which my tender years didn’t understand. I was competition, which elevated her every time she uttered one of those statements. She, being the winner every time. Me, the loser.
Or so I thought.
Today I’m filled with confidence in my being, a fierce determination to exist exactly the way I want to be, have an appreciation for myself that was non-existent before, and hold the firm position that I am just right. My body image was extremely poor, and to this day, I don’t think I see what others do, but I’m probably three-quarters of the way there to loving my body exactly as it is.
I don’t need to compete with the ghost anymore. Who I am and how I look was already winning.