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I kept my feelings locked up,
In letters.
Imprisoned by words.
Controlled by a choked up pen and a tear stained page.
Because I was afraid
I was afraid.
What others might think.
What others might say.
What others might not say.

In reflection,
My life was lived through fear.
Ruled by a tyrant with an iron fist.
But anyone can acknowledge
Their mistake.
How was I to move past fear?
To scale the walls that had protected me.
Made of bricks that I laid myself.
That I mortared together with animus
To keep everything out
To keep me safe.

But I started my ascent
Climbing brick by brick.
Passing one scribed with "Sarcasm"
Another etched with "Solitude"
And as I progressed
I passed others named,
"Laughter," "Humor," and "Feigned Interest."
Each one placed by my hands.
Each one now beneath me.
As I reached the summit of my wall.

Now was the difficulty.
Now this was my decision.
Pressure resting on me.
The effort it had taken to scale this brick fortress.
Was it in vain?
Had I wasted my energy.
Would I return
To the existence I had created?

Would I
Take Flight?
And soar to the ground,
With wings feathered with bravery and guile,
Vibrant in color and life.
Embracing both the sun and the rain.
Instead of passing on sunlight to avoid the possibility of precipitation.
All or nothing,
I told myself.
"If the definition of insanity is proceeding down the same road expecting different scenery,
You need to
The rain pours
And I remember
The times we used to dance between raindrops
Skipping through puddles
On our way to nowhere in particular
But this wasn't one of those rainstorms.

See the storm raged today
Like your father did,
The night I brought your little brother home late,
And your mother met us at the front door.
She asked me if we'd been drinking,
when she should have recognized how many bottles her husband had emptied that evening,
And I was trying to apologize
Explaining that, "He was having a rough time--"
She grabbed your brother's arm and slammed the door in my face.
Through the steel door
Muted screams were heard.
Accusatory screams
Screams that begged for something to stop.
Naive as I was at 18.
I knocked on the door,
Still trying to take responsibility for your brother's tardiness.
Through the sliver of light between.
Jamb and door
Your mother said,
"You should really leave,"
Before offering a sequel to her last performance.
The echo of that door would linger.
And the lock latching shut,
Under your mother's power.
It would haunt me.
So there I stood,
Hopeless and headed home.

Rainstorms had always been my favorite before then.
The idea that water would come from the sky had always amazed me.
But now as my rain hindered windshield
Was paired
With my tear laden vision
I felt it more dangerous than ever.
As I reached my house and entered later than expected,
I apologized,
And my parents pried no further.
I went to my room,
Trying to grasp what had happened.
Thoughts rushed through my head as I sought to slip to slumber.
Should I call?
Would that make it worse?
Would you be ok?
Tears filled my eyes
And even then I knew that
Not knowing was worse.

And the rain kept coming
In sheets.
This time paired with lighting and its brother.
The sound was deafening,
But it couldn't drown out the sound of our home phone ringing.
As my tear stained sleep left me, and sobriety snuck into my pupils.
I rolled over to check the time
And my mother yelled,
That the phone was for me.
She knew it was you.
In fact anyone who knew me,
And heard a female voice,
At the other end of the line,
Would have known it was you as well.
But this call was different.
The time of the call had exposed that.

I remember dodging
the drips of rain
that gathered on the roof of my childhood home.
Little did I know
Not all houses were safe from storms.
As I rushed to the phone
My mother needn't ask me any questions.
Call it intuition.
But whatever she heard in your voice
Or what she witnessed in the pace at which I picked up
The phone.
Told her everything she needed to know.
"Nikki, you okay,"
Were the first words out of my mouth.
"Why'd you leave,"
Were the first ones out of yours,
And when I explained to you that your mom had locked the door and that I'd even tried the ****.
I could tell by the way
Your next words escaped your mouth and came through my phone.
And into my ear.
That you had lost faith in me.
Which preceded
The faith I lost in myself.
You said that your father had beaten up your brother,
But in the process his bottle blinded body
Threw you into the wall.
And the rain poured.
You said your mother checked you into a hotel
And when I asked if you wanted me to head down there.
You told me Eric was there already,
And that I should go back to bed.

The storm pushed on quickly.
Dark clouds littering the sky.
And as the drops grew smaller,
Then disappeared altogether.
It reminded me,
Of your faith in me.
And our storm.
I never trusted gravity enough.
Not enough to fall
In love.
Truth is,
I never trusted.

But that's not entirely true.
See, for awhile I trusted.
Even love I trusted.
For awhile I invested in others.
For awhile I let people let me down easily.
"I'm not ready for a relationship right now"
"I think we'll be better off as friends"
"You aren't ready to be a good boyfriend."
"I'm looking for someone different. Like your friend"
I still can recall them ad nauseum.
Line after line of why I wasn't their
Right guy.
Right shape.
Right plan for their perfect wedding 10 years in the future.
And so I lost trust.
I lost trust in them.
I lost trust in love.
I lost trust in me.

So I ignored gravity too,
The gravity that could bring me closer.
To someone
To anyone
To love.
The gravity that could sink me to solid ground
And allow me to walk toward a future
In love.
I ignored it.
And floated.
Drifted really.
Inside myself.

Inside myself
Where I stocked up on bulk buy cans of
And self-pity
Unloading them in my bunker to stack them neatly next to my canned jars of
Selfishness and anger
Behind bags of jealousy and loneliness.
And with the cupboard full I packed it in.
Gave up.

A person learns not to trust.
And it's a hard lesson to learn.
It takes time.
It takes years.
It takes enough rejection to make a person.
Whose heart is open.
Whose heart is pure.
Whose heart is true.
To harden.
To protect itself.
From being repeatedly kicked down life's stairs,
As gravity aids the fall.
Heavy is Head and Heart
No crown weighs them down
Yet they sink at the bottom of an endless sea.
Cluttered by memories of past passes.
Of opportunity squandered because of fear.
Because of the past pain that lingers
Somewhere near the tear ducts and rooted in the thalamus.

Still sinking,
Filled with the tears of a thousand pains that were bottled up.
Stocked in the recesses of neural mass and cardiac muscle.
Little did Head and Heart know that by releasing what they had stored.
What they had carried
To these depths.
They could be free.

It would hurt
And that's what they knew.
So they sank,
Memories and pain dragging them further from the surface.
Further from
Another second chance at something.
Something real.
Something true.
But unwilling to feel briefly
And release
To be free.
They sank.

As if caught in a net of chain and concrete.
Their baggage sunk them
Faster than their past pains could stabbingly flash before their eyes.
Faster than a memory of a first kiss forgotten or misremembered.
Faster than the memory of the scent of wintergreen gum,
Wafting through their nostrils,
Coming of the lips
Of their high school crush who never knew.
And faster.

And they reached bottom.
Head and Heart trapped
On the rocks.
Their own doing.
They struggle to no avail.
But you know what they say,
About rock bottom.
There's no place but up from here.
If they can only
Let go.
Dear God,

I don't understand how you can love me.
I know that you do but it's difficult to accept because I don't love me.
I see every flaw, fear, and thought of mine and I'm disgusted, and I know you see them too.
So how do you not feel the same?
I can't understand your love, I am incapable.
I try to grasp, but I can't, the fact that you sent your Son
Who was both wholly man and wholly God and holy.
To die for me, a wretch with nothing but self loathing and rebellion in his heart.
For me?
I am Hosea's wife and yet you love me.
For who I am.
How can you?
I know your plan is perfect
Yet I lament when my plan doesn't align.
But you love me.
Regardless of my thoughts.
Regardless of my actions.
You love me.

All I can do is praise you.
Because I am not worth your trouble,
But you hold me,
Guide me.
I am not worth a lamb's life
Let alone your Lamb's life.
But still that's what was done.

So my praise,
Is that,
You love me and use me for who I am.
Seeing what I will be.
Like the tax collectors your Son used.
And not for what I am now.
This mess.
My praise is that you see my weaknesses
You know my weakness and yet use me.

Your love is inescapable and undefined.
It's limitless nature knew me in Psalms.
Saved me in the Gospel.
Helped me in Acts.
And will be revealed in Revelation.

I am Hosea's wife and yet your love for me is true.
He wore a wife beater.
Which hung on him more like a to do list-
Than his clothing choice for the day.
His choice of beverage of the night was Coors Light.
Twenty four of them.
Although it would be hard to argue that something else would have been in his hand
Had it too been on sale at 2 for $20.
His math skills were heightened on Fridays.
On the weekend he was somewhat of a savant.
Dividing dollars by can volume to determine.
His most frugal choice.
As he moseyed to his car,
Hips struggling to hold his
Tattered sweatpants,
One wondered whether it too ran on alcohol.
Little did I know that revisiting the pen and page,
Would mean that I would also visit the memories and emotions,
That I had ignored for the majority of a decade.
For simple inspiration.
In order to spin a phrase.
Is that all this was?
To write with meaning.
Was I solving something for myself.
Piecing together clues of what I have become,
Or was it something more.

Perhaps I was releasing the flood gates of an ancient pool.
Teeming with sharks of emotion
That I had let lay dormant.
So, as the gates rose and the sharks were loosed,
I'd thought I'd prepared myself.
I thought that I had learned to tame the sharks.
When really, the God's honest truth was,
I had simply
Ignored them.

For inspiration or resolution
I dared tempting the sharks.
As my heart pool was filled once again,
First I put my toes in,
And the writing improved.
Then a foot, then a leg, each offering improvements of their own.
And soon I was swimming with that which I had ignored.
Seeing now the true size of the beasts,
I soon realized that I hadn't tamed the sharks at all,
And now I was at their whimsy.

I was toyed with at first.
Sorrow bushing against my leg,
And it's brother Anguish circling my floating form.
Love reared its head as well,
Gnashing its teeth to frighten.
And then, all of a sudden they scattered.
Though I felt the inspirations leave,
I wasn't prepared for Loneliness.

As its scarred head and sickle teeth grabbed my torso, it's teeth piercing my heart,
I remembered that beast.
We had been most familiar.
His scars a result of how I had fought him off the last time.
Then he thrashed,
And I bled.
But strangely enough,
I couldn't help but feel comfortable in his jaws.
This was how I remembered him.
Just as I had left him.
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