These words I write return for spite as snakes to bite my fingers— this poisoned pen time and again, creating pain that lingers.
On the day her father went missing, the girl was a runaway heading to California—an escape planned with a friend of hers who was going through the same horror as she was. Unfortunately, her friend could no longer deal with it and decided to open up her wrists and bleed out into eternity. In retrospect, her friend chose the easy path, but the girl was not going to end up in the same puddle of blood. Years later, when she heard the news of her father’s vanishing, she did not care and never shed a tear—he was a monster.
Her mother died three years before—the other dark date tattooed on her brain. One day, she came home from school and watched in shock as Mother was carried out of the house on a stretcher—blood stains seeping through the white sheet covering her face. Right hand exposed with baby finger twisted outward, obviously broken. They said she fell down the stairs, but the girl never believed the story. Doubt’s shadows crowded her thoughts about the scene continuously, yet she bit her lip as usual, and silence reigned supreme.
After the death, the girl became numb to reality—sucking up inside her imagination—closed off to the world tighter than the casket at her Mother’s wake. Closed indeed—how could anyone bear to view a face hit by so many stairs anyway? It takes so much effort to live in the shadows, to dwell in dark places away from the crowd, to discard the sunshine on so many faces, to settle for whispers when you’d rather shout. Mother’s face is a blur now—just as well.
There was an older brother, but the only common ground they shared was distance. Stuck in his head, he found his own way out, escaping to Vietnam three months earlier. Father always favored him for what it’s worth, and because of the age difference, there was never any real sibling connection as she saw with other kids or on TV. At least with Mother, there was a remnant of love, but truth be told, she was a terrible protector—the time since her death had been a living nightmare.
Now the girl wanders a gray maze of cold city sidewalks, navigating the workday mayhem and wasting the morning hours. She eventually musters the courage to make her way to the main road and puts out her thumb. Having hitchhiked with friends twice before, she was now on her own. Within minutes a car stops, and after looking in the window, she gets in. The driver is a nun—classic black habit and robe—rosaries on the rear-view mirror. She has a well-worn face, with boney fingers on the wheel—piercing eyes and oddly familiar. In the future, the girl will know this familiar feeling as déjà vu. They drive in silence for several minutes, then the nun speaks—
“Are you running away from home?”
“No, just going to visit my aunt,” She lies as if it’s second nature.
Further down the road, the nun speaks again, “What is your name?”
The girl thinks of a nun from her younger years—sister Mary something—
“Mary,” She says.
“That’s a lovely name—one of mine as well—Sister Mary Helen—pleased to meet you.”
“You too,” She answers, finding it difficult to respond to kindness.
After an awkward silence, the nun speaks, “I’ve always been fascinated by words—they are beautiful and magical, spiritual, and sorrowful—do you like them?”
“Do I like what?” She asks, bewildered.
“Words—you know—writing, lyrics, books, poetry—that’s my favorite. Do you like poetry?”
“I’ve written some before—yesterday, in fact—to my Father.”
The girl is getting nervous—having second thoughts about hitchhiking. Not comfortable answering questions, yet she’s going to have to talk to get where she is going. The space between her and the nun is becoming a vacuum. Feeling claustrophobic, she takes off her jacket as the nun is speaking, “Yesterday is so far away sometimes—wouldn’t you agree? Can’t go back for we were different then—have you heard those words before?”
“Alice in Wonderland,” The girl answers in monotone staring out the window.
“That’s right—Alice—down the rabbit hole she goes. Well, your Father is lucky to have a daughter who writes him poetry.”
“Yes, he’s lucky—,” She says, still staring out the window, remembering how close she came last week to putting rat poison in his food.
They drive in silence—the nun looking straight ahead. The air around the girl is heavy with the weight of anticipation of the nun’s next question. Her thoughts racing ahead of the conversation down the black road in front of her. Yesterday—yesterday—can’t go back to yesterday—the nun quoted Alice in Wonderland. She was reading it in school last week, and the book is now in her bag. I can’t go back to yesterday because I was a different person then. She doesn’t believe it as she scratches at her arm—an itch never satisfied—the skin she can’t escape from.
Yesterday was the last day of an old life—today is new, yet she feels the same—worthless and dirty. The poem she wrote to her father was one of many vomiting up her disgust at his repulsive behavior. She tacked it to his workroom door this morning. There are more poems about him in her notebook, but this particular one was exceptionally biting—a proper way to say goodbye.
“I hope he chokes on my words,” She mumbles under her breath.
“What was that dear?” The nun asks.
“Nothing—something in my throat,” She coughs—the same way she’s done in the past at school when she notices kids looking at her. Talking to herself out of nowhere—just below a whisper—slightly above a sigh—crystal thoughts of hatred in the center of her mind. Something of a new development spawned from something old.
“There are band-aids in the glovebox.” The nun shocks her out of her thoughts.
“Did you cut yourself?” Asks the girl.
“No—but you did—your arm is bleeding,” The nun says with a glance.
The girl now sees her left-arm bleeding where she was scratching—other scratches arrayed in a tapestry of various healing stages. She opens the glove box, removes a small first aid kit, and finds a band-aid.
“You’re welcome,” The nun answers.
“There’s a story you may like—a poem actually—let’s see if I can remember—
Above the gray clouds, there is a brilliant sun
Always shining against an azure blue countenance
Where angels dwell, watching
over a lonely world full of rain.”
“What do you think?” The nun asks expectantly.
“It’s kind of a drag—something you wrote?”
“Yes—this morning,” The nun answers, beaming as if she were Emily Dickinson.
“I love words—poetry and books—you can learn a lot about a person’s mind by how they write,” The nun says, looking straight ahead.
“My imagination’s pretty dark these days—you wouldn’t see much in my words.”
“I’m sure you have a brilliant imagination—you mentioned Alice in Wonderland. There’s a marvelous quote in there—it goes like this; Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality.”
“My life so far has been a losing battle.”
“Never lose your sense of wonder, child—I get the impression you’re on a great adventure—is this true?”
The girl is getting anxious and wants out of the car.
“Right now, I’m somewhere I need to be.”
“You know, dear, we can never escape from ourselves—the past is always close behind—it intrudes in our present days and often becomes our destination. It’s only through forgiveness that we are truly set free.”
“If this is true, then I guess I’m going to be a prisoner for the rest of my life—please let me out at the next corner.” She asks, on the verge of tears.
As the nun slows down and stops, she says, “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed—nothing hidden that will not be made manifest.”
“Thanks for nothing,” The girl says, bolting from the car.
The journey suddenly is condensing, and the prospects are not so wide open. The first ride was not as expected. Is she hitchhiking her way to future salvation or certain damnation? Steel eyed indifference and chrome-plated hatred? Oil stains and bloodstains, potholes of lost souls—intersecting daydreams, nightmares, and foggy perceptions. Caution is useless here, for death’s always down the road hovering just in front or following close behind. As she cries through her footsteps, not paying attention, a strange-looking car pulls up along-side her. The man inside rolls down his window and asks the girl if she needs a ride, and she accepts—
“How far are you going?” She asks.
“Just a few miles, but it will get you that much closer.” He says.
The man wears a blue suit and tie, and his smile is twisted.
“A little closer can’t hurt,” She says, still uneasy from the first ride.
“You okay? Look a bit teary-eyed.”
“Just dust from the road,” She says, wiping her eyes.
They drive for a short while, then he speaks, “I’m Elton—Elton Skelton” He smirks.
“That’s an odd name,” She says.
“Not as odd as Red—seriously, who wants to be named after a color?” He smirks again.
“Guess you’re right,” She answers—ignoring his question as he speaks again—
“I was reading something fascinating yesterday—a man is writing his first novel—he’s won an all-expense, one year stay at an exclusive writer’s retreat—or so he thinks. Come to find out, it’s not a retreat at all, and he’s not even real—isn’t that amazing? He’s part of someone else’s imagination.”
“And this is something you wrote?” She asks.
“It’s not available yet—it’s from a book called Purgatory Road by TM DiSarro—you can read it in about 60 years—”
“TM what? I’m sorry, did you say sixty years?” She asks, confused.
“Yes—yes—sixty—the point is—imagination is a demon——always playing tricks with your perception of reality——or was it time—anyway, it’s in the book.” He says, looking straight ahead.
“And you know this how?”
“Have you ever read Alice in Wonderland?” He asks.
“No—someone else has,” She says, anxiety flaring, and thinking about the nun.
“There’s a line that says, Life ignored you stored as lines of poetry you hoard; leave a wake of sadness in the lives you have destroyed. These words still ring true——or rang true—depending on what year it is—or was. I’m trying to say that sometimes people become so self-consumed that they emotionally kill the ones closest to them—they are emotional vampires.
“That’s not from Alice in Wonderland—those words are mine! How did you get them?” She snaps.
“No need to get upset—I hear many things—see many more—many things indeed.”
“In retrospect, you’ll understand my words.”
“I’ll be long down the road before I ever look back that far. Are you insane or just crazy?”
“Maybe a little bit of both, Mary—” He says, creating more confusion.
“How did you know that name? Who are you really, and how did you get my words?”
“It’s not as important as what I have to say.”
“Are you a cop?”
“No, listen carefully because I will have to let you out soon. You have seen much trouble in your life—part of this trouble will be gone soon—but there is still more to come—as well as many joys. Everything you have or ever will experience is going to help you someday.”
“How can what I’ve gone through ever help?” She asks.
“Because these bad things create the darkness all great writers need—darkness and light—a contrast of energies—opposing forces—call it what you will. Your sorrows will overflow your ink wells—your joys will create wonderful worlds—the story is already being written—”
“But I’m not a writer—” She says.
“You will be.”
He pulls the car over and stops, “We need to get to the next chapter—keep your eyes open and trust your instincts,” He says, then speeds away in a cloud of dust as the road swallows his car.
Stretched out before the girl is a haze of uncertainty—black carpet madness and white lined insanity—distance dysfunction and fast lane frustrations—flowing like a river of sadness. Alone for the first time in her life on the side of this serpent highway where skeletal landscapes, burnt rubber, exhaust fumes, flashing lights, and human flesh all come together in disjointed harmony fueling her billboard-sized anxieties. Once again, she puts out her thumb, and this time a fancy car stops—the driver reaches over and opens the passenger door, “Where are you heading?”
“California—” She says doubtfully.
“Just California? It’s a big state—I’m going to Monterey—I can take you there—”
“Close enough—” She says, putting her bag in the back seat.
They drive a few miles, then he speaks, “My name is Shawn Roberts—what’s yours?”
She looks out the window, thinking of a name, but before she can answer, a news bulletin comes across the radio. He’s visibly shaken and pulls the car over to the side of the road to listen…
“This isn’t good news—sorry—cut you off—” He says, still lost in the unfolding tragedy.
She’s about to answer and hears the newsman report that Robert F. Kennedy has been shot, and before the girl even thinks, she blurts out her new name, “Mary——Alice——Kennedy—pleased to meet you!” She says with a big smile.
“Are you sure about that? I’m not convinced—but nice to meet you anyway—” He says, still listening to the radio.
“Yes—Mary Alice Kennedy—that’s my name—nice to meet you!” She says, self-assured.
“No relation to the president?” He asks, looking at her suspiciously.
“None at all.” She answers, diverting her eyes out the window.
They listened to the news for a few minutes and then continued driving. Shawn spoke of the politics of the day, what may happen next because of the assassination, the war in Vietnam, music, art, and his business dreams as if he were a professor. Extremely knowledgeable on so many subjects, or so it seemed, for she was not. And with this, the girl was reborn as Mary Alice Kennedy and never left his side—they married three months later. Listening to him speak was comforting, and she felt safe—a feeling missing most of her life. After talking for several hours, she drifted off to sleep to the sound of his voice.
Shawn’s kindness was attractive, and the fact that he was older did not bother her—but most importantly, she saw him as a protector. Eventually, she fell in love, and they stayed married twenty-five years until he left her for a younger woman. As they traveled down the highway, her future uncoiled along a path of great expectations and blind apprehensions with the black tar winding against a blood orange sun, but the nun and the blue-suited driver’s words kept gnawing at her. She was sixteen but told him she was eighteen—he was twenty-seven and offered her a level of affection she had never known before. The bag she carried contained all that was left of her dark world—clothes and a notebook for her poems.
“You’re a writer.” The blue-suited man’s words echoed in her thoughts—
She decided to keep her newfound names as a testament to her freedom and not take her husband’s married name. Shawn made a fortune pioneering computers, helping to lay the foundation for a new generation of technology. They lived comfortably in a beautiful home along the Monterey shore and had three sons—Shawn Jr., Michael, and Jonah.
Shawn Jr. died in a car accident when he was sixteen. A year later, Michael and Jonah were both lost in the ocean—they were thirteen and eleven. One day when surfing on the beach outside their home, Jonah got caught in a riptide. As he was struggling, Michael tried to rescue him but failed—the bodies were never found. Terrible tragedies tearing at the fabric of her thought process, more stains on an already filthy garment she called her life—fueling years of dark writings. After the divorce, she moved back to Boston, entered an adult education program, and eventually took a position with Sabal Springs International and, finally, Sabal Springs East.
And what is Sabal Springs East, you ask? A fair question. Consider it an experiment in human creativity—an escape from life’s distractions or maybe a distraction from life itself—you will have to decide with the information presented. More details will be shared as the story unfolds. Miss Kennedy, as she is now known, is the director of the facility, and eventually, she will be overseeing a select group of writers who will win acceptance to the program by way of an essay they will have to write. Each will have housing, and all expenses paid for six months to write their novels.
In the following chapter, you will meet Sabal Springs East’s only resident for the time being—a sometimes brilliant, but mostly fractured person—So says Miss Kennedy because she spends so much time with him. A dark soul hiding behind his word disguises—rewriting history and calling it art. Forgetting what he wants to remember and remembering what he’d like to forget.
In the first draft of this book, his editor told him he did not provide enough details about his past troubles. I seriously doubt the editor read the manuscript in full, but I’m quite sure that by the end of the book, you’ll have more than you know. Anyway, I hate stating the obvious—pointing out every little thing. Lately, our friend has struggled to get his story down, so Miss Kennedy types as he speaks in a freeform manner drawing from the well of his subconscious. In this way, his mind has been yielding much darkness to feed upon. Let’s check-in and see how he’s doing…
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:
The past, present, and future are about to crash into a cast of fractured characters propelling them into a world fueled by false memories, love, jealousy, betrayal, madness, and murder.
TM DiSarro is an American Poet and Author living in Sarasota, Florida. With a passion for poetry and stories, he writes every day and posts regularly on Facebook and Instagram and has been a featured poet on Spillwords.com. His education is life itself, having gone into the costume rental business directly after high school and being a night club DJ for 30 years. Lyrics, rhyme, books, and the rhythm of words and music have all influenced his writing style. When not writing, TM builds costumes for various events.