He was raised by a lioness of a woman, who, even now, doesn’t realize her own brutal, regal strength. He didn’t care much about school, but he did well learning people. His skinny, skinned knees forged paths down by a family creek in the summers and his chest carried the heavy weight of a dad that just never showed up for him.
That’s when he started picking up the sharp bricks - even though he didn’t even realize he was doing it. Cutting his small hands, he carefully began constructing a fortress. Sand taken from the playground filled in the cracks and slowly, light started dimming.
His mother divorced.
Had another baby.
And the little boy grew up.
So many of his days ended up pear-shaped. So many of his words swallowed back down, clunking down his throat. Tumbling through his lungs, sloshing around his belly. Churning. Heated.
His load was heavy. Angry. And he was barely even fifteen.
He dated a girl in high school and whispered all the things that high schoolers always whisper. Gaping words like forever and full words like always. I suppose they laughed together and I’m sure he loved her.
It was that first kind of love that epically moves and rearranges priorities and heartbeats. It was a love full of promising maybes and one days.
He went to college with her in the back of his head and his hands were only reserved for hers.
As things sometimes go, her hands were not quite as clean.
She shattered his precious, naive heart into a million pieces. On a hot summer day, he spat words at her - praying he’d never have to see her again … begging to whatever power he believed in.
A dad that wasn’t ever there taught him even in his absence.
Taught him a thing or two about promises.
How to mean what you say.
So he never saw the girl again. And he pieced together that brave heart of his. Glued it back together with a tribe of friends full of the same weary smiles and bad taste in music. Strengthened the fortress around him with dirt from the creek bed, cheap beer, and the angry heat of summers passing swiftly by.
There were other girls here and there, I should think. Others with pretty smiles, others that just filled spaces in time that he can’t even remember now.
He married a girl. Trapped in a relationship with a house and debt and other friends marrying and a formula that says, “This is just what you do,” he relented. And I think he may have even been happy.
But the boy is passionate.
Discontent with monotony.
And in the passing days of the same sun rising and the same sun setting, the boy became restless. Fraught. It all felt empty and used up. And maybe he was a little sore at himself for making the wrong decision in the first place. He suddenly seemed to live in a world that was rubbing him raw and the only way to make it all stop,
was to leave.
So he did.
He took his bag of named bricks with him, carefully thrown over his broad shoulders. The sack dirtied with time and use. The load still heavy and exhausting.
He moved away.
But he forgot that wherever you go, you’re still you.
And ... just like it happens in the movies,
he met a girl.
She was pretty. And smart. And funny, I think.
And the boy kinda cocked his head to the side and thought maybe he could love her for the rest of ever. Words that he thought had been forever lost in the storm came washing up to shore.
He did lots of pretty, shiny things for the girl. Things that boys ought to do. Tried to fit into her world. Tried. But the girl. She was sorta lost.
In a different kind of place than the boy.
Trying to forge two different ways, two different lives. She couldn’t pick. She’d walk down a road for a little while, and then switch back to the other path. And it was brutal. He held his breath so often, nearly losing who he was at the core in the process.
But he was willing, so caught up was he.
And then, just like it happens in some of the movies …
In the quiet of night, covered in darkness, she told him she was done with him.
And his perfectly glued back together heart from before shattered.
And his crooked smile faded a little more.
And, in earnest, he built with his bricks.
These were some of his darkest days.
His puzzle pieces were all askew. Like maybe he was missing the edges, or the middle, or no one showed him what it was even supposed to look like before they dumped the whole box out. He fumbled in the dark, dazed by a lack of sleep and a lack of peace and a lack of direction.
He sat on his lioness momma’s porch at night and his tongue stumbled over hard words and broken, jagged dreams and she listened. Her warm palm rested on his back as if she could help mop up some of his pain.
He meandered through his days. His hands bandaged from the sharp edges of before, and his heart buried so deep and sheltered so hard in his chest. He laughed a little too loudly, played a little too hard, hung out with people that were not like him at all.
like it happens in zero movies,
he met another and her mouth hung open when she saw him.
But the boy had learned a thing or two.
From his lioness momma.
From his absent dad.
From the first girl that crossed him.
From the girl that he wasted days with.
From the girl that nearly broke him.
The boy had learned a thing or two about jumping in head first. About plunging in too quickly. About rash decisions. And his maybe, and his always, and his forever bricks were tucked far, far away.
The new girl had her own lessons organized and tucked neatly into her back pocket. She had her own holy set of issues.
They began some sort of walk together. A hopscotch kind of devotion. Two steps forward, a step apart, a step by one, catch up by another.
She cut her fingers on his bricks and he cut his on her barbed wire.
A year after they met, laying in the dark, he told her he finally felt free from The One That Came Before Her.
And another layer crumbled. A little more light. A little more warmth broke through. And it was warm on their faces.
It’s dirty work, removing bricks. Sweaty, dusty, and tiring.
And the girl?
She learned so very quickly that the only person strong enough to move them was the boy.
And I heard that she wasn’t the climbing kind.
And she wasn’t a mason.
And she never really was very patient.
The girl is passionate.
Discontent with monotony.
And she adored him.
I suppose a person is never finished. Not until the very bitter end. Never finished growing. Never finished learning.
Never finished building, or tearing down.
I suppose that’s what makes all of our stories so good.
. About Moi .
I love, love, love flannel sheets and I am really passionate about lists on post it notes and most of the time I'm sad that no one else is as excited as I am about Diet Mountain Dew. I also adore run-on sentences. And if you need an awesome virtual assistant, who is full of personality and really good jokes? Email me. I'm your girl.
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He saw her before he saw
anything else in the room.
- F. Scott Fitzgerald
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