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Heart and Key padlock

Julie could hear the soles of her 4 inch platforms click ominously on the polished floor of the stage as she walked halfway to meet the Instructor. She worried that the absence of friends and family in the audience would dampen the thrill from having worked so hard and finally receiving the little piece of scrolled paper that proved it. The general noise of the auditorium seemed to cease minus a single cheer from some unseen place above. She raised her hand in triumph and cheered back into the silence that followed. Julie wondered who that kind person was as she reached out to shake the out-stretched hand and stood for the obliging photo op. The silence continued as she found her way through the bright lights to the stairs on the far side of the stage.

By the time the last step was descended, the cheers for the name that followed commenced, and Julie found her way back to her seat as she looked up into the second-level stands to see if perhaps her one fan still remained. She didn’t recognize the voice. She didn’t care. She clutched lightly at the ribbon-rolled sheet of paper and smiled to herself. She did it. That’s all she needed to know and to feel at this moment in time. Later, she would think about the lack of support that seemed to follow her around in this small town.

Perhaps that comes with being different in a town that has little experience in dealing with different; or maybe it was a result of keeping her heart hidden behind the high, mortared wall she’d built around it. After all, that was why she was there…to heal…and to learn how to heal others. Maybe not in the traditional sense, but traditional medicine was never an answer for deep, soul wounds that punctured the human psyche.

Julie thought back to the years that led to this moment.

The numbness was such a gradual thing. She hadn’t noticed at first. Pretty soon, though, it was like living in a pair of disembodied eyes. One night, she sat in a chair in her office pressing the point of a thumb tack into the flesh of her fingertips. She watched as pinpoints of blood oozed through the tiny holes in each one. When she could feel nothing, she dragged the tip of the tack across the palm of her hand and felt an irritating trail of nerves respond…still, it was not pain. Julie knew on some level that she should have felt alarm, but she could not even feel that. There was no danger, no pain, no reaction-not even fear.

            She sat in the darkened theater and silently pinched herself hard inside the wide sleeves of her gown and felt satisfied at the pain she caused herself. She felt the throbbing of her bunion as the new shoes pinched non-apologetically at the bulbous foot deformity, and thought “I’m alive, and I can feel again.” So, it didn’t matter that no-one sat beside her and shared in her private or public joy. It didn’t matter that at times she felt as if the whole world shared in the struggle to keep her down, because today she burned with the fire and strength of the phoenix, and her struggles to feel were the ashes she left behind.

She would go home and take off the dress she bought for the occasion and hang it alongside the gown that would never see the outside of a closet again, and she would pour herself a cup of tea.  She would then bake herself a celebratory cake and share it with her father as she watched fleeting memories dance across his face. Julie would hug him as she said “I did it. Today I graduated.” To which he would reply, “Well, congratulations…who are you, again?”

Moving to the couch, Julie would balance the plate of cake on her lap thinking about moments and celebrations shared with her mother, and she would pick up the fork, raise it to the high heavens and say “We did it Mom…we did it.”

She could hear her mother’s chuckle now, followed by her usual cynical, sardonic reply.

“Oh yeah? And it only cost you how much? Hehehe…”

“Cheaper than therapy, mom. A lot cheaper.” She would imagine herself saying.

Julie loved that about her mother, though. If any one of her children threatened to float higher than they had a right to, mom would be there with the straight pin waiting to burst the bubble. Not this time, though. So Julie made it a point to do it for her. God, she missed her. The pain was still raw, but even in death, she felt her presence. Not like the soft breeze wafting through the leaves of a shading tree. No, not her mother. More like the jarring ring of a phone call in the middle of the night…forceful and something to be reckoned with. Julie smiled to herself again…

“…Thank you, everybody for coming out to support our newest graduates in their time of joy. We are all so proud of each and every one of them. Let’s hear it again. One more time before we march with heads held high into a future brimming with expectation and promise!”

{We hear the sound of loud thunderous applause and the chanting of school spirit …}

Julie stirred from her mental rambles and stood with the rest of the class turning to follow them up the long line of low steps and out into the bright lights of the windowed lobby. When she made it to the top of the landing, her fellow graduates were already engaged in selfie snaps and group hugs. She quietly sat to remove her shoes and walked out of the first exit she could find into the high heat of the mid-July day.

Her future wasn’t in the room full of people with the sounds of snapping cameras. It was in the little paper she carried with her on the long walk to the car. She stopped to unravel it when she was safely seated behind the wheel. Inside she found a poem devoted to the future graduates and all their promised glory along with an announcement to pick up their degrees or certificates when they received orders to do so.

That would suffice.

*****

Julie sat there staring at the urn of her father’s ashes. She looked at the picture of him she’d picked out to be placed on the prayer candle and tried to feel…something.

Two years earlier and just weeks after graduating, her new career was forced into hibernation while she struggled with the responsibility of becoming care-taker to the essence of a person she would have to watch diminish day by day. If she was surprised that the forever good-bye that walked closely on the heels of each day did not bring with it the fear, pain, and sadness she once used to imagine it would as a child, she didn’t show it. She couldn’t. Julie no longer knew how. For two years, she studied and learned everything of the body and all its wonderful parts and then began working on restoring the sensation to her own, yet, the connection to her deeper core remained severed.

There were exceptions. She could find laughter in some of the nightly programming, she found her love of nature and animals could still be stirred by the right picture at the right moment, and of course the complete selfless love she would always feel for her children remained. However, the love and trust she felt for humanity was just a scream of an echo in an abyss. It bounced around, but never seemed to make it back to her…and she wasn’t really complaining. She became an observer of life and began to see the dark side of people she never before considered existed; would never have believed possible. She wondered if she was blind to it before or if the world had changed that much in the near three decades she lay sheltered in her small circle of family and friends that, when she finally ventured past the unseen boundaries and tried to stretch her wings, she was blind-sided by the ugly truth. She tried to think back and, as she did so, recalled some frightening times when the black shroud of humanity had threatened; but, by some odd quirk of fate or some divine intervention, something happened that would pull her back out from underneath.

At first she was terrified of this new world view. She wanted desperately for thirty years’ time to be restored and to shrink back into her corner of the world…back into the shadow of light. Instead she was forced to face days when any interaction seemed like a personal assault on her senses until finally everything was gone. All the excess love and compassion, sympathy, and thoughts of good will had slowly faded-all but the most fundamentally necessary ones. The heart had hardened. It was still there.  She knew it was, for she could feel it beating within the small confines of the wall she’d built around it.

The strangest thing was that even though that kind of love was missing-the kind that would be reciprocated if she had braved any attempt at all of bestowing it upon another, she still always felt she was smiling inside, as if she knew what kind of world it was, but it just couldn’t touch her inside. It wasn’t until strangers in lines at stores told her to smile that she suspected, to others, she appeared unhappy. She didn’t think what she felt was unhappiness. Julie thought deeper and finally decided it wasn’t. It was just reservation…or preservation; reservation about what she witnessed happening around her and preservation for the things she wished to remain holding on to. She thought if she unlocked that key to the chamber of her heart the dark side of humanity would find a way to destroy it, and she couldn’t let that happen.

 

No. Julie would figure out what it was that was actually happening before she would give dark humanity any chance of feeling the love she knew still resided deep within.

*****

Julie spun  the heavy urn around while deep in contemplation. There, in her idled state of observation, she had a great epiphany. Lately, she’d noticed signs of a message that seemed to find her repeatedly but that she assumed was never meant for her directly. She was already quite familiar with the message and was sure she was practicing it regularly…

Since her recent years of discovering the dark shroud that existed around the whole of humanity, she began to see only the bad in people. It was what she chose and continued to focus on in her attempt to understand it and to try to remain safely from it. Julie realized in a single moment of clarity that the dark had always moved within the peripheral of existence, but her focus never remained on it for long. She was too busy feeling the love that came to her in waves from every direction. They were the same ripples she herself used to send out to others.

Somehow, Julie had let the ripples of doom-the negative effects-enter into the circle she so naturally cast with her brimming love and light. She allowed a shadow of doubt to be cast on  her inner but outwardly reflected world, and like the particle that turns into whatever the believer wishes it to be, her view reflected the darkness she somehow became drawn to and unknowingly, the harder she tried keeping it at bay, the closer she was inviting it to come. She re-discovered that all happy and sad, good and bad, light and dark existed in one place simultaneously always. What she chooses to focus on is what she will draw to her.

At that moment, Julie heard the clicking of a key turning, the cylinder thumping soundly against the wall of the heart. She felt the knob twist and release the latch that held tightly the door. Creaks croaked and moans made when finally the door swung loose. What she felt was not the pouring of love filling her up from without, but a pouring of love she held firmly in reserve release. This is the love that warmed her heart.

Julie once again realized that you cannot shut the door on darkness; you MUST, instead, shine the light of love upon it.

Unpublished work © S.L. Davis 2015; all rights reserved.

**Illustration provided by ®Clipart

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