The heat of the afternoon smothers her in an uncomfortable embrace. She’s desperate for escape but there is none.
She’s at her desk. Her work is open and politely asking for attention, but unrelated thoughts meddle with her focus.
If three’s a crowd, her brain is home to a multitude. She can almost feel them jostling, shoulder to shoulder, trying to push in front of each other, competing for prominence.
There are those beautiful people who she’s refusing to let go of. People who took her into their collective arms and provided her with a makeshift home and family at a time when she was surrounded only by the rubble of her past mistakes, ugly destruction. They made her sing. Their life and energy worked her stiff muscles, making it easier to move, to move on, to walk away. She misses them and wants them around her so that she can feel at peace again.
There is one who is experiencing that unimaginable pain of having to walk away from something that meant everything. She sees the invisible cuts, the eyes that pretend to focus while hiding wells of hurt, she hears the voice that rings out sweet and strong but knows it is on the verge of breaking, heavy with tears. She recognizes the symptoms of heartbreak and aches to ease the constant throbbing pain.
She’s tired. The heat pours over her like hot oil and she craves a cold bath to get it all off. The throng in her head clamour loudly and she shuts her eyes tight, trying to drown out the sound. She fails.
There are two who, together, represent second chances. They look at the world with a sort of unbridled optimism that inspires her and makes her want to reach out to them, learn from them. They are two who she knows she can crawl to with the world on her shoulders, knowing they’ll take some of the weight off while she rests a while. Who understand the passion and creativity bursting within her, because they are of the same ilk.
There is one to whose world she can never really belong, but whose magnetic pull she can’t quite shake nevertheless. One who can make her laugh like a child, who can read her as if she was as transparent as a sheet of glass, whose special brand of wickedness she feels reflects her own in some way. She loves, she trusts, she fears, but carefully.
The heat presses against her irritatingly and she swallows some iced water, feeling it cool her insides. In seconds, though, the heat is back, worrying at her like a live thing. Her thoughts do the same.
There is one who never leaves her thoughts for more than an hour or two. Now no longer a part of her life, but yet such an influence, such a source of regret, love and concern. She worries for this one constantly, wondering if he’s alright, if he sleeps, if he’s healing slowly the way she is, if he’ll ever be the person he wants to be.
The air may as well be solid. Thick. Oppressive. Unbearably hot. Her hair sticks to her neck and she sweeps it up, holding it in a messy twist against her head until her arm tires. She lets go and the hair cascades again. Hair. Soft. She closes her eyes and is engulfed.
There is one who she will never really fall out of love with. Whose memory will always be accompanied by a flash of that brilliant smile, the sensation of soft hair falling through her fingers, eyes that mirror her own feelings, fathoms deep, and arms that have another world waiting within them.
Sudden relief. She smells the rain before she hears it. The comforting smell of wet earth drinking in the water. She opens her eyes and a breeze blows in and cools her hot, sticky skin. Oh sweet relief.
She gets up, almost as if in a dream, her mind still occupied by noisy thoughts, snap shot images in hyper colour, memories sweetened by time. Gets up. Walks out into the rain. Each droplet pelts into her hair, wetting it slowly until she is completely soaked.
She walks home slowly and listens to those people in her head instead of trying to shut them out. Addresses each one calmly in her mind. Compartmentalizing. Housekeeping. Dusting out empty rooms and locking the doors. Saying quiet goodbyes to those she cannot or will not see again. Accepting that they’ll always be there somewhere, floating about the transom of her mind, waiting for a chance to say a quick hello, to remind her of what used to be.
Passers by notice this strange girl. Walking slowly, her back up ramrod straight, her feet placing themselves one in front of the other in a robot-like fashion, arms stiffly by her sides. Her gaze is inward looking, and her lips are slightly pursed, as if she is concentrating greatly on something, listening to voices that aren’t there. Not crazy. Just, in another, parallel plane.
They give her wide berth but stare at her curiously. They recognize her, but at the same time, do not. They know this is the girl who walks up and down between work and home everyday. But today she is somehow different. Cars rushing past swerve to avoid her, even if she walks out a little into the road, as if they know better than to disturb her inner dialogue. Soldiers watch her pass by and mute their usual hearty greetings. This is not the time for it. Even the playful puppies down her road sense a change. They stalk her feet as is customary but when they bound up to her and she doesn’t react, they hang back, unafraid, but unsure, voicing their confusion in soft whines.
She walks on, oblivious. Alone, but in company. Silent, but having some of the most important discussions of her life.
When she reaches her driveway though, her gaze clears. Opens up as if someone pulled aside a curtain. Her mind feels exercised, brand new. Her questions not completely answered, but at least explored in some fashion. Her thoughts empty of clutter, at least for the time being.
She stands outside her house and can’t help her broad grin.
She has come home, in more ways than one.