In the dark rooms I walk through, little white pills follow me wherever I go. When clouds linger overhead, they wash warm water over my face, making all my days slightly tolerable. When nights are cold and scary, the pills sing comforting lullabies about sunshine and clarity and happiness. I know that none of this is real, so sometimes I tell the pills to stop following me. The pills never listen. Sometimes they get real quiet, so I'll think that I've outrun them, but when I look back, they're right there with me, ready to whisper their pretty promises in my ear.
I know that you know. You know what it's like to create something - something that comes from all the way inside you. And you know that you do what you do because if you didn't you would simply die, and that you have to do it whether anyone ever even notices your efforts or not.
And ninety-nine times out of a hundred they don't. The crowds browse past without even stopping to look. Or sometimes one will stop and leaf through for a bit, but her eyes give away how your vision never quite gets there for her. And, really, that's okay.
So in that one instant when that one in a hundred not only happens to walk past but stops and lingers, and when in that stranger's eyes you see your own reflection - and you watch her looking at a little piece of her own life through the words that you wrote - that's the one little moment you grab and try and hang onto for dear life.
I'm taking photographs of an Indiana cornfield, with a little shed nestled back against some woods.
I'm taking photographs of the way light surrenders to the inevitability of November.
I'm taking photographs of how, nine times out of ten, people get exactly what they expect.
I'm taking photographs of the time and place I want to be kissing someone's shoulder blade.
I'm taking photographs of the vast indignity of wanting all the wrong things.
I'm sitting on a brown-summer lawn beside a country road at twilight, watching cars navigate the darkening curves and drinking bourbon out of a jelly glass. The brake lights always come on at just the same spot - right where cars crest the little hill just before where six-twelve cuts off to the left.
If you happened to be walking by an hour or so ago, you would have heard me talking on my cell to someone in another state, another circumstance, maybe even another decade. Had you been playing attention you might have heard the quote, "that whole better-to-have-loved-and-lost-than-to-have-never-loved-at-all bullshit".
Now the phone's put away, the glass is empty, and I'm talking only to the evening. It's just a curse. A curse to have known a love that no other love will ever live up to.
-Alice, Near New Hope
Did you make a bargain? Did you somehow trade quantity of days for quality of days?
I've always been amazed at how quietly (and seemingly?) peacefully you left. I've always wondered: Were you were able to talk your cancer into some small compromise? Did it listen? Was it interested? How did you convince it to let you leave so gracefully?
And what it say to you, during those painful afternoons when you both knew that it was winning? I would have guessed it incapable of anything but cruelty, but maybe there was a hint of sympathy in its voice?
Let's say you get to trade something in. Something intangible. You can swap out something of yours for the same thing of someone else's. You can pick what you want to trade, but not who you would be trading with. So you wouldn't know whether theirs would necessarily be an improvement on yours. Would you trade your hopes for someone else's? How about your luck? Your dreams? Your regrets? Would you trade your lies?
I remember the contents of my pockets. Keys. Cell phone. Money. The ID that doubled as a bus pass. And all the little reminders of times I wanted to keep close. I carried the things I needed. The things that mattered.
Now my pockets are empty, save for my hands.
-Alice, Orangeburg County, South Carolina