Short Story: The Dinner Party: Part V

Emily could see all of the people standing over her, looking down at her, trying to figure out what had happened, what was wrong. She didn’t want to see any of them, she didn’t want to be where she was, she wanted to be with William. He had been in the house, he had been there when the explosion occurred, and there was nothing that could be done, no way she could save him. She tried to run but she couldn’t; there was no escape from here, she realized, deflated. Her arms seemed to be pinned down in some way, and no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t seem to free herself. Where was she? She had little recollection beyond the explosion, and no memory of getting here, wherever here was. Emily closed her eyes, and smelled smoke, and there she was, back again in Yorkshire, that night, tonight, or last night, or whenever it happened. She saw the house, smoldering, burning, destroyed; she saw herself on the moors, running toward the house, hoping for a miracle, hoping for anything other than what she saw right in front of her; the devastation, the pain, the loss, the overwhelming grief that choked her, suffocated her, until she was on the ground again. She rolled onto her back and looked up to the sky, trying to understand how, why, this had happened, why so much pain must live her heart forever. She had lost everyone now, no one remained, except her. She flashed to the white room; she flashed to the moors and the smoldering house. She no longer knew where she was, where she had been, nothing, it was all chaos and pain swirling around inside her devastated mind. When was this? Where was this? This white room, this damaged land, all of it lost to her slipping mind.

Her parents were lost, to an accident. Her brother was lost, to the war. Now William was added to the list of those lost to the ages, where they would live forever in her mind, and nowhere else. You can create eternity in your brain if you let yourself lose reality along the way, something Emily knew very well, and had accepted, embraced even. William had survived his time fighting on the continent, fighting for the right cause, fighting for King and country. But now, home on his own soil, far away from the bombings of London, and Europe, and everywhere else the war waged on, William had been lost. Sheer bad luck, bad timing, bad life, all of it an absolutely unbelievable mess. She should have taken him up on his offer to walk with her, he’d still be here then, she realized; and that realization was nearly too much to bear. She felt ill, very physically ill, and could barely even keep her eyes open. She felt a searing, sharp pain in her right arm, and began to feel quite tired almost immediately. She wished to return again, to see the house, see what remained, but she knew that would all be for nothing. Emily didn’t need to go check on the house, and see if anyone had survived. She’d been in London during the blitz, stayed hidden in the Underground during the bombings; she knew that no one could survive a hit like that. So she lay there, on the Yorkshire moors, staring up at the dark, English sky, filling with smoke, and wondered how a person could come back from all of this. The odd thing about that moment, though, was how it felt familiar, normal, as if she had experienced it before. As if she had thought that before, wondered how a person could survive. She felt as if she had been there at some point in her past, lying on her back in the countryside, seeing this house smolder and burst into flames. Why? How did it feel like she was having déjà vu? She let the smoke engulf her, inhaling it, allowing it to fill and burn her lungs, not caring about the damage to her organs, or her inevitable fate. She wished to burn. She wanted to burn with William, so she allowed herself to smolder, a mirror image of that house on the moors.

Emily still felt that throbbing pain in her arm, and felt another string pull very, very tightly in her head, that familiar pulling, that familiar pain that she had grown accustomed to, welcoming it into her mind, to set up shop and stay. Then suddenly, it was too much to take anymore, too much to accept, too much to live with. The string snapped, harder, and with more ferocity than ever before. This wasn’t like it had been the first or second time she felt the snap, where it was manageable, and she was able to maintain her surroundings and mind. Each string had snapped with more fire than the one before, and now it had reached the peak of its strength. The string snapped loudly, and began echoing, booming, shaking her head, until she was rolling, hands over her ears, screaming at the top of her lungs. Screaming from pain, from grief, from loss, from everything. She couldn’t stop screaming, her mind and heart overwhelmed by everything that had happened, and she continued shrieking and rolling and shaking her head until she felt another sharp pain in her arm, and suddenly felt tired all over again. Although this time, she gave in to the exhaustion she felt, and finally fell asleep, and she smelled the smoke wafting around her, and all the hands on her body. Those hands, whose hands? Where did they come from? She felt herself grow weaker, and her body fill with smoke, and she welcomed the slowing down that she felt, she welcomed the smoke as her savior.

Home

Personal identity, and its connection to the idea of “home”, and what “home” actually is, is a concept that I think about quite frequently. What are the different elements that combine together to create a sense of identity? How does the concept of “home” and where “home” is, fit in with that idea of personal identity? At times, I’ve felt like I lack a certain part of my identity, and honestly, I’ve never really been sure why I feel that way. It wasn’t until very recently that I discovered how truly lost I feel most of the time, mainly because I’ve never really felt at home anywhere. Home, and one’s understanding and interpretation of what home is, is a big part of one’s identity, in my personal opinion. I remember in college, I was in a class and we were all talking about home, and where home was, and I told them where home was for me, but added a footnote to the discussion by stating that I’d never actually felt at home anywhere. Most people didn’t understand what I was saying, but a few nodded in agreement, and empathized with that missing piece of identity. I believe a feeling of home, and understanding where your home truly is, is a big part of understanding one’s identity. Home, whatever or wherever that may be, seems to be a factor in how people see themselves, and how I see myself, and who I am, as well. I guess I’ve never found the place where I feel like I belong, where I feel like I’m myself, where I feel like I’m home.

I was born and raised in the Midwest, and to be honest, it’s never felt like home to me. My hometown has always felt distant; even when I lived there, it always felt like a foreign place. My parents are from Appalachia, as are my grandparents, etc. My family’s origins are mostly based in Appalachia, the Mid-Atlantic, and the greater East Coast. I lived on the East Coast for a couple of years after college, and I enjoyed it, but it never felt totally right to me either; it never really became home to me, no matter how hard I tried to make it feel like the right fit. I returned to the Midwest a couple of years ago, to my hometown, and it immediately felt wrong and off to be living here again. On top of feeling like a failure for returning, I felt angry and unhappy, and like something just didn’t fit. It was as if all of my teenage angst returned to me, with even greater intensity and passion, and compelled me to make my home elsewhere. As I’m sat here now, in my hometown, it feels like I’m a visitor in someone else’s home, and that I will be leaving any day now, which is truly an odd feeling, if I’m being honest. But that’s how it’s always felt, it’s never been home to me, so I don’t know why I expected it to suddenly change and feel like the place I’m meant to be. There is a somewhat strange thing that I do, and I’ve noticed that it happens quite frequently, more frequently probably than I care to admit. I’ve noticed, that when I like someone, or become friends with someone, and they’re from a totally different part of the country or world, I tend to become obsessed with wherever they’re from, and learn everything about it. I almost try to adopt it as my own place of origin, as if I want to be from wherever they are. To be quite honest with you, I don’t really know why I do that, why it’s become a habit, a compulsion, a need. Am I that lost that I cling to other people’s homes as a way to find my own? Am I lacking some part of my identity? Is that why I do that? Why has home never felt like home to me? And it’s not my parents’ fault. It has nothing to do with them, honestly. I come from a lovely family that provided me with a stable home and a safe place to grow up, for which I will always be grateful. I just feel like I’ve never found the right place to call home, where I’m happy, content, and feel like I am truly myself. They say home is where the heart is, but what if it’s not always that simple? My heart is with my family, but my home has never felt like home, so maybe that’s not true for me. Maybe I’m seeking something that exists elsewhere.

When I was in college, I studied abroad the summer after my junior year. I have a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English Literature, so I chose to study abroad in London. I had spent years working and saving, and I was thrilled to finally get the chance to go. I will admit, I felt homesick the first couple of days I was there, because I missed the comforts and simplicity of “home”. However, that all began to fade very quickly, and London began to take shape as something very different for me. It sort of became a lighthouse that was helping the lost ship that I was, find its way back to shore. Honestly, when I lived in London for that summer, the city began to feel more like home to me than my hometown, and that was both odd and comforting, and slightly inexplicable. How did this city I had never been to, start to feel like that place I was always meant to be? How was that truly possible? How had it taken me 21 years to find a place that felt like home, that felt like the place I had been searching for? I still don’t have an answer, but it remains very true. I returned to London last fall, and it felt the same to me. I remembered how to get around the city, where all of my favorite places were, my favorite gardens and quiet corners of London that few people frequented. That sense of calm, peace, and relaxation returned to my frazzled and exhausted mind, and I felt like I could breathe deeply again, in a way I hadn’t been able to since I had left four years prior. I remember, back when I was on my study abroad trip, my friends and I returned to London after a weekend trip to Paris, our train arriving at St. Pancras late at night, and I remember feeling so happy to be “home”. It felt like coming home. London felt like my home.

I don’t know why London’s always felt comfortable to me, like a place where I just felt calm, at ease, and at peace; a place where I didn’t feel consumed by the suffocating air of discontent that usually haunts me on most days. When I’m there, all the noise in my head gets sort of quiet, and I feel a sense of tranquility. Is that what home is? Being comfortable and finally at ease with your surroundings? I have no idea, but for me, that may be the best definition of home that I’ve been able to come up with. Maybe, that’s why London is the closest to home I’ve ever been. Maybe, that’s why I still feel so connected to London, like its part of my history and identity, because it plays that role of “home” that’s been missing from my identity, and how I see myself. I’m currently in the process of attempting to get into graduate school abroad, in Ireland or the UK, to obtain my Master of Arts degree in Creative Writing, and the school that’s at the top of my list is in London. Maybe this need to have a complete and clear sense of home, and identity, is why I’m always drawn back to London, even when it may not make the most financial sense to go to school there. My need to find home may be greater than the practical realities of living and working in that city.

Home, and how it’s such a real part of one’s identity, is a tricky concept, and maybe there isn’t a real definition of what home truly is. Maybe it’s an ever changing concept that means something different to everyone. Maybe my drive to be in London is based my obsession with trying to recapture some feeling of comfort, tranquility, and home. Maybe home isn’t where you’re from. Maybe home is elusive, and doesn’t truly exist. Maybe home is wherever your mind finds itself drifting on a busy day when you need calm. Maybe home is wherever your heart is. Maybe home is wherever your soul can find peace. Maybe home is with your family, or in your lovers’ arms, or on the streets of London. Maybe, life is a journey to find your home, wherever that may be.

Kelsey H.

City of Light

Paris rings
And Paris sings
A song for everyone who loves
Loves someone
Loves art
Loves life
Paris burns and lives
A beating heart on the map
Alive in every season
Morning
Noon
And
Night
Lights of the city
They sparkle in the twilight
Together we walked
Holding breath
Holding hands
My red lipstick
Your week old beard
Tangled in our cotton sheets
We bought at a market
In that arrondissement
We loved
Our bodies moved together
In perfect rhythm
With how Paris danced
At midnight when the lights go down
Yet everything is lit
By cigarettes
And my lips were stained
With red wine from dinner
I may have painted your skin
In special places
Sorry love
I know you love it
Crimson colored lips
Red wine tongue
The morning sun
Broke our heavy sleep
But you didn’t mind
I put the kettle on
You covered your hands in paint
As you worked the blank canvas
Like my body
You liked to run your colorful
Fingertips
Along my blushing skin
I said I’d write where Hemingway did
Along the Left Bank
Paris breathes
In
And
Out
It walks and talks
To those who love
And can hear it
Listen closely
For the whispers
Of a city
Built on the beating hearts
Of lovers
From the beginning
Till the end of time
Your heart will beat in sync
With the city of light
If you let in
To live inside you
Day
And
Night.

Original Work: KH 10/17/14

Fairy Tale

There we were
Standing at the edge
Of once upon a time
Basking in the glow
Of happily ever after
In the days before
The storms rolled in
And the world ended
In a crash of thunder
And a crack of lightning
There we were
Walking the pages
Of a fairy tale
Not knowing
How quickly
The book would be closed
On us.
Such is life,
Such is life,
You only live once
So make it right.

Original Work: KH 10/17/14

Lost

Every time I think I know what I want, my mind tries to tell me I’m wrong, that I want something else…I need to quiet all these voices that try to make me doubt myself. Every time I think I know where I want to be, to live, I doubt myself, and change my mind. I seem to be unable to decide the course of my life. Part of me wants to just try and live a relaxed west coast life, where I stop worrying about everything. But then there’s the part of my mind that keeps pushing me to Europe and grad school and adventure…I just don’t know. Maybe neither of these things will happen. Maybe I will end up living in New England near the ocean and a lighthouse and be a writer there. Maybe I’ll move to Los Angeles and eat organic food, do yoga on the beach at sunrise, and have a high powered career. Maybe I’ll go to grad school, and then move to Paris and work in a café, and become an ex-pat writer like Hemingway and Fitzgerald. Maybe I’ll move to Nashville and meet a musician and have some babies. Maybe I’ll move to a small fishing village in Ireland and fall in love with a local man. Maybe I’ll move to Seattle and find a life and career there. Maybe I’ll move to London, and find my heart, wherever I left it, and start all over again. I have no clue. All I know is, I want to live a life I’m proud of, that I am happy with, that brings me joy, and peace.

Days like this, I picture myself back on that cliff in Ireland, staring at the sea, or in Hyde Park on a sunny autumn day, or at a café in Paris on a quiet Sunday morning. I never know where I want to be. Maybe my heart will never be satisfied in one place. Maybe I’ll have to find someone to give my heart to, and that’s where I’ll finally find home.

Chapter 1: Dublin on a Monday Morning

She woke up in a haze of last night’s perfume, her black lace bra, and very strong whiskey breath, that she could feel pouring from her mouth, and seeping out of her pores. She was sweating Jameson, and she only had herself to blame. She was there, in that ancient city, where she had wanted to be, and as she lay on her back, on that nasty bed, in that nasty hotel, looking at the old, cracked ceiling, she began to wonder why she’d chosen to go to Dublin at all. She’d been on a three day bender, to be honest, which began on Friday evening, and wrapped up last night, Sunday, she thinks? She picked up her phone from the bedside table, and indeed confirmed that today was Monday, therefore she had been drunk for three full days and nights; well, three and a half if you included this morning. She could say she felt ashamed, or bad about her decisions, but she’d be lying; quite frankly, she loved this version of herself, and she was excited to finally feel the freedom of being whomever she chose to be. And this past weekend, she’d chosen to be a drunk free spirit, and she embraced that new journey. She slowly lifted herself off the bed, and moved toward the bathroom, for a shower she desperately needed.

After she had cleaned up, Isla sat on the shabby bed in her hotel room, wrapped in a starched, white towel, and opened her leather journal, and decided it was time to starting writing some things down. She wasn’t even sure anymore why she was in Ireland, and she thought about that fact daily. She had decided to quit her job about 6 months ago and take her savings and tour Europe, as many of her friends had done. She realized it was kind of stupid and reckless to do that, making such an irrational choice, but it felt like something she truly needed to do, and she hated her job anyway, like everyone else, let’s be honest. The problem was, Isla felt like a living, breathing cliché; quitting her job and going to Europe? Truly, she was a mess like pretty much everyone else in her generation, and she knew it, and she figured the fact that she could acknowledge this was a real accomplishment. But, she thought, if not now, then when? She was 26, unmarried, no children, and wanted to make a career change anyway, so why not start now? So, she just decided to. Just like that. Gave her two weeks, packed up one duffel bag, and bought a one way ticket to Italy. That’s where this all started. That’s where all this madness kicked off, all the people, all the men, all the music, everything. She had plans to write while she was abroad, gain some life experience so she had more to write about, honestly. She just had been so focused on her career and education for so long, that everything else just seemed like it had been put on the back burner, and she needed to change that; she needed to feel alive for a minute. Just a minute, that ended up stretching into six months, and then who knows from there, truly. She just didn’t want to go back; she really couldn’t. That life she left wasn’t going to be waiting for her anyway, so why bother returning to it? Might as well leave it there, and continue on with this one now, a new, fresh path to make her own. She began to think back on some places she’d been, and wasn’t even sure where to start, in this journal, so she figured, might as well start from the beginning, when she landed in Italy six months ago. She picked up her pen, and wrote Rome at the top of the first page, and began to collect her thoughts, her memories, and her sanity…

Choking Stars

As the sun sets,
Oh and darker the night does get
Everything turns pitch black
That’s when I feel closest to you
When I’m suffocating in darkness
That’s when I remember us
When I can barely see the stars
The clouds are choking their light
Out of their heavenly bodies
And the moon has taken leave
No silver light to paint this dead earth
Blanketed in empty space
I think of you
As everything around me quiets
Except the wind whistling through the trees
Leaves rattling in the fall breeze
I think of you when the clock chimes 12
And every hour after
Until finally the sky begins to turn a lighter shade of grey
And the sun begins to take its first breath of day
Before then
When I am wrapped in universal darkness
Stretching into eternity
Yours is the face that I see
Staring right back at me.

Original Work: KH 10/14/14

Short Story: The Dinner Party: Part IV

Emily saw her self in a brightly lit hallway, all white and shining lights, unable to place exactly where she was. Was this a dream? What had happened? Was she not at a dinner party? She began to hear voices calling to her, calling from different directions. To her left, she heard a woman’s voice, softly saying “Emily, Emily?” To her right, she heard a familiar voice, William’s voice, saying “Emily, darling, are you alright? Emily?” She chose to turn her head to the right, to be closer to William. It seemed, now, in this bright white light, she was able to recall this man, this man she hadn’t remembered, a man who had seemed like a complete stranger to her, a man whose name she didn’t even know only an hour ago. Suddenly, all of that fear, that madness, that confusion, melted away. She turned her entire body onto her right side, to be closer to William’s voice, and she began to blink, and slowly open her eyes to see what was right in front of her. And there he was. William. She remembered him now, she remembered everything about him in fact. She was able to recall how curly and wavy his brown hair was in the morning when he had just woken up. She could remember how he took his tea, milk first, always. She remembered that day they spent on the moors, last year when they had come up for David and Margaret’s dinner party, here, at their Yorkshire home. She remembered their wedding day at the registry office in Chelsea, and how simple and beautiful it was, and how sad she had been that her family wasn’t there. Why hadn’t they been there? She struggled to remember…
She remembered moving into their flat in Knightsbridge, and how empty and lonely it had been since he’d been away at the war. She remembered the last time they’d made love, before he was shipped off, and how she had never felt more connected to another person in her life. She remembered them, William and Emily Turner, and how happy they had been for that brief, shining moment.

All of it rushed into her mind, and overwhelmed her already sensitive senses. How had she forgotten so many things? How had she forgotten the man she had chosen to spend her life with? All of her memories stopped, right now, as she was lying on the floor, and could think of nothing else between them. All of her memories of them seemed to be in the past tense. She couldn’t recall anything recent. As she looked into William’s eyes, he brushed his left hand across her cheek, and smiled a lovely, kind smile, the warmest one he had, that he saved for those he loved. She remembered that smile, and how he always used it with her. She closed her eyes again, remembering moments between them; a sunny, summer day in Hyde Park, walking along the Thames at midnight, having a pint at the pub with friends. Suddenly, flashes of other memories seeped into her mind, memories that did not include William, and seemed wildly unfamiliar to her. A destroyed building, a funeral, several funerals, being tied down to a bed, a hospital bed it seemed, crying constantly. Something was wrong, something that she couldn’t quite pinpoint, but it was off, and she was unable to go back to the happy memories she had been thinking of. Where was this darkness coming from? She couldn’t place of it, and that terrified her. She couldn’t remember such sadness from her past, and yet…her family. Why hadn’t they been at her wedding? Why couldn’t she remember them…

“Darling, shall we get up now? Let me help you.” She snapped back to reality as she heard William speaking, trying to help her up, and get her back on her feet.

“I remember it, all of it, you, me, us, everything, I’m so sorry I forgot, I don’t know how I could possible forget our life together. Something in my brain was so loud, it just kept making noise and echoing, but it stopped. I don’t hear it anymore, I just hear you.”

William smiled down at her, and she felt warm inside again, as she tried to push those dark thoughts out of her mind, and focus on the goodness that existed in this moment.

“William, I can’t remember my family…why weren’t they at our wedding?”

William’s eyes darkened, and his smile faded, a look of sadness, and concern, sweeping over his face.

“Emily, they passed several years ago…do you not remember? Your mother and father were in an automobile accident, in Cheshire, and your brother’s plane was shot down over the English Channel in 1941…I’m sorry to have to remind you of this, I loved your family as well, but I’m scared that you forgot them…why are you feeling so forgetful? Something must be wrong…”

Emily remembered now. She remembered her parents’ funeral, and her brother’s, and how after they were gone, she had no one but William. He had become her family, her source of support and love. She had needed him so much, which is why it was so hard for her to deal with him being gone for so long. But he was here now, with her, and they would have another chance to make life work, to make their marriage work, and to reconnect and find each other again. This was their chance. She was grateful that she was able to remember the beauty they had shared, that she was able to recall the lovely moments, the ones that had kept her going during her darkest days. How she could remember turning over onto her left side in bed, and seeing him asleep, chest rising and falling as he slept on his back, at peace, brown curls falling from his face and onto the pillow. Those moments were the ones that helped her sanity remain, and kept her from going into that dark place again. William helped her up, and wrapped his arms around her, tightly, making it hard for her to breathe, but it was the very best kind of hug, the kind that makes you glad to be alive, and have someone that loves you that much.

“Emily, maybe we should go for a walk, just a quick one, around the property, or through the moors, so that you can clear your head? Would you like that dear?”

Emily considered his proposition, but realized that she needed to walk alone for a bit, and clear out the rest of the bad memories that were lingering, of damaged properties and mourners and grief…she was sure those were simply memories of when she lost her family, but something inside of her just couldn’t accept that. Something inside of her kept pushing forward the notion that those weren’t memories. She needed to breathe and clear her head for a moment.

“Mind if I walk alone, love? I’d like to just clear my head, and my thoughts for a bit.”

“Of course, anything that you need. We’ll probably finish dinner and head into the living room for a drink or two, you’ll find us there when you’re ready to come back inside.”

“Sounds wonderful. I’m so sorry for all of my confusion, I must need a bit of rest I suppose.”

“Of course dear. Have a nice walk.”

William kissed her, and she felt so very loved in that moment, his lips were firm and lovely, yet toward the end, they began to feel as if they were disappearing, and losing their fire, as if they were no longer there…

Emily looked up into William’s eyes, and mouthed “I love you.” He returned the gesture. She made her way to the back door, turning around one last time to take a look at all the others, and went outside. She began to take a walk through the property, and then headed toward the moors just past the edge of their land. Emily strolled leisurely and calmly, trying her hardest to push all that darkness from her mind. It was beginning to work, and she felt more at ease than she had in ages.

It didn’t last long. Ten minutes after she left the house, she felt that string pulling tightly in her head again. She felt it get so tight, she could barely walk. Suddenly she heard it, that sound overhead. She remembered it from London, and knew nothing good would come from hearing it here. That all too familiar sound, roaring through the dark, Yorkshire sky, over the moors, and toward the home of David and Margaret Jones. As she began to turn back, she heard, and felt, the string snap in her head. At the same moment, she heard the explosion, ripping through the Yorkshire countryside, and realized that the destroyed building she had seen earlier wasn’t a relic of her past; it was living, breathing, and smoldering right now, in front of her. This time, Emily fell to the ground on purpose, hiding in the moors, in the hopes that whatever had happened was all just a bad dream. She couldn’t cry, or scream, or anything. She just lay there, unmoving, internally destroyed, lost, and shockingly, not very surprised. She closed her eyes, and returned to the white, brightly lit hallway, and saw her hands tied down at her sides, on those starched white sheets she seemed to remember the smell of…

Craving

Oh to feel peace,
To find it
Living somewhere I had not looked before.
I say I crave it
I say I dream to find it
But am I lying to everyone?
Am I lying to myself?
I seek peace
But I continue to look
Where I know it lives not
Why?
Do I crave peace?
Or do I crave the idea
Of being a person who does?
Every time
I breathe calmly
And feel that sensation
Of peace
Washing over my body and my mind
I find ways to destroy it
Subtly
So that it leaves me
And I am back fighting the same battles
I was fighting before.
Do I truly desire peace?
Or do I need chaos
Passion
Destruction
Madness
To survive?
Maybe one can simply survive
On the belief that peace,
Inner peace, 
Can save them,
Even though it’s all
Simply
A
Lie.

Original Work: KH 10/14/14