Monday, March 31, 2014

Origami Dreams

I wrote all my dreams
On the folded wings
Of paper airplanes
Marring the white perfection
With my optimistic failures
Standing on the rooftop
As the sun set
Burning across the horizon
Like the fires of our passion
I set the paper wings afire
And tossed them in the sky
To drift from me, like ashes
On the peppermint winds
Watching my dreams burn away
As the pure wings of snow
Melted to sighing smoke
The dancing flames
Matching the drowning sun
Until they both fade to black

I wrote letters to myself
Taking all my hopes
And casting them to darkness
On the wings of origami butterflies
Each one marked with the letters of your name
I watched them fall away to a fading sky
Slipping from my hand
Like stones cast to the sea
The delicate folded paper
As fragile as the promises upon it
The words etched in black ink
On soft porcelain skin
So much like yours
Less beautiful, though
For the absence of scars
As if I could only read your story
From the marks on your flesh
And the promises we've broken

I wrote regrets across my skin
With broken glass
From the frames of all our pictures
The ones you left
As if our memories
Were not worth carrying forward
Leaving marks on flesh
To match the lines your kiss
Burned into my mind
I remember now
The words you said
With no kiss goodbye
Our ending, a mere formality
As dying is to death
Your eyes much colder
Than the fire on my paper wings

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Forest Through the Trees

We stood together
Under the storm
Weathering the maelstrom of life
Our roots twined
Like old trees
Inseparable and constant
Growing upwards, together
Towards a nourishing,
Uncaring sun
Old scars marred our skin
From weather and wounds
We had faced alone

Nourished beside you
We rose together
Standing tall and strong
Our branches whispering our love
Into the wind
As our leaves kissed
You were always beside me
To hide me from the sun
When the world became too much to bear
And my scars grew burdensome
I grew sick with sorrow
And rested in the shade of your love

As I rested
I wilted in your grace
You towered above me
The cool shade of your sheltering limbs
Stealing the sun from my hungry eyes
Until all color seemed empty
And I pleaded with you
To pull your beautiful limbs
Away from the life I needed

As my roots gave way
I grew weak in your love
Only too late realizing
That there is a sad natural truth
That all beautiful things end
And all endings are little deaths

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Face of my Depression

Depression is as variable as the people who suffer through it. For me, it wasn't even something I was aware of for the longest time. It seemed to just be he natural state, and when I saw people around me who were happier, or more well-adjusted I just assumed they were better at faking it, or stronger than I was. I fell into the trap of assuming my feelings were merely histrionics... that I really did just need to "suck it up" and "get over it" and get on with my life and time and just BE happier. I was surrounded by people who were either struggling with their own depression in a similar manner, or who were oblivious to mental health needs. I felt these things in my head, and fought these battles, and it seemed very few people around me knew how to respond. I sure as fuck didn't know what it was. It was my basal state. It took a very long time for me to come to a place where I recognized what I was going through as an issue of mental health, and it took even longer to acknowledge that I needed help.For me, my depression is something I haven't faced until very recently. I still haven't shared a lot of it with my family. It has ruined a lot of my relationships, personal and romantic. It has impacted my academics, my social life, my romantic life, and my family. I've self-harmed, and I've been suicidal. Every part of my life has been touched by my depression in very real, very telling ways.

When you're depressed, the world looks very different. Simple things like just getting out of bed become these huge obstacles. Some days, all you accomplish is managing the effort to get out of bed. You may not succeed, but you have to accept these small victories as progress. Doing difficult things? Sometimes they're basically impossible. I've had days where I sat and stared at my door, willing myself to leave my apartment, and all I could do was stare. it took hours to get the nerve just to leave. Ten minutes later I was sitting against a building on the sidewalk, too messed up to keep moving. A lot of days, waking up is the worst part of your day, because you know how hard it will be... not to mention that disappointment that you didn't die in your sleep.

Some days, it's like the world has been washed in shades of grey. Everything is dull, broken...covered in this thin veneer of misery. I don't necessarily feel sad. I feel cold, and empty, and apathetic. There is a sense of lethargy, and a feeling approaching ennui. You don't care for many things. You lose energy, you lose focus. You can see people pulling away, or being pushed away by the fucked up mess in your head, and that just exacerbates the entire situation.

Except you don't know how to really be okay. You don't know how to express it to them. Most days you don't even really feel human.You feel like some kind of clockwork simulacrum, going through the motions and fooling the masses. Putting on the happy face every day gets harder and harder. Faking the contentment and "normalcy" gets harder and harder. Soon you don't have the energy to even keep up your facade. Your emotional awareness swaps between dull and hyper-sensitive. You're drowning, and so you grasp at anything that can help you keep above the water.

Depression presents differently in different people, and I won't pretend to know how to explain it for them. For me, my depression presents as what I can only refer to as "noise." This is a more technical reference...I didn't mean it to refer to sound, but instead to elevated levels of background activity in my brain, although I guess sound is also an appropriate analogy.

Imagine you're in a room full of televisions and radios. Your thoughts are songs and shows, and you can turn them up or down to focus on one at a time. You can tune them out, maybe even turn them off when you need to. For me, my depression manifests as an overwhelming increase in background noise, and an inability to tune it out.

Imagine you're in your room, and suddenly ALL the radios and televisions are on, full volume, and they're set to static. White noise and harsh, discordant tones. They are flipping through channels and stations too quickly to see. There are blurs of color and sound. You can't plug your ears.When you reach out to turn them down, or off, it doesn't work. It gets overwhelming, almost physically painful. This is my head. My thoughts race, and I can't focus. I am desperate to make it stop.

The noise is always there, on some level. There is always some static in my thoughts. Some days it's a low hum I can ignore. Other days I'm so overwhelmed I can't function. It can be accompanied by hopelessness. Anger, too. It almost hurts me physically on the worst days, feeling almost like my thoughts are self-destructing my brain. It's more than that though. There are all these negative, fucked up thoughts that seem to scream at me from the static. It gets overwhelming. It creates this all-pervading sense of self-loathing and emptiness... a constant struggle to feel human, and normal, and alive.

Most days, it's like walking around with a million thoughts screaming for your attention, each one of them undercutting your focus and concentration. My fucked up head overwhelms me with this kind of creeping emptiness that I just can't fight. Like a trapped animal, I'd gnaw off my own fucking leg if it would let me escape from the shit going on in my brain. On some level I know it's the chemistry going haywire, but the sensation is almost physical. It's exhausting. I don't sleep, I don't eat. I get frustrated an angry at myself. I would do nearly anything to make it stop, just for a few moments.

There aren't many things that can make it stop.

For me, coping took on many forms. I had my bad coping mechanisms and my good ones. I self-harmed or a long time, because it was one of the few ways to get the noise in my head to quiet down to where I could focus. It became nearly addictive. I drank, and fought, and fucked and did my best to replace feelings with hollow biological stimuli. I tried to kill myself, and I engaged in risky behaviors with the hopes that I'd maybe push too far. I did my best to stay busy and exhausted. Physically and mentally, I did as much as I could to stay occupied. it didn't really help, but most days I was too burnt out to care.

I had positive coping mechanisms too. I taught myself some tricks that help me focus and calm down. I started playing a couple instruments and found that music could make everything go away for a while. Some of my schooling did the same thing. There were sometimes people too, who seemed to hold my thoughts and soothe my mind. These were few and far between, and people always seem too... unreliable... for mental health concerns. I found therapy to be not very helpful for me, but I know plenty of others who it has helped a great deal. I've had good luck with medications so far, having only had really adverse reactions to the first one I took. In general, there are plenty of ways to cope, but I've always struggled to find meaningful, consistently effective coping mechanisms. Eve the negative ones seem to lose potency sometimes, which can be especially dangerous. Mostly I find myself doing my best, and falling behind little by little. Things are getting better, though. I'm doing my best to be patient, and to understand that any progress, no matter how small, is still a step forward.

If you suffer from depression, please know that you are not alone. If you know someone who suffers from depression, I hope this helps you to understand what they're going through. If you're interested, here is a link to my earlier blog on Depression, Self harm, and suicide.

If you are thinking of harming yourself or others, please call someone... call a professional, and seek help.

You are loved, and I am proud of you for coming this far.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Love is an Illusion

Love is an illusion
Nothing but hollow words
And poisoned lies
Just living life
Is going to kill
All the emotions inside of me
Until nothing is left of me
Slitting the throat of my dreams
With the curtains drawn
And lights down low
Hopeless romantics
When romance is dead
And buried
Drowning myself
In these rainy day regrets
So pour us all another glass
Numbing what we don’t burn away
Even with the alcohol thinning our blood
We can still laugh
And cry
And smile
So let’s go above and beyond the obscene
Tasting my love for you
In the blood on your lips
And the scars on my flesh
Like a sad song
On the radio
We’re just melodramatic
And overdone
I just can’t wait for it to be over

And out of my head

Why I Science

This is the major portion of my statement of purpose for graduate school... the reason WHY I am doing science.

"Science is, at its heart, the search for and organization of, knowledge about the world we live in, and the things that constitute it. There are other motives: improvement of life, helping others, the thrill of discovery, but these things are merely offshoots of a more universal urge: curiosity. The sum of all human knowledge is a very small sphere of the total of all possible knowledge, and science seeks to expand that sphere by successive approximations.
            This pervasive curiosity and creative spirit present in science is what attracts me to bench science. There is something almost poetic about the concept of contributing to this all-encompassing knowledge in a small way; adding your own brick to the collective wall of science. In the end, I see research science as the gateway to progress. This progress is integral in directly improving and saving human lives. Biomedical research, with a focus on being translated to human usage, is a wonderful accumulation of these small bits of knowledge, coming together to form a cohesive idea which can be translated into therapies and medications which are useful in alleviating pain and suffering. The opportunity to not only contribute directly to this knowledge base, but to know that my contributions may one do come to the aid of others, is why I find myself so passionate about research in science."

You have to love what you do. You have to have passion, and a reason, or you'll be miserable.

Why Graduate School

As some of you are probably aware, I'm a masters student in biochemistry and molecular biology. I did my undergraduate work in biology, minoring in chemistry and neuroscience. All I did was science. For the longest time my goal was a pre-professional school: I was planning on going to medical school, but some of my professors changed that outlook. I applied to not enough graduate schools my senior year, and was lucky enough to get accepted into a VERY good university.

When you're an undergraduate, you are in it for the experience. Your undergraduate work is about education AND life experience. You're not just learning academic information, you're learning about yourself. You are encouraged to have fun, meet people, make experiences and memories... participate in extracurricular activities, party, what have you. It's just as much about self-discovery as it is about education.

For me, my BSc was kind of a joke to get through. The elective and general education courses were breeze. I barely studied.I was able to skate through my BSc with minimal time and effort, and it worked out fairly well for me.

The downside to undergrad is that you're surrounded by a bunch of half-assed slackers. People who are just there to skate through and get the piece of paper. You don't see that as much in the sciences, but you still have to deal with people filling their general education requirements and electives. You may just be surrounded by idiots.

Graduate school though, is throwing you into your niche of choice with a smaller group of like-minded people. The material is more focused. THIS is where you get your real education, where you (hopefully) get more prepared for a professional life.

Now, I'm going to be completely honest. I hated my undergraduate education. I was there because i could afford to stay there. I didn't maintain many friendships from it, and I feel better off for having cut those people out of my life.

In the spirit of continued honesty, I also think that graduate school was one of the worst best decisions I have ever made. I love what I'm doing here. I love what I'm learning, and where I'm learning, and who I'm learning from. I love being in the trenches, so to speak, and getting educated on the cutting edge of the sciences.

It's fucking awesome to be here. It is also stressful. Exhausting. It has destroyed my social life, my mental health, my physical health. Granted, none of those things were that great before... but now? Terrible. I'm destroyed. I hate it, I hate what this life has done to me, and... I fucking love it.

This program destroyed my personal relationships and social life.  I've gotten sick, had my mental health destroyed, my relationships and friendships torn apart and shredded by stress and mental distress. I don't sleep, or eat. I don't have friends here (slight hyperbole) and it's generally a mess.

So if this is so terrible, why do people even bother doing it? There are a lot of reasons. Some are good, some are pretty bad. Some people do it for career opportunities or advancement. I think this is kind of a poor reason to go into a graduate program if it isn't paired with interest. The work will become a chore, and it's already hard enough without that mindset. I think this may be more common outside STEM programs, but still happens.

Then you have people like me, who go into graduate school because they so sincerely love the material and topics. I think this is the only reason one should ever go into graduate education, because if you're miserable AND don't like what you're doing, it's going to suck for however many years you're doing it.You have to love it, to commit to the time, effort, and energy graduate school takes. Even just a masters degree is going to test you mentally, physically, and intellectually.You really need to love it.
The worst group, though, are people who go to graduate school because they had no idea what else to do. They're just like those people in undergrad who ruined your major courses by taking them as general education courses: they're just passing the time, and aren't sincere. The only good thing is hopefully their laziness gives a nice, favorable curve.

So what else can you do? Oh man. Not much. It's really education or work. You can take time off, come back, get your graduate degree. Jump into the workforce and bust your ass a few years earlier than your graduate school counterparts. Work and get you degree later. It's really not all that different from getting your Bachelors, except not as universally necessary. I chose to jump straight into a masters program after my undergrad so that I was still in the academic mindset from undergrad, and I honestly think it was a bad idea. I'm getting burnt out.

Why am I doing this? Fuck me, I don't know. Some days I feel like I'm only here because I wasted a bunch of money on tuition. Some days I get so stressed, so sick, so generally miserable, that I honestly can't do much more than lay in bed and try to be okay. Graduate school is tough, but doable. Graduate school with depression issues is a little more tough, but sincerely manageable.

If you pressed me for why I am going to graduate school, I would probably give you some line about being in love with biochemistry and molecular biology. I'm in love with science. If you put a gun to my head though, I'd have to say it's much more than curiosity. I'm doing this because I want to add my own little brick to the tower of human knowledge, sure... but knowing that those bits of knowledge can impact lives in a decade, or even after the timeline of my life...THAT is why I'm here. I'm doing this because my life's work in science may one day contribute to something that changes the world and saves millions of lives. Sure, there is wonder and beauty and curiosity driving me. I love learning. I love learning about life, and the world... but more than that, I love people. I want to leave something to the future that will last well beyond the scope of my lifetime.

Sure, it's difficult and terrible and everyone here gets so stressed and worn out...during exam weeks we've had people get so sick they had to be hospitalized from stress and sleep deprivation. It is simultaneously the most wonderful and terrible choice I've ever made. We all like to sit together and complain and joke about the misery...

...but all of us stuck with it, and like talking about the material and discussing what's going on. It kind of shows that everyone here loves the same things, loves the same material, and have the same general goals. You make friends, you form bonds, and you find out a lot about yourself. You find your niche.

So if you love what you're doing, go for graduate school. Be willing to make some sacrifices if you love it. Be ready to suffer a little, and be miserable sometimes.

It's completely fucking worth it.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Love is Wrong

It was for the better
In the beginning
We were perfect
And now
I can’t turn my back on you
Or look you in the eye
Forever is a word
Designed to break your heart
And kill your pride
And love is wrong
                And love is wrong

I’ll keep my promises
You’ll burn all my letters
In the end, we all cry
And everyone loses
So we learn to cut our losses
And walk away
And love is wrong
                And love is wrong

So give me one last call
Just to hear your voice
Even if just for goodbye
I promise to do my best
Ask me to die softly
For you

Monday, March 10, 2014


Maybe I spoke too soon
And maybe you felt it too
A shudder, like two ships
Crashing in the night
Tearing each other open
Spilling helpless casualties
Into the cold Atlantic
So we bathed in the light
Of our long held delusions
Maintaining the truth
Of our precious illusions

Like a plane crash in the night
We come crashing down
And no one knows the damage done
Until the morning comes
So when the dawn breaks
We drift through the wreckage
Pulling ghosts from all our failures
From chances wasted and lives ruined

Maybe I fell too short
And maybe we spoke too soon
Our rooftop romance ends
When we hit the street
You take the stairs
I’ll take the lover’s leap
Concrete kisses
Ending my thoughts of you

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Zombie Survival: Bite FAQs

Hello again zombie nerds! I figured I'd take time from discussing death and lost love to answer questions about a really important topic: being bitten by a zombie. As I am obviously an expert in this field, as a gamer and almost-scientist, I shall endeavor to answer every question accurately, thoroughly, and professionally.

Q1: If I'm bitten, does that automatically mean I'm infected?

A1: I guess there is a slight chance that the viral load isn't present in the saliva of your vicious, cannibalistic attacker. However, just in case, lop off the bitten limb and get ready to suck start your firearm when you lose feeling in your fingers.

Q2: Should I tell someone?

A2: Do you want someone bashing your head in with a rock, or putting a bullet in the back of your head "Of Mice and Men" style? I would think you don't owe those assholes anything. Keep going, I'm sure it's just the flu.

Q3: How long do I have before I become a zombie? Does where I'm bitten matter? Can it be stopped?

A3: Bite location may have an impact, but as your blood moves pretty quickly and viral kinetics are highly variable, I really don't like your chances. I'd say you have some time before full onset. Maybe a few hours to a few days. You can try to remove the bitten limb, but if it's a torso bite, I guess you should sit back, light up your last few cigarettes, and wait for your stomach to growl or your buddies to bludgeon you "for the greater good."

Q4: Does the transformation hurt?

A4: I'm not sure, I only look like a zombie most days. I would assume, though, that it probably sucks.

Q5: Is a cure possible? What if there is a cure in the works?

A5: Given the mutable, highly proliferative nature of the virus, the chances of an effective cure are slim to none. If there is one in the works, ask yourself the following questions: Are you near the facility? Is the cure finalized? Is it effective? If the answer is no to any of these, you're shit out of luck.

Q6: What if I tell someone, but they can't bring themselves to shoot me?

A6: Then they are a shitty friend and deserve to have you turn into a zombie and bite them. Lots. Especially on and around their faces.

Q7: What if my dog/otter/other pet/etc. is bitten? Will it become a zombie?

A7: Well, given the prolific, highly mutable nature of the virus, interspecies transmission is a potential risk. How scary is that, though? You can't outrun most things, let alone try to fight a zombie grizzly bear or mountain lion. Just to be safe, if your pet is bitten, take a page from "Old Yeller"

Q8: Can I only catch the virus through bites?

A8: Nope. The chances of airborne or waterborne transmission are unlikely with such a fragile virus, but a possibility. Blood to blood contact is the most expedient method of transmission, but any mucous membrane contact can have potential. Eyes, reproductive tract, GI tract come to mind. However, unless you're out there having sex with zombies, I'd worry most about the bites. Oh, and get some goggles for your head-shooting and brain-bashing.

Q9: If my best friend is bitten, do I tell the group?

A9: Sure thing, but only after you've bashed your friend's head in with a rock or big stick. Friends don't let friends turn into flesh-eating monsters. Trust me, it's exactly what Jesus would do (if he was real.)

Q10: But I love him/her! I can't shoot them!

A10: First of all, this isn't a question. You've completely missed the point. Anyway, if you can't do it, find someone with the survival instinct to do it for you. Then give them all of your stuff and go walk towards the zombies, you're only good for fodder.

Q11: My friend is looking a bit ashen, and complaining of hunger. I always see them staring at me and licking their lips. Are they infected?

A11: Is their last name Donner? No? Then yeah, they're probably only a few minutes away for gnawing your limbs off. Just to be safe, you should get them before they get you. Either way, you can't afford to catch whatever bug they're carrying.

Q12: I can't tell if my significant other is a zombie or just into kinky stuff. How can I tell?

A12: Simple. When they bite, do they chew? If so, I hope you have two bullets in your gun. One for them, one for you. Point of interest: avoid oral sex.

Q13: If you've been bitten by a Zombie, but haven't yet turned into a Zombie, would your bite infect another?

A13: Well yeah. You'd still have virus present, and you'd still be able to transmit viral load via the various mechanisms. So, if you get chomped, avoid unprotected sex.

Q14: Let's say I've been bitten, and my comrades are about to kill me before I turn on them. What would be some epic last words? Something they'll all remember with a fond chuckle and half-smile later that night as they gather in their safe house.

A14: Now we get to the important question. I would grin, nudge them with my elbow while chuckling, and say "Well, this bites!"

Or "What a rotten way to go! No need to chew it over guys. I'm a goner."

Or get classy, and end it all with a "Tell me about the rabbits again, George."

 Well, that's all for today folks! Thanks to all that submitted questions, and if yours didn't make it, I'm really sorry! I still love you, promise!

 Until next time, stay safe, stay alert, and don't get bitten!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Burnt-out Lighthouse

I feel like a captain
Going down with his ship
Call it duty or devotion
Call it folly if you will
To me, this water in my lungs
Feels like conviction
Despite, and Still
I know how to stand in the dark
And curse the light:
I have lived this story as the lighthouse
         And the shipwreck.
Waving from shore
To warn you away from the death around me
To save you from the jagged truth
Beckoning to drowning sailors
As they struggle in the storm
Drawn down like blackout curtains
To dark, lonely depths
As their last breath mingles
With the choking waves
     Or sinking beside them
     Watching the tantalizing light
     Flicker, out of reach
     Hands ever grasping
     As water fills my lungs
     My last thoughts
     Of a shore I’ll never reach
     And the love that will wait
     On patient shores
     For a ship that will never come

This Beautiful World

There are beautiful people,
And beautiful words,
And beautiful pains,
In my life.
I carry them all
Through this beautiful world,
Close to me
Touched by no hands
But my own
The walls around my heart
Guarded by the dragons
And demons
Of my past mistakes
And deep regrets
Tearing apart the helpless dreams
Of those who try to breach my barricades
And no armor or shield
Or patient compassion
Can withstand
The aching desperation of my cynical love
No sword or spear
Or whispered love
Can slay the monsters in my head
There is a tender sweetness
In the loneliness of this tower
For though I long for human touch
Nothing is sweeter than the smell
Of dreams burned away
As hopes are crushed
Like their fragile bones
In the jaws of my isolation

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Death, Grief and Atheism

The hardest part of my full acceptance of atheism as my life outlook was accepting the fact that I would never see some of my loved ones again... that those who were taken from this life too early were indeed gone.

We hear all the well-intended phrases:

"They're in a better place"

"You'll see them again"

"It was their time"

"It's part of God's plan."

And all of their similarly ludicrous and frustrating contemporaries. I take no joy from these statements, as they are based entirely on a disregard for reality. I find no comfort in this kind of well-meant cliche being thrown at me, as if any of those things will ever take away the pain of the loss. It may be comforting to have those thoughts, but at the end of the day, it's intellectually dishonest. It's hard to not get frustrated at these phrases, to not call someone out on their ignorance. It can be hard to communicate your feelings to a majority who assume that after death comes something better, something MORE than this life. Grieving as an atheist can be lonely, and painful, because the religious world doesn't understand that that was it for the deceased. There will be no spirited reunions at the gates of heaven or hell. Just a lot of empty spaces here on this Earth.

I don't think grief is an area where this intellectual dishonesty matters. We all feel it. Death and loss are guaranteed to be experienced by every single one of us. That is reason enough to care for everyone around you. We are all just temporary arrangements of atoms that come together in a brief flicker of awareness, and are snuffed like candles by the winds of time.

When you lose someone you love, it sticks with you. It never really gets better. You speak to them, though you know they can't hear. You write them letters they'll never read. Years after the fact, the slightest things can trigger your memories, and you end up unproductive, crying somewhere, desperately wishing there was a way you could be with them again.

Except, you know you can't. There are no second chances.

That is so singularly frustrating. You have to be uncomfortable. You are forced to acknowledge the finality of death...of every death. Those lost survive only through memories and grief. You hold the sounds of their voice, the way they smiled, the times you spent with them. You carry these things with you, and the pain never really stops. Worse, this understanding can increase the depths of your grief, as you have no false hopes to cling to.

The acceptance of the inevitability and finality of death are part and parcel of understanding how the world really works. For believers, their fears are alleviated by the misguided notion that there is "something more" or "something better" after this life. A laughably childish delusion, but one I sometimes envy when faced with the reality of mortality and loss. The believer wraps themselves in this warm, comforting blanket of ignorant superstition, allowing their anxiety and desires override any critical faculties. They express their views as heaven and hell, though they all assume that their loved ones and themselves will be united in their mythology's version of paradise. They feel this loss and pain, and they delude themselves as a coping mechanism. This is intellectually dishonest, but not wholly abhorrent. I understand this need, this desire, to be reunited with a loved one on a visceral level. I know that feeling of being willing to give anything up to see them again.

As non-believers, we don't have the luxury of false comforts. A world view that encompasses a natural, stochastic origin of existence eliminates any real hope of an afterlife. There are no second chances. There will be no days beyond the veil of death where we find our loved ones waiting by a distant shore, eyes glued to the horizon separating life and death and are reunited with them. I want to think that, but I won't lie to myself.

Understanding that this is the only chance we get to live life gives a deeper sense of urgency to make it mean something to yourself, to those around you, and to the future generations. The universe doesn't care about us, but we can care about each other.

I would like to think, only, that my loved ones who are dead... in fact, all those whose deaths precede mine, and all those who will die after I have already shuffled off this mortal coil... they are simply in a place outside of sensation, where the cessation of their life and breath and love has at least ended their suffering. I would like to think, as it has been said, of their atoms and their energy being transferred to other things, and though they have no consciousness or soul which retains a sentient grasp on this pale blue bit of planetary dust, that the parts comprising their whole have not been erased, but disbursed.

I like to think my remembrance is enough, for in time we will all be forgotten.
Until then, all we have are memories.
At least here, now, we can love and be loved.

Sleep well, Amber
I love you

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Last Rose

The sun cast long shadows as it slowly crept downwards, sinking into the horizon like it was drowning in a dry sea. The colors played across the sky like hands reaching for the last vestiges of light, pleading to hold back the night and stay. As the lights faded dark and died, the stars begin to appear, one-by-one, as candles in the blackness of the sky. Among the floating diamonds, the moon hovered, full and bright, shining with a pale light like a fading sun.

Beneath the silvered light, a single rose bloomed. Among the dead and dying victims of fall, it stood as if blood. A single, burning-red reminder of summer, against the coming of fall. A last bastion of beauty, among the fading of other beauties. A single rose, perfect and pure, delicate petals folded into itself still. Budding, and blooming as if in defiance on the oncoming winter and inevitable wilting of itself. As the wind picks up, sending dead leaves spiraling through the air like dancers, the rose sways on itself.

The eyes that watch the rose are not ignorant to the metaphor, nor to the inherent beauty of what they are seeing. Doomed beauty. The eyes close, a single breath being drawn, the cool air sending cold daggers into lungs. As the eyes open, the breath is exhaled. A single rose. A single beauty. Simple perfection. The eyes drift down, catching sight of a beautiful face, smiling in slumber. A beautiful girl, beautiful in her own right, her arms wrapped tight around him, her fingers laced with his as if it had always been so. Natural postures of comfort. The eyes close again, the face around them smiling. He leans down, gently pressing his lips to her forehead in a tender gesture, pulling her tighter. She shifts slightly, murmuring softly and pulling his arms tighter around him. His smile softens ever so slightly, his fingers tracing lightly over hers as he holds her. These moments with her were, for him, like that rose…perfect, and beautiful. Fighting off the cold.

His thoughts drift to the stars, as his eyes remain upon her face. Stars…oh, how jealous they should be of her…this girl in his arms, who shines so much brighter, but with warmth. His thoughts drift away as she shifts again in his arms, bringing him from his reverie. He glances down, and this time a second set of eyes looks back, and a soft smile graces the face below his. He brings one hand from hers, brushing a few stray locks of hair from her face and caressing her cheek lightly with his fingertips. His lips part to speak, but he bites his lip, no sound escaping. Her smile widens, more awake, more alert, and aware of his inaction.

“What?” he voice was soft, pleasantly questioning, urging. His response is a shrug, a smile of his own, She tilts her head slightly, hair falling slightly back over her face.

“What is it?”

He shakes his head, still smiling, once again brushing the hair from her face, his hand lingering upon her skin tenderly.

“It’s nothing, darling. Honest.”

She puts an effort into frowning, the expression coming across as it was meant to…feigned, and completely endearing. He bites his lip, trying in vain to look cute, thinking that he’d failed miserably, and shrugs again.

“It’s nothing, honest, only…” he stops himself short. Only what? What was there to say? He catches her gaze, their eyes meeting, and staying, sharing a moment between them in silence. A silence that screamed volumes. She was waiting, and he knew it.

“It’s only that you are wonderful, and beautiful. And I think you deserve to know that.” He smiles still, his hand caressing her cheek as if by instinct. Her expression deepens, and she gives him a disbelieving look. He sees the denial building behind her lips.

“Well, I DO believe that you must be wrong. Perhaps you should—“

His lips met hers softly, briefly, cutting off her words. After a moment, he pulls away, pulling her closer to him, his eyes meeting hers, unwavering.

“Don’t argue. Please?”

Her eyes were locked on his, nothing being said. The wind picked up again, rustling the leaves. He looked in her eyes, and again thought of the rose. Of these moments. She smiles at him, resting her head on his shoulder, laying with him, admiring the stars. His hand meets hers again, slipping together as his arms wrap tight around her. He dreaded the thought of letting go…

They lay there, together, for the time, one person. The time passed quickly, pushing minutes to hours. In the earliest reaches of dawn, the breaking of light across the horizon opening his eyes. She was still in his arms, wrapped tight, close against him, her breathe soft and regular. A flash caught his eye…looking, he saw the dew sparkling off the rose blossom. The last rose of summer. He smiled to himself. Leave it to the poet in him to turn all beauty into deep metaphor. A line ran through his head… “Oh, Shall I compare thee to a Summer’s day?” Shakespeare, perhaps? He looked down at the girl in his arms, his own sleeping beauty, a quiet, peaceful angel. He leaned down, and, in a gesture she would remember fondly in days to come, a gesture she would associate with smiles and happiness, kissed her forehead again. For a time he laid there with her, watching her sleep, as the sun climbed its way back into the sky, the beginning of a new day…

For a time, those moments belonged to them. The days, the nights. Their time together marked by silence and comfort…marked by a beauty that went beyond simply aesthetic appeal. They shared secrets. They shared tears. The moments were everything. And after those moments, the missing each other left a hollow ache in them. But always, they had that place, those moments. And that single rose. As winter came and went, they watched it grow and die and grow again. Time passed quickly. As spring drifted on, still they kept it in their hearts. A single rose blooming between them, a joy for them, growing as their hearts did.

They sat together, watching a perfect sunset as it blanketed the horizon with the colors of fire. He pulled her close, taking in the feel of her pressed close, the way her fingers moved idly over the back of his hand. He smiled, looking at her out of the corner of his eye. Wrapping her tighter in his arms, he kisses the top of her head, his hands squeezing hers gently. She turns her head towards him, catching his expression of deep thought. She smiles, and he smiles back softly.

“What are you thinking about?”

He furrows his brow, tilting his head towards the burning sky, thinking for a moment before shaking his head in dismissal. She frowns, a real one, showing concern, and a caring he never failed to notice.

“Tell me? Please?”

He smiles again, shaking his head. “It’s nothing, really.”

She looks at him a moment, and leans up, pressing her lips to his. His eyes close, his hands squeezing hers gently, a gesture of affection and devotion. How to tell her that he would walk through fire for her. He pulls away, eyes still closed, leaning in close, his voice coming out in a soft whisper.

“Do you know you mean the world?” She looks at him, slightly confused, and he continues. “To me. And all of this. For what it’s worth, I…I will always be here, you know?” He blushes slightly, looking down. She turns herself in his arms, to face him more, tilting his chin up.

“I know. You’re special, and…I care about you too.”

He looks at her, silent, thoughtful. Not daring to speak. Not daring to challenge. She smiles, pulling him into a short, passionate kiss. He smiles, reaching up to brush a few stray strands of hair from her face. She notes that his smile is almost sad. She opens her mouth to ask, and he silences her with two fingers pressed to her lips, shaking his head.

“I will always be here.” She nods, and he pulls her close again.

Then, one night, tragedy. She sat alone, watching the rose under the fading sunlight. Watching the rose under the silvery light of the moon. Alone. Concerned. Where was he? What was keeping him? She shivered, despite the warmth. Pulled her body into itself, watching the rose. Perhaps she was too concerned? He had never made her wait before. But perhaps… No. She shook her head, clearing her thoughts, and laying back, aching just to feel his arms around her. As the night grows on, she sleeps, her eyes closing, drifting into dreams of him, happy dreams. She awakes with his smell on her skin, his taste on her lips…but with empty arms. Disappointed, she stands, her eyes resting firmly on the ground. Behind her, a single beautiful red rose waved in the warm spring breeze.

And so it was, that she waited. Night after night, alone, but determined, she waited. She stared at the sky. How cold it seemed now. The stars burned like the hungry eyes of a great beast, staring down on her, waiting to devour her hope. The stars were now cold and distant, almost angry. Something about his absence seemed to bleed the comfort from the night sky. Something about being without him bled the colors from around her. Only a single rose remained untouched. When her eyes found it, her thoughts were always of him. How often they had watched the rose. Together. Always now, the rose would be a symbol of him in her life, a constant, a beautiful thing. Yet, here was the rose, without him by her side. It seemed unfair to be seeing it without him.

The rain did not stop her in her waiting. Nor did the sometimes-cold nights. Her heart grew cold. Empty. She began to doubt. He had promised her he would always be there. Had he forsaken her? Where was he? Was she forgotten? Tears would well in her eyes, sleepless nights spent crying, wondering, and always waiting. She dreaded to leave. What if he came, and she wasn't there? She shook her head vehemently, banishing the thoughts. He had promised her, that he would always come. But then…why was she so afraid? Something in her heart was balled into an icy chunk. She stared at the rose, thinking of him, watching it grow as they had, tears once again welling in her eyes as she watched the sunset play across the petals.

She opened her eyes, staring at a perfect sky. Looking around, she saw him, standing near the rose, his back turned to her. She stood, calling his name. He did not turn. She approached, resting a hand on his shoulder, turning him towards her. The look on his face took her breath away. His eyes were sad, sad and full of…what was it? Regret? Devotion? They conflicted, and in that conflict she saw the truth.

“Why did you make me wait?” her words were soft, sad as his face.

“I was there, but, only…” his words trailed off, his own voice barely a whisper.

She look at him hard, tears welling in her eyes. Damn her heart, if it was true. Damn him if she was right. How could he?

“You forgot your promise.” Her words echo like an accusation. Not a question, more a statement. He steps back, the hurt on his face deepening. His hands come up defensively, then drop back to his sides numbly, his eyes falling to the floor a moment before coming up again, his eyes meeting hers. Something in them tore at her inside, his expression burning into her mind.

“I never forgot you. I never forgot. Only...” again, silence, his eyes downcast. Sudden anger wells, her fist slamming against his chest, tears coming down her face. Her fists fell again, her emotions ripping out of her chest in a ragged shout.

“I waited, and you never came! You forgot me! You forgot us! You promised me!” His hand catches her fist as it falls the last time, his touch tender, gentle, soft. Ghostly light, he pulls her to his arms, his lips gently finding hers. The kiss holds, breaks, and she collapses against him, sobbing hard.

“Where were you?” She chokes her words out between sobs, pulling against his shirt.

“I was with you.” She looks up at this simple statement, not comprehending. He gestures to the rose. “I was with you, as I always have been. In your heart, in your mind. I was with you as you were with me. I was with you, though you could not see me.”

He reaches out, plucking the rose from its place, staring at its simple beauty, tracing his hands along the stem, along the thorns, along the petals. He lifts his gaze from the rose, pressing it to her hands.

“I am with you, as this is, because I can be with you no more. And I am sorry…so terribly sorry.” His voice cracks, tears running down his face. The sudden truth strikes her. Terribly hard. She hugs him tight to her.

“Why are you apologizing?” her words echo in her head, and she bites her lip through the tears struggling to control them as they fell down her cheeks. His hand lifts her chin, his eyes meeting her with an expression of utterly devoted affection, a deep sense of caring, longing…and regret.

“Because I’m going to miss you. And because I will never get to do this again…”

His faces closes on hers, and they kiss, a long, tender, passionate thing. As her eyes close, she pulls him close, just wishing the moment could last forever…

Her eyes open to a beautiful dawn. The sun lays across her face like a caress, soothing and gently warm. She sits up, remembering vague impressions of the night before. Only a dream, but so real…she sits up, glancing around, everything as she knew it would be. Only, something…

The rose.

Her eyes fell to it again. No rose. Their rose. Gone. But…she closed her eyes, opening them again. No rose. Her heart quietly broke. Her hands fell numbly to her sides, tears down her face. Her left hand encounters something, a strange sensation. As her fingers wrap around it, a sudden, sharp pain, and she turns…

Clasped in her white-knuckled hand, was a single, beautiful, full, red rose. Perfect in it’s beauty. The thorns dug deep into her hand, the blood flowing out from between her fingers. And she stared. Thoughts of him. Once again she felt him near. His scent, his touch. His voice was echoed in the wind through the trees. Her dreams. So real…

She stared at the beauty clutched in her hand, at the blood falling from her closed fist, dropping onto the ground, blooming like liquid roses in the grass. This was him, held in her hands again, for the last time.
And when the tears came again, she let them, and cried for him, and for herself…

They buried him that summer, beneath the open sky he’d shared with her. Tears were shed, words were spoken. On his grave, she left a single blood-red rose. He was gone. She stayed alone then, often. Sitting there, watching that rose grow. It never seemed quite the same. And she could never quite believe it was all a dream. She sat there, talking to a ghost, a ghost so real she could sometimes feel his arms around her, his whispered reassurances. She dreamt of him often. Dreams that she would wake from crying, often shaking. Always, she missed him so. She missed him desperately. Walking to the place where they had so often shared, she would sing their favorite songs. Tell him stories of what he’d missed. And she would think of him. And when she thought of him, she would never stop the tears from coming. And she would think of him, she would always think of that one rose; that perfect rose that had been everything.