A Second Goodbye

She ducked behind the display. Perhaps he hadn’t seen her. She felt him move towards her before she saw him. She picked up an item on the self and examined the price tag on its base. He spoke her name. It was a question. Could it really be her? His voice was all too familiar. She braced herself and turned around to look him full in the eye.

“Oh my gosh it is you!” he said. He raked a hand through his hair and looked her over. “Wow. I’d never have imagined meeting you here.”

Or anywhere… she mentally sighed.

“How’ve you been. You look great!”

“You too,” she mumbled. It was the right thing to say, but was it a lie? What she wanted to say was, “You look exactly the same.” He was smiling. Words were rolling out of his mouth. Falling from his lips. His lips. The same lips that had stolen her first kiss. The same lips that had…

He was so easy, carefree. How could he be so calm? How long had it been?

“Wow, how long has it been?” he echoed. She blushed at the absurd fear he could read her mind. “Five years right?”

“At least,” she muttered. They had been standing there several minutes. The greeting was over. Next was the horrific part.

“What have you been up to?” he asked. Perhaps he could read her mind…

“Oh this and that,” she said. He smiled.

“That’s appropriately vague,” he teased. The same smile touched his mouth. The same glint brightened in his eyes. The same sense of humor colored his words. “You here with someone?” he asked.

“No,” she said. “I’m on business. Just passing through. In fact I’ve got a meeting to run to so I should go.”

“Ah.” The knowing look in his eye. The little smirk. They knew each other too well. Three years pouring yourself, heart, soul, and body, into one person can leave little room for secrets.

“It was good to see you again,” he said. That awkward moment of saying goodbye. Do we shake hands? That seems odd and formal for two people who’ve…who’ve…known so much of each other.

He did it. He put his arms around her and gave her a kiss on the cheek. She managed to close her hands gingerly around his back. She could smell his aftershave. He hadn’t changed that either.

“Take care.”

“You too,” she mumbled back.

He was gone. It was over. The moment she had been dreading in her dreams ever since they said their first goodbye. She’d rehearsed for this meeting, aloud of all maddening things. She watched her face in the mirror, planned all she would say, and how she would behave.  Those rehearsals had been useless.  She could see them fluttering out the window with her script, each page separated and dropped lazily to the ground.

She was shaking. She went to the register and purchased the item in her hand. She didn’t see what it was until they slid it into the blue plastic bag. A paperweight? It looked like there was an insect incased in it. Gross! What was she going to do with that?

Useless memento in hand, she walked out the door. She looked both ways along the busy city sidewalk. She was looking for him. She always looked for him. Now that she knew he hadn’t changed his haircut, and still wore that same jacket, she would wonder if every look alike she spied walking away from her was him. Before now she could tell herself it wasn’t. Now…

She was walking. Where was she going? Back to the hotel she guessed. People brushed past her. Strangers. But somewhere in that mass of unknown faces, somewhere in that city…her first love. Her first kiss. Her first…everything. Shared memories and moments connected two moving bodies, two beating hearts, in this hurried mass of humanity.

He was gone again. Maybe they would run into each other tomorrow. Maybe five or ten years from now… or maybe never. That was their second goodbye. She thought the first would be their last. She’d hoped it was the last, but she made the right decision then just as now.

Hadn’t she?

© Rachel Svendsen 2014

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What Good is a Roll without Butter?

My mother’s despaired moan came from the backseat. “They forgot the butter for my roll.”

“No?” my grandmother gasped in horror.

“Yes!” She dropped it back into the paper bag from which it came. “What good is a roll without butter?” she mumbled.

I was driving. There was a lovely lilting rhythm to my mother’s words. My brain quickly composed a little ditty. I silently willed it to stay in my sieve-like brain until we made our next stop, at which point, I pulled out my handy-dandy-notebook and wrote the captured words out before they broke free like stallions into the wild frontiers of forgotten memories. (The wild, fresh smell of the grass and allurement of so many companions must be the draw.)

What good is a roll without butter,
Or marmalade on it to smother?
It’s just useless bread,
And better off dead.
What good is a roll without butter?

I recited my creation to my mother. She nodded vigorously. “You tell them!” she concurred.
Next step in the process, text my goofy creation to some appreciative party. This is usually one of two people, my husband, who was currently working and would be unable to chuckle for hours, or my brother-in-law, who usually responds within an hour on the average day.

My brother-in-law and I have an odd relationship. He is quickly becoming my closest friend. I can’t quite put a finger on when this started, it probably had something to do with our mutual obsession with literature, but we text nearly every day and I often find myself literally laughing out loud at our incomprehensible conversations.

I typed out my limerick-ish poem and sent it off into text-land. My mother and I deposited my Grandmother at home then trotted off to the gym. I was reading Mere Christianity on the incumbent bike when my iPhone made the Perry the Platypus sound. That means an incoming text. Instead of the expected “HAHA” or emote con, I received the following response.

In response I must say that a butter less roll,
May yet still be used as an onion soup bowl.
Take a knife and a spoon and scoop out a large hole.
Add soup and eat up, for it’s good for your soul!

I burst out laughing. The truth was I should have been anticipating something like this. Pleased as punch, I composed the proper response.

What good is a beach without sand,
A soft place for your butt to land?
For if it were rocks,
‘Twould ruin your socks!
What good is a beach without sand?

My day rolled forward. Hours later I looked at my phone to see the following answer.

A sandless beach, I think you will find,
Can be lots of fun if there’s rocks to be climbed!
You can stand on the top looking out to the sea,
Solid rock at your feet, spread your arms! You are free!

I burst into peals of laughter. My husband insisted on knowing what happened. I shared the conversation with my beloved then began to beat my head for another question.
“What good is a feast without food?” my husband offered. I snapped my fingers at his brilliance and typed into my phone.

What good is a feast without food?
You’ll have to agree that it’s rude.
The guests would be mad,
And that would be bad.
What good is a feast without food?

My response came a while later.

Man shall not live by bread alone.
They could sit in a circle, play telephone.
Let fellowship take the place of the yeast.
Friendship will out at an un-fooded feast.

This was his best one yet. I dangled one more before his eyes.

What good is a day without sun?
I don’t think it would be much fun.
For I need sun to tan,
Or I won’t get a man.
What good is a day without sun?

My response came about 12 hours later.

What could be better than a sunless day?
With books and tea, inside you can stay!
And as for your tan, you’ve already got a man
And he will love you either way.

I smiled.

Me: You’re hilarious by the way.
Jon: Thank you :p

I love my brother in law. 🙂

© Rachel Svendsen 2014

Pen and Paper

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Pen and paper help me,
For I am at a loss.
The world around me seems so hateful,
Spiteful, angry, lost, ungrateful.
Help me to convey,
The things that I can never say.

Words so often fail me.
My voice runs out of sound.
The others all can talk around me.
Their flowing words so often drown me.
Help me now to speak,
For my mouth is far too weak.

I write until it soothes me,
This soft and subtle art.
My heart heals when my feelings leak,
And bleed onto an empty sheet.
Help me to express,
My aching hurt and loneliness.

I must fold my paper,
And turn back towards the world.
I know I can run back inside,
To vent my worry, cry, and hide.
The sky is overcast.
I’ll write until the storm has passed.

© Rachel Svendsen 2014

“My Sin” on a Wooden Cross

I’m a front-row-pew kind of Christian. Not that it matters where you sit. The truth is, I can’t read the powerpoint slides when I sit back further than the third row. I opened my vision corrected eyes and lifted my head when the prayer finished. My husband and I slid out of the row towards the centre aisle. Tonight we were doing something a little different for the Lord’s Supper.

In my hand I held a little card. The words “my sin” were written on it. A wooden cross stood just below the platform. I raised my hand. The head of the nail fixed in the cross, slid inside the hole on my card. I made my way back to my seat.

My eyes were already stinging with tears. There I sat. Once Christ’s enemy, now given the gift of nearness through his sacrifice. “My sin” hung on the cross. The only thing keeping me from God, completely covered. I know my heart. I know who I am: my motives, my thoughts, my desires. I know the depth of the sin he’s covered. I couldn’t help but wonder at the awesome beauty of this gift poured out willingly into my frail trembling hands. Someone died for me.

First row, first up, now I watched the others make their way to the cross. This sight was almost more beautiful than the sight of my sin leaving my fingers. A visual reminder of salvation’s scope unfolded before my blurred eyes. I watched others file past: men, women, children, young, old, a woman with a cane, a little girl with a missing front tooth, light skinned and dark, grey haired and blonde, nations, tribes, and tongues. These all came with their own stories, their own sins.

Woe to those who can’t see this beauty: deep, sweet, and endless. Whose sin blinded eyes would sooner cut off their own hand than relinquish the right to self and accept this gift from so loving a master. Can anything be more magnificent in purity or perfect in love?

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Body broken.
Blood shed.
I’m made white by his blood red.
Open my eyes lord.
Help me see,
To give up self and live for thee.

© Rachel Svendsen 2014

I Dream of Bovines in a Large Red Barn

The cow in question
“You like ‘Alice in Wonderland’?”

I looked up from my book to my guy friend. I sighed and exchanged it for my Algebra II book.

“Yes I do.” I replied. He wrinkled his nose.

“But it’s so weird.”

“It’s clever!”

“He wasn’t clever. He was on drugs!”

This revelation crushed my world, but didn’t change my opinion of Lewis Carroll. I still think he’s a genius and I still love Alice. I think the reason it was so devastating is because I’ve always had super Alice-in-Wonderlandesque dreams. Now I wonder if people think I’m on drugs too…

I once dreamed that I was chugging along in my Uncle’s black pick up truck. I have never in reality driven this truck. It’s massive. It has one of those oversized truck beds with wheel wells that stick out like sidecars. I’m a tiny little Honda Civic kind of girl. The more compact the better.

Regardless, I was trucking down a narrow side street on the way to my grandmothers. I took a sharp bend in the road and…

BAM!

I didn’t see her until it was too late. She was a middle-aged brunette in jeans and a black vest. I slammed on the breaks and jumped out of the truck. My heart was pounding. My slumber infused consciousness had not yet registered these events as a dream, and, as far as I knew, I had just hit a person.

Oddly enough she was fine. I mean…she was a bit miffed. It’s legitimate. I would be too if you hit me. Especially since she was already lame, as evidenced by her black and sliver cane laying on the side of the road.

“I’m so so sorry,” I moaned, at a loss for anything else to say. “Here, I’ll take you to the hospital.”

These were the pre-cellphone days of our lives. This seemed like the best option. She acquiesced to my offer and I carried her into the truck. I laid her on the floor behind my seat and quickly made my way towards the medical center. I didn’t make small talk. What do you say to a woman you just hit? She was the one who first broke the silence.

“Why are you going this way?” she said nervously. “Are you insane?”

“What are you talking about?” I responded. My palms began to sweat against the wheel.

“Just whatever you do, don’t look that cow in the eye! He’ll kill us.”

“What cow?”

“The one in that barn you idiot!”

A massive three story barn stood in the field in front of us. The field was wide and empty save that big fire engine red building with the white trim. The grass was yellow, dying with the change in seasons. I tried to recall this building being there before. I’d driven to my grandparents house a million times, I was practically raised there.

“Don’t even think about looking!” she snarled. I locked my eyes on the road and kept driving.

Curiosity is a dangerous thing and my veins flow with an abnormally high amount. Figuring it was safe to check my rearview mirror, I waited until we passed the building and glanced up.

The three-story barn was built like a hugermongerous doghouse. One large curved opening framed the biggest cow I will ever see. It looked inflated, like those ridiculous blow up decorations that are so popular around the holidays. There was no fan blowing merrily under this beast though. It had big white horns and a massive golden ring embracing his nostrils.

I shuddered as fear rippled through me. The huge round eyes locked with mine in the mirror. My heart stopped beating. The warm brown eyes of the cow melted into a menacing red. Steam poured from his nostrils. One hoof struck the ground, tearing up the dying grass. He snorted.

“You fooooool!” the woman behind me moaned. She dissolved into hysterical sobs.

The cow charged. I woke up screaming. I sat in my bed, safe, sound, and completely devoid of cows. I laid my head back on my pillow.

“Wow,” I murmured. “That was weird…”

I recently left my job and a coworker bemoaned my loss. “Who will tell me their weird dreams now?” she asked. Who indeed Sandra? For I have not yet met anyone in person who has dreams like me. I know there are others out there. I can’t possibly be the only living being with vivid bizarre dreams. I just wish they would affirm me. So if you’re reading this and you’ve had similar bizarre things occurring in your slumber…let me know…please?

Time to Fly

Unknown

I’ve heard a million times that life will bring you to a crossroads.  I always assumed I could turn right or left, that I would have a choice.  Now I know life isn’t always like that.  Sometimes your path in life ends with a cliff.  That’s what mine was.  I stood on the precipice looking down.

“It’s an awful long drop,” I said.

“You’re not going to drop.  You’re going to fly.”  I could hear the smile in his voice.  He reached down and lifted up my arms.  “Go ahead.”  His hands slipped from me as he took a step backwards.

I looked down again.  It was dark, cold, and unknown.  Even the horizon seemed like an endless sea of blue, no place to land, nowhere to rest.  It shouldn’t have frightened me.  It should have bewitched me with its beauty.  So why was my stomach turning?

“What if I can’t find a place to land?”

“Of course you will,” he replied gently.  “Everyone who’s gone before you has.”

“But that was them.  This is me.  What if…”

I would try to list the endless circle of “what if’s” that poured from my fumbling lips, but I barely remember them myself now.  I just remember the panic.  What started with a fluttery sensation in my stomach, mutated into a violent seizure of fear.  I dropped to the ground, digging my fingers into the solid earth.  My throat grew raw from my terrified screams.  I gasped and choked on my tears.

His hands took hold of my trembling body.  He pulled me up.  I can’t tell you how embarrassed I was.  I felt weak, needy, and helpless.  I looked up into his kind eyes.  They smiled at me.

“I want to do it,” I murmured.  “But I can’t.”

He squeezed my hand.  “You will.  But not right now.  Sit back.  We’ll talk.”

I wiped my leaking eyes on my sleeve before I awkwardly acquiesced.  It was hard to look at him at first while he talked, but his gentle voice broke through to me.  He told me about his own hardships.  He told me about how he learned to fly.  I told him all about me.  I told him all my deepest fears.  He listened.  Laughed.  Cried.

I don’t know how long we sat there.  I can’t put a finger on the moment it happened.  The realization came as a gentle, slow awakening in my heart. The truth was that I was born with wings.  I was created to fly.

I ran out of words.  He didn’t speak either.  We listened to the wind blow down off the cliff into the unknown.  I fingered the familiar cool green grass for the last time.

“You’re ready aren’t you?” he said softly.

I looked up at him.  His gentle eyes were smiling again.

“I think I am,” I said.

We stood together.  I turned to face the cliff.  It wasn’t less scary, just less daunting.  I felt him fade away.  I knew if I turned he would no longer be there.  But the whisper of his kind wisdom was a part of me now.  It gave me the courage I lacked.

I spread my wings.  Time to fly.

© Rachel Svendsen 2014

Truth

Truth is the Goliath we don’t want to face
Yet
Yet he draws the line of battle

Two choices
Stand
Shrink

Stand brings risk
Risk of challenge
Risk of rejection
Risk of solitude
Turned against – forgotten

Shrink brings censure
Censure from me
Censure from family
Censure from others
Loss of self – respect

Dare I?
Dare I stand and risk
Dare I?
Dare I shrink and risk you
You continuing forward blindly
Groping towards falsehood
Can I save you?
Should I?

Fear and Bravery meet
Embrace
Kiss
Meld

I stand
Sling in hand
God help me.

© Rachel Svendsen 2014