It’s funny how life thrusts you forward, ready or not. Every single thing has changed, and yet I feel very much the same.
You do the work, plan your days, look ahead with the hope you might find happy waiting. Happy is the illusion like gyre currents in perpetual movement.
I wrote The Red Bench half a decade ago churning in my brain trying to comprehend the mystery of living. The story evolved into The Vast Landscape, Georgia Pine and now I begin again, with Ever Green. Curious, all the titles have to do with nature, double entendres. Maybe the quiet, self-mandated daily walk, clean air, gravel crunching underfoot, allows the mind silence, and oxygen from constricted, over crowded spaces. The walkabout leaves a lasting effect. Tales of a familial girl in perpetual spin-cycle. An ordinary, average girl trying to comprehend the mysteries that are human emotion, loss, love and family. Strength and resilience are there too, squashed by fear and hidden below the dirt. Uncovering sparkling, dazzling quartz minerals right beneath the surface. We are the mistake happening by chance, moving along as best we can. Silly it seems, plans change, variables, decisions made, much like the secure future once envisioned.
I return to the red bench to find my footing, the New Year’s mantra 365 days long.
The Red Bench by Jacqueline Cioffa
“It all comes back to a red metal bench in the woods, on a small hill by a nothing special pond. The air is sweet and wet and fall is here for now. Ducks sleep near the brisk, damp water waiting to take flight to sunnier places, offering no solution. I shiver and squirm in my own discomfort, clenching the bench, determined to will myself better. I’ll sit there god damn it, you fucking God cocksucker, I’m as stubborn as you, until there is something to look forward to. I’m not pretending rosy and cheery just maybe a hint of curiosity.
With one foot planted on the ground, the other dancing with parasol queens and subway kings, I’m off whenever the mood suits. I’m not sure I can keep up this charade of good health. My mind is winning you see, disappearing each day into the void, gray matter dying piece by piece. I say take it all, so that I no longer remember the unnerving beauty here on earth. They tell me I must fight harder, but I don’t see from where or how. The choice has never been up to me, no matter how heavy I wear the armor.
Instead of despair on these sub-zero days, in parades of endless succession. I hate gray the color, the boring winter blank sky. I hate the cold, the incessant bitter freeze I can’t shake off. They say ECT may be the only way back, my mind resistant to the drugs they shove down my throat. I don’t care, zap my brain, shock it, and bring back hope. Where is this God they talk so highly about? He’s a slacker, watching tsunamis, disease and earthquakes swallow babies and their families whole. How could I think for one second he might take pity on me? When the rest of the blue planet has gone haywire. Killing for nothing, stealing, lying, cheating, concerned for number one. There is no honor and trust amongst new millennium thieves. We are a nation consumed with stuff, ego and greed. Hey, look at me, how fabulous the façade. Maybe by spring, the hatred and contempt will be gone. Some warmth and compassion brought back into these cold-hearted bones. If I can hang on until then, I might have a shot.
I hope the world my predecessor lives in is a kinder place to dwell. I pray the blue people have learned compassion towards the ill, the weak and the mind sick. I hope that time has made her world a softer, more humane place to visit. Shame and fear have been obliterated from her planet, coloring her life with only happy minutes. She will grow up to be a healthy woman, headstrong, a great healer, fearless traveler, and the gypsy traveling the globe on her sacred walkabout. She is me, only better, the direct descendant of all that I was not. She will do everything I hoped to accomplish in life. She will not fall short, cut down by a disease more than complicated than life itself. She will grow up brave and strong, a clearheaded, fine woman. I get to watch, dust particles in heaven floating over her head, living out the perfect life. We have come full circle, my limitations never mattered, disease didn’t win. The spirit guides that went before me showed the easier, less complicated route.
Things always seem brighter, warmer, kinder, and less drastic under the beautiful rays of a golden sun.
My death never mattered one bit, only the courage, grace, and strength of how I lived carries on. In the face of adversity, I hope I was remembered as kind.”