“It waits and stares just out of sight wanting to be seen. Whispering a song which tugs at the heart. The melody warm; pristine. I hear the sounds, yet the words are faint, it’s a summons beckoning! I crawl to the pit, gaze into the abyss, terrified of what I’d see. My mind wanders off down into the void, I dance with the shadows of night. The frigid rush of their ethereal touch fills my soul with delight.
In the darkest dark, a tiny spark, a flickering moment of light. Eyes open wide I reach deep inside to distinguish wrong from right. I extend my hand through the murky black, then pull it back in haste. Clenching my fist then cursing the sky because time is too short to waste. I shall not be taunted, lured or led, this path is the one for me. Don’t lead me astray into the light of day, my pain is what I need.
I swim back to the surface, shaking my head, the shadows following. Behind their wall of despair, pulsing in the air, the spark is hovering. Brushing the dust from my hands and knees, I retreat from the edge of gloom. I return to my chair, continuing solitaire, in Purgatory’s Waiting Room.” JSM
Winter was almost upon us and preparations needed to be made. I took it upon myself to be involved in laborious activities. Cutting, splitting and stacking wood seemed to be my new outlet in life. Life didn’t make much sense. My dreams were even more confusing, therefore I found plunging a sharpened ax into a thick log therapeutic at the time.
I worked hard that season and eventually broke a wooden handle off a splitting wedge. It was time to go into town and replace the tool. There was still more work to do.
That afternoon after my purchases, I was walking through the state’s capital, window shopping, and I stumbled across a perfect view of the Kennebec River. The leaves of Autumn were at their peak of color and it was as though I was staring at an oil painting from afar. That moment was the first time in more than six months, I was able to close my eyes, breathe, and feel momentary peace. Nature’s colors seem to come to life.
An elderly woman approached me and sat down hard on a bench. She placed her walking cane onto the wooden seat beside her, buttoned her long blue overcoat and said, “Isn’t it beautiful?”
I had my hands stuffed deep in my jacket pockets and her voice startled me from my moment. I looked to her and attempted a smile. “It is nice. I haven’t stopped to smell the roses in quite some time.”
“Oh. Oh dear. You need to cut that out.”
“What do you mean?”
“Always stop and smell the roses, always. Everyday.”
I looked back to the water. “I try. It’s just been tough lately. Too much to do and not enough time to do it.”
“Come over here and sit down. I want to show you something.”
Typically, I don’t engage with strangers. I’m not much for small talk. Surface conversations make me uneasy. Yet, her presence seemed welcoming, and I didn’t feel like going home to an empty house. I sat down beside her while she reached into a small purse.
“This is, Edward.” She handed me a faded Polaroid. “We were married for three months.”
I glanced at the photo and handing the picture back.
“I was married five times through my life,” She tucked the picture back into her handbag in an inside pocket. “Four times, before Edward making five. I swore with each marriage, it would be better than the one before. Each time I said, ‘I do’, I was convinced that man was the right one for me. It wasn’t until Edward swept me off my feet, did I understand the meaning of true love. I was fifty five years old when we met.”
“Three months?” I asked.
“I had him for three months.”
“I’m sorry.” I leaned forward and looked to my feet.
She snapped her head and locked her eyes with mine. “NO. Don’t be sorry. It was the greatest three months of my life. A perfect three months. In fact, I knew he was the right one for me, and no one else could ever replace him. I knew we were meant to be together and I could never see myself with any other partner after his passing. I had to be true to myself and come to grips with the fact, that Edward was the only one.”
“How do you know that?” I asked.
“Because even today, I feel him. I hear him. I see him. His spirit guides me and keeps me strong. He’s the one who told me long ago, I needed to slow down and stop to smell the roses. Stop looking at life at face value. Explore and discover.”
“Its easier said than done. When everything seems piled up against you, it becomes less about exploring, and more about surviving.”
“You’re preaching to the choir, my boy. But it’s all about choice. If you decide to stay in Purgatory, then there you will always remain. I don’t know anything about you. I don’t even know your name. But you need to shed yourself of whatever demon is weighing you down and look at life for what it is. Living. Edward taught me that. You can easily find and dwell on all the bad that’s happened, the challenge is finding something pure to focus on.”
“Easy as that huh?” I chuckled and fidgeted on the bench.
“Easy as pie.”
I shot my attention to her and swallowed hard. Something wasn’t right.
She smiled and popped a stick of gum in her mouth. I couldn’t stop staring.
Turning to the side, she snatched up her cane. “Now, listen to me carefully. What you need to do, young man, is stay right here and think good and hard about what it is you want to do. It’s you against the world, right? That means you can make your own rules. You’re in charge. I want you to concentrate on what it is you want to do. Doesn’t matter what it is. If you want it, you need to do it. Tomorrow. Tonight. Pick a time. Pick something. But stop thinking about it and go with the flow. It’s no longer about merely survival. Its something more than that now. If I can do it, so can you.”
“I wouldn’t even know where to begin. The choices…”
She waved her hand close to my face and scowled, “No, no. You’re thinking too much. Stop thinking about it. Your mind is stupid. Your gut, and this right here,” she tapped my chest, “are what you need to pay attention to. Everything that has led to this moment, has happened in the way it was intended. Edward would ask you, ‘if you could do anything right now. Anything you wanted. What would that be?'”
I didn’t give it a second thought, “Escape.”
“Where? I don’t have anywhere to go.”
“Again, if you could escape to anywhere right now, anywhere at all, where would that be? Don’t think. Feel.”
My mind was whisked away to a thousand places, but only one place called my name. I nodded my agreement and offered my hand to help her to standing.
“Do you have it?” She asked pulling her body to the edge of the bench.
It was my turn to smile, “Yeah. I have it.”
She shuffled away from me and looked once over her shoulder, “Now, don’t ignore it. You focus on that place and stop thinking about anything else. The sooner the better. Edward would say regret leads to the greatest guilt. Don’t live a life of regret. You’ll never forgive yourself and guilt will eat away at you until you’re nothing but bones in the soil.” She stopped and turned around. “He’d also say, escape is best, when you have someone to share it with.”
The following weekend, accompanied by Nancy, I disappeared from the face of the planet.
No internet. No phone signal. No other human beings. The world was mine. The time I was gone, was when I found the key to leaving Purgatory’s waiting room.
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