Sunday, December 27, 2015

Infused with Love

I had been to the hospital to visit my 86 year old father suffering from a multitude of health problems with sepsis from a severe urinary tract infection being the most frightening. I didn’t think he was going to pull through. My father’s breathing was severely labored as well, and I told the internist my father took an asthma preventative. I once took it’s lowest dose as I, too, have suffered from asthma. I believed that minimal dose wouldn’t be adequate, but I was unsure if the higher dose I suggested was accurate.

As I stepped toward the medication drawer in my father’s room, my sister-in-law stood in the doorway. She tips the scales at around 400 pounds. That along with her crossed arms created an imposing image. Caroline’s goal was to intimidate and monitor my every move with the assumption I did not belong in “her” house (as she put it) – the house I grew up in.  Nor did she believe I had any rights and privileges in the house I once came and went freely in - unchaperoned and trusted.

I had known my brother and his wife didn’t trust me alone in the house as my brother was also monitoring my visits in the computer room while I prepared my interview demos during a serious job hunt. It was a terrifying chapter in my life with thieving not even registering as a thought. Securing a job, on the other hand, took priority over all matters. 

I was confused by this suspicion as I grew up in that house, visited as an adult. I frequently borrowed the computer and printer for my assignments while pursuing my earlier education without the need for a chaperone ever; but then, my sister-in-law wasn’t in the picture. 

My brother knows my character, I thought. What is this about? Why is he treating me like a common thief; OR what are THEY hiding that they are guarding? Between job hunting and my father’s health, these questions had to wait.

I stuffed the asthma medication into my coat pocket in a brief, unmonitored moment. The only way to learn the dose was to remove the medication from his room like the very thief I was being accused of being; and check it later when free from my sister-in-law’s gaze and judgment.

As I prepared to push my 140 pound self through the 400 pound wall blocking the only exit, I again spied the shiny coin. It glinted a wink of light in my direction. Caroline caught my gaze and also looked at the coin. I imagined she wanted to spin an unfavorable story about that as well. 

What she didn’t know was my father started me collecting coins years ago. He brought me coins back from the different countries he traveled to for his work. I saved them, and started a dedicated hobby that continued for several years. I had a natural curiosity, as a result. 




I took the medicine with me to the hospital. As it turned out, my father had been prescribed the lowest dose although I wondered why. I told the internist the correct dosage indicated on the inhaler and returned the medication to my brother at a later time.  

Disappeared 

My father battled the sepsis with success and returned home from the hospital in a week’s time. He was still weakened and sick, but no longer had skin sporting a bluish-white pallor. He was on the mend. 

I visited my father with some regularity during that time. On one particular visit, he asked me if I had seen the coin in the jar near the doorway. I said I hadn’t had a chance to look closely at it, but that I had noticed it. Curious about his question, I stood up and looked into the jar. It was gone. The coin was gone. I looked all around that area and couldn’t locate it. Just then, I knew what had happened.

I said honestly, “I don’t know where the coin is.” He didn’t respond right away. He finally said it was from the Philippines, but it wasn’t worth much. That sounded like he was telling me the coin he was told I had stolen was worthless, so I wasted my time stealing it.


I was shocked. She set me up. My sister-in-law had stolen the coin in order to set me up. What was worse is my father took her word over mine. AND even worse yet, he believed I stole from him.

Infusion

Caroline had taken over my mom’s bedroom. There were stacks as tall as I am surrounding a chair and computer where she spent much of her time. She is a hoarder and collects dollar store items which transform into mountains even her large frame is eclipsed by.

She stashed the coin away where she had piled all my mom’s beloved photos and mementos of me and my brothers into a thoughtless collection juxtaposed a pile of shoes. It broke my heart that all Mom’s devotion was reduced to hill that meant as much to my sister-in-law as old shoes. The coin by chance was placed under a very special photo of my mom hugging me.  

Love

My mom and I had a powerful bond. She loved me with her whole heart, and she was the brightest light in my life. That photo was infused with that same love.

The coin was touched by the warmth and devotion captured on film. As a result, it came alive with the purpose of reverting a terrible injustice. Slowly, yet with the strength of truth and an impenetrable bond, the coin rose up to the top of a junk mountain.

As my father was making his way back from a bathroom visit one evening, he was overtaken by a feeling of love radiating from my mom's old room. It was as if she were right there beaming at him. He looked toward the source of this emotion and spotted a glint of light beckoning him over. It was a coin. THE coin. The very coin Caroline had accused me of stealing.

It was then everything became clear. He remembered what kind of person his daughter was before the lies and accusations flowed against her - The goodness she represented that he once believed in, and the fact she had never stolen from him before. It was the love infused in the coin that showed him the way back to the truth he once knew. 

Changes


I now have all my mom’s pictures and mementos previously in a heap by my sister-in-law's shoes. They reside in my home where they can be appreciated and continue to bring a most special warmth and comfort to my life.


I would like to say there was a fairy tale ending for my father and myself, but he offered at least to listen to me and engage in honest dialog toward the goal of healing.

The coin is now encased in a frame along with the photograph of my mom and I. Its home is on my father’s night table as a reminder of the two women in his life whose love told the truth.

My sister-in-law, well - I know she lacks the confidence to get what she wants on her own, but I understood my brother became frustrated with funding her hoarding. She is now working part-time to help. Most importantly, she doesn't dare degrade me - at least not openly. I am even hopeful she will get the therapeutic help she needs to address the insecurities that drove her to create great suffering for me. 


And me….This is the first time I have truly felt respected and understood by my family since my mom died. It had been an impossible situation where my value had been negated and my voice silenced, that is, until the magic of the coin, and the power of love prevailed.





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Friday, October 9, 2015

Ordinary Bravery: New Job




I began the bravery series wanting to chronicle the events of my job hunting exploits. And, by the way, much has happened since Day 6. In the process of chronicling my personal experiences, I became more acutely aware of the ordinary bravery occurring all around me. I realized I am surrounded by inspiring people who exhibit amazing courage as they face their daily challenges with grace. But for now, I wish to stay true to my original purpose.

Catching Up

When I left off, aside from a disturbing dating experience, I was working almost full-time at a public charter school teaching. The students I serve are at-risk youth 16-24 who haven’t been served adequately by the regular public school system. For me, that was important, but it was more important to do something I have always loved – teach; and if I could have supported myself on that part-time salary, I would have continued in that role while I recovered from some awful work-related abuses.

My teaching got noticed and was appreciated to the point where I was encouraged to apply for the new position of Instructional Coach being added to the 2015 – 2016 school year. I applied, interviewed and began my new position in July!!! My salary jumped from subsisting to doing pretty well for an educator (for an engineer, maybe not so good). Although I am still settling debt accumulated from six lean months of underemployment, I can breathe much easier. And on that note, I would like to say to Andora Toad and Jen Magoo... Ha! You chased me right into a healthier work environment with better pay!



Even more than the pay, I am working at a place where people are meaningfully engaged. We feel we are working toward a greater good. It is an environment where most everyone strives to incorporate the bigger picture along with the daily routine. It is a place where I finally feel supported. 

Did I die and go to heaven? Well, not just yet. It is a clear improvement over what I had. I continue dealing with dysfunctional leadership with an immediate supervisor.

Unlike at Brand X, I am not alone in noticing what is out of balance. In terms of offering staff, students, teachers and management a voice, this is one of the best places I have worked. I work hard, but I work alongside like-minded teachers which somehow makes it easier. Plus, I am still connected to teaching. The biggest positive of all.


Themes

I started this journey of bravery by being a lone voice in a situation where I experienced highly dysfunctional leadership. Since then, my perceptions have been validated. I have learned they are generally good and to trust them. I have moved from being alone to having a choir, from being a victim to becoming an instrument of change, and moving from the role of scapegoat to being a respected member of a community. All good! Very, very good. I find this is the perfect place to end the bravery series. 


Ordinary bravery, as I have come to understand it, is facing each day rooted in who I am, and responding authentically to the world around me. This further means staying open to opportunities to learn, grow and adjust to what is rather than what I think it is. On a deeper level, as I face each challenge with intentionality, I find I am more and more supported in this process. 

Ordinary bravery continues on in different stories. I wish you well on your daily journeys of ordinary bravery!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Everything which is "Yes"

Joyful Movement 7generationsfuturepast.blogspot.com
I love this poem.  I was introduced to it at St. Georges summer camp where we sang the first stanza. A favorite poem that conjures a happy, meaningful memory.

“i thank You God for most this amazing” by e.e. cummings
i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
e.e. cummings
1894-1962

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Spreading the Virus of Compassion


Compassion is the most critically needed solution to most of our ills individually and globally. Let me share my vision of focused intention for global well-being.


Visualization in Action

Every morning while walking around a nearby lake with my best buddy Kona, my dog, I perform a ritual where, first, I hold the vision in my mind of a time I felt most fulfilled and happy. I meld with that feeling and allow it to encompass my thoughts and feelings. From there, I focus that feeling into a vision of now. I affirm within that feeling all that I envision for my life in the present. For example, I envision the love and friendships I wish to be surrounded by, the goals I wish to accomplish, the home I wish to live in, the work I hope to do, and I say each affirmation aloud as if it IS already in my life. After each affirmation, I pause to feel what it would be like to experience what I am affirming.

I am committed to this process for one full year of daily focus. I am willing to face my fears and doubts as they arise whenever I connect to my visions and intentions, and stay committed to dissolving the mental and emotional blockages I encounter by acknowledging them, but not accepting them as reality.


Something I intend to include more regularly in my morning visualization is a world where compassion is the paramount virtue. I see it first manifesting in my own life by the way in which I choose to interact with the world around me. I envision it from my casual interactions to my life choices. Then I visualize the globe lighting up in vibrant color with the spread of compassion as weapons are put down, fear is replaced with tolerance – and, in my mind, I see embraces over threats, and a dedication to the quality of all life so strong that no amount of corrupt intent can penetrate it.

I visualize this not only because this is my hope for the world, but because I am choosing to direct my thoughts to positive outcomes. Is it naive to hope for a peaceful, compassionate world? No...and directing my mind to positive outcomes rather than allowing thoughts to pull me down to the lowest common denominator of insecurity, selfishness, greed and the like simply feels better. And, wouldn't it be better to spread more uplifting thoughts aiming for the highest common human good? It couldn't hurt, right?

Out of the Spiritual Closet

I have held my beliefs close to my heart, and out of view except with those who were like-minded, could understand, or be tolerant of them. Of course, my beliefs come into greater focus when you learn I’m a vegetarian, meditate, and – yes – believe in the power of focused intention.

For example, I was miserable at a previous job (please read: http://7generationsfuturepast.blogspot.com/2015/01/28-days-of-ordinary-bravery.html), I was dedicated to changing my circumstance. Aside from sending out numerous resumes and attending interviews, I envisioned a well-paying position in or related to teaching. I further visualized the benefits and kind of student population I hoped to serve. I imagined how it would feel to sign a contract for the position I wanted with the compensation I desired. 

...And, by the way, the job I now have pays several thousand more than the one I had with a fancy title, and I'm doing what I love. Now, what if we all focused our intentions? AND what if the goal was compassion? 






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Sunday, June 21, 2015

Liberating the Scapegoat






My Story

In my family, I have had the difficult role of scapegoat. After my mom died, that fact was more prevalent than ever. I would like to share with you what I have learned both as my family’s scapegoat and a former counselor.

My family was troubled. My father was an alcoholic. My mom had been terribly abused as a child. Those were the people who produced me – who raised me. My family had the classic distribution of hero, lost child and scapegoat roles which you find in many challenging family dynamics, but the lines blurred between the scapegoat and lost child roles with me and my middle brother. When my mom died, however, I was 100% thrust into the role of scapegoat. It wasn’t much fun growing up in this dynamic, but became awful once she was gone. At that time, the voice I had spoken strongly and confidently with had been taken from me as was the value my mom bestowed upon me.

Quite simply, being a scapegoat meant that no matter what I did, how well I did it, or how kind, successful, intelligent, athletic and decent a person I was, my family could bring me to me knees with their cold and cruel words. If you are a scapegoat, it is likely this has also been your experience.

My mom was my salvation. She knew she had to work on some issues and bravely sought help to confront her childhood demons in order to be a better mother and a happier person. My mom transcended the need to find someone to project her disowned pieces of character upon. She never fully escaped the grip of her childhood or the challenges of her marriage, but she blazed a trail for me. For that, I am grateful.

Blazing Trails

I am going to tell all the scapegoats out there something you probably don’t want to hear: They (meaning your family) need you to remain in your role as scapegoat. They need a dumping ground for all they cannot, are not and will not face inside themselves. It will feel like you are hated without grounds.

The chances of them suddenly changing and seeing you for who you really are, are slim to none. Let me tell you why. They are unable to address their own inner pain, darkness, cruelty, and perhaps abusive behaviors due to their own fears and insecurities that run deep – too deep for you to penetrate especially as a scapegoat. Because I want you to learn this faster and easier than I did, let me be perfectly clear. YOU cannot change THEM or THEIR negative perceptions of YOU. The good news is I know a way for you to surpass the pain they inevitably will cause you. So, bear with me as I explain.

My experience suggests the scapegoat can be the strongest member in the dysfunctional family system. Because of that, I suggest you get quality counseling because, as a reflective and independent thinker, you can make some tangible headway. 

As you start to separate the lies of who they think you are from the truth of who you really are, you will begin the process of liberation. Second, do whatever you need to do to preserve your peace of mind. In my situation, I had to cease contact with the people who were causing me the greatest pain. You may or may not need to do something as drastic. If you do, please know how brave you are because they will tell many stories including lies of what a horrible person you are for simply having the courage to do what was necessary to take care of yourself. My father went as far as to cut me from the inheritance he and my mom originally set up in order to punish me for valuing myself enough to walk away from a painful situation.



The hurtful family members NEED a scapegoat as they are unable to look at themselves. Therefore, as you begin to separate yourself from your family and their false perceptions of you, they will not let you go gracefully. If you choose to leave a harmful situation, they will still speak poorly of you in your absence. Sometimes, in these disturbed situations, when the original scapegoat flies the coop, they will find another to replace you. Unfortunately, if you return, you will most likely be recast into your role. So, tread carefully. I returned briefly at a painfully low point in my life only to discover several lies had been told including things I know I didn't do, but they believed them. The same situation I left remained. This is what scapegoats generally face if they return. I’m not saying don’t. I’m just advising care be taken and clear boundaries be set as you walk in so they can’t harm you further.

The people who are denigrating you are often insecure, enslaved by their distortions and easily threatened. They often won’t have the courage you do to address feelings. Therefore, there’s no reasoning with them as they cannot understand what you have been brave enough to discover. 

What you must do is remember who you are and the many wonderful qualities you possess. Write them down on stickies and place them all over your home if need be. Surround yourself with quality people and remember the goodness that has touched you in life. Personally, I draw strength from a couple of good friends and a volunteer who has stuck by me since my mom’s death. I lean on them, and they reflect back what is kind and decent in me. Fortunately, I get kudos at work as well. Last, I recall my mom’s unfailing love for me which has permanently been imprinted on my heart and in my soul. Focus on the love, and refocus on that as many times as it takes.

Freedom

Scapegoats will be disliked and denigrated by their family no matter what. As a result, we are free to do anything we want, and think anything we want because we know that it doesn’t matter as we will be judged regardless. If we can get beyond our pain, we tend to be strong, independent thinkers. We also tend to have depth as we have learned to understand the people who have hurt us, how to transform the pain into meaning, and, with luck, thrive. We have also searched our own souls to discover who we really are. The downside is we must be ever vigilant to not inflict the same negative perceptions on ourselves that our families have. Remember that what they have projected onto us is truly how they feel about themselves. Although, additionally remember they cannot cope with that truth, so unless they initiate a desire to get the help they need and take the necessary steps toward healing the wounds, they will not be interested in your hard-earned knowledge of the dynamic existing in the family.

In my lower moments, I have hurt terribly over some of the cruel things my family has said and done. I am at times disappointed they have not seen me for who I truly am. My previous response to their unkind view of me was to earn degrees, be an athlete and continually put feathers in my cap in hopes they might feel the respect for me I once yearned for. Constant achievement is exhausting, however, and doesn’t leave much time to smell the roses. I personally don't recommended this strategy as a means to earn love. In fact, anytime we do things to earn the acceptance of others, we sacrifice pieces of ourselves. It's just not worth it in the end. My response now is to just be who I am whether or not anyone approves, and do what matters to me. I have come to realize my family is incapable of seeing let alone loving me for who I am. I, though, AM capable of loving myself, AND all you other scapegoats are as well. That will be your greatest strength.



It is not you or anything you have done. You were born into a troubled environment and unconsciously assigned a role you didn't earn or deserve. Your task is to get yourselves out, learn how amazing you are and remind yourselves of that frequently. Accept that YOU are the only one you can change and because you are strong, you can. Then, despite the extent of the pain you have endured, go live your life and be happy.




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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Ordinary Bravery: Day 6 - Dating


Festered

When you get to be my age, if you find yourself sitting across from a man in reasonably good shape with more than half his hair, you feel you struck gold. What am I talking about? - Dating! Does dating take bravery? You bet!

Is it about outer gorgeousness? Well no, BUT recently I found myself forcing an attraction for a man who bore more than a passing resemblance to the Addams Family's Uncle Fester.  There has to be some form of attraction to create sustained interest while you get to know the inner beauty, right?

He was intelligent and took a sincere interest in me. Still, it was difficult for me to see beyond his teenage-like lifestyle which spilled over into unrealistic expectations. I guess he was looking for the fairest maiden in the land who would love him unconditionally, take care of him and not be concerned with his non-existent employment status and other notable challenges. 

He had somewhat of an adolescent charm, and I am seeking someone with the qualities of fun, spontaneity and open-mindedness that he possessed, but in the context of a grown-up – at least mostly grown-up -  more than some of the time.

As you can probably guess, it didn't work out. I am grateful he showed his true colors before we both wasted much more time trying to mold the possible from the impossible.


Get Out There 


I want to tip my hat to this man, though, and to all of you who muster the courage to get out there and try. I am also out there facing the potential thought bubble of I wish I was anywhere but here.

My recent dating experience reminded me to stay focused on the qualities I am searching for in a relationship partner. 


I have spent far too much time forcing the impossible. I have decided to focus that energy on real potential. So, if you're out there....



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Saturday, May 9, 2015

A New Year





Living Fully



It is time to take on the challenge of living fully. The quote leading this post sums it up best, "Don't live the same year over for 75 years and call it a life."



A lot of people have resonated to this message. In essence, your life is meant to be lived. Living, I mean truly living, entails risk, the willingness and strength to change, the ability to flow and let go.

Living life fully has to have a different map for each of us. One-of-a-kind goals and life circumstances prevents a one-size-fits-all set of steps. I believe, though, there are guideposts and universal truths which can assist us as we map out our own course. For many, that idea implies struggle, but it can also be viewed as part of the adventure of a fully engaged life.

Life Map

A map would have been a great help for me as I went in directions that fulfilled other's expectations and those of society, as I perceived them, rather than my own. It took me years to understand that my road can't look like anyone else's for this simple reason: I am not them.

I have been and remain a seeker, but I now add finder to the list of descriptors. By way of a map, I follow the teachings of those who have attained what I aspire to, and I follow the knowing inside me that says "This is right". "This is right" is a different experience than "This is comfortable". It has taken me years to know the difference.

There IS a difference. "This is right" can feel like many things including "This is damn scary" and even, "This is crazy". It can feel like stepping out into the void and into a free fall where you’re not certain when, if or how you're going to land. You will land as have all the people who have taken the same leap before you, and so will I. You just won't be able to predict when and where.

The simple truth is our time on this walkabout called life floats by on a breeze and is gone. One day has the potential of blending into the next. One year can bleed into another without differentiation. Then it’s over before most had a chance to get going. Personally, I intend to make my time count, and give it my best: Love, share, take risks, smell the roses, create meaning and live.

Today is the start of a new year. What do plan to do with it?



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Sunday, March 29, 2015

Night Ride




Now fully transformed with the exception of the application of her Midnight Fushia lip stain. Jamaica was ready. She was ready to feel beautiful again, sing, dance and burn off the stress of her life of compromise. She was the successful hard hitting sales executive James Cooke by day. On the weekend, she was Jamie to her mother who sometimes couldn't remember her when she visited the Alzheimer's facility; and also by her obsessively Christian sister who made no secret of how she didn't approve of her lifestyle. Tonight, though, she was Jamaica.


Jamaica glanced with pride at her reflection in her pocket mirror as the train pulled into the station. As she was preparing to board, she caught a brief glimpse of a woman - a beautiful woman, in her mirror before returning it to her bag.


The woman was middle-aged, but with a timeless, classic beauty Jamaica aspired to. Her maroon scarf matched her nails as well as the delicate straps that accented her ankles. The woman held her head high somehow looking beyond her surroundings, passed her husband, and over the stares from those who wanted to be her, or be with her.


Estrella entered the train at the Metro Center stop behind Jamaica and her husband, Antonio. Antonio seemed not to care who went first, but he knew if he led, Estrella would follow. She did all the while smiling a faint smile, but her eyes and soul were somewhere inaccessible. 


Antonio and Estrella were a striking pair. Everyone on the platform absorbed their presence. He was impeccably dressed, and wore an expression of casual composure. She was the beauty queen that could accessorize any person or environment she was around. While Estrella was absent, Antonio's presence was deliberate. He relished the attention, but gave the appearance it didn't matter. Upon greater investigation, there was a desperation to him - a constant search for approval.


Jamaica purposefully took a seat in view of Estrella. Estrella sat next to the window so she could experience the city moving by in flashes of light while Antonio placed himself perfectly beside her.






Just as the doors had begun to close, a thin but muscular, disheveled young man ran into the car and fell into the first available seat. He was out of breath with sweat visibly dripping from his face. The odor of perspiration touched Jamaica's senses first, then Estrella took notice with a brief downturn on her lips departing from her usual slight smile. Antonio moved his posture subtly away as if to distance himself from any affiliation to the odor.


Inner Worlds

Jamaica wanted to move her seat farther from the sweat drenched passenger only one row behind and to her right, but she was so consumed by Estrella's presence, she couldn't. Instead she took in everything - the shape of her nails, subtle highlights in her hair, her mannerisms that emanated a cool sexiness. Jamaica was taking copious mental notes while imagining herself with her expanded repertoire of style and cool.


Estrella had an awareness of Jamaica's interest. She gave it a passing acknowledgement. At that same moment, noted Jamaica's sequin-lined skirt, sparkling blue-flecked eyelashes and thick wrap around ankle straps on her Sex and the City knock-offs with bands of shiny silver beads atop a platform base. 


Estrella felt a tinge of repulsion at the bright ensemble draped over a distinctly masculine frame. Instead of focusing on Jamaica's shiny package, swallowed her thoughts into a well of buried words and meaning as she drifted to the usual places away from anything painful, anything emotional, anything real.


Outer View

After the new passengers boarded, Antonio conducted his survey of how many eyes were on the couple - more importantly, on him. The beautiful power couple were hard to miss, but it was 9 p.m. and the riders consisted of second-shifters, workaholics heading home, and partiers heading out- each with their own agenda that ignored Antonio's need to be seen.


He repositioned himself leaning into the image of the doting husband. He intentionally placed his hand over Estrella's. She acknowledged the touch with a gentle smile, looking at him, yet through him with a ghostly gaze of someone half alive. He then patted her hand and moved his hands back to his lap clasping them together with importance. The young man looked-up for a moment to catch Antonio's movement. He looked more from a state of hypervigilance than any real interest in the actions of the people around him


Just gotta be cool. Be cool. Be cool, he thought unable to slow the furious beating in his chest. He focused for a moment on his breathing – heavy, yet shallow and fast with fear. He had run straight from the tip of the southeastern projects into heart of the city where visitors and natives all mixed and gathered to catch trains that dispersed them to every destination.


Vicenté's thoughts flashed back to the phone call he had with Kemal that afternoon. “I can’t go back there, those muthafucks gonna kill me. They kill you, too, if they see you with me,” he pleaded. 


“Help me out, man. I ain’t got no one else. Jus’ loan me enough to get me outta here. Meetcha at Minnesota at 7. Cool?” asked Kemal. 



“Cool,” Vincenté agreed. He wanted to say no, but he owed him.  He owed Kemal his life.


Disbursed



Jamaica refocused her attention on her appearance. She pulled out her pocket mirror to finish her look. She moved her head from side to side eyeing the placement of her wig, and applied her new shade of lip stain. She then reached down to hike her skirt up just enough to show off her lanky runners’ legs. She straightened herself to an upright position in preparation for the stop, and began humming a tune when the conductor announced, “Next stop, Dupont Circle.”


The train jerked to a stop causing her to stumble backward. She regained her stance. The doors opened, and she strutted off the train enjoying the feel of her freedom. Antonio and, especially, Estrella felt a sense of liberation at her departure, but the relief was brief. Estrella quickly returned her gaze to the window.




She was drawn to the sight of the lights coming up and passing as if the train were holding still and the world outside were moving. She enjoyed the feeling of time stopping even if only an illusion. 



Antonio leaned over to Estrella to announce they would be getting off at the Tenleytown station. She nodded and glanced over at the metro map posted near the door. That’s four more stops. She took a breath and melted back into the lights speeding by while she remained suspended in time. She knew that for just a while longer, she didn’t have to pretend.



Next Stop

"Next stop, Tenleytown," "Estrella, ready? Everyone's looking forward to seeing you. Hold still. Your collar's cock-eyed," Antonio said. He reached over to correct the collar which had turned inward. She let him. She had learned it was easier that way. 


Antonio stood up and held the handrail. In a gentlemanly gesture, he reached out his hand to help his beautiful wife to her feet, and stood behind her with his hand on her waist while they held the handrail. She took one last gaze out the window as the passing lights slowed to a stop. "This is Tenleytown. Doors opening on your right." Estrella followed her husband off the train. He held her hand as they walked off to the formal Gala event at American University.


Blood

Passengers entering and exiting the train were of little interest to Vicenté. His mind was racing as fast as his heart was beating. He kept replaying the last images and sounds of his visit to the neighborhood where he grew up. He wished he never went back.


Vicenté's thoughts drifted back to events of four hours earlier when his train was pulling into Minnesota Station. He could see Kemal facing in the direction of the train while two of his former Bloods were backing him into a corner across from the metro stop. 



Vincenté took one step off the train while focused on Kemal's expression. He noticed the wide openness of his eyes and upward movement of his chin as he spied Vincenté on the platform. The nod was a signal for him to stay away and keep going. He knew that signal from before. Kemal had used it in the past.


This time was different. In the past, Kemal maintained a cool look of confidence. This look was one of resignation. Vincenté was used to following Kemal's lead. He instinctively stepped back onto the train as the door's were shutting. While the train was pulling out of the station, he pounded his fists on the closed doors repeating, "No! No!" As he lost site of Kamal, he heard a loud POP. He knew that sound. 

"Last stop on the red line," he heard the conductor say. Vincenté stayed seated waiting for the train to start moving again - back to the city.




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