So, here I am, back in Denver, one of the last places I thought I’d end up. But I honestly didn’t know where else to go.
It’s not a bad place to be, Denver. I just never felt like it fit me. But nowhere seems to fit. Paris maybe, but that’s not really an option right now.
A dear friend offered me a room in a condo she rents out until I get my feet under me. It’s cozy and I have a warm bed to sleep in, so it’s a start.
But it is a bit further removed than I’d anticipated, which wouldn’t be an issue if I had a car. Let’s just say Denver isn’t famous for its public transportation.
I actually don’t know anyone who has taken the bus by choice…and now I know why. I avoided it as long as I could, but my neighborhood has little to offer – one coffee shop a mile away in one direction and a handful of bars and stores a mile in the opposite direction. I don’t mind the walk so much, but the destinations don’t feel worth the schlep, especially when it’s freezing outside.
The bus I have to take is ‘the 0’. Fitting, since that’s pretty much where I’m starting from. I’ve tried to put a more positive spin on it, but all I came up with is it will be a hard one to forget. (Or an easy zero to remember for that ‘positive spin’).
My first experience was…interesting. A trip that used to take me 15 minutes to drive took over an hour. But it wasn’t terrible.
The way back, however, was a bit of an adventure.
The 0 was delayed by half an hour, so I hopped on the first bus headed south. This seemed like a logical choice until I realized the route ended way before my stop, which meant a transfer at “the station.”
We pulled off the main road to what was basically a huge, empty lot. It was darker than it should have been, which made it feel like we were in the middle of nowhere.
The bus drove off, leaving me with three other men, each sitting on a separate bench.
I’m not the paranoid type, probably to a fault. And yes, I have put myself in some questionable situations. But I’m not reckless either, and I know when I need to stay vigilant. I didn’t feel like this was one of those situations. However, my phone had conveniently stopped working, and I had no idea when the next bus was coming. So, not exactly ideal.
I paced back and forth, trying to stay warm. I caught the three men looking my way a few times, but they seemed harmless. And I’m sure they were curious why I was there. I don’t think I qualified as a typical passenger on this particular route.
The youngest of the three finally approached me. He wasn’t threatening at all, more concerned. He asked if I knew which bus to catch. I assured him I did.
I had no idea.
After what felt like hours, a bus finally pulled up. I didn’t care which direction it was going, as long as it was going.
My next trip after hours proved to be…I guess “animated” would be the best word to describe it.
It wasn’t that late, but the bus was almost empty. Two younger girls sat huddled in the seats lining the wall, facing toward the aisle. A very talkative, somewhat obnoxious man sat across from them. He was trying to interact with them, but they kept their heads down, doing their best to ignore him. I couldn’t help but feel protective, so I casually moved over to the seat closest to them.
We came to a stop. The driver got up to lower the ramp for a man in a wheelchair. The obnoxious man hopped up and lifted the bench to make room for him, which made me feel bad for thinking he was obnoxious. We started to pull away, then jerked to a halt when a woman began slamming her fists on the door.
The driver knew her and they began chatting as the woman made her way down the aisle. She sat in the seat directly behind me and continued to yell up to the driver. “So, did you hear that so-and-so from the center just got thrown in jail for murdering his wife?”
This abruptly transitioned into her announcing to everyone, “You know what happened to me last night? Four policemen jumped me and tried to take me to jail.” She rolled up her sleeves and came over to show me her hands. “See the marks from the handcuffs?”
The man in the wheelchair and the ‘not as obnoxious’ guy teamed up, laughing at her, saying she was crazy.
She jumped to her feet and screamed. “I am not crazy! They ran all their god damned tests on me that proved it. I am not fucking crazy!”
I pulled the cord, exhaling when I heard the words, “stop requested.” Cold and dark for a couple of miles seemed preferable to murder and abuse.
I decided to sync up my bus outings with the light of day for a spell…and never leave home without my headphones.
The next morning’s ride was a short one, no more than 15 minutes. Odds were good I could make it to my destination without incident.
I was just a few blocks away from the coffee shop when the man next to me requested a stop. He started making his way to the door but stumbled backward when the driver hit the brakes. Something fell out of his bag and I instinctively reached down to pick it up.
I did my best not to react as I handed him back his knife.
It wasn’t a menacing knife, necessarily, but it wasn’t a pocket knife either. I don’t believe this man had the slightest intention of using it on anyone. And given the direction he was coming from, I get why he had it…just in case.
I’ve never really felt like my life was in danger. Everyone, for the most part, is harmless. But I have realized I don’t exactly blend in, as I seem to be the one “the man who had a few too many” gravitates toward.
I also see the curious side glances when I sit down or the blatant scans from head to toe. Maybe I’m just paranoid, not because I think their looks are threats or advances. They feel more like judgments, as if to say, “who the hell are you?”
I usually ignore it, but sometimes I just want to look them in the eye and assure them…
I have no fucking idea. I lost her quite a ways back, and I can’t seem to find her.
That’s what I want to say. I want them to know that I don’t think for a second I am better than anyone else who takes a seat on Bus 0. We are all doing our best to navigate our circumstances.
But no, I don’t want to be here. I actually couldn’t be further away from where I want to be.
Yesterday, I missed my stop. But instead of getting off and working my way back, I just sat there, staring out the window. We headed downtown, making our way closer to where I used to live. We passed the place I used to take Biscuit to get his bath, then the place ‘E’ and I went the year I decided to like football, then the gym I used to drag him to, the place I took dance lessons, the coffee shop where I used to study during grad school…
This was my world, where I no longer belong. What used to be home, now feels like a warped cassette tape. The same song is playing, but it doesn’t make sense anymore-the words are garbled, the melody distorted. And there is no way to fix it.
I feel like I’ve been exiled, still able to roam freely, but imprisoned by boundaries I can no longer cross and memories that have been hallowed out by regret.
The bus stopped and everyone got off. It was the end of the line.
I was mad at myself for wasting the morning searching for a place I wasn’t going to find and ending up nowhere close to where I needed to be.
I finally found the bus I needed to get back and waited impatiently as everyone boarded. The driver closed the doors and headed out, then stopped abruptly to let someone else on.
I was annoyed, tired of waiting, of feeling isolated and lost in a place I used to call home.
I knew I was spiraling, so I forced myself to revisit my ‘gratitude list’.
I’m grateful for my friends, for my warm bed…that I have all of my limbs.
But it wasn’t working. I wasn’t grateful. I was angry.
The woman slowly made her way up the stairs and stopped to greet the driver who seemed genuinely happy to see her.
He smiled, “How was your day?”
Without hesitating, she responded, “Well, no one I love died today, so I’d say, all and all, it was a good day.”
That sounded much better than “I have all my limbs”, so I added it to my list.
I’m grateful that no one I love died today.
The woman sat in the seat across from me. Her face was hard and soft at the same time, her demeanor firm but gentle. She seemed familiar. Did I know her?
She caught me staring at her and I tried to smile. She nodded her head slightly and made her way to the exit, disappearing into the crowd of people waiting to get on.
She had only said a few words, but her voice lingered, filling in the words taking shape in my head.
Hold on, love. You’ll get to where you want to go. But you won’t find it back there. You’ll have to take a different route. You’re headed in the right direction, though. Just keep moving forward…one stop at a time.
WARNING: Some of the content below is graphic…and very sad.
I thought it would be a memory by now, a horrific, tragic memory that happened two years ago…two years ago tonight at exactly 7:33 pm.
The accident, when my car collided into theirs…and they all died.
Most days it is a memory. Until I hear a loud crash and my body convulses, or an ambulance goes by and I can’t catch my breath, or at night, when I can’t sleep- trying to piece together how the hell I let everything get this bad- I see their contorted bodies, I see the blood…all of it, every detail.
Those days, it isn’t just a memory. It is what gutted me to the core. It’s what I fear made something snap, something I cannot fix.
I know I should be grateful. I lived. And I am. Of course, I am.
But then this day approaches, and I can’t help going back there, sitting on my knees,
…watching, pulling cold, wet blades of grass out of the ground. I watched the policeman approach the car to access the damage. I watched the fire department arrive and begin to cut them out of the car. I watched them put the boys on the stretchers and push them into the ambulance. I watched the ambulance drive away.
And there I am, here I am, trying to imagine what I could have done to prevent it. And I go there, the place I know I shouldn’t go.
Maybe if I’d just…
Run a little slower, showered a little longer, left the coffee shop a little earlier…faced going home to my empty apartment.
Maybe if I’d never moved to that wretched city, to be with him, someone I loved who did everything he could to destroy me.
Or maybe if I would have had enough strength to leave him the first time he left me, or the second or third…
Maybe if I’d stayed married to my sweet husband in our beautiful house with our precious puppy.
Or I’d stayed in Paris, never gotten married, never hurt my sweet husband or moved to that wretched city…
Where I ran too fast, showered too quickly, left later than I should have…to go back to an empty apartment where I knew he wouldn’t be, the one who almost destroyed me.
Maybe if I’d just…
You would all still be alive.
I know this does no good. I know it wasn’t my fault. They were reckless. They put so many lives at risk. And I know if it wasn’t me, it would have been someone else who might not have walked away. And I know this night won’t always haunt me, just like he can no longer hurt me.
And I know that, maybe, next year will be different, happier, and I’ll have finally put this all behind me.
I resisted posting this one, but it wouldn’t relent. So here goes…vulnerability in all its glory. A writer’s cross to bear, I suppose.
This is my surrender- an offering up of the thoughts that have been lodged in my chest, swirling around in my head and robbing me of sleep.
It’s time to let them go, to let him go.
In essence, this is the final spark, the one you see when the wick of a candle reaches its end, just before the flame is extinguished.
I’ll warn you in advance, there’s nothing revolutionary here. Just a girl, laying down her arms…with the hope of finding peace.
I woke up thinking about you.
Brushed my teeth,
Thought of you.
The cream settles in my coffee…
It never seems to stop,
This thinking of you.
For the light to filter through the blinds.
I wait, for you.
To open your eyes and whisper, boo.
You gravitate toward her, dimmed, craving light
Exposed, you retreat.
Love, truth…she is no place to hide.
That moment she realized,
she felt closer to him when he was 10,000 miles away.
You’re too colorful for those who live in black and white.
She loves more than she’ll ever get back.
…and still, she loves.
I woke up thinking about you.
Brushed my teeth,
Thought of you.
The cream settles in my coffee…
I wonder when this will stop,
This thinking of you.
You wanted a distraction, wild, beautiful,
But not to be kept.
You lost a treasure, rare, extraordinary,
Impossible to forget.
When he doesn’t ask you to stay,
…and you love yourself enough to walk away.
* all illustrations by Rebecca Dautremer
I know, “I won’t be here forever”, “I am more than my circumstances”, “the further you fall, the higher you rise”…I know.
Just somewhat comical. I go so fluidly between being flown across the world on seemingly exotic adventures…to sleeping on friends’ couches.
It was a full set of teeth.
I somehow refrained from reacting and promptly looked down, pretending to be studying my distance/speed stats intensely. I definitely never saw a heavy-set man walk directly in front of me, bend down, and pick up his teeth.
That’s something I can sink my teeth into…
It’s regarding the subject I keep coming back to.
Not the “make shit disappear” kind, the other kind. Although that kind is a bit more difficult to define.
Here is Merriam-Webster’s attempt:
“An extraordinary power or influence seemingly from a supernatural source. Something that seems to cast a spell.”
I don’t think that does it justice, though…
I think it is impossible to define magic, just as it is to define love or evil or god. But this is what makes us human, I suppose. Our inherent need to define everything around us- to place all things firmly and tangibly into reality- I believe is one our greatest tragedies…magic’s nemesis.Most things clearly defined leave little room for the extraordinary.
– b. breazeale
For me, it’s a feeling or experience…or how an experience makes you feel. It’s electric, exhilarating- the sound of waves crashing against the shore. Or it’s soft, tranquil- a hummingbird in flight.
It disregards time, is indifferent to circumstance, and deems logic absurd. It’s elusive, fickle, fleeting- sometimes bold, sometimes mysterious- but always undeniable. It can be terrifying, detonating the safe place we created that lulled us into complacency.
But what is it, exactly?
My experience of it is the warm glow of a harvest moon, a flower drenched in sunlight, and a sky full of stars. It’s the call of a kookaburra, the wind dancing on the ocean, and the smell of morning in spring. It’s a rustle in the trees when there is no breeze or a whisper that brushes your cheek when there is no one to speak.
It’s love, feeling it, unabashedly, and seeing it reflected back in the eyes of the person you want to spend the rest of your days with.
None of these experiences are lost on me. I see magic all around me, constantly. Except for the last one. That one I can’t seem to find.
I’ve had glimpses of it. But it’s proven to be more of a disappearing act…not the kind of magic I had in mind. Now, I’m finding myself looking around for the little man behind the curtain. Except there are no ruby slippers or home to go back to.
Courage, though, that I have…and a brain. But a new heart, that one I’ll take. I think mine has permanently lost its shape- too many cracks, too many pieces left behind for those who didn’t know what they’d found.
Of all things intangible, magic might be the most elusive. It is a very real force that influences almost every moment of our childhood, allowing us to navigate our world curious, uninhibited, full of wonder, and open to every possibility. But this elusive force will inevitably succumb to its nemesis: reality. We all have to grow up, right? We all must face reality.
So, like most people, magic eluded me for decades, until reality had sucked all the life out of me, and I realized that the only one who could save me had gone missing.
– b. breazeale
Love and magic, the elusive duo I have risked so much for, lost so much for…and hope is quickly following suit.
But it does exist, right? I mean, you’ve heard about it, haven’t you? The sweet, elderly couple who still dance in the kitchen, the guy who flies across the globe to win her back, the seemingly impossible love that persevered against all odds…the chance meeting that turns into that epic love story.
I understand it’s rare. It means risk, vulnerability, potential rejection, and unbearable pain. It’s terrifying, really. We now know the stakes, and they are high. We have tasted heartbreak, and it is brutal.
But we can make a choice. To take the risk, to heal and grow, love better, feel more. Or, we can retreat, build up our walls and remain in the realm of comfortable, safe…ordinary.
I know you skeptics and non-believers out there are shaking your heads. This isn’t a fairytale. No one is going to climb up my balcony and whisk me off to happily-ever-after. This is reality.
I’ve heard you, I’ve actually dated you. You have adequately presented your case- a convincing one to be sure- and your actions have been deafening. Your work is done here. So as you were.
But for you believers, can you help a romantic out here? Because she is, in fact, starting to feel hopeless.
Show me it exists. Tell me your stories, or stories of someone you know, or ones you’ve heard- whether they be epic or seemingly small, day-to-day things you do to sustain it.
Please, for all of us who refuse to settle, help us believe…magic is real and love can be extraordinary.
Because honestly, why waste our time on anything less?