Sounds of Silence


This time of year is easily the hardest time for me. It sneaks up on me every year. My emotions run high. My tears fall freely. I find myself angry and confused for no apparent reason. And then I realize what's going on. And even though it all makes sense, it doesn't make it any easier.

Labor Day weekend. In the US it's a long holiday weekend filled with football, cookouts, friends, family, laughter, time at the beach or lake, and fun. For many it is the last hurrah before they go back to school. For others it is a quick reprieve after the first one or two weeks of being back to school. For me? It is the last time I saw Teddy (Thor Bishop in Second Life) alive. Four years ago over Labor Day weekend I was up in Long Island, New York spending the week with him, meeting his family, and planning our future. I flew home the day after Labor Day full of hope and happiness. One month later I found myself on a plane back to New York for his funeral. It doesn't seem like it has been four years. And then again at times it feels like its been more than a lifetime. Throughout the year I remember him with laughter and smiles. I have said my goodbyes to him. I have packed away all but the most treasured memories and I have gone forward with my life. Yet, I find once again this time of year tripping me up and bringing me down. Four years.

Autumn is such a beautiful time of year. Throughout most of the country the colors start to change to rich reds, warm yellows, glowing oranges, and deep purples. The air is just barely starting to turn cooler, but the days are still sunny and warm. My mother loved the warmer months. The hotter the better. She lived to be outdoors in the sun. Autumn is when we lost her. Two years ago September 24th my mother lost her battle with cancer. Two years ago this time of year we were watching her struggle and slip away. Two years ago we were all in denial and silently preparing for the eventuality of her death. As much as we wanted to ignore it, wish it would go away, pretend it didn't exist, the cancer most definitely did exist and it was stealing my mother away breath by breath every day. I can still see the changes in her from each visit. I can still feel the frailty of her as I cared for her, helped her move, bathed and fed her those last days. Two years.

It doesn't seem fair for cancer to win so often. But it does, and it doesn't care how old you are. This time last year, yet again we were left helpless as we all watched my sister-in-law lose her fight with cancer. She was only a couple years older than me and had been fighting cancer for 4-5 years. When my mother died the year before she left behind a husband and three adult children. When the insidious cancer took my sister, she left behind a husband, one child just barely in college, and another still in high school. I was here, where I am most days, taking care of my patient unable to get away. I got the news of her passing and grieved her loss alone in silence. One year.

This time of year is hard. And I don't know where else to vent except for here. The above incidents are not the only things that have happened during September/October the past couple years, but they are the most significant. The others are just salt in already painful wounds. I was alone when I got the news that Teddy died. I sat all alone on the floor in an airport crying into a cell phone telling my dad. My best friend in real life didn't even know and when I tried to tell her she didn't understand, she couldn't. When my mother died I felt like I had to be the one to be strong because I watched as my brothers and dad were coming to pieces. I couldn't even express my pain for over a year, and even then it was over the phone to a long-distance friend who had never lost anyone and had no clue what I was feeling.

The past month here has been crazy with all sorts of repair work and technical problems. I am most definitely stressed and worn out. The past two days I've barely been able to hold the tears in when I'm on the phone or on the air. Music helps, distractions help, but they are not enough. When I hurt I tend to isolate myself. Hoping for someone, anyone to notice and reach out. In theory those that know me know this. Yet not one of them has taken the time to ask what is wrong. I reached out in sheer desperation to two different friends, just needing a little compassion and comfort to help me through what felt like the worst of it. One completely ignored me. The other told me to "get over it".

Why do I continue to put my faith in people? I like to think that when it counts I am a compassionate person. Honest and caring. Willing to listen and try to understand. Life experience has given me a lot, whether I wanted it or not. But it helps me relate hopefully to people around me. No one is perfect, we all fall short sometimes. But I would hope that when it matters I'm able to see through to someone's pain and be there for them. For those of you that perhaps I failed in this, you have my most heart-felt sincerest apology. And for those that know me know I tend to say "Everybody leaves". And that's exactly how I'm feeling right now, everyone's gone and I'm left sitting here completely alone.

If you listen to the sounds of her silence you'll hear the crash of tears as they fall. And if you look through the brightness of her smile, you'll see the shadows of sorrow in her heart. (c) 2011 Sierra Sugar


.❊ ڪʈℜ○ηģƸℜ ❊.


Broken, originally uploaded by ~sierra sugar~.


"I'm done hopin' we'll work out. I'm done with how it feels, spinin my wheels. I'm done thinkin' you'll ever change and I know my heart will never be the same, but even on my weakest days......I get a little bit stronger."

There is much talk about love and holding on, never giving up, always being patient. The movie "A Walk to Remember" quotes 1 Corinthians with this definition of love:

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:4"

But what do you do when you feel all of that and more but it is not returned? "Just Friends" is the most painful phrase to any heart in this position. What do you do when you would do anything for someone, but they in turn would do anything for someone else? What do you do when the daily friendship is like acid in your chest. When every conversation with them, every phone call from them, every message from them, as innocent as they may be, is a reminder that everything you want stops at the word "Friend"?

At some point you have to protect your heart, and your sanity. Sometimes, the hardest thing you'll ever have to do is just simply let go no matter how much they beg you to stay. Let go and wish them the best. Let go and hope they continue to find all the happiness in life you ever wanted for them, and that maybe someday you will too. Let go because being just friends is a daily reminder of just how much it hurts to never cross that line. It doesn't mean you're weak, or that you love the person any less, but that maybe its time to love yourself a little too.

"I can't make you love me if you don't. I can't make your heart feel something it won't. Here in the dark in these final hours I would lay down my heart and I'll feel the power, but you won't."


Hard Lessons

We deserve better than to stay together, simply because we are afraid of being destroyed should we part.
(paraphrased from "Eat. Pray. Love.")

No one ever said life and love were easy.  In fact, for most all of us those are the two most difficult things we will face between birth and death.  We spend our entire lives living to be loved or to find love, whether within ourselves or in someone else.  Some of us are lucky enough to find that blissful peace, many of us never will, and eventually all of us will suffer the soul crashing pain of loss.

When love is new and fresh it is beautiful and exciting; the highest of highs along with the invincible rush of adrenaline.  From our early years with our first puppy love crushes through adulthood, love attacks us and attaches to us in many forms.  Even the most mild of afflictions can leave us breathless and wanting for more.

It is that euphoria that drives us to find new love or to hold onto old love.  It is an addiction we feed, whether it is to find that grounding love in ourselves or see that reflection of acceptance from another’s eyes.  Love is beautiful.  Love is kind.  Love is wonderful.  Love is working together as both partners and individuals.  Love is supportive and encouraging.  Love is passionate and thrilling, and at times peaceful and calming.  It cannot be described in mere words. But it is all things good and healthy, even the battles serve their purpose to make love stronger.  But love misplaced can be crippling, and painfully debilitating.

Too many times so many find themselves in the grasp of the memory of love.  Not even hope, for hope is usually a good thing.  But the memory that lingers of what might have been if only…. We make excuses for why it went wrong.  We deceive ourselves with lies on how it will get better.  And we stagnate ourselves and our lives in a rut of painful familiarity clinging with white knuckles to one of the most perilous of words in the English dictionary:

If.

If I did this they will love me again.  If this changed things could be better.  If I was a better person…. If I had a better job….  If we lived somewhere else….  If I moved….  If they changed….  If they settle down….. So many ifs and each one of them sink into us like hooks, anchoring our hearts in a loveless place filled with anger, confusion, self doubt, and fear.  It is a deception.  The emotional wolf in sheep’s clothing teasing us with possibilities that logic dictates will never happen.  But the heart almost always over-powers the mind, because the call of Love and its warm metaphors is more appealing than the sterile coldness of logic.

Stronger than any opiate.  Real, honest, true, and reciprocated love has the power to bring about peace, serenity, passion and fire, trust, and respect.  But when love is gone or never was, and you refuse to see and move on, it also has the power to make even the strongest person hollow and weak.  Yet so many of us, myself included, have held on to something that wasn’t real simply because we were afraid of what was to come.  Or rather, what wasn’t. 

The guise of love, painful as it may be, was easier to handle than the thought of being alone.  And that simple fact is what eventually will cause a person to lose themselves completely.  Happiness does not come from another person.  Love cannot be commanded or controlled.  We cannot will someone to love us simply because we want them to.  And life will in fact go on with out them.  And if we let go, truly let go, we open ourselves up for the most pure and honest of loves to find us.  But we must have faith and stop holding onto the ifs.

I always say, “Never give up.”  Never give up on yourself! Don’t settle for any ifs or what might have beens. Believe enough in who you are go let go and live.

Let go of the lies.  Let go the anger.  Let go of the pain.  No more yelling.  No more unbearable silence. No more not being seen.  We all deserve better.

We deserve better than to stay together, simply because we are afraid of being destroyed should we part.

~sierra

Virtually Six


In the normal chronology of life six years can be a significant amount of time. If a person lives to be 60, six years is 1/10th of their life span. If an average adult marriage lasts 30 years, six years is 1/5th of that time. To a teenager six years is longer than one spends in high school or for many even college. But in terms of virtual chronology six years is more than a lifetime, to many it may seem like an eternity. In an age and environment where technology is outdated nearly as fast as it is developed and changes are measured in terms of gigabytes per second, a year marks an extreme passing of time.

It also marks the virtual age of Sierra Sugar. Six years ago today Sierra was “born” if you will into the virtual world of Second Life. Seeking an escape from the grind and drama of the average raid oriented guild in MMORPGs, a friend of mind recommended this “new” game. Knowing my affinity towards The Sims, he thought SL would be a nice change of pace from the XP grind of WoW. Little did I know what I was stepping into.

In a world where any person can be and create anything their heart desires, Sierra was created as and has remained a virtual extension of her real life user. The only deviation from that real representation was the addition of kitty ears and tail, call it a personality trait expressed visually. Many use Second Life as a way to be something they are not or could never be. I have used it as a means to express who I really am. The person who was always a bit too quiet, or too shy for her own good could finally have a voice and be seen. It allowed me to step out of myself and take a good look. It showed me many things I did not like, and quite a few I realized I did. It has afforded me opportunities for amazing friendships, incredible love, unending creativity, and yes even unbelievable heartache. Through the laughter, the tears, the good times and the bad, after six years Sierra still remains.

Six years is definitely an eternity in Second Life time. And in those six years I’ve seen this virtual world change exponentially. It was a much smaller world back then. The grid could easily be traversed by foot, vehicle or hot air balloon in the course of a couple hours at best. There were no private islands and mainland was being bought up in large quantities by a budding virtual real estate entrepreneur, Anshe Chung. The only known custom skin maker was Munchflower Zaius of Nomine fame. There was no flexi nor sculptie. And any average Second Life citizen could enter into chat with a Linden simply by asking for help in world.

In 2005 if you logged in and there were 8,000 people online you know the world was going to crash. I remember the first time I saw there were 12,000 people online. And again when there were 20,000 online I sat back and went “Wow!”. Now on any given day there will be on average 65,000-75,000 online. Again, just “Wow!”.

In my six years in Second Life I've seen people meet from half way around the world, fall in love, meet in real life, and make it work. I’ve witnessed the growth of virtual support groups and learning centers. I’ve both witnessed and personally experienced extreme acts of kindness and generosity given to “friends” in a virtual world shared so closely, where yet the real world separates them by hundreds and even thousands of miles.

Residents of Second Life span the globe and their charitable interests are expressed accordingly. Funds have been donated in large quantities not just for RFL, but also for the relief efforts of Katrina, Haiti, Japan, Abused Women, education, Mobility, and various other charitable organizations. Our first year in working with the American Cancer Society and Relay for Life, citizens of Second Life barely raised $100,000 USD. Yet that amount was considered a significant achievement brought about by merely a bunch of virtual gamer geeks. The past two years Second Life RFL teams raised over $2.5 MILLION USD each year. Again, just “Wow!”.

In six years here in this Second Life I’ve also witness heartbreaking sadness and acts so inhumane rage and disgust can’t even begin to express accurately. Negativity and evil exists in the real world just as surely as it does in a virtual world. It doesn’t make it right or any less wrong. Human nature being what it is can we really expect others to behave differently simply because it is virtual? Not really. We are who we are no matter what platform or environment we choose to represent ourselves and interact with others. Evil, in what ever context you wish it to be, simply is. We acknowledge it, avoid it if we can, and move on.

Being the perpetual optimist I try to not dwell on the negative. To quote another strong woman from a different era, yet just as equally virtual in its own sense for the time she was created, Ms. Scarlett O’hara once said “Tomorrow is another day!”

And yes it is. I wonder what tomorrow will bring.

~sierra

I am me

I don't apologize for who I am anymore!

I feel...everything.  I laugh and I love with my whole heart.  I cry real tears, often.  I get angry.  I get hurt.  I stumble and fall.  I make mistakes and try again.  I'm intelligent but not genius.  I'm talented but not gifted.  I'm flirty but reserved.  I stick my foot in my mouth regularly.  I am never intentionally cruel or hurtful.  I have a knack for missing the obvious.  I crave attention and tend to smother people in return.  I am broken but still trying.  I am strong but still struggling.  Even in my darkest moments I still hope.

Love me, leave, me, want me or hate me.  I really don't care anymore.  I am me.  I am real.  And I do not apologize for the person that I am.

Still Waters

They say still waters run deep.
The surface smooth. The surface calm.
But what you don't see below is the force of those waters, swift and strong. At times a veritable maelstrom of movement below surface warmth. Pushing and pulling from within, and surrounding anyone who manages to find their way inside.

They say still waters run deep.
And there is much more than what is seen reflected back to you. But for most the surface is all they will ever see. It may not always be a peaceful place. But it is my place.

They say still waters run deep. And if you're not afraid to look, you may just find me there. (c) 2010

Two Three Six Five - Sierra Sugar

Earlier in the year I was recommended by Callie Cline to the Two Three Six Five blog and they asked me if I would like to write. The Second Life Two Three Six Five is the SL version of the RL blog of similar namesake. After reading over the project and comparing the SL and RL blogs I was ecstatic to be included in this project. And of course the date that naturally came to mind for me to write about was 10/09/2010, a significant day to those that knew me.

Little did I realize the changes life would take over the past year and how it would effect my writing (and personal life) in a way I never imagined. If you haven't already been following this blog do go and check it out Here. If you've liked what I said please leave a comment. All feedback on anything I write is always most welcomed.

~Sierra Sugar

Argument in favor of a Private Tutor (Another "Big Fish")

"You know before they'll let you live up here you have to pass Yankee School."

This is what he tells me. "Yankee School", an indoctrination into the ways of being a Yankee. Apparently, Southerners cannot legally become a citizen of the Island unless they pass this secretive training camp. And just WHERE is this all-important Yankee School located?

"Yankee Stadium. You'll have to go there for two weeks."

I can feel my heart pounding and the faint tingling of a burn in my eyes. Two weeks?! How am I ever going to survive two weeks in Yankee Stadium all by myself, well all by myself with presumably hundreds of other potential Yankee wanna-bes, or possibly-bees, or how-the-hell-did-I-end-up-here-bees people? It was time for some serious action and negotiating.

The law says I have to pass Yankee School to live there, but it doesn't say I *have* to go to Yankee Stadium. That's just the most common and largest gathering place to convert, I mean teach unknowing Southerner's about the mysterious ways of the North, including their clipped, edgy vowel sounding vocabulary. What if I had a private tutor? What if he was my private tutor? Surely there is precedence for that.

He’s being stubborn. Or coy? Or perhaps playful? “I dunno. Why do you need a private tutor?” He asks.

Oh why indeed. *puts on her most innocent and sincere game face and commences with the powers of negotiation*

Throughout history there have been distinct fashion differences between the North and the South. One has only to watch the transformation of Michelle Pfieffer in the movie “Up Close & Personal” when she moves from South Florida to a news station in the North to realize that there are still distinct differences in acceptable attire for specific roles. And is not a “school girl” a specific role? I believe it is. And thus my argument in favor of a private tutor is that coming from Florida I have only the proper attire for a Florida School Girl and not a Yankee School Girl. It would be unacceptable, inappropriate, and possibly illegal for me to venture out to Yankee Stadium dressed in such clothing. Therefore requiring me to have a private tutor for the duration of my “Yankee School.”

Exhibit A – Proper Yankee School Girl

Yankee School Girl

Skin: Curio – Sunkissed Elf Light Freckles Snug 1

Hair: Truth – Lillian in Blood

Eyes: Poetic Color – Poison Ivy

Shirt: SF Designs Flexi Tie in Ruby

Tie: SF Designs Fair Isle Vest and Short Sleeved Shirt in Gray

Skirt: *Last Call* Hunt Club – The Baroness in Blood

Stockings: Deviance Flirt Stockings (From the Deviance Flirtatious outfit)

Shoes: Vignette – Toasties in Soil

Ears: *Dreams* Snowy White - Tied with a Bow

Pose: [LAP] Spice – Back to the Wall

Desk: Basic Desk v3

Bookshelf: RFD - Biedermeier Book Cabinet

Laptop: PixelTrix Laptop 1.33 - White

Exhibit B – Typical Florida School Girl

Florida School Girl

Skin: PXL – Lt NE Rose with Light Eyebrow

Hair: Truth – Ashlin in Blood

Eyes: Poetic Color – Poison Ivy

Shirt: B@R - Kar shirt in white

Tie: B@R - Kar pink tie

Pants: Branded – Denim Rolled Shorts

Shoes: N-Core – High School ExtremeHeel in Black

Ears: *Dreams* Snowy White - Tied with a Bow

Tail: *Dreams* Snowy White - Tied with a Bow

Pose: eMOTIONS - Aloof

Backpack: SF Designs – Puppy Backpack

Window seat: Second Spaces - Camille Window Seat w/accessories (Down the Chimney Hunt Prize)

Hopefully I've presented a strong enough case to win him over and have him be my private tutor. A poor Florida kitty wouldn't survive a day, much less two weeks in the chilling New York climate and harsh fashion critical eyes.

I am beautiful!

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Beautiful 2

, originally uploaded by

~sierra sugar~

.

"You'd be so pretty if you'd just lose weight."

I don't know how many times I heard that when I was growing up. I was in the 6th grade the first time I was put on a diet. Seriously! I remember I was 4'6" tall, 99lbs, in gymnastics and a tomboy playing baseball, swimming, dirt bike riding, lifting weights, and other activities and I was put on a diet. I learned to dress to hide my body as it filled out through puberty. I walked with my head down. I kept to myself. I stopped participating in group activities. And I did everything to undermine the various forms of diets over the years.

I had a serious problem with starvation and binging. I refused to eat where anyone could see me. When I finally was old enough to drive I'd stop on the way home and get something to eat and hide the evidence, feign being full at the dinner table and snack on unhealthy goodies hidden in my room at night. My senior year in high school I was 120lbs and too embarrassed to take my shirt off at the beach or pool and reveal my bathing-suit clad "ugly" body I was now convinced I had. After all, how many times can one hear "If you'd only lose weight you'd be pretty" before it sinks in that you're NOT pretty. At age seventeen I attempted suicide. It was a serious attempt and I was only saved as a close friend was worried about me at school that day and stopped by unexpectedly and called an ambulance.

Fate intervened, but it didn't remove the self-depreciation I had for myself. I could look at others around me and see their beauty, but I could never see my own. No one person or source is responsible. It comes from home, from peer pressure, from doctors, from media, from every angle imaginable. No wonder teens and adults alike suffer from depression over the stress of trying to fit in, to be the right shape. I spent all of my teenage and adult years hiding, believing I'm never good enough. I'm not good enough because I'm not pretty enough. And I'm not pretty enough because I'm not thin enough. This is what I was lead to believe as a young teenage girl. When I looked in the mirror I didn't see me. I saw the image that was planted in my head.

Over the years I've continued to struggle with my weight. Life, pregnancy, and stress all contributed to my unhealthy habits. I've tried to find different ways to both fit in and hide at the same time. It has taken me a very long time to even begin to realize is, there IS no "right" shape. Physical appearances change and fade over time. We all, every single human on the planet ages. We all will grow old. We all will gray eventually or lose our hair. But while the outside changes dramatically over time, who we are inside remains essentially the same. That is where the true beauty lies. That you cannot cover up with make up, or change with surgery, or hide with pretty clothes. Our smiles, our eyes, our words, and our love tells the tale of who we are truly. That is the beauty we share with others. That is the beauty that cannot be reflected in any mirror, but rather is reflected in the eyes of those that love us, all of who we are in and out.

No one is perfect. Every single one of us is full of various imperfections that make us beautifully perfect. And while we all are different, we all ARE beautiful. So, it doesn't matter what shape you see when you look in the mirror, remember you are beautiful.

Say it with me. "I am beautiful!"

~sierra

-------------------------------

Carra Fargis created the tank tops featured in my blog post as a fight against suicide. She states she had a friend suffer from and eventually die as a consequence of an eating disorder. You can find her shirts and message on Xstreet HERE

I'd also like to thank a friend from SL and Plurk, Winter Jefferson, for making a Plurk about these very shirts and bringing it my my attention.

Three Days (parts 1 and 2)

PREFACE

I will be posting a series of blog posts tagged as "Big Fish". I'd like to thank someone special to my heart, Cole, for helping to bring a spark of creativity back to my writing. These posts are loosely based in idea only off a film we saw together called "Big Fish" featuring an all-star cast to include Ewan McGreggor and Danny DeVito. If you've not seen the movie, you absolutely must. It has become something I identify closely with, and anyone who has ever spent time in Second Life and has memories there, then you too have your own Big Fish.

Our Avatars are an extension of our personalities and the experiences we have in Second Life through our avatar become part of our real memories. These adventures in a virtual world while entirely "real" (in a sense) to us are nothing more than Big Fish stories to other who have not had the joy of such an incredible and immersive world. I hope you all enjoy my personal Big Fish and have many of your own to look back and smile on.


((This is not our first Big Fish story we've created together. Earlier ones were based entirely on SL experiences. Having made the decision to meet in Real Life we started working on a future Big Fish story about that up-coming meeting as a way to relieve some of the anxiety of this huge step.

Written by my through his perspective.))

-Part 1-

As I lined up with the rest of the Lemmings to leave the plane I realized just how sleepy I really was. It had been a long sleepless night. I’d glance at the clock thinking hours had passed and surely it would be time to get up, only to find the clock minute hand had only moved an agonizing half an inch. It felt like it was going to take a lifetime for those three days to finally arrive.

Three days. It seemed like a decent amount of time when we were making plans. But now that everything was moving in fast-forward, even with my fatigue induced fog, three days seemed like only a blink of an eye. How is it that time can be so elastic? How can it can it be allowed to shift speed leaving the innocent party to stumble along trying to keep up? Time, it seems, has a twisted sense of humor.

Someone cleared their throat and I realized the Lemmings were finally shuffling their feet forward, so I followed suit. One foot in front of the other that felt both agonizingly slow and far too fast at the same time. Would she be waiting for me? Would she recognize me? Would I recognize her? And then what?

That was the big question we both feared, the what next part. And now that the answer was so close I could almost taste it, along with the stale airplane air that clung to my tongue, I was suddenly unsure. I had to readjust the grip of my duffle bag to keep it from slipping from my moist palm. At least I didn’t have to worry about the airline losing my luggage this trip as I chose to carry everything with me in one carry-on bag. Everything I’d need for a weekend fit neatly into one carry-on. One weekend, three days, and I cursed time as I finally stepped off the plane into the terminal.

Sunny Florida. The plane arrived on time touching down at exactly 11:25am. A few minutes to taxi, another couple minutes to disembark the plan, and I was suddenly submerged in a sea of bright sunbeams streaming through the floor-to-ceiling windows of the terminal. Pulling my sunglasses from my pocket I quickly slipped them on to help ease the pain from the glaring bright light. It was a warm happy scene, but my eyes were just too tired for the radiating brightness.

No longer having to squint I could finally see where the other Lemmings went, so I adjusted my duffle bag one more time and followed them out of the terminal to the main area. That’s where she said she’d meet me. Was it really that much warmer here already, I thought shifting my duffle bag finally to my other hand and wiping the clamminess of my palm onto my pants.

It wasn’t quite as bright in here so I was able to take off the sunglasses. Looking around I could see that I wasn’t the only shell-shocked traveler unsure of where to proceed next. There was a tall square pillar just at the edge of what appeared to be a solarium so I leaned casually against it and let my bag drop to my feet. That looked casual right? Did Florida have a wattage control for their sun down here? Above the center of the solarium sunlight didn’t just stream lazily down, it burst through the glass roof with a force I wouldn’t have believed possible. Even the dust in the air was swirling and dancing in the light, animated by the intensity of the beams.

The light was definitely doing something to wake me up. More alert I slowly scanned the entire opening. She wasn’t here. Yet. I reminded myself to add yet to my thoughts. Jacksonville’s a big city; maybe she’s caught up in traffic? Maybe she was delayed getting away from home? No, she’s not here yet. Maybe in a few more minutes? I glanced at my wrist, my bare wrist, and shook my head. Right, I was supposed to get another watch last week. Instead of counting the minutes on my would-be watch, I counted the travelers walking by.

I took more notice now realizing not all were Lemmings. Oh there were many Lemmings around to be sure, but that one there, in the bright sundress and sandals, a light step to her gait, a purse and small carry on, she was eager to get to her destination. Happy even. Was she headed out for a weekend such as mine? And those two there, the man in the crisp Navy uniform and the pretty little girl holding his hand, sadness and tangible longing in the way they looked at each other. This was a sad goodbye. I shook my head, I didn’t want to think about sad goodbyes. I sighed. Three days.

Shifting my weight to my other leg I realized my foot had fallen asleep. Where was she? What time was it? Leaning over to grab my duffle bag I pushed away from the pillar with a purpose now. My own stride was a little awkward, as my half-asleep foot seemed to have a mind of its own. But I needed to find a clock. There, just over LDC display of flight arrivals and departures was the time. What? Wait! That can’t be right. How was it suddenly 3pm? Impossible! I turned and walked to the gift shop.

“Excuse me. Can you tell me the time, please?” I asked the kid behind the counter. He appeared to be in high school, but obviously coordinated enough to not only work but also remember to wear a watch. I shook my wrist is agitation.

“Five minutes after three.” He informed me. My face must have been a sight. I could feel the emotions start to take form on my face then change before fully developed and move onto another emotion, morphing several times before settling into utter and complete confusion. “Is something wrong?” The kid asked.

Smile.

My defense mechanism from years of keeping people from knowing what’s really going on in my head. I just smiled. “Can I get a newspaper?” The kid handed me the current daily edition of USA Today, of course. Paying for my paper I walked to an unoccupied row of cushioned benches and found a seat in the back out of the way. Sure I could call her, I thought to myself spying the pay phones and suddenly remembering the cell phone in my pocket, turned off for the flight. But if she was standing me up why give her the satisfaction? No, I’d wait it out. Soon as I calmed down I go to the ticket counter and change my return flight to the next flight home today.

Snapping the paper open my thoughts were stopped in their tracks.

Thursday, July 8, 2010.

Thursday.

July 8th.

Not July 9th.

I felt myself getting a little light headed and took deep breath sucking in the air suddenly realizing I had been holding my breath. I’m a full day early. No wonder she isn’t here. She didn’t stand me up. She’ll be here, in 20 hours, but she’ll be here! The paper in my hand drooped.

HOW had I managed to get on the wrong flight, the flight leaving a whole day earlier? How was that possible? What type of incompetent staff did the airlines employ these days? Hadn’t they cracked down on all that after 911? Why didn’t someone say “Sir, you’re here a day early. You’re flight doesn’t leave until tomorrow.”? And I had to fly home in three.. no four days under the care of these same people? Maybe I’ll rent a car. I pulled my boarding pass from my pocket ready to head to the ticket counter to make a scene when my legs froze half way up out of the bench. I stood frozen there for half a second before collapsing back onto the bench. I rubbed my eyes, looked again, and then let out a deep sigh.

Departure Date: Thursday July 8, 2010 LaGuardia Airport
Arrival Date: Thursday July 8, 2010 Jacksonville International Airport

Right there in black and white. I’d booked the wrong flight. My mind, so eager to get down here had subconsciously picked an earlier day to leave and it never registered consciously. So here I am, in Florida, a day early. A day early! No longer Three days but FOUR! Smiling broadly I reached for my cell phone powering it on. Then immediately powered it back off and slipped it back into my pocket. No, I couldn’t call her. She told me she had a million things to do to get ready. Besides, she couldn’t just run out unscheduled. She had a patient to take care of, to coordinate her schedule around. I sighed again. No, I would just wait it out here and tomorrow she and I would have a good laugh. I sat back on the bench, opening the paper again, only this time without the previous annoyance. What’s going on in the rest of the world today?

©2010


-part 2-

“Did he stop breathing?”

“Is he dead?”

“If he’s dead can I have his watch?”

“He’s not dead and he’s not wearing a watch, you idiot!”

The strange voices didn’t seem to make sense. Its like they were talking into a bucket or a can. The voices had that ring of hollowness. Maybe I was dreaming? That’s probably it. I hate when my dreams do that though. I was having this incredible dream, I was in a meadow with her, and the weather was perfect. And it was just getting to the really good parts; I could tell when everything shifted to this… new dream that didn’t make any sense. Maybe if I got more comfortable I could find my way back to that other dream. I turned over and immediately realized I wasn’t dreaming.

There was the sound of paper wrinkling, the fleeting feeling of falling, and then the air knocked from my lungs as I landed on something cold and hard. The strange voices started snickering. Opening my eyes I realized the paper was actually the newspaper that had obviously fallen open over my face when I fell asleep. And the linoleum floor of the airport waiting area was the cold and hard object I’d landed on. Looking up, I realized the voices came from a motley crew gang standing just a few feet away. That was the only word I had for them. There were four of them, each carrying a backpack fairly filled to overflowing, the tallest one towing a luggage cart, each wearing an assortment of miss-matched items of clothing, three of them, all fairly tall, standing slightly behind the shortest one who was appraising me with a set of eagle eyes, color unknown.

Officer: Can you give me a description, height, hair color, eye color?

Me: Tall and short, all various shades of gray and brown.

Oh what a wonderful eyewitness I would make. Who knew color blindness could be so inconveniencing? I half wondered if this strange gang would take pity on me and maybe leave me alone for my handicap? Somehow I doubted that.

I groaned as I pushed myself off the floor acknowledging I was definitely going to have a few bruises from the fall. Why didn’t I call her? Why didn’t I get a hotel room? A taxi? Rent a car? All obvious choices now that I’d had a little sleep.

The short one was talking again. I forced myself to focus.

“Don’t try to play the dumb foreigner with us. You were reading an English newspaper, so I know you understand me. I’m gonna as you again, just what were you doing on our benches?”

It was more of a demand than a question. Someone had obviously never gone through public speaking. I turned and looked at the bench noting it was rather plain, unmarked without any names or symbols of any kind. Turning my gaze back to the band of airport rats I shrugged and said, “There were no names on it.”

I guess the bigger one in the back didn’t like my condescending tone of voice as I noticed him readjust something in his grip. A baggage tie. Seriously? A baggage tie? It was all I could do to not roll my eyes.

Another one spoke, it was the voice that wanted my watch. “Ooh, we have ourselves a Yankee. Aren’t you a little too far from home snowbird?” The other two in the back snickered again, the short one in the front continued to assess me, her hand obviously fidgeting with something in her pocket.

I stretched my arms out only half pretending to stifle a yawn, slipped my hands into my pants pockets and shrugged as I leveled my gaze on the smart-mouthed one. “Well I hear the water is better down here so I thought I’d come have a taste. But I suspect you find the water better down here too, ay?” He still had a touch of a Canadian accent and his eyes narrowed and he took a step forward when I called him on it. The tall one swung the cart around in front of him and the air around me became electrically charged with the tension.

“Alright alright. Settle down.” The short one was saying now, her hands stretched out at her sides as if to hold the others back. The object she was toying with in her pocket now visible, a baggage tie. Now that I looked closely all four of them had these baggage ties clutched in their fingers with a purpose.

Casually I pulled my hands out of my own pockets and raised them about shoulder level in a frozen shrug, a ‘hands in the air’ kind of move usually meant to convey no harm meant and shows hands clear of any weapons. On my right hand I spun my key ring, dangling off one side was the delta wings that I was given as a complementary flight gift off the other end was the laser toy used to annoy… I mean amuse my cats. The key ring spun around my finger like a miniature lop-sided set of nun chucks.

Everyone froze.

The key ring stopped spinning and I held the laser toy in my grasp, hands still half in the air, a casual smile on my lips as I appraised the leader. I’d done nothing more wrong than falling asleep on a public airport bench. The pack of airport rats, trapped in time in some terminal like a bad B movie was not about to oust me. Tomorrow I would see her and be well rested with a harrowing tale of my victory over a vicious gang out to maim me with their deadly baggage ties. My lips curled up in a devilish smile.

“Well, I hope you find the water to your liking.” The short one was talking again as she eyed my laser warily. She took a slow deliberate step backward and lowered her arms, but not putting her hands back into her pockets. “Let go check out Gate A, I saw Johnny’s girl heading that way when we specifically told them that was our Gate after they lost last week.”

The mouthy one started to protest but the short one gave him a look that easily read he shouldn’t question her decision. In unison all four seemed to relax, though not completely dropping their guard, and they shuffled quietly down the wide hall and around the corner, presumably off to Gate A. I caught a few hushed words that sounded like “His bench” and “Laser” and “Crazy”.

Chuckling, I sat back down on the bench no longer tired but craving a hot cup of coffee. Wasn’t there a Starbucks back at one of the corners surrounding the solarium? Grabbing my duffle bag I headed off on a quest for my liquid black gold, key ring in hand just in case.

©2010