Whittled Away

Thunder rolls low and deep as she hides under her faded Wonder Woman sheets. Rubbing her cheek against flannel soft with age, she searches for lingering smells of her childhood, scents that will somehow erase the years between and carry her back to better days. She peaks out and peers toward the wall that is more glass than plaster. Lightning lights up the sky in angry streaks as if god’s decided to give up on the experiment and just tear the world to shreds. If it were to happen, she has a front row seat, from this perch on the top of a mountain, from this house made of glass and heartache.

At breakfast, over pancakes dotted with blueberries, she says, “That storm really had me freaked out. It was an angry one.”

Not looking up from his paper he only says, “I wish you would get rid of those god-awful sheets.”

She keeps her eyes trained on her plate, at the cakes trapped in a sticky amber pool. They look like her insides feel, pummeled flat and bruised.

Picking up her plate she wanders over to the sink thinking of her next move. She could snatch the paper from his hands and shake him. She could scream obscene words — she could take her bag and finally go.

“I like Wonder Woman. She’s powerful and beautiful and strong. And she doesn’t let anyone give her shit.” She doesn’t talk about the comfort she finds amongst the folds. Nor the way they feel against her bare skin. Instead, she turns on the faucet and watches as bits of tomato from last night circle in the drain catcher — like little pieces of wrinkled heart. First the skin slips away, then the rest, till only seeds remain.

She turns and looks at the pale man in the avocado green chair by the oversized wall of glass. He’s so plain against the backdrop of evergreens and cumulus clouds and distant snowcapped peaks.

“Did you hear what I said?” She asks.

“Hmm,” he sorta glances her way, “yeah, of course.”

“What?” She asks.

“What? What?”

“What did I say?”

He lets out an exaggerated sigh and finally puts the paper down, stirring coffee the color of cardboard. He throws her a slight frown as if she is hardly worth the effort it takes to let his mouth sag.

“Fine. No. I didn’t hear what you said.”


“What? Can’t a guy read the paper without getting a lecture? WTF is wrong with you these days?”

“Seriously, ‘WTF’? Why not just say it?”

“Now, there’s no need for that. What is wrong with you?”

“What the Fuck is wrong with you?”

She storms out, past a dying bouquet, past the dog licking up the Red Hots she’d spilled when a burst of thunder made her jump, past the pictures of a happier them that hang suspended on thin wire along the one real wall.

Stepping into the room where they slept she wonders how she’d done this so long, so many lonely nights, so much time now gone. She glances at the mirror hanging to her right. Wrinkles that once seemed like vague visitors, now sit more comfortably at home in the space around her eyes. It seems her hair had only recently whispered about going grey, but now it was sure. Her pupils, once questioning and bright, sit ruminating and dark, like a moody teen. It’s as if she’s turned from color to black and white.

Stepping away from the mirror she studies the small baby-blue suitcase. It sits awkwardly on the white carpet, in the middle of the glass room. She’d brought it here as a bride, her something blue. Three of the four walls are ceiling to floor windows, so that she always felt when she entered like she’d just stepped outside. It’s a beautiful room. It’s light and air and soaring sky. It’s her cloud on top of the world. She’d sat quietly for many hours in this room contemplating the world outside, she’d laughed and cried, she’d dreamt dreams that somehow always managed to fade upon waking — as if they’d slipped through the glass and were walking about the world without her.

“I’ll miss you room.” She says.

The suitcase sits here, in this room of milky white, like a bruise. She has already packed the basic stuff of a life, toothbrush, underwear, tears. But there’s nothing to show the passing of twenty years. She looks around, sure there should be something other than this, other than what she could buy at any corner store, or find at the bottom of too many beers. Something special, hidden, within the layers of white icing that’s been neatly spread over the surface of their lives. Her eyes scour the room, until the white is dulled and the space turns ghostly. She is looking for something. Some token of love. Some sweet memory she’d want to keep. But there is only the quiet bed, the same view she’s seen day after day, and the nearly empty blue case that signals the end. She runs her hand over the old wonder woman sheets one more time, then turns to go.


Some people were better at life. They were prepared for the storms, for the disappointments of adulteries, for the constant un-rest. She hoped she might step outside and let the wind blow her away. That would be best. She’s sail up and up amongst the trees, leave her sorrow behind and turn into bubbles or petals or light. But there was no breeze when she left, and she had only managed to travel a few miles before she had to stop and rest.

Now she was at the Woods End Hotel, sitting on the sagging bed of room seven, so in contrast to her white room. To her idea of heaven. She thought about how she ended up here, so far from her childhood days — so far from the beginning of dreams. There was a time she thought she was equipped. That she had everything she’d need to navigate through this world. Steadfast friends, sturdy shoes, and a strong belief that life would fit neatly within the shape of her heart.

But that was when she was young, before the realities of life had set in — before she realized she’d been fed a lie. Teachers and other adults in her life told her that she was an artist, that the world was her canvas and the life she wanted was hers to create…and for a while she believed.

So what happened? What made her transform from the girl filled with optimism, with so many hopes, to this used up lump of regrets?

Opening the small blue suitcase, she scanned through photos and journals looking for answers, or at least some clues. The smiles in the albums went from big and bright, to small, dim and smaller still. The words amongst the journal pages, the accounts she’d given of her days, went from strong and determined to reaching, to searching, to nearly whittled away.

There had been good times in the beginning of their marriage, music, laughter, days filled with delight. They had travelled the world, eaten good food, listened to the sounds of wild animals from the hot tub at night, but they had never done what she really wanted. They’d never opened each others souls, never found a way to truly connect. 

Perhaps it was her fault. She had always wanted more. Not the gadgets and sparkles of gifts from stores, not expensive bottles of wine or fancy cars. No. She wanted more time. Time to figure out what life it was she wanted to create. And on harder days, how to adjust the contorted light into a more palatable shade — to slip like the purple twilight of early evening onto the sand and let intuition guide her.

She wanted to figure these things out while she was still young, while the sun’s rays could still reach into her future, and bathe it with the golden light of long days and easy breath. While her face was serene within skin still smooth, while her eyes still burned deep and blue — while hope still pulled up at the corners of her mouth.

Her biggest fear was it’d take to long to figure out the life she wanted, that she’d be too late. Her dreams had never really fully taken shape, and what little bits had were slowly, month after month, year after year, reduced to mere scraps.

Had she really been that blind? To think a man would be her ticket, her answer? That a man could teach her how to live, how to be extraordinary — how to fly?

And here she was — again. Looking for the answers from a man. Here, at the Woods End Hotel. A knock at the door, an old friend whom she used to date. She’d called him as soon as she arrived. Desperate to catch a glimpse of the past, to remember who she used to be — to rewind time. She reached for it longingly, but the  ache was too painful to explain to someone she hadn’t seen in years. He was older too, no longer the lean body of youth, nor the spark in the eyes. He looked weathered and tired — deflated. But, still, she tried.

There was a movie, an old one she used to love, introduced in nostalgic 80’s font with familiar songs, an old Hollywood crush and a happily ever after ending.

Then they fed each other food that arrived in white boxes with cookies filled with words meant to inspire, teach, or warn — fortunes aimed at no one in particular. As if the entire world and all the people in it were living the same life.

And they had sex — it was sweaty and awkward and strange. But she was determined. Intent on getting answers, straining to hear from the illusive maker of feathers, to somehow free herself within the four walls of room seven. So, she pretended. They joked and talked and laughed, and connected as well as humans can…but still, in the end, no wings came to carry her away. There were no flames, no stars — not even the smallest hint of sky.


For artwork inspired by my short stories please visit my artist page on Redbubble.

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