“If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.” ~Brené Brown


He’d heard her, she was sure of it; his face was so close to hers, she could feel his whiskers on her cheek as he moved, like the stab of needles tattooing her skin with unwanted ink. 

“No,” she said, again, a little more forcefully this time, the word scraping the inside of her throat, which was beginning to feel constricted, pure panic coiling itself around and around, from the inside out.

All she saw was his eyes. Blank, as if he was looking through her, his eyes spoke for him, they gave his response.

Pinning her down, one arm crossed her chest as the other pulled down his own pants and ripped her black panties aside. His full weight upon her, he pushed her back further into the couch. She tried to push back at him, to wriggle beneath him to get away, but her own muscles weren’t working like they should. 

Her body went cold. She could taste his scent in the air, a toxic, slur of smoke invading her lungs, fighting for what little air her lungs would allow. Absorbing his vile presence, it was black sludge melting into every pore, her stomach twisting and wretching. She could feel her body’s resistance in the rigid freeze between them. 

But, she didn’t scream, even though her friend was just upstairs with the other guy. She didn’t struggle. Fear kept her quiet, and not just fear of him. She was immobilized by her own voice. 

Fear of her own voice.

Jerking his head upward, he looked into her eyes again, and she felt his muscles tighten even further. 

No,” she whispered again, reminding herself. 

He invaded her. His hips worked ferociously, grinding and impaling, his elbow digging into her chest.

He took without apology. He took and took and took. 

Behind her eyes, it all slowed, each slam into her, every recoil, in slow motion, his elbows becoming knives, his arms boulders, and his incessant body the evil, leaded blanket reminding her of her own silence, of her smallness. 

He took what he wanted.

When he finished, she stood and quietly adjusted her clothes, never looking at him or speaking a word.

Walking up the 18 stairs, her feet made a shuffle-scraping sound, and she knocked on the blackness of the wooden door until her friend answered. Thank God, the look on her face must have spoken for her, because her friend followed without her ever needing to speak.

She walked back down the 18 stairs and out the front door. Automation took her feet toward home, still in silence. She was halfway home before she realized she was only wearing one shoe. 

Along with her shoe, she’d left behind the last of her voice, the one which spoke up for her. 

It would be years and years before she began to find it again…..but she did.

~image credit; #metoo 

“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”

“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”

Quotes by Brené Brown. Let’s kick shame’s ass, Warriors.



I am able
my heart is still breakable

I am stable
sometimes a three-legged table

I am affable
with small talk, I disable

I am durable
not always endurable

I am capable
not always cape-able

I am fall-able
no buts


The Fifth of July

Bang, pop, whoosh. Sizzle, snap, crack. Fizz, hiss, BOOM. BOOM.


In a haze, after the initial phone call, she rushed to be by his side. She had tunnel vision getting there – she couldn’t think, see, feel anything else. Nothing else registered, none of her surroundings, nothing at all.

All she thought was – I need to hurry. I need to hurry. I need to hurry.

After the doctor had delivered the news, she stood there, stunned. In her peripheral, she could see the colors exploding in the sky just outside the large window next to his bed, and it registered in her that it was the 4th. She could feel the rumbling vibration of each detonation. She could feel.


Once she arrived home, though she’d despirately needed the sleep, there was very little. She tossed and turned, and tossed and turned. Finally giving in to it, she got up early, dressed and returned to him.

As she walked down the stark, institutional green hall, each step bringing her closer to seeing with her own eyes what had been conveyed to her in words the day before, the weight of those words sunk like quicksand to the pit of her stomach.

Today, she was acutely aware of the clinical smell surrounding her, the smell of sickness, the stench of sadness filling first her lungs, then permeating outward, finding an unwelcome home in her veins, thick like sludge, coursing and thumping.

She could hear the cries of sorrow in the bated breath wafting from some of the doors she passed. She could taste its metallic tang on the tip of her tongue. And as she arrived at the doorway of the room to which she needed to enter, she felt it in her bones, in her marrow. When she opened the door, she became its embodiment.

The few steps to the bed took her years. She passed herself snuggled on his lap as he read to her for the millionth time, Put Me in the Zoo.

She watched as she sat between he and her mother on the yellow paisley couch, as they tried to explain why they would no longer be a family.

She saw the desperation on his face as he finally allowed her to call her mother, but would not yet let her go home to her, still.

She remembered tearing open the Christmas wrap to see the purple down coat she’d wanted so badly, the yolk-only egg sandwiches on Sunday mornings, and stove-popped popcorn with a rented movie on their every-other Saturday nights.

She saw his suntanned, orange-tinted left arm that was darker than the rest of him from hanging out his truck window, his splashing in the pool and volleyball in the summer, and helping her step-brother with homework at the kitchen table while he looked on drinking Pepsi from a two liter bottle.

She remembered the wishing she belonged, that she fit with them differently, more.

The coughing, she remembered the coughing that just kept getting worse, the constant handkerchiefs in his pockets and on the end table with his Winstons next to his chair, the red-faced breathlessness and the wheezing. And the fear in his eyes.

She remembered the devastating, life-altering heartbreak and the disappearing and the wondering, the worry and the doubt. The reconnecting and the doctors and the testing.

And finally, the hope. The hope which had fizzled away the night before with every sizzle and crack, hiss and bang and pop.

Standing next to the impersonal-feeling bed, she gripped the cold, stark metal of the railing with both hands, trying to take in all that she saw. The blinking and the beeping in the semi-darkness, the machine whose trepidus noise filled the room.

Suck, push, suck, push. SUCK. PUSH.

Eerily loud and unwelcome, it was reminiscent of the sounds heard outside the window the night before.

Her eyes ran the length of the shiny metal pole on which the machine was mounted, down to the swiveling wheels which allowed it to be maneuvered to where it was needed. She noticed the simple black cord which extended to the wall.

How could such an ordinary-looking plug hold life in the balance?

Letting loose her grip a bit, she became deftly aware of her own breath, in and out, of her own heart beating, ga-gong, ga-gong, so loudly in her chest that it rang in her ears.

Reaching out, she rested her hand on his chest, feeling the unfamiliar, robotic rise and fall. She felt the cool absence, the force of what would not be.

And then she looked up, nodded her head, and closing her water-filled eyes, she felt with the length of her fingers, with the lifeline in the palm of her hand. With her very soul.

The robotic gave way to an arhythmic slowing:



Beneath her palm there was only stillness. In the tips of her fingers, there was only the thump of her own heartbeat, the trembling cry of her core.


And he was gone.

-photo found on Pixabay free photos 

Mirror Image

Tucked tightly beneath her chin, her favorite blanket created a cocoon around her as she lie quietly on the couch, everyone else going about their business around her. Sitting on the floor in front of the tv, her younger half-sisters bickered over who should have control of the remote. Her mom worked in the kitchen, cleaning up from a dinner she hadn’t been able to eat.

More than anything, she wished she was invisible right now, and yet, she couldn’t make herself be alone with her thoughts. 

No matter how hard she tried to divert her attention from the hurt, she could not. It bubbled beneath her skin. It was sludge, heavy through her veins and a pulsing pressure behind her eyes, threatening release. It sat like a boulder on her chest, making it impossible to breathe deeply. She was afraid if she tried, she might burst.

She didn’t know what to do. How to feel. How to move. Her feelings were so huge and twisted, it seemed as if she’d never escape them. She had no idea how to go about a day without the weight of it pulling every thought to the pit of her stomach. Into the darkness.

I wish I didn’t feel anything at all.

It was hurt, there was no doubt. She’d hurt him, and she felt terrible. Worse than terrible. It was revolting. But it was even bigger than the immediate hurt, it was much deeper than that.

She’d done something really stupid, sleeping with that other guy, and the guilt had forced her to tell Doug the truth. Well, mostly. The ugliness and shame had kept her from telling him the whole story. And the fear.

She tried really hard not to think about the whole story, because when she did, the loathing was so intense she could taste it’s metallic tang and smell it’s charred blackness. The fear would burn and churn in her stomach until she could feel the sting of bile in the back of her throat. The worst part was, it wasn’t even the first time. She’d done it before and let the guilt liquefy her insides, all this time.

I’m just like her. 

It was her biggest fear. She could not let herself be just like her.

Her mom had been married five times already, and the sixth would no doubt be soon. They’d moved in and out, and in and out. All of them were men who were not worthy of her mother’s love, none who treated her mother with respect. Men who took. Who hurt. And it seemed as if her mother searched for carbon copies, over and over, leaving the good ones in her wake. She cheated on every one, and always seemed to be looking for a plan B. And it often felt like she and her sisters were just along for the ride, and the ride had no breaks.

How on earth will I ever be able to outrun that? Look what I’ve already done, and I’m only 17.

It took her by complete surprise when her mom knelt down next to the couch and stroked her hair. It was uncharacteristic; she was not cold, but she was also not a huggy-touchy type. Vulnerability wasn’t in her wheelhouse.

“Are you going to be okay,” her mom asked, making eye contact.

“I don’t want to end up like you,” she replied, through quivering lips and involuntary tears, but maintaining eye contact, the hurt vibrating softly with each word. She couldn’t believe she’d said it aloud, but it had been sitting right there, on the tip of her tongue, for so very long. And maybe, just maybe, her mom might understand. Maybe she could help. Maybe it would help.

But, no other words passed between them. No words were needed. Her mom’s eyes had replied.

Hiding tears of her own, her mom stood and walked away.

-image credit studiojoslizen, found via google images