Page 6


She raises her hand to the microphone, still staring down to the floor. She begins to tap her finger against it in a repetitive motion, resonating the sound of a heartbeat. I realize I'm holding my own breath as she begins her piece.

Bom Bom...

Bom Bom...

Bom Bom...

Do you hear that?

(Her voice lingering on the word hear)

That's the sound of my heart beating…

(She taps the microphone again)

Bom Bom...

Bom Bom...

Bom Bom...

Do you hear that? That's the sound of your heart beating.

(She begins to speak faster, much louder than before.)

It was the first day of October. I was wearing my blue sweater, you know the one I bought at Dillard’s? The one with a double knitted hem and holes in the ends of the sleeves that I could poke my thumbs through when it was cold but I didn't feel like wearing gloves? It was the same sweater you said made my eyes look like reflections of the stars on the ocean.

You promised to love me forever that night...

and boy

did you

ever!

It was the first day of December this time. I was wearing my blue sweater, you know the one I bought at Dillard’s? The one with a double knitted hem and holes in the ends of the sleeves that I could poke my thumbs through when it was cold but I didn't feel like wearing gloves? It was the same sweater you said made my eyes look like reflections of the stars on the ocean.

I told you I was three weeks late.

You said it was fate.

You promised to love me forever that night…

and boy

did you

ever!

It was the first day of May. I was wearing my blue sweater, although this time the double stitched hem was worn and the strength of each thread tested as they were pulled tight against my growing belly. You know the one. The same one I bought at Dillard’s? The one with holes in the ends of the sleeves that I could poke my thumbs through when it was cold but I didn't feel like wearing gloves? It was the same sweater you said made my eyes look like reflections of the stars on the ocean.

The SAME sweater you RIPPED off of my body as you shoved me to the floor,

calling me a whore,

telling me

you didn't love me

anymore.

Bom Bom...

Bom Bom...

Bom Bom...

Do you hear that? That's the sound of my heart beating.

Bom Bom...

Bom Bom...

Bom Bom...

Do you hear that? That's the sound of your heart beating.

(There is a long silence as she clasps her hands to her stomach, tears streaming down her face)

Do you hear that? Of course you don't. That's the silence of my womb.

Because you

RIPPED

OFF

MY

SWEATER!

The lights come back up and the audience roars. I take a deep breath and wipe tears from my eyes. I am mesmerized by her ability to hypnotize an entire audience with such powerfully portrayed words. Just words. I'm immediately addicted and want to hear more. I'm still immobile when Will puts his arm around my shoulders and leans back into the seat with me, bringing me back to reality.

"Well?" he asks.

I accept his embrace and move my head to his shoulder as we both stare out over the crowd. He rests his chin on the top of my head.

"That was unbelievable," I whisper. His hand touches the side of my head, leaning me slightly forward as his lips brush my forehead. I close my eyes and wonder how much more my emotions can be tested. Three days ago, I was devastated, bitter, hopeless. Today I woke up feeling happy for the first time in months. I feel vulnerable. I try to mask my emotions but I feel like everyone knows what I'm thinking and feeling and I don't like it. I don't like being an open book. I feel like I'm up on the stage, pouring my heart out to him, and it scares the hell out of me.

We sit there in the same embrace as several more people perform their pieces. The poetry is as vast and electrifying as the audience. I have never laughed and cried so much. The way these poets were able to lure you into a whole new world, viewing things from a vantage point you have never seen before. Making you feel like you are the mother who lost her baby, or the boy who killed his father, or even the man who got high for the first time and ate five plates of bacon. I feel a connection with these poets and their stories. More so, I feel a deeper connection to Will. I can't imagine that he's brave enough to get up on the stage and bare his soul like these people are doing. I have to see it. I have to see him do this.

The emcee makes one last appeal for performers.

"Will, you can't bring me here and not perform. Please do one? Please, please, please?"

He leans his head back against the booth. "You’re killing me, Lake. Like I said, I don't really have anything new.”

"Do something old then," I suggest. "Or do all these people make you nervous?"

He tilts his head toward me and smiles. "Not all of them. Just one of them."

I suddenly have the urge to kiss him. I suppress the urge, for now, as I continue to plead. I clasp my hands together under my chin.

"Don't make me beg," I say.

"You already are!" he laughs. "Alright, alright. But I'm warning you, you asked."

He pulls his wallet out of his pocket just as the emcee is announcing the start of round two. He stands up, holding his three dollars in the air. "I'm in!"

The emcee shields his eyes with his hand, squinting into the audience to see who spoke up. "Ladies and Gentlemen it's one of our very own, Mr. Will Cooper! So nice of you to finally join us," he teases into the microphone.

Will makes his way through the crowd and walks onto the stage and into the spotlight.

"What's the name of your piece tonight Will?" the emcee asks.

"Death," Will replies, looking past the crowd and directly at me. The smile fades from his eyes as he begins his performance.

Death. The only thing inevitable in life.

People don’t like to talk about death because

it makes them sad.

They don’t want to imagine how life will go on without them,

all the people they love will briefly grieve

but continue to breathe.

They don’t want to imagine how life will go on without them,

Their children will still grow

Get married

Get old…

They don’t want to imagine how life will continue to go on without them,

Their material things will be sold

Their medical files stamped ‘closed’

Their name becoming a memory to everyone they know.

They don’t want to imagine how life will go on without them, so instead of accepting it head on, they avoid the subject altogether,

hoping and praying it will somehow

pass them by.

Forget about them,

moving on to the next one in line.

No, they didn’t want to imagine how life would continue to go on…

without them.

But death

didn’t

forget.

Instead they were met head-on by death,

disguised as an eighteen-wheeler

behind a cloud of fog.

No.

Death didn’t forget about them.

If they only would have been prepared, accepted the inevitable, laid out their plans, understood that it wasn’t just their lives at hand.

I may have legally been considered an adult at the age of nineteen, but I still felt very much

all

of just nineteen.

Unprepared

and overwhelmed

to suddenly have the entire life of a seven-year-old

In my realm.

Death. The only thing inevitable in life.

Will steps out of the spotlight and off of the stage before he even sees his scores. I find myself hoping he gets lost on his way back to our booth so that I have time to absorb this. I have no idea how to react. I had no idea that this was his life. That Caulder was his whole life. I’m amazed by his performance but devastated by his words. I wipe tears away with the back of my hand. I don’t know if I’m crying for the loss of Will’s parents, the responsibilities of that loss or the simple fact that he spoke the truth. He spoke about a side of death and loss that never seems to be considered until it’s too late. A side that I'm unfortunately all too familiar with. The Will I watched walk up to the stage is not the same Will I’m watching walk toward me. I'm conflicted, I'm confused, and most of all I'm taken aback. He was beautiful.

He notices as I'm wiping tears from my eyes. “I warned you,” he smiles as he slides back into the booth.

He reaches for his drink and takes a sip, stirring the ice cubes with his straw. I have no idea what to say to him. He completely put it all out there, right in front of me.

My emotions take control over my actions. I reach forward and take his hand in mine and he sets his drink back down on the table. He looks at me and smiles as he reaches to my face and traces the side of my cheek. I don’t understand the connection I feel with him. It all seems so fast. I turn his hand over and gently kiss the inside of his palm as we hold each other’s stare. We suddenly become the only two people in the entire room; all the external noise fades into the distance.

He takes my face in his hands and I close my eyes. I feel his breath draw closer as he pulls my face toward his. When he touches his lips to mine, he hesitates. He slowly kisses my bottom lip, then my top lip. His lips are warm, still wet from his drink. I try to kiss him back, but he pulls away when my mouth responds. I open my eyes and he is smiling at me, still holding my face in his hands.

"Patience," he whispers. He leans in and kisses me on the cheek. He moves his mouth to my other cheek and kisses me again. I close my eyes and inhale as I try to calm the overwhelming impulse I have to wrap my arms around him and kiss him back. I don't know how he has so much self-control. He presses his forehead against mine and slides his hands down to my arms. Our eyes lock as we open them. It's during this moment that I finally understand why my mother accepted her fate at the age of eighteen.

"Wow,” I exhale.

"Yeah,” he agrees. "Wow."

We hold each other’s gaze for a few more seconds when the audience starts to roar again. They are announcing the qualifiers for round two when Will grabs my hand and whispers, "Let's go."

As I make my way out of the booth, my entire body feels like it's about to give out on me. I've never experienced anything like what just happened. Ever.

We exit the booth and our hands remain locked as he navigates me through the ever growing crowd and into the parking lot. I didn't realize how warm I was until the cold Michigan air touches my skin. It feels exhilarating. Or I feel exhilarated. I can't tell which. All I know is that I wish the last two hours of my life could repeat for eternity.

"You don't want to stay?" I ask him.

"Lake, you've been moving and unpacking for days. You need sleep."

"Sleep does sound good," I say as I yawn.

He opens my door but before I get in, he wraps his arms around my waist and pulls me to him in a tight embrace. He runs his hand through my hair as I take in his scent. I try to pull him closer, but we can't seem to get close enough. Several minutes pass as we just stand there, holding on to the moment. I've always been so guarded. This new side of me that Will brings out is a side of me I didn't know I had.

We eventually break apart and get in the car. As we drive away from the parking lot I lean my head against the window and watch the club as it minimizes in the rearview mirror.

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