Ride The Lightning

Part 12 – The Disappearance of Julie Peters

Sometime Between September 9 and September 13, 2019

Baldwin, WI

My labored breaths fill the otherwise silent hallway of the drab motel as I sprint down the cheaply-carpeted floor in my socks.  The large key-ring in my hands jingles like a Christmas bell as the tiny jagged metal pieces bounce and sing against one another, ensuring that my thumb and forefinger are clamped around a very specific one. 

It’s tinier than the others, and could easily get lost amongst the myriad of multi-colored keys and plastic fobs surrounding it.  

I rip the electronic keycard out from between my teeth, muscling the door open and leaping over the mattress in a whirlwind of urgency.  The floor is littered with cardboard boxes, some large and some small.  Frantically-torn packaging tape and ripped bubble wrap tell the chaotic story of a very recent and ongoing descent into an invisible madness.  

All the boxes are addressed to me.  All the contents of which are now on the mattress.  The only mattress in the room.  A mattress, that hasn’t been slept in once since I checked in… 3 days ago.

3 days?  Has it been 3, or 4? 

I can’t remember. 

Because I haven’t slept. 

Nor have I eaten. Haven’t needed to. 

Something else is sustaining me.  Something much more powerful than nutrition. 

A strange new fuel that has been bubbling inside me for days.  Negating the need for sleep.  The need for food or water.  And with it, a stroke of genius that has elevated me beyond anything I’ve ever thought possible.  

I have discovered the meaning of… everything. 

Of life.  Specifically, MY LIFE.  And now I’m absolutely overcome with the compelling need to spread the message.   

I am GODLIKE.  I am superhuman.  I’ve been granted special powers.  I feel, amazing.  I feel ALIVE.  

And I need to make use of these powers before they disappear again.  Like they did the last time. I CANNOT waste this.  It’s my duty to mankind.

But I must be careful.  Must tread lightly.  Mustn’t let on to just anyone that I’ve been granted these powers. 

They wouldn’t believe anyways.  They’d take me away somewhere.  Put me in a padded room.  Lock me up.  And throw away the key.

And who will spread the message then?  It has to be me.  I am THE ONE.  The one the world is waiting for. 

This will be the first time I’ve left the motel room since I arrived. 

But is it the first time, really? 

I’m having trouble with the timeline. 

The events are jumbled in my mind, because they have too much to compete with.  My thoughts are riding on the coattails of a thunderbolt. They zip through my mind so quickly I can barely keep up. 

I’ve tried to write them all down, but it  happens so very fast and I have SO MUCH to think about.  So many plans. 

Okay – enough about that, though.  Keys!  We need keys!  NOW.  What’s that?  No, not the keys in my hand, silly!  These are different keys.  Car keys!  

Where are they?  Under this?  I toss a box to the corner of the room.  Nope.  Not under there!  Not to worry!  We’ll find them.  I just know it!!  Although the post office closes soon and I’m worried tha—  THERE!

RIGHT THERE DO YOU SEE THEM?

I snatch them up and allow myself a quick victory fist-pump.  Run to the door, nearly walk out with no shoes on my feet.  Whoops!  Silly me!

I chuckle to myself as I smash my feet forcefully into each pre-tied shoe,  pausing for a moment to rip a piece of stray packaging tape from my sock, and toss it into the air like a ribbon-toting  rhythmic gymnast.

Sprint out to the rental car with one heel still clamoring to fit inside it’s collapsed shoe-space. 

I should probably give that back, soon. 

The car, I mean.

They’ll be wanting that.  They’ll be searching for it.  And if they find IT then they find ME, and that’s no good at all now is it? RIGHT?! 

As I glance into the rear-view mirror and throw the car into reverse, I catch a glimpse of my eyes. 

My pupils, are enormous.  Like, the size of dinner plates enormous. 

That’s concerning.  Like I’m on drugs or something.  I mean… technically I am…

…on several as a matter of fact.  But they’re prescribed for my depression.  And they must be working because I feel AMAZING.  

DEPRESSION? WHAT DEPRESSION???

The tires squeal as I just miss the curb, parking diagonally in the tiny lot. I Run to the desk,  and greet the service agent emphatically with a charming quip.  She knows me by name now.  ISN’T THAT GREAT?  

I speed-walk between the corridors lined with tiny metal boxes, pivoting my head round my neck ferociously like a bird.   

Until my glassy, bloodshot eyes land on the triple-digit number I’m looking for.  I reach into the box, pull out a heavy stack of mail. 

Corporate mail. 

Mail that’s been addressed to the hotel I’m staying at. 

I thumb through it quickly.  And right there, in the middle of the stack… exactly what I need.  A tiny box with my name on it.  FUCK YES.

 As I drive back to the hotel, the glint of metal on the unfamiliar key-ring catches my eye for a brief moment, discarded hastily onto the passenger seat.  

And with it, a quick pang of something… unpleasant. 

What is that? 

Ah… yes… I’m feeling slightly guilty now. 

I did yell at that poor hotel manager, after all. 

The pleasant middle-Eastern man with the heavy accent and the concerned eyes. 

But I’d NEEDED to, you see.  He wasn’t getting it.  The significance.

He hadn’t understood. 

I’m leaving tomorrow.  Going… where exactly am I going? 

Fuck it, it’s not important.  What IS  important is that NOW I have everything I need to get moving. All of the gear.  ALL OF IT.  I’m going to need that gear very soon.  My plans require it. 

And that nice man, he wasn’t being very cooperative and so I’d had to raise my voice to help him understand just how important this box, and this gear, is to me.  

But then he’d gotten a bit scared, and he’d basically THROWN me the keys to EVERY DOOR in the hotel so that I could go and check the mailbox myself. 

And so I had. 

But still, I wish I hadn’t had to yell.  I’m really not that type of person.  Honest.  I’m a nice, polite, kind, brunette lady.  Usually.

When I get back to my hotel room, I rip open the very last of my packages. 

And pull out the compass.

I smile widely, and cram all the objects I can inside my brand-new extra-large hiking backpack. 

 Tomorrow I leave. 

Tomorrow… I fulfill my destiny.  ONCE AND FOR ALL.  



Lightning rips across the sky that night.  I know, because I don’t sleep. 

Again.


To Be Continued… 

Sister

To my Oldest Sister, Who wrote to me when I was Missing:

Being back in Detroit, I’ve been looking for a way to pass the time while my medicine kicks in.  And so the other day, I went through some old photographs in mom’s Hope Chest.  

As I was chuckling to myself at the old familiar glossies, I came across one that made me stop dead in my tracks.  I placed the rest of the towering pile down, off to the side so that I could study it – give it my full attention.

At first, I didn’t recognize the tiny, round face framed so softly with the dirty-blonde locks of shiny curls.  But then I looked closer, and recognized the expression, and the piercing blue eyes that seemed to jump off the picture with their intensity.  It was you – as a baby.

And suddenly, I realized.  I’ve never taken the time to actually look at any of your baby pictures before.  I’d had no idea what you looked like before I was born.  Had never even given it a second thought.

Why is that?  Why had I never cared enough to even thumb through your baby book, not even once?

And as is the case with most introspective questions, I already knew the answer before I asked.  It’s simple, really.  I can’t picture you as a baby, because in my eyes, you never were one.  You aren’t allowed to be.  You’re my older sister.

I’ve never known you as anything else.  Since the day I was born, you’ve always been this constant, calming presence in my life.  Something that was just, always there.  No different than the sky or the sun or the stars.


When we were little, I wanted to be you so desperately.  Because you always knew all the answers.  Because you were a perpetual fountain of knowledge and earthly wisdom.  Because you were never afraid, or sad, or all the things I seemed to be growing up.  You were perfect.  

I’m the one with the pizza. ALWAYS.


You’d think that this reverence would have faded with age, but it never really did. 

When you went off to college, you left me all your Human Anatomy notes from Ms. Erfert’s class in the 9th grade.  I pored over them, breathing in every word like they were the original stone tablets chiseled with the 10 commandments. 

The following year, I signed up Ms. Erfert’s class, and breezed through it like it was third grade math.  

When I was in my junior year of high school, you came home to visit for a few days.  You were living in Boston at the time, working at a large hospital as a respiratory therapist. 

I still remember the night that you were saying your goodbyes, like it was yesterday.  Because you came into my bedroom last, and as we hugged I said, “I wish I could come with you.”  To which you responded with, “What’s stopping you from doing that?”  

I had stared incredulously at you  and sputtered out something to the tune of, “Be… Be-cause… I don’t know.  I can’t just go off to Boston for a week.”

“Why not?  Give me one good reason.  You’re on break at school.  You’ll be back in time to go to class.  You have no reason not to go,” you’d insisted.

 Eventually, I ran out of excuses and found myself in the passenger seat of your trailblazer at 9 PM on a weeknight, crossing the border into Canada with a few pairs of clothes and some toiletries. 

It was the most exhilarating feeling in the world.  And not only did it shatter all my false beliefs about spontaneous travel, it also inspired a strange new desire to get out of Michigan and SEE THE WORLD in all it’s glory.  It set the tone for the rest of my life.

You became a traveling respiratory therapist a few years later, and flew me out to San Francisco while you were on assignment there. 

Then you took me to Costa Rica. 

And finally, right after I graduated X-Ray school, you brought me to Alaska to live with you while I tried to lock down my first job out of college.  

Do you remember when we were on the plane to South Dakota, moving there together from Anchorage?  That girl behind us, she started having an asthma attack.  She was panicking, and  the flight attendants had NO IDEA what to do. 

At one point, it got so bad that she was hyperventilating behind us, and you’d looked over at me, sighed, and handed me your infant son.  

“Hold this,” you’d said.  

Then you’d turned and explained to the petrified girl who you were and just how you were going to help her. 

You’d held both her hands and forced her to breathe along with you, all while simultaneously ordering the flight attendants to radio overhead for an Albuterol inhaler from one of the other passengers. 

I’d watched in awe while you magically calmed that girl down, got her breathing nice and slow again. 

By the time the ER doctor from a few rows up came back for a look, he’d simply said, “well, it looks like you have this under control…”  and gone back to his seat.

It was one of the many moments in my life, where I’d wanted to stand up and point to you emphatically and scream to the crowd of onlookers, “That’s MY sister!!”

 Every major step and decision in my life, you’ve been there… holding my hand through it, like you did with that girl on the plane.  Coaxing me to ignore the little nagging voice in my head, and to do the things I am terrified to do. 

A lot of those things, I only had the courage to try, because I knew that if I fucked them up, you’d be there to fix it.  Because you always have been. 

And up until now I’ve taken all that for granted.

You see, I realize now that I’ve never allowed you the opportunity to NOT be perfect.  I’ve never expected anything less than that from you.  So when I was missing a few weeks back, and I saw that you’d posted my suicide note and all the details of my mental health struggles online, I’d been very very angry. 

I’d resented you for that for a little while afterwards, because in my eyes, it was handled imperfectly.  


But what IS the perfect way to handle that situation?  I mean, what precedence out there exists for, “My sister has gone fucking crazy and I desperately need to find her?”  

And so I’m sitting here several weeks later, looking at your baby pictures, and for the first time…

…I mean really, truly, the first time…

…I’m allowing you the right – TO BE HUMAN. 

And I’m realizing that throughout our entire lives, I’ve never ever given you that.  Never allowed you that.

Never allowed you to be vulnerable. 

Never allowed you to be anything other than perfect. 

And I’m so fucking sorry, Christel.

I really am.

I’m sorry that I held you to an impossible standard.  I’m sorry that I’ve expected you to fix everything that’s gone wrong in my life.  I’m sorry that I’ve let you down. 

And I promise to do better.  To try to my hardest to BE better.

All I’ve ever wanted, is to be you.  But I’m not.  And never will be.  And that’s okay. 

You are still, to this day, my absolute idol and the constant source of solidity in my drastically wavering life. 

And all I want, right now? 

Is for you to know that.

Love Always

Your Baby Sister,


Julie

Before I Forget

Part 10 – The Disappearance of Julie Peters.

A memory

Downtown Mt. Clemens, MI

2009

It’s 1 AM on a Saturday night  and I’ve just clocked out of work.  My apron, removed from my waist and folded sloppily into thirds, lies in the crook of my right elbow, it’s threaded compartments overflowing with ink-stained ballpoint pens and crumpled bits of green paper.  Scribbled messages litter the lined guest checks, written in a language only fellow servers could interpret.  

6 wings, Mango Hab, Bl chz, cel

Patron Marg. on rcks, w/s – NO LIME 

I shuffle my feet carefully on the soapy, tiled floor of the kitchen, as though it’s a frozen pond. 

The back door, propped open with a large white bucket, provides a brief reprieve from the pungent smell of chicken grease and dirty dishwater, hanging over the tiny space like a noxious gas.  

“Guys, I’m heading out!”  I yell, my voice ricocheting between the worn, steel kitchen appliances and bounding over sauce-stained counter-tops.  

The freezer door squeaks open and a large shadow looms in the dim light of the kitchen.  

“Okay, baby, be safe,” hums a voice, as silky as the ebony skin of the man it belongs to.  

I don’t look back to check if Tony, our lead cook and giant Teddy bear of a man, is watching me make my exit.  I already know he is. 

Tony’s good like that.  Forever on alert, protecting the female servers and hostesses from the dangers of the night. 

And there are dangers a-plenty in this neighborhood.

It’s not exactly downtown Detroit, but it’s close enough. 

Our back parking lot has long been a breeding ground for drug dealers, crackheads, and thieves. 

Driving one street over could land you in a drug-infested wonderland, if you so desired. 

I’d vowed to myself that I’d never head in that direction again, after my last experience, nearly a week ago.  I’d innocently offered to drive one of the hostesses home that night, and as surely as they say – no good deed goes unpunished. 

Upon approaching her house, a man with bulging eyes had approached my rickety jeep’s driver-side window.  He’d stared at us, disconcertingly and slowly nodded his head up and down, repeatedly whispering to himself, “Theeeeese… is some young-ass girlssssss.”  

The hostess had reached over me and shouted, “No thanks, Morris.  We don’t want none!!”  and then jumped out of my vehicle, slamming the door behind her.  

“DRIVE!!!” She’d yelled as she’d spun on her heels and made a bee-line for her own dilapidated house.  And drive, I did.  Like a bat out of hell.  I’m not proud of it, but what can I say?  It happened.

But now, as I make my paranoid trek across the parking lot, I keep a key between each finger of my right hand, just in case Morris should return for an encore.  My hand is balled up in a tight fist, the jagged metal poking outwards like a knock-off version of Wolverine.  A poor man’s brass knuckles.

I let out the breath I’ve been holding, as I slip into my driver’s seat, doing a quick once-over in the rearview to check for serial killers. 

Satisfied with the result, I  look up through the glass windshield at Tony, standing in the back doorway of the kitchen, with his arms crossed and muscles bulging underneath his grease-covered apron. 

A quick thumbs-up from me, confirms that Ted Bundy has not crawled into my back seat during my shift.  Content with my safety, he closes the door, and I’m left alone, drenched in the ghostly-pale glow of the parking lot.

I find the ignition with my former-wolverine-claw-turned-car-key, and start the engine with a faint roar.  My right hand absently reaches for the volume knob on the stereo, a habit I’m inclined to, lest the entire neighborhood be woken by the obnoxiously loud Metallica album currently residing in my CD player.  

Oddly though, no noise is emanating from my crackly speakers at all, and I realize this at the exact same time that my outstretched arm, lands in a giant black hole. 

I shriek, pulling my hand back quickly, as though I’ve miscalculated and accidentally put my hand inside a snake hole.  Adding to the sensation, are the free wires that brush my hand as I return it to my body.

I scramble for the overhead button, find it, and illuminate the vehicle instantly. 

And there it is… plain as day. 

My stereo, has been stolen.

What – – oh COME ON!!!’

I scream angrily out into the night.

The broke college student part of me laments the financial loss, although as I think it over, I realize that the stereo itself will probably sell for less money than the Metallica CD that was housed inside it.  That doesn’t soften the blow, however.

Aside from the bereavement, another sensation creeps through my veins – one that I can’t quite put words to. 

The best way to describe it?  I feel…. violated. 

Knowing that some asshole has had his grubby fingers inside my dashboard.  That some uninvited person had sat in my driver’s seat.  Had fiddled with my wires.  And I hadn’t been here to witness it.  

The intrusion didn’t include just my car.  This burglar had somehow managed to strip me of my own sense of safety.   He hadn’t just tinkered with my belongings, but left me with an unanswerable question. 

A compelling need to know JUST WHAT exactly he had done during his invasion.  What all did he tarnish with his slimy, undeserving fingers?

I place my palms on the steering wheel. Did he have his hands in the same spot as mine?  Was he looking out the same windshield, at some point? I shiver at the thought.

I throw the car in reverse, and hit the gas. 

But as I drive home in my abnormally quiet vehicle, I feel slightly sick.

I can’t shake the lingering feeling of his palpable occupancy, as though it’s suspended in the air all around me.  It may not be visible, but it’s detectable.  

And I have no idea how to get rid of it.


Present Day

October 8, 2019

I reach my outstretched fingers into the last unopened pocket of the large hiking backpack, and pull out 2 chapsticks, a tube of SPF, and a miniature, pocket-sized notebook. 

I lay the contents on the hard-wood floor, where they blend together with the rest of the camping gear that’s spread across the room in a half-circle all around me, like a colossal rainbow.

My forehead scrunches as I examine the items individually. 

A camp stove with little propane cylinders.  A rain-flye.  A compass.  A hand-drawn map of Des Moines, Iowa’s Adventure Bicycle network.   A hunting knife.

I’ve held off doing this for too long now.  It’s been 2 weeks since I’ve returned to Michigan, and yet I’ve procrastinated combing through this backpack in it’s entirety. 

And there’s no question as to why. 

I’m terrified. 

Not terrified of what these bits and pieces will cause me to remember.  It’s not the memories themselves that incite terror.  That’s not it at all.

I’m terrified, because these items are undeniable proof.  

Proof of all the moments that I’ve forgotten.

That there are things that I did last month, items that I purchased, people that I met, plans that I made, that I have no recollection of whatsoever.  

I know, it probably sounds like I’m exaggerating this for cinematic effect.  I swear to God, I’m not. 

I have no reason to.  As a matter of fact, this story would be much more interesting if I did remember.  I’d love to be able to recount, in great detail, what exactly transpired when I left my hotel room in Minneapolis on September 9, 2019. 

I wish I had all the information so I could continue this story in a perfectly linear, logical way.  But I can’t do that.  Because I can’t fucking remember.

Do you have any idea how horrifying that is? 

Have you ever lost time? 

Have you ever done things, when you were 100% sober and awake… that you cannot account for? 

I have.  It’s not exciting. It’s not thrilling.  It’s awful. 

And this isn’t the first time it’s happened to me.

Years ago, I stopped taking an anti-anxiety medication very suddenly, and I wound up in the hospital having seizures from the unexpected withdrawal.  When I finally was cleared to come home, my two best friends came to visit me. 

I don’t recall what story I was telling them, but I remember that it was hilariously funny. 

Except that when I got to the punch line, instead of laughing, they were both sitting there, mouths agape… looking absolutely horrified.  

Confusion had overtaken me, and I asked, “What?  What’s wrong?”

They looked at each other, swallowed nervously, and proceeded to inform me that I’d just told them that exact same story.  Word for word.  

As in, I told them the story, and when I got to the end of it, I started telling it again like I’d never told it the first time. 

And if I didn’t believe them… THEY HAD THE ENTIRE THING ON VIDEO.

They were understandably concerned, and we never quite figured out what the fuck happened in my brain that caused it.  I always assumed it was the meds they had put me on while I was in the hospital, and maybe that’s it – maybe it’s not.  

All I know is that sporadically, throughout my life, I’ve had these little episodes where I’ve seemingly lost time.  Which is extremely strange, because in my everyday life, I pride myself on having an excellent memory.  And I’m not trying to brag or anything, but my memory is pretty ACE.  It got me straight-A’s throughout school, nearly effortlessly.  I graduated with a 3.98 GPA in college.  

What does it feel like, you may ask, to have a chunk of your life excised from memory? 

It feels dirty, like someone’s been poking around in your skull uninvited. 

It feels like being robbed. 

It feels like having the most important thing in your possession, your very EXISTENCE, stolen from you. 

It feels like looking around in your own mind, and there’s this foreignness about it. 

It feels like there’s a part of you that’s tainted  – touched by another.  

It feels like you’ve been violated. 

It feels, like being paranoid, I mean absolutely paranoid all the time, that the burglar is going to come back. 

And there’s nothing you can do about it.  Because the burglar

… is you.  

From here on out, I’m going to attempt to tell you what I do remember from my disappearance, because there are plenty of lucid moments sprinkled in with the foggy ones. 

But I’m only going to share what I can prove to be reliable. 

I could try to fill in the gaps by combing through receipts or asking family.  But I’m not going to do that.  Because this is my story, and I want to tell you what I experienced.  However sparse that experience may be.  

I may have been robbed, but she didn’t take everything. 

And so we’ll start, with my next available memory. 

Which is at a cheap, dingy motel, in Baldwin, Wisconsin. Although I’m not entirely 100% sure how I wound up there.

To be continued…

Sober

Part 9 – The Disappearance of Julie Peters

Close your eyes for a moment.

Shit… hold on… WAIT!  WAIT!  Did I catch you in time?  Good. 

I just realized you need to read this first.  THEN you can close your eyes.  My bad.  Sorry about that.

Okay, so in a minute I want you to close your eyes.  

I want you to imagine that you’re inside a tent.  A very small, very narrow tent.

And in this tent, is a sleeping bag and a camp pillow, and you’re in there too, lying on all of it.

It’s a warm, summer night and the fireflies are out, lighting up the sky occasionally with their iridescent bellies.  You catch their glow every so often through the thin, yet surprisingly durable material standing between you and the elements.  

You’ve just zipped up the entrance and you’ve settled down to sleep under the light of the stars.  Everything, is perfect.  The blankets, the pillow, the thermal underwear that provides the perfect balance between stuffy and shivering.

You close your eyes and prepare to drift off to sleep.

And then you hear it.  

Neeeeeeeeeeeeengggg.   NeeeeennnnNNNGGGGGGG!

The high-pitched squeal of a gnat, trapped inside the tent with you, trying desperately to move his sparse belongings into the cavernous tunnel of your left ear, and squat there, uninvited.

You swat it away, but it quickly returns.  Over and over again.  

It’s maddening. 

You unzip the exit, hopeful that your new invisible friend will flutter his way to freedom, but he stubbornly refuses to leave.  He’s comfortable here.  It’s his new home.  

And you, are his new housemate.  FOR LIFE. 

 You make your peace with this involuntary arrangement.  Close your eyes again, and drift off to sleep.  Yet, even in your dreams you hear him, humming joyfully to himself.  Oblivious to the irritating nature of his incessant murmuring.

NeeeNNNNNGGGG nEEEEEEnnnggg  NEEEEENNNGEEEEEEEEE!


Okay, you can open your eyes now. 

What, you may be asking yourself, was the point of this little exercise?

Not too long ago, a coworker of mine asked me what anxiety is.  They genuinely had no idea.  They wanted to know what it felt like.

I sat there and stared for a minute, mouth agape.  

There are people out there… lots of people apparently…  that don’t know what anxiety feels like?

I was shocked to the point of speechlessness, feeling much like I had when I was in the second grade and the teacher explained that there are people who are color-blind.  

And all I could think to myself was, My God, what I wouldn’t give to be one of those people. 

Due to the rather shocking nature of the question, I sputtered out some type incomprehensible answer that did not do anxiety any justice.  I mean, how do you explain the color RED to someone who can’t see it?  

Days later, as nervous people tend to do, I re-lived the conversation in my own head and came up with a much better analogy, storing it in my brain in preparation for the next anxiety-blind person who requests my assistance. 

 And that… is how the gnat metaphor was born.


I don’t know what the typical life cycle of a gnat looks like. 

You’d have to ask a gnat specialist.  

But if I had to ponder a guess, I certainly wouldn’t say that gnats survive for over 33 years.  

That’s how I know that the gnat in my metaphorical tent is special.  He’s downright geriatric.  He’s been buzzing around, wreaking havoc on my psyche since I was born.  And age hasn’t dampened his efforts in the slightest.  

There have only been a few times in my life that I’ve managed to quiet him.  To dull his constant droning so that I can FINALLY get some quality sleep. 

And almost none of the methods I’ve discovered, are healthy.


At age 14, I began having the most painful cramps imaginable, once a month, for obvious reasons.  I was aware that menstrual cramps were unpleasant, but confused as to why mine were absolutely debilitating. 

I mean, none of my high school friends were rendered completely incapacitated for 3 days each month, so why did my experience seem to be so categorically different?  

It eventually got to the point where my mother had to talk to the middle school front office, and leave a bottle of ibuprofen there for me, to be dispensed by the school nurse during my most intolerable moments. 

Occasionally, even ibuprofen wouldn’t touch the pain, and my mother would be forced to take a half-day off of work and come pick me up.  I’d be in a ball on the school office floor, rocking back and forth, crying and holding my lower back in agony.

After a time, my parents became so concerned that they brought me to a specialist, who recommended exploratory surgery to discover the source of this extraordinary pain. 

Thirty minutes inside my pelvis confirmed it: I had endometriosis.  Bad.

The gynecologist held up his little plastic pictures proudly during the follow-up appointment, displaying what appeared to be a barren, bloody minefield around my internal organs. Diseased tissue had overtaken my pelvis.  It had spread and multiplied and invaded every crack and crevice near my uterus.  The outside of my bladder was coated in it.  Even my colon had not escaped it’s destruction.  

The doctor  explained that it was an awful case, and that the only way to go about fixing it, was to remove my uterus and ovaries. 

I was 17 years old.

My mother, transformed instantly into a grizzly bear at this news.  She shook her paws at the doctor, threatening him with her razor-sharp claws and pointed teeth.  He did what any self-respecting Physician does upon finding himself in this situation, and played dead. 

My mom scooped me up in her teeth, and dragged me out of his office by the scruff of my neck.  She made some calls, and found a new doctor.  One that would operate around my organs, instead of scooping them out sloppily,  like a construction excavator.  

It would take 4 surgeries over the course of several years, before all of the diseased tissue was properly excised.  By the time my pelvis was salvaged, I had a giant scar that cut a gnarled line across my lower abdomen, spanning it’s entire horizontal surface.  I also have lots of little 1 cm disfigurements dotted all over my belly, as an added bonus.

Typically, they use a microscopic laser to burn the diseased cells off the healthy tissue.  In my case, some of the lesions were so large that they had to be removed with a scalpel. 

“I had to saw it off, with a knife… like a tree-branch!”  The surgeon exclaimed excitedly, “And it was the size of a grapefruit!  Incredible.  Just incredible.”

Obviously, the post-surgical experience brought with it all sorts of pain, in every variety imaginable.  And for the very first time in my life, I was given all kinds of special pills to nullify that pain.  

I had no idea that those pills, would eventually come to define who I am as a person.  That so much of my experience on this Earth would be altered, by a tiny white tablet, mass-produced in a factory somewhere, and marketed to physicians as safe alternatives to “addictive medications” like morphine.


It started with Vicodin. 

Sweet, Sweet Vicodin.  

She was so lovely at first. 

Our sordid affair began with that first pill after surgery.  I popped it into my mouth unknowingly… and 30 minutes later…. Bliss.

Here’s where the debate starts.  I’m not going to sit here and try to impress upon you my opinions (of which I have many) about addiction and cite the numerous peer-reviewed medical journals and qualified institutions that have all conducted double-blind research studies that prove, unequivocally, that addiction is a disease. That’s something I plan to delve into at another point in this blog.  

All I can offer you right now, is my own experience.  And that experience, began with the completely unintentional and absolutely innocent administration of an addictive substance, for a purpose in which it was medically necessary and legitimately prescribed for a perfectly valid and well-documented reason.

I swallowed that pill with a full glass of water, steeped in youthful naivety.  

And after 30 minutes had gone by, it was hard not to notice it’s effectiveness in reducing my pain.  The throbbing tissues, angry from the trauma of fresh surgery, were coaxed and soothed into submission.  I felt better.  A LOT BETTER. 

And here’s where it gets tricky:  I didn’t just feel better physically.  I felt better MENTALLY, too.  

Remember that gnat… buzzing it’s low and annoying hum in our tent?

 IT WAS FINALLY SILENCED.

For the first time in my, albeit rather short, life… my anxiety was gone.  It’s ever-looming, crushing presence was finally lifted.  

The tent, was quiet, and I could begin to hear the sounds of nature and finally appreciate the beauty that surrounded me.

I quietly fell in love with the little white pill that made all of this possible. 

Not, because it got me high.  Not because it made me feel good.  
Because it made me feel normal.

Little did I know, that Vicodin was a vindictive little bitch, who lures you into the light with her siren song, and then STOMPS THE LIGHT OUT once she has you trapped there.  


It wasn’t always Vicodin.  Sometimes, it was alcohol.  Alcohol is easier to obtain.  It’s cheaper.  The most detrimental legal drug available on this planet. 

I plan to write an entire series about the years I lost to addiction and alcoholism.  That’s another story for another time.

But just know, that over a third of my life was dedicated to it’s destruction.  And finally, 5 years ago this November, I broke free from the shackles of addiction.  And it absolutely changed my life.

Yet I so very nearly gave all that up, just a few weeks ago.


September 9, 2019 – 12 PM

Minneapolis, MN

Hotel Room

The heavy door slams shut, trapping me inside the hotel room that has become my prison cell.  I set the brown paper bag on the counter, and the liquid inside swishes back and forth like a tidal wave.

I retrieve a plastic cup from the shelf in the miniature kitchen, hands trembling.

Am I really doing this?  I’m really doing this.  5 years, down the drain.  

I break the seal of the large plastic cap, twisting it off unceremoniously.  The old, familiar smell of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey wafts into my nostrils.  I gag, unexpectedly.  

I’d never noticed, before, how much this bottle of legal poison smells like hairspray. 

I used to love it’s refined scent.  Now, I’m choking back vomit as I pour the brown liquid into the plastic cup, filling it to the brim with pure, undiluted alcohol.

My plan, is to chug it in one fell swoop.  To wait a few minutes for it to take it’s effects, and then finish the grisly task I had started the night before. Knowing that the contents of this bottle, are precisely what I need to erase any second thoughts that may have prevented me from following through the night before.

To eradicate the mental image of my family and all the guilt that goes along with it.  

Although I’d been euphoric a mere hours prior to this, that euphoria has petered out, giving way to another wave of soul-crushing depression.

I wrinkle my nose as I bring the lip of the cup to my mouth.  Catch an even stronger whiff of it’s nefarious odor, and begin to dry-heave.  This is not going to work. Not at all.

Angrily, I toss the cup towards the kitchen sink.  Watch as it’s contents explode onto the counter and drip from the bottom of the wall-cabinets.

Fuck it.  If I’m going to die, I might as well just do it sober.  

An odd sense of pride fills me.  Knowing that I will have stayed sober, to the very end.  

But no matter how hard I try, I can’t naturally erase the guilt of what I’m about to do.  It’s a catch-22.  I can’t do it sober, but I can’t do it drunk either.

Time… I need more time, I think.

I tear around the room in an urgent frenzy, grabbing items sporadically and shoving them into a backpack, stuffing it full of random toiletries and pieces of clothing, not even stopping to consider if they’re essential or not. 

I hoist the backpack over my shoulders and take one last look at the room, filled with all my earthly possessions. Then I close the door, sealing everything inside, including the key to get back in.


I will never return to this hotel room again.


To be continued…

Just Like Heaven

Part 8 – The disappearance of Julie Peters

September 9, 2019

Minneapolis, MN

Hotel Room

I awake in darkness.  

My eyelids pry themselves open, and I can practically hear the thwop! of the air-tight seal breaking, like a plunger being yanked from the cold porcelain of a freshly-unclogged toilet.

There’s a lone spotlight cutting through the opaque black of the hotel room, a stream of dazzling light traveling through the dark void.  It pierces through a tiny crack in the thick, heavy curtains and draws a sharp line up the comforter before finding it’s final resting place on top of my right arm.  Speckles of dust hover above, as though I’m looking up from the watery depths of a giant snow-globe, in the silent minutes after it’s been shaken. 

I open and close my fist, grabbing handfuls of the cascading light, only to feel it warmly spill through my fingers each time.  

I reach up in the darkness, fingers brushing the delicate skin of my own throat, wincing as my thumb grazes the swollen tissue encircling it.  A grim memento of the ghastly necklace I’d donned the night before, alone in my dark hotel room.  

It feels so distant now – that experience.

Like a dream. 

Like waking up the morning after a magnificent party, having forgotten to remove the opulent string of pearls from the night before. The bauble seems silly now.  Out of place.  Much too ostentatious for the modesty of these rumpled sheets. 

This tangled hair. 

These puffy eyes. 

But a necklace of this sort, cannot simply be unclasped and cast off to the side.  There’s no removing it’s immense weight from my throat. 

The setting has changed, but the ornamentation remains.  It’s influence hangs heavy on my mind.

I lay there for a time, breathing in the warmth of the puffy down comforter.

  I feel like one of the speckles of dust, suspended in that beam of light above me.  Floating, drifting.  Purposeless.  Inessential.  Frivolous. 

Numb.

But then, a tiny and unexpected spark.  An idea. 

It bursts into existence, suddenly.  Excitedly.  Like a pinprick of light in the darkness of my mind.

It’s energy is boundless.  It bounces around in my skull, ricocheting off it’s bony walls with a resounding Tink!

As I follow the frenzied thought with my eyes, another spark ignites.  And another, and another. They rocket vigorously into one another like ping-pong balls come alive, inside a very small box.

Tink Tink Tink

Tink Tink TiTiTiTiTinnnkkkk!!

I sit bolt upright, and run to the window, ripping the shades open urgently.  Dazzling sunlight BURSTS into the room. 

I look around at my freshly-illuminated environment, and feel a stunning sense of awe.  Over what, I’m not really sure, but I’m overcome with acknowledgement for the intricate beauty of the world in which I find myself in.  

I can practically hear the tiny muscles inside my eyes as their woven fibers loosen.

My iris slackens.  Pupils dilate.  Black overtakes hazel, as my body adjusts to the flood of chemicals overtaking it.  

I turn towards the source of light, cascading through the open window, and watch in reverence as it splits into a pale, shimmering, rainbow.  I now have the power to see the divergence of a sunbeam.  The reds and greens and blues.  It’s brilliant.  It’s spectacular.  It’s awe-inspiring.

I must not be distracted by this, however.  As much as I’d like to admire this strange new power of refraction, I must remember my original intent upon opening the shades in the first place.  

A pen.  I need a pen.  NOW.

I clamor across the carpet, tripping over the fragments of a frantically-torn cardboard box, which had housed an unassembled chin-up bar, not so long ago.

My trembling hands scramble their way across the smooth surface of the desk, casting aside a small piece of paper, with my handwriting on it.  The words I’m so sorry register on the periphery of my vision, blotted with what appear to water stains.  Tear stains.  

I carelessly brush the note away to reveal the red sharpie underneath. Launch myself at it, flicking the cap off onto the floor.

I’m lacking paper.

But not to worry! 

I reach for the gigantic binder: years-worth of carefully curated professional knowledge, organized and color-coded for quick reference. 

It’s label reads ‘Julie’s CT Book’.  I stick my hand inside one of the plastic sheet-covers and yank out a piece of paper, one of the many pages of the numerous peer-reviewed journal articles I’d so often referred back to in my years as a CT Tech.  

I turn the page over to reveal it’s blank, unprinted side.  And begin to scribble frantically.  

Avocado toast with garlic, new recipe!! 

Go on hike… where to?  Get camping gear, will need backpack. 

American Discovery Trail? 

Santa Fe.  Venice Beach?  Get bicycle.  Ride across country. 

Look up bike shops.  Write book?!  Get hair cut.  Need clothes.  Learn to change tires!

I marvel at my own brilliance as idea after idea swarms over me.  I’m inundated with an overwhelming sense of possibility. My future, is limitless.

How could I have EVER considered ending this beautiful existence of mine? 

My life, is going to be different now. 

SO very different. 

Everything’s changed.  Everything.  I’m going to change the world.  Right now.  With all of this.  ALL OF IT.

I write for hours, tearing my meticulous binder to shreds in the process.

I stop every so often to cry, overcome by gratitude and magnificence. 

Thankful.  I’m so very thankful to be ALIVE. 

All the while, my ears are still ringing.  The one and only constant in my beautiful, terrible existence.

Ringing.  Always ringing.

Ride

My daily running route, over I-94

I should be typing up part 8 of my little series right now – the one where I describe, in full detail, what exactly transpired when I disappeared several weeks ago.  

And not like, the good, refreshing kind of disappeared where you tell everyone you’re heading to the health food store, but really you drive to Barnes & Noble, buy a double chocolate chunk cookie the size of your face from the fake Starbucks that doesn’t accept Starbucks gift cards even though their sign says Starbucks and they sell all the same shit as Starbucks, and you take your mammoth cookie and you just curl up and read half a book from the young adult section on a squishy chair that is more comfortable than anything you’ve got in your real house and then just pretend that you live there for about 30 minutes before you put the book back and pretend it’s not what you were looking for after all. 

 Not like that.

I mean, full-blown, “there’s an entire town in Missouri swarming with cops brandishing a poster with my face on it” kind of missing.

So far, cataloging all of this on a public forum has been super therapeutic for me, even if the subject matter is ridiculously dark.  It’s helping me to sort through what happened in a chronological and systematic way, and it’s bringing to light a lot of minute details that I otherwise would’ve forgotten or waved off as not important. 

And it’s SO very important.  All of it.

But at the same time, I’m rather exhausted. 

In writing about all of this, I’m forced to re-live it for a second time, and that can be pretty stressful in it’s own right. 

It sucked hard the first time.  The second’s not much of an improvement.

It’s not just that that’s got me feeling kind of low today.  I can’t pinpoint what it is exactly, I’m just… down.  

Maybe it’s the rainy, cool temps bleeding into my psyche over time.  Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve returned to a city I’ve spent half my life trying to escape. 

Maybe it’s the fact that I feel… stuck.  Paused.  Still. 

While everyone else seems to be moving forwards, I’m trapped somewhere in the middle.


My dad texted me earlier this morning, asking how things are going… how I’m feeling today. 

My response?  

Remember that wicked-bad traffic jam we were stuck in on the way up here from Missouri?   I kinda feel like I did then.’

The jam I’m referring to was one of those nightmare bumper-to-bumper scenarios right smack in the middle of downtown Detroit on I-94.

During rush hour. 

Our car was inching ahead so slowly, that the ‘estimated time of arrival’ on the GPS was INCREASING the further we went.  

’10 minutes ago we were 55 minutes away from our destination.  Now we’re 58 minutes away…’ I’d confirmed aloud.  ‘The closer we get to the finish, the longer it takes to actually GET THERE!’

My dad had sidelong glanced at me, and then…

… as we sat in the stuffy, immobile truck and peered out into the endless sea of vehicles…

… and beyond them to the backdrop of multiple abandoned factories-turned-crackhouses with their busted-out windows and graffiti-ridden walls…

… my dad whispered, in the dreamiest voice he could conjure:  

Puuuuuure Michigan.’ 

It was a spoof on those ridiculous Michigan Tourism commercials that make Detroit look like a friendly, safe, and culture-rich city that welcomes outsiders with a gentle, loving embrace.  

It was perfect.

I’d just taken a sip from my water bottle, and sprayed a fine mist of it onto the dashboard as we both doubled over in laughter.  It was my favorite moment of the entire trip.



And yet here I sit yet again, metaphorically stuck between the roadblocks of my own life, watching as everyone in the adjacent lane zooms ahead and leaves me in their dust. 

Forced to wait with the engine idling, while we titrate my new Bipolar medicine to a dose that’s even remotely therapeutic.  

It’ll take 6 weeks to even get to a place where the medicine is concentrated enough to notice a difference.  And even then, we may discover that the medicine doesn’t work.  What then?  Then we repeat this process again and again and again until we find the right cocktail. 

It could potentially take years to dial it in just right.  But I can’t think about that right now.  It makes me so fucking sad, and, even more-so… frustrated.

I want to stick my head out of the car and loudly curse the heavens. 

Why is this happening to me?  Why did I get stuck in this shitty lane while everyone else plows ahead around me? 

Why do I have to be left behind while everyone else moves forward in life? 

Why do I have to become a spectator, while everyone else gets to be a participant?

Why am I surrounded by other people’s life progress, while I sit here, stagnant?

WHY WHY WHY WHY

FUCKING WHY?!!!!

I’ll never know.  

All I can do right now is remind myself that, although I may not be moving forward, that doesn’t mean that I’m moving backwards.  

I force myself to remember that we are all on this freeway together, but that doesn’t mean we all have to get off on the same exit. 

I may be trapped at this mile marker, but who’s to say that the guy who just passed me doing 80, doesn’t have to travel twice as far as me to get to his destination?  

My journey… is exactly that.

Mine.

And right now, all I can do is roll the windows down, put on some 90’s gangster rap, and enjoy the fucking ride. 

Even if the wheels aren’t moving.

Not a lick of makeup, hair unbrushed, and a tiny seed stuck in my tooth. This is your Brain on Bipolar Depression…

Out of the Woods

Part 6 – The Disappearance of Julie Peters

Growing up, my favorite set of books was, undoubtedly, The Chronicles of Narnia. My big sister gave me the box set for Christmas one year, and I devoured the entire thing in nearly a week, pausing only for the occasional rare activity such as eating or sleeping. 

Most people begin their journey through Narnia with The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, clueless to the fact that there exists a prequel to this story, in which the entire world of Narnia is born. It is there, in that first book, that C.S. Lewis describes the (in my humble opinion) most intriguing place I’ve ever read about.

“The Wood Between the Worlds”, he calls it.

There, in the mysteriously quiet, magical wood, there exists a series of shallow pools – each one leading to a different world. It’s a pit-stop, of sorts. An in-between place. A doorway leading to other doorways.

And although it’s obviously imaginary, a part of me has always believed that it exists, in some otherworldly place. A place that we’re only granted access to a finite amount of times in our lives.

I know this deep in my heart. And – believe me or not – I’ve seen it for myself.

During my time there, it wasn’t a forest.

It doesn’t always have to be, you see.

Because it’s not really a PLACE in the physical sense of the word. It’s an energy. And it doesn’t matter what it looks like because it presents itself all kinds of different ways, for reasons beyond my ability to contemplate.

But once you’ve been there, you’ll get it. You’ll understand what I’m saying. You’ll recognize it for what it is.

A gateway. A meeting place. A beginning. An ending.

A place, of captivating beauty… and of absolute peace.

My story, goes like this:


It was November of 2018, and I was fast asleep for the first time in several nights, inside my tiny apartment nextdoor to the hospital in Kotzebue, Alaska. I wasn’t on call that night, which means my quality of sleep was phenomenal, as any person who takes call can attest to.

Hours prior, I’d cried myself to sleep. A result of work-related stress (mostly self-imposed) and a slew of other lifestyle factors that I won’t get into until a later post. 

I was honestly at the end of my rope, and had carried that sentiment along into the dreamworld, like a bloated, overstuffed, suitcase. 

I don’t recall what I’d been dreaming about, but I vividly remember that the dream I’d been having was abruptly, and forcefully swiped aside, like a millennial swiping left on a lackluster Tinder profile.  

Suddenly I was standing in a dimly-lit, cozy, sitting room, devoid of people but loaded, wall-to-wall with all sorts of comfy seating accommodations to choose from. 

There were large, puffy armchairs with circular, velvet buttons, lone pillows strewn expertly across the carpeted floor, and a myriad of plush couches in varying sizes and colors.  

A fireplace was crackling near the center of the room, and a small coffee table sat in front of it, bathed in the soft light of the ambient flames.  I made my way over to it, admiring the stately decor of the room, which was minimal, but gave off both an air of importance, and at the same time,  one of significant welcome. 

The walls were paneled with a deep cherry-colored wood in some places, and painted a beautiful royal blue in others. 

This room, looks like it belongs in the White House, I thought to myself as I eyed the magnificent detail of the sconces jutting out from the walls, holding their half-melted white candles as the wax dripped slowly down their opulent shafts.

I’d just chosen a soft, cream-colored, loveseat and sat carefully upon it’s rectangular cushions when I heard a door squeak open on the opposite side of the room. 

Although I’d failed to notice the door when I’d first arrived, as it blended perfectly with the wood paneling of the wall surrounding it, I wasn’t surprised at all to see the outline of a person as she made her way through it. 

I’d somehow known ever since I’d arrived that I was waiting for someone.  But I still wasn’t sure who it was I was waiting for.  A woman, with short gray hair, had her back to me, as she turned to quietly ensure that the door was sealed behind her. 

There was something familiar about her silhouette, but the light was so dim that I couldn’t make out her features.  She quietly, purposefully, crossed the room, and headed for the couch directly opposite mine. 

As she reached the area of the fireplace, the light struck her face, and I let out a tiny gasp.  My grandmother.

As she softly descended on her chosen cushion, she smiled at me warmly.  I was happy to see her, but also extremely confused.  I hate to admit this, but my grandmother and I had never been that close.  I’d visited a few times as a child, but had a million other cousins to compete with for her attention, and we’d lived thousands of miles away from my grandparents for nearly my entire life. 

One of few pictures I still have from visits with my grandmother as a child.

I adored her despite all this, but had trouble understanding why she would go through all the trouble to arrange this meeting, when we’d barely spoken to each other while she was still alive. 

Certainly she had more important things to attend to, a busy schedule to keep up with in the afterlife?

I sat uncomfortably and pondered all this. She smiled at me knowingly.  Can she hear my thoughts?  I wondered.  A jovial glint in her eye gave me the answer.  She was amused by my reaction, I could tell.

After what seemed like ages, I finally couldn’t take it anymore and came right out and asked, ‘Ummm… what am I doing here?’

She didn’t speak.  She simply held her hands out in such a way that I got the hint.  

I was to do the talking.  Not her.

And so I opened my mouth, and began to explain. 

I told her about my last few weeks at work.  How difficult they’d been.  How the pressure was choking the life out of me.  How I felt as though I was a failure.  That I was letting everyone down.  That I couldn’t take much more of it, and that I was so very tired of everything.

If time existed in this place, I’d have said that I talked for hours.  But there’s no way of knowing how long it lasted at all, because time is an Earthly measurement.  And wherever I was,  I knew one thing for sure – it was not the world I was accustomed to.  It didn’t feel Earthly at all.

Despite my incessant rambling, my grandmother listened attentively.  She hung on every word, nodding her head understandingly. 

She never spoke.  She didn’t have to.  And as corny as this sounds, all I felt from her as I sat pouring my heart out in that comforting firelight, was absolute, pure, unequivocal love. 

It was pouring out of her.  From her. Within her.  Around her. 

She was absolutely drenched in it.  and she somehow had the power to transfer some of it to me.

As I wrapped up my final thoughts on the subjects I’d just covered, she stood up and walked around the mahogany coffee table that separated us.  Her warm, loving arms circled me in the most complete and total hug I’ve ever received. 

With her arms still around me, I felt her warm breath on my neck, as she whispered quietly, finally speaking for the first and only time.

It’s going to be okay.

And then, leaving me with that sentiment… she crossed the room, and exited through the secret side door, and I knew without being told – I was not allowed to follow. 

Once again, I was alone in the room.  But with remnants of her hug still clinging to my clothes. 

As I turned back towards my side of the room, I glanced upward and my jaw dropped in awe. Above the mantelpiece, was an enormous, hand-painted oil portrait of my grandfather, who is still alive. I admired it for a moment. The detail was incredible.

 Then I walked out a door of my very own. 

And woke up, remembering everything.


September 8, 2019

Minneapolis, MN

Tiny stars are dancing on the periphery of my vision.  The blood is pooling in my face and I can feel the tiny capillaries in my eyes beginning to burst, like over-filled water balloons.  

My hands are beginning to clench involuntarily, the rope around my neck pinching off their necessary blood supply.  I can feel my brain demanding oxygen.  The world is starting to go black.

I picture the room from my dream 8 months ago, that dignified sitting room. 

The room between the worlds. 

And I know, undoubtedly, that if I want to, I can go there now.  That the side-door will be open. Unlocked, for the first time. 

That I can cross beyond it if I so choose.  

But if I make that choice, there’s no going back. 

There’s no peeking.  I know that without being told. 

I can enter the doorway, but it will shut behind me.  And my family will be stuck on the other side of it. 

I picture my mother. Screaming and banging her ineffectual fists on the solid doorway.

Picture myself, jiggling the knob, trying to open it.  Hearing her cries, wanting to hug her, to comfort her. 

And not being able to. 

Trapped in another place. While she attempts to follow me to the in-between. And gets lost there. Hopelessly lost.

And with that searing image burned into my oxygen-deprived brain, that powerful, gut-wrenching image, a jolt rushes through me, and my wobbly knees forcefully straighten once again.

I turn reluctantly from the open door, unlocked, with the light pouring out of it, and walk the other way, back through my own.

As I do, I let out a sob.  I don’t want this.  I don’t want to go back to the pain and the hurt. 

But I’d rather feel my own pain a hundred times over, than watch helplessly from afar while my mother shoulders hers.  I can’t be the source of her pain.  I won’t.  

I reach up, thanking God that I used a slipknot, which can be loosened if the height is right. 

And as I struggle to pull it upwards and feel the knot go slack, I hear the distant screech of a door as it swivels on it’s hinges. 

The resounding click as the lock pops back into place.

I fall to the floor in a sobbing heap, and feel my grandmother’s breath lightly pass over my neck.  


It’s going to be okay.


To be continued…