A Lonely Bud

I wrote this short story several years back. It is based on the below picture.


A heavy spring of thunderclaps and downpour filled and stirred the white foam until it spit out onto the earth. The hungry water summoned me to keep it company.

Battered ‘Do not enter’ signs dangled from rusted chains. I climbed over large, jagged rocks, cutting my hand on a sharp edge when I slipped. Blood bubbled around the wound. My tongue licked at it, diluting the new accrual, and then it smeared across my palm. With my hands on the ground behind me, I lifted my torso and shuffled feet and hands forward like a crab, scooting down on my butt until I found a place close to the rapids. I looked back to find parts of the rock stained red. Tears mixed with sprayed water. There was a downstream rush comparable to the blood in my veins. My heart pounded in my ears until I grew deaf from the thumping and savaged currents.

The active water had brutalized the boulder I sat on. Waves crashed around me, but I didn’t cower. Mud caked the bottom of my shoes from the climb. My feet inched closer. I dug my heels down and slid my feet up, watching my shoes slip off, tumble down, and dive into the water. They didn’t have a chance; pulled under in a blink of an eye—devoured. That’s what I wanted, to go under, silencing the world and me forever.

Mine was a lonely life—pickled with liars and deceivers. An orphan child, I found little peace alone. Weeds covered my parent’s graves before I reached the tender age of eight. Juggled between the law and foster care, I tried to be a good girl, but it didn’t matter. Yellow fingers and the smell of whiskey and cigarettes consumed my childhood. At night, my door creaked open. I squeezed my eyes closed in hopes to deter one of the many foster fathers. My skin fondled by calloused hands, violated by deadbeats.

When it happened, I turned away from the physicality and drifted off into another world. Make-believe Christmases of Santa Claus and presents under the tree. Inside my imaginary world, candy cane streamers hung around the room, Christmas lights danced through windows, an assortment of cookies baked in the kitchen. This blocked out my foster father trying to convince me that I would enjoy it. I envisioned Santa Claus coming down the chimney, so he couldn’t penetrate my beautiful world. Afterward, I’d curl up in the fetal position, thinking about snow and frozen lakes. These pretend thoughts took me away from the terrors I lived.

Maybe that was the reason why I craved company no matter what the cost. I felt like somebody when I wasn’t alone, even if I meant nothing to that person. Meaning nothing to someone, only there for their amusement, was better than feeling nothing at all. Hurt wears many coats of comfort. All of the men in my life had come and gone, leaving me to pick up my heart, and find some reason to move on. The last heartbreak had pushed me into a deadened state.

Nowadays I feel the subtle numbness. It wasn’t until I came to the falls that I gave up on men. I fell in love with the rush of the pounding waters. The first time I came to the falls, I watched its froth and listened to the beautiful sound it made, loving the thought of it swallowing everything in its path. As time passed, I wanted to bathe and float in it. I wanted the cruel water, the fizz to tingle and then stab at my skin, seeping into every cavity, tossing my body until numbness faded, and my heartbeat became silenced in its dark depths.

In the distance, I could hear the blue currents. Tears began to flow, but slower than the waters at my feet. Hesitant tears moved down my cheeks as a breeze cooled their path.

I closed my eyes and let the pounding noise drown my thoughts and tears. In the gloominess of moods, the faint smell of water, dead fish, and damp earth had disappeared from my senses. Maybe a sign that death was close-by, extending an invitation. A brush against my left leg caused me to open my eyes and turn to the left. There, pushed by the wind, was a lonely flower with its stem buried between two boulders. The leaves were a bright green with a vibrant purple bloom. It’s as if it appeared out of nowhere. I swiveled my body to face it, and as I did, the wind decided to push against me instead. This tall, lonely flower stood at attention, ramming its way through the rocky cliffs of the falls, enduring the harsh rapids, yet appearing fragile.

My hand reached out to touch one of its leaves, but the waters drenched me from head to toe. I sat with soaked hair, clothes stuck to my skin, no shoes, and this made me laugh. Laugh at how ridiculous I must have looked. Laughed at how a flower could knock me out of my sad reverie. But I stopped laughing when I saw the flower, tall in its glory, without a drop of water on it. I wondered, How could that be? Myself. The boulders. Drenched by the rapids, yet this flower had a dry circular perimeter at the bottom on the rock.

Could this flower have more strength than me? Could this be a sign of how I failed to be strong?

I positioned my body on both sides of the flower. My bare feet inched toward the bottom of the stem, bending it from side to side with my toe to stop it from stretching to heaven. A heaven that had showed no mercy on me. But here…here grew a strong lonely bud, fighting against all odds and winning. I began to pluck the leaves where the flower and rock met. One by one, a leaf twirled in the air and floated on top of the water until it dissolved into the foam. I giggled at what I was doing, teardrops flowing from the thought of my wasted life. Weakened by others, I faded into the background where no one noticed me, so I plucked and watched the stem become bare in hopes of weakening it. To show that I’m not the only weak thing because of someone else.

Nevertheless, every time I moved the stem it went right back into place, as if it was toying with me. Annoyance took over the playfulness of wanting the flower to wilt. I wrapped my left hand around the bottom of the stem, as far into the rock as I could, with my right hand wrapped above it. It was war. My bare heels pressed against the grooves in the boulder. I pulled back with all my might. The stem snapped back straight as a soldier. This time I decided to use my height as leverage. Bending over the purple flower with my hands curled around the stem, I used my legs and arms to separate and destroy the life of this lonely bud. Instead, my arms flailed in the air, trying to grab onto something with my body angled over the water.

In an instant, splash into the water, a loud reverberation followed. The water hissed at me. It pulled at my limbs until a wave gulped me down into darkness. All my senses went dead. In my haste to conquer the lonely bud, I found myself alone again, nourished by the falls, and waiting for my rebirth.

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