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Just One More

 A promise that connects me to everything I’m trying to leave behind

It’s right around that last bend, pushing up against the drab concrete prison of the sidewalk.

Clumps of moist earth stain the tired remnants of yesterday’s snow, and the sharp wind slaps me wetly on the cheek as I trudge onward. I can’t stop. If I do, I might not make it. After all, I forgot to leave my phone at home, and its slight weight in my pocket is a promise that connects me to everything I’m trying to leave behind.

But I need this. Air. Silence. Silence from too many thoughts and too many demands and too many little hands and shrill voices all asking and telling and wanting. I just want to be, without thinking of the future, or all the loads of laundry that have mysteriously appeared once more in the depths of the hampers, or the supper as yet unmade, or the piles of papers staring accusingly from the littered dining room table….

Bejeweled strings of lights spill out of the nearby windows, and I pause to see the shapes of the people within, sharply etched against the glass. It is bright inside, but it suddenly feels harsh. Too clear. Too defined. The window bar shadows form a lacy pattern on the sidewalk, and I pass through them swiftly. A hiss of tires sweeps through a nearby puddle, sending up perfect arcs of dark inky water. Droplets sparkle briefly in the air, and then disappear, swift as a glance.

And then it’s silent… so still I hear the harshness of my breath as I walk more quickly… the staccato sound of my feet on the pavement. I can almost hear the tangled swirl of thoughts seeping out of my mind, puddling behind me.

A shrill birdcall pierces the quiet, and I stare at the soft, clouded sky. Sometimes it is the blue I love, cheerful and alive, but today the calm gray beauty seems to smooth the edges of the world. It blends into the black street, melts behind the lacy branches of the trees, flows over the still houses. The shadows skim the hollows of the snow, light as a caress.

Gently, I come closer. The rough trunk. The cold twisted branches. The stubborn roots reaching like gnarled hands. I am here.

I am here. There is nothing but the old oak underneath my hands, catching at the delicate skin of my cheeks. There is wetness, but maybe that’s just the tears.

And I hold on. Because sometimes it’s all I can do. I hold on with all the strength of my heart and mind, all the muscles in my shoulders tense with effort. The bark bites my palms, and I am suspended in the moment. My mind drifts, free of thought, anchored only by the firm bulk pressing against my ribs.

Just one more.  I hear the whisper in my mind, muted as the shadows. Just one more load of laundry. Just one more floor to sweep. Just one more paper to grade. Just one more supper to make. Just one more day to live. Just one more. Just one. It’s always only one. No guarantees. No promises. It’s the moment in front of you, the moment you can hold in your arms, solid and reassuring, until it slips away into the softness of memory.

So I hold on to the roots anchored deep. I hold on to the branches reaching upward, swaying with the lightest breeze, unbroken before the storm. I hold and I pray. For roots. For branches. Soft gray skies embracing me.

And I plead for





(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 846)

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