I’m going with another writing prompt to get me going. I promise I’ll get back to some other more original works later too, but for now this is what’s getting me working. So here’s my response to Daily Post’s Weekly Challenge.
The idea that everything is connected becomes most interesting when applied to ourselves. For this week’s writing challenge, tell us about your own Butterfly Effect.
I suppose this post is very meaningful to me lately because I’ve been considering a lot of “what ifs” lately. I’m a senior about to graduate from college, and I guess I’m kind of looking back at how I thought life would turn out and wondering why it is that some events have turned out the way they did.
So with that in mind, I wanted to take what I was feeling and apply it to a fictional piece as I often find that’s a meaningful way for me to deal with emotions I’m handling at the present moment. So here’s my short piece I wrote.
One Little Change
It was one of those days my thoughts seemed to tarry and linger. And what eventually started as a cloud of memories soon became a torrent of swirling emotion, the raw inner feelings of my heart.
My gaze had centered in on a black and white photo printed on flimsy paper. I picked up the news and clutched it tighter, fingers wrinkling it along the edges, going so far as to tear through the fragile material. I pulled the article up closer to my face, the other hand moving to fiddle with my spectacles, adjusting the thick lenses to better peer down and seek out that name.
Anne Kristina Rask.
I could hardly breathe staring down at the small face that once had been so familiar, now wearing the marks of many years of life. I scanned the words over and over again, even as my vision blurred with the onset of tears. “Beloved wife and mother.”
The memories came back as fresh as yesterday’s, somehow causing sixty years to blur and fade into the past. Her name caught on my tongue like it had back that night oh so many years ago. It was as though I was standing there, staring out at her bathed in moonlight, the sweet rain pouring down upon our heads in a rejuvenating baptism to our new youth. She laughed and caught my hand, the soft skin warm in my grip. I clutched at her, relishing the brief gift.
The sweetness of her perfume died with the lifegiving liquid, natural scent rising in its place, the waters washing away the small bit of pink lipstick dashed across her mouth, smeared from one too many kisses with her date. Her hair flattened back down, her dress clung to her body, nothing hidden. A return to the natural. A return to Eden.
My heart thumped loudly in the quiet of the street. Only the soft drip of the rain in the puddles, the occasional vehicle moseying along the deserted roads. There was silence, a chance to speak into the void. But my voice had been swallowed up, stolen from me. My throat was scratchy as I clutched that hand in mine and wondered.
There were moments it felt as though nothing else existed in this world. Just us in the rain, wandering down the lonely path hand in hand. And I wished it could last forever, drinking in every bit- the sight of Anne drenched, mud sloshing on the bottom of her pink dress, though she seemed oblivious to the dark stains growing round her. I breathed the fresh smell, the soft soothing sound, the dim street lights, all absorbed into me for that brief fleeting moment.
But there were too many wonderings looking back on it. There was too much lingering thought, despair tarrying in every bit of that scene. What if?
What if it hadn’t been raining? Then they would never have shared that brief moment. What if that car hadn’t passed by, sloshing water over their already wet forms, causing them to dissolve into laughter? Then I might have been less of an idiot and actually said what was on my mind. What if I hadn’t walked away from that doorstep all those years ago without saying what was on my mind?
Then it might have been me burying a wife. It might have been my children losing a mother. It might have been my ring on her finger, my love in her heart, my hand in hers forever and always. But my tight lips, my failing tongue, my garbling throat all let me down in my moment of need, causing me to flail about mindlessly and rather than speak what was on my mind, to declare instead I thought the night had gone rather swimmingly. When in reality all I’d wanted was to say the exact opposite, to declare that he was unfit for her and if only she’d see what was right in front of her she might truly be happy.
Might truly be happy…
I gazed down at the page, the smiling woman catching me with a full blow of mocking delight. And I was struck with the reality of what lay before me. Truly happy. She was. She had been. She had loved her husband, her children, her life. There was no hint that she hadn’t. And yet her life was like an original document, and mine a mangled and blotchy copy, trying its best to give the same picture, and yet failing miserably.
All these years. Years she’d spent cooking dinner, sitting on the couch holding his hand, going for walks, traveling, taking the kids to school, scribbling away with her elegant scrawl, lying beside her husband each and every night, growing old and dying still loved and cherished and remembered. And I’d done nothing but waste every hour, letting them slip through my hands like worthless sand, incapable of ever being returned again.
I sat there at the little kitchen table in my small apartment, listening to the rumbling tram go by. I swallowed down my grief with a sip of tepid coffee, tried my best to choke the feelings rising anew by crumpling the paper and tossing it uselessly towards the overflowing garbage pail.
What ifs had haunted me all my life. I had spent too long pondering a brief instant, and not enough pondering why I was allowing each and every day to pass without change, wallowing in my misery, sinking deeper in my despair.
I wondered now that grand what if I never had before, far weightier subject that my usual love drivel. I wondered what life would have been like if I’d let go, moved on, forgotten her. Perhaps things might have been different. A single day pushing myself to be social, to go meet other women, to simply take a walk rather than sulking in my lonesome apartment might have resulted in an entirely different outcome. The briefest change might have resulted in the greatest rebirth.
But who knows. Life is a mystery that way. One path unfolded, all others hidden.
The crumpled newspaper remained lying not far off from its eventual grave. I left it where it was, not daring to touch it again for fear of clinging. I pulled my eyes from it, suddenly seeing it for what it was. An omen of what had come to pass, of what would pass if I didn’t do something.
And so I left the trash where it was and went to sit on the lumpy couch. I noticed the book I’d been reading, dogeared and ready for the next book club meeting. But it was the little slip of yellow caught tight between pasty white pages that caught my attention.
My fingers fumbled to reach it, but eventually I was slipping a small scrap of paper out from its prison. I looked down at the gentle scrawl, the little numbers etched there for my bespectacled eyes to squint at. But I could make out what it was, and the intention, and the Scrooge-like thoughts I’d had as I shoved the little note back down into the other pages as though hoping the story might swallow it up like it usually did me.
I glanced towards the wastepaper basket. But that was done. An old life forgotten and moved on from. A new future writing itself out in the little slip in my hand. I reached for my dusty phone and pulled it up to press little buttons in sync with the numbers on the page. Her voice answered. I smiled and settled into a casual tone.
“Hello Clara. No…no reason. Just felt like a change…”