There's a moment, when everyone else has gone to bed, their gentle breathing caught in the quiet of night. My heart throbs against my temple, breath shallow, eyes scanning. In the darkness, each creak and moan of the house sounds of haunting. I move from the bed, where I have long since kissed goodnight, and shuffle through the hallway to the front window. It is here, on the chair found on a curb, I whisper my prayers.
May fear not eat away my gladness. May anger not burn away my calmness. May trauma not invade my restfulness. May loneliness not pierce my connections.
I watch the shadows dance from porch light to street lamp. I hear the crickets, the passing geese, the late-night driver. Between my knowing and the world is mesh so fine I could rice potatoes through it, yet it feels wider than a canyon.
Some nights, I feel like the soapy film of my bubble bursts at sundown. No longer am I the strong, confident partner and parent. My face cannot hide the fear and shame from their eyes, so I busy myself with dinner, with dishes, with reading. If only I could be the amazon, the fearless one. If only the place in my heart where she lives could stay open, connected, present in the darkness.
Instead, most nights, it is just us in here. The wounded ones, the injured fragments of soul cast long ago into the sea. Gathered together again, edges softened from the salt and waves, we no longer fit perfectly together. Four and five are side-by-side, but their faces are faded and they cannot see the hands they hold. Fifteen looks at fourteen with disgust, while sixteen can't remember how she got to this place, as fifteen is dead to her.
I used to be a poet, each word a line drawn in the sand of my ocean. This will pass. This shall not. The glass of shipwrecks and soulbreaks washed against my shores, wearing down the jagged cracks until only sand remained. I find these ocean baubles, drill a hole through their core and string them up as prayer beads.
I learned once about soul retrieval, from a book an ex-girlfriend gave me -- and promptly took back on our breaking. The idea that we fragment our spirit when we are injured, when we experience trauma, to protect those special pieces of our self. Experienced practitioners can journey with you to retrieve those pieces, re-integrating them into your heart.
They talked as though the pieces of your soul could run away. Like they are outside you, waiting for your return. But I learned from life that everything we need, from love to sex to pieces of our soul, are caught within our bones. These pieces are not lost like fallen autumn leaves. They are the breadcrumbs we leave on our travels. Sometimes they are picked up by birds -- perhaps that one isn't needed any more. Sometimes they go moldy and sour -- I can see that one hurt me more than it helped. Sometimes they are made of our favorite bread and sweets -- inviting us to savor as we bring it to our lips.
These nights, when I curl into the blackness of my living room, catching the snores of my family from across walls and doors, I am reminded of my forest. I wonder if the breadcrumbs are still there, waiting. I wonder if my soul is scattered across deserts too, and mountains. If eagles caught those breadcrumbs and raised their young on the bits of my spirit I left for safe-keeping.
Breadcrumbs and baubles. Tears and bits of sand. The shards of my heart are caught within my bones, hiding in the folds of muscle, wrapped around arteries, floating on platelets. If I sit very still in the middle of my being, I can watch them as they pass, like tourists in a boat. Slowly, they gather together, meeting me in that place of middle ground. Our hearts beat as one. I hear the low rumble of thunder outside my front window. I watch as lightning fills the sky. Scooping up shards, gathering prayer beads and soul bits, I retreat. The bed is safe again. Crowded, we curl under the blanket and finally know sleep.