Call Me Nicholas Sparks.

Of all  the girls in all the world, I’ve never met one quite like you, he said to her, watching her fondly skirt across the room. I’ll give you the world, Marianne. Diamonds. Rubies. The universe is an oyster, the moon its pearl, I’ll soar through its depths, open its jaws, and bring its light down for you. Tell me what you want dear girl,

and its yours.

Marianne danced around the tables in the ballroom, her lace skirt-tails brushing the chair legs as if an ocean wave rolling onto the shore. The room had cleared out so quickly, she thought. Although it was probably the booze, and the dancing, and the time — 4:00am, to be exact, she heard the clock strike against the door nearest the exit. So what is it, Mari? He asked. What can I do to make you mine.

By now, she had reached the window overlooking the plains. Although it was dark, she could hear night bugs chirping and caught the faintest glimpse of a light in the distance — Jack McCall’s place. Jack oversaw the property, as his daddy did before him, and his daddy’s father and so on. A quiet man, he never made appearances at the mansion on the property that he worked. Mari thought of the one time she did see him recently… It was a late fall afternoon, about a month ago. The sun was setting over the green and she had spent all day schmoozing with her mother and father’s friends; only the bartender (who had been slipping her extra wine underneath the table) knew of her boredom, and the only cure that could fix it. After she had enough of small talk, she decided to go for a stroll alone. Taking off her heels to let her feet breathe on the lawn, she must have walked from the party for a half hour before she collapsed beneath a tree, taking in the sunset, massaging one of her worn feet in the palm of her hand.

Tough crowd? A voice called over her shoulder, as she jumped in shock.

I’m sorry to startle you, miss. Jack apologized. I just saw you sitting there with your shoulders hunched and your toes aching and well, I figured you might need a break– you know, from all of those folk. Someone different to talk to.

And you’re not like one of those folks? She questioned him with discernment in her voice.

Not even close, Jack thought. Instead he replied with, I sure hope not, miss. As he picked up another log and piled it into his ongoing stack of firewood, she guessed it was for the big house he rarely made it up to. She saw a flash of yellow as a long-haired golden retriever came flying up a nearby hill. That there rascal is Tre, Jack exclaimed. And I’m Jack, Jack McCall.

I know who you are, Mari replied. I’ve been coming here since before I could walk. I’ve seen you a thousand times, yet you seem to go out of your way to avoid the main house.

My dad worked here my whole life, I followed in his footsteps because its the only life I’ve ever known. I wouldn’t say we belong amongst your kind though.

Oh, so now they’re MY kind? She exclaimed. I thought just a minute ago I was trying to get away from those people, but now here I am, one of them. I guess I should go back to where I came from. She began to stand as he neared closer to the tree. His stride was much more of a glide than an average mans walk, and before she knew it, one hand of his was resting on the tree trunk while the other was sitting lightly, but firmly on her shoulder. She looked up at first with indignation, and then a much weaker haze overcame her.

I like your eyes, Mari. Green like the plains, and yet as blue and deep as the Mississippi. He paused for as long as it took her to take a silent breath, and gold right in the center, like the flames circling that setting sun. He released her shoulder and said, I’m sorry I said that about you, you’re obviously different from that bunch up there. Why else would you have run from it? He walked back to his pile and hauled Tre and a few remaining logs in the back of his truck.

It took her a minute longer of staring before she realized, he knew her name without her telling him. As he began to climb in the truck, she raced to its side. So you know who I am? She asked, with more hope lingering in her voice than she think she’d ever heard in herself before.

Well of course, Misses Donahue. You’re not the only one who’s been here since before they could walk. Plus, those eyes of yours, that fire inside of them…kind of hard to forget.

As his blue Chevy began to pull away, Mari caught the glimpse of a distant memory in the dust of his tracks. Something ancient, and yet gut-wrenching. Child-like. She smelled burning wood, she sensed dancing flames rippling across her skin.

Mari. MARI. She snapped back from another memory, Jack McCall feeling more present in the distant cabin light than the man standing right next to her in the ballroom. Are you ok, Mari? So, what do you say?

She turned around to Chuck Barnett on one knee. The sight of a gaudy rock, encased in black velvet in one hand, her calf in the other. But her senses were dead…except for the smell of heat, again; she couldn’t shake it. That’s when she saw smoke rising from the staircase down the hall, and Jack and Tre racing up the steps behind it.

 

 

Joy to the World

“There is no justice, but there is mercy. That is what we can give to each other.”

Justice is fairness. 

Mercy; forgiveness. 

The world is not fair, but we must forgive. Why? Why should I pass around compassion like bread to the needy? A virus amongst the afflicted. Why should I do anything I don’t want to do. It’s Christmas Day, my favorite day of the year, and you know what I want more than anything to do at this very moment? I want to find the shittiest dive bar, with the greasiest burgers and the cheapest beer. I want to inhale that burger until it tastes like  “forgiveness.” Drink enough cheap beer until this world seems “fair.”

You want me to keep giving mercy without justice, you say? Fuck that. I’ll fight you to the grave before I pass around fake joy to the world. 

I wish I could tell you that the sun will always be at your back, to keep you warm when the world gets cold. 

And I wish I could trap your demons in iron cages; lock them up and throw away the key, so that only the Angels could sing inside your mind. 

I wish I could stop time on a perfect summer day, the first time you were kissed by someone you loved,  at the climax of your favorite novel, in the the wrinkled, welcoming arms of your grandmother who left too soon; so that only goodness could last forever. 

So that you would never know the pain of loss. 

So that the world was only allowed to keep on giving. 

I wish that peace was as abundant as rain in the delta. I wish that fear had no name. 

I wish that I could convince you to stay. 

But a wish, is just a wish. Often made far too late, and incapable of stopping the rain. 

“What do I do?” she asked, as she stared out the bedroom window. The rain rolling down the pane reminiscent of the tears on her face.

“Follow your heart.” he replied, as if it was that simple.

And it all of a sudden dawned on her that she didn’t know where her ‘heart’ was anymore. Lost in the business of her every day life, she had slowly outgrown her passions. Or maybe she had just learned how to be content with the simple things in life. The girl who had once reached for the stars was now just concerned with keeping her feet steady on the ground. She knew what it was like to forsake the things and people who loved her the most. To be honest she still did it all the time — even from home.

They kept telling her that it would come to her with time. That she would find whatever it was she was looking for. But lately, life was feeling like an endless quest. Even when she achieved small things, she wasn’t making much progress. And even more than that… it seemed like every time she got what she really wanted, she lost something just as great. Just as important.

“You can’t have your cake and eat it too.” He looked away from her and sighed.

Her mind began to race even faster, but by now she was used to the chaos. Instead of fighting the runner inside her mind, she let him finish the track…burning out  at full speed, lightning on his trails, until his lungs gave out and he had to stop to catch his breath. She felt his breathing slow with her own, then there was silence.

It was in the quiet that she found her answer.

“I want it all,” she thought. “All, or nothing.”

How to be Self-Less: A Guide to Living Well

It whispers:

“Worry, my child. the world is surely ending.”

I grasp my stomach and fight to breathe. All that I can’t control is controlling me. 

“Speak, quiet girl. They’ll never understand what you don’t explain.”

‘But it hurts’, I say. ‘Sometimes it’s just too much.’

“Don’t act like you didn’t ask for this”, it snears. “What you choose to ignore will always come back for you.”

I sink. 

I am all that matters. My life. My dreams. My heart. 

“Repeat that to yourself, child. Again. Again.” it says. “You are all you have.”

As I fall asleep, the voice slowly fades away. 
I wake. 

I take a breath

and I keep moving.  

“Scars are Tattoos with Better Stories”

You’ve been down this road before.

Not only do you remember the trauma, remember every second of living with the consequences of your choice; but you also have the literal scar to prove it. Not only does your choice remain in your mind, but it lives on your body. You see it every day on the surface of your skin.

So what on earth makes you go for Round 2?

Is it boredom that makes you do it? Staring at the same reflection every day that makes you crave a change?

Or is it vanity? The need to perfect something that is imperfect-able.

Most likely its just stupidity. Focusing on the wrong things. Spending hard-earned money on something that you could live without. Obsessing over yourself when there is a whole world outside of you worth obsessing over.

So what do you think I’m talking about? What does it sound like?

The embarrassing truth is; I’m talking about a mole.

Pause for uncomfortable laughter. Now let me explain.

I had a mole removed on my back when I was 14. It was harmless, but had the potential to be not-so-harmless. A simple procedure ended up wrecking my self-image as a teen. Botched surgery after botched surgery and in a place that doesn’t like to heal well (upper back), left me with an unsightly scar. Over the years, I’ve tried everything to remedy my teenage stupidity. Creams, more surgery, sunscreen, research….everything. At some point, I had to learn to live with my scar. Do I flaunt it? Absolutely not. Do I like it? Hell no. But its a part of me, a part of my story. So I live with it and I’ve learned to accept it.

Now I have this lump under my eye. I’ve actually had it since high school, and it bugs me. And recently, its bugged me even more than usual, so I decided to have it checked out. Three different doctors and $150 later, I’m scheduled to have it removed on Tuesday.

Part of me is screaming — DID YOU NOT LEARN YOUR LESSON THE FIRST TIME?

The other half is so dead set on changing this minor thing (that somehow became big because of boredom or vanity or stupidity..or possibly a combination and more) that I cannot let it go, until it is changed.

I wanted to say “fixed”, but I’m not sure if that is the answer in this case.

See, I’m talking about having a mole removed, but I’m also not. Do you get the larger metaphor?

History repeats itself. Life is a cycle. We are all mirrors, all reflections of our past mistakes and hopeful futures. The new people that come into our lives are only the same people with different faces and names.

The giant lesson of life.

Each time we get into a relationship our mind screams: DIDN’T YOU LEARN THE FIRST TIME?

And yet, we try again. Because that is what we are here to do. We are here to learn, and to grow, and to try again. And to try our damndest to do it better the 50th time-around.

I’m freaking out about this mole removal. I wish I could just own the thing and live with it, but the stubborn side of me that I hate (and sometimes appreciate) just won’t let it go. So I’m doing it. And there’s a chance that from Tuesday on, I’ll be known as scar-face.

Or just maybe, if the God of chance and life and circumstance doesn’t want me to end up scar-face, I won’t. I’ll just heal and this will be a minor blip in the story of my life.

(sidenote: I almost put “the God of karma”… but God knows karma would turn me into the actual Bride of Frankenstein).

There is a beauty in human perseverance that is impossible to put words to. The beauty that isn’t so beautiful. That we find in our scars, and our pain, and in our weakest moments. My scar has taught me to appreciate that. That no matter what I do and how hard I try; it will always be there. I, Tori Finch, will never be perfect.

When the dermatologist told me that the scar on my back was literally irreparable, you would think that I would have cried or sunk into the depression that my “problem” could not be fixed. But it was surprisingly the opposite. The part of myself that had been holding on to this pain for the past 9 years, immediately slipped away. In the chaos of life, I had my answer. In a world that is constantly in worry of “what’s next” or “what could be” I knew what actually was. 

I found my own peace in that.

This post may is a mess, but there is some point…I’m sure.

We make choices, and sometimes choices make us. We learn, and we move on, until the next choice must be made. Sometimes things smooth over easily, without leaving a trace. Other times, life leaves us with a scar that will remain in our minds and our hearts, and sometimes even on the surface of our skin, until the day that we leave this place for something else.

The first time I went white-water rafting on the Ocoee River, I bought a sticker to put on my CD case (it was the early 2000’s) that read “Scars are just tattoos with better stories”

We are here to share our stories. I am confident in that. We are here to show each other our scars, and to explain our choices so that we can relate to one another, and ultimately, to live boldly and with so much vigor and passion that our stories make this whole thing worthwhile.

I hope that whatever happens, that my scars big, or small, help me to do it right.