I sat across from a girl who told me her story
With wide eyes, a face weathered by wars unspoken, exhausted and weary she sat before me, unfolding her life's story like a road map
Her hands, they told a story as they skimmed over the map, pointing out the roads she's traveled, the diners and run down motels she went into looking for a night's rest and refuge but only finding more monsters.
She said she was tired , and I could tell by the look on her face that she meant it. She looked hesitant still, hesitant to unload her baggage and her crumpled, torn road map and allow me to look over the outlines of highways and river banks.
She told me about the storm.
How this area here, the pale icy blue blob in the corner was where it began. When you're small, you do the best you can and this stain in the corner is where her hands shook and if you look closely you can see where she tried to paint the blue into an ocean, a lake, something, anything worth looking at but in the end it's only a stain.
Everyone told her the stain wasn't her fault, that just because the corner was ruined didn't mean the roadmap was useless, and she tried to believe them. But as she drove from one ghost town to the next the blob seemed to get larger and she couldn't escape it's looming permanency. She knew that her own crooked hands had been wrapped around the paintbrush, and even if the spill didn't drip from her fingertips she had tried to paint it away.
The rest of the roads, curvy and winding, seemed to be dictated by this stain.
She showed me the small towns and truck stops she'd sought as she ran away from the stain, in each one searching for love and refuge, in each one finding only more rain.
And the water began to fill her lungs, and the whole thing felt like a rainy Seattle sky and she believed them when they said the sun never shines in Seattle.
She showed me where she tried to make her own sun, roads marked brown and faded burnt orange, close but never shining vibrant. Twisting, shrinking, running, extracting, taking in, covering, revealing.
The roads, she said, never shone promised golden sunbeams.
She showed me the trees, the forest, the night. She referred to it as the moment when her body gave in, when the sickness riddled her bones, when pain became an every day fight.
Her stomach clenches tight as she tells this part, how she became another anomaly, another unexpected detour.
Her fingers trace the rough edges of the darkest days, the unmarked path traced in black ink. There are ink dots, each one representing a marker.
the day he fell, the day she cried, the day he left, the day she finally admitted she had wandered off the map into uncharted territory and there be dragons.
There be dragons
She said it's what they say when they've reached territory the map hasn't yet covered, because who knows what could be out there.
And the dragons that lurked in the unknown, they prowled at night. Some were friendlier than others. Some she learned to see behind their glistening eyes and treat kindly, others reared their ugly heads whenever the occasion presented itself.
And she, she tells me about the time when she learned to live with dragons. How everyone was afraid of this. How sometimes she was afraid of the dragons too.
How the dragons represented the storm, and all that followed.
I watch her, this dragon warrior.
She points to a spot on the map, painted a green blue with flecks of reddish gold and I ask her what it means.
She says this is now. Now, still marked by the blue paint that once stained the map, but now there are other colors too. The green is the grassy fields, the semblance of peace returning to the dark lines of the map. The reddish gold are flecks of sunbeam, of learning to be joyful.
Abuse, addiction, illness, pain, searching, empty promises, heartache, lost, darkness, dragons.
She doesn't quiver when she tells these parts of the story anymore. She used to, she says.
Now her eyes show fatigue, show pain as she runs her fingers over map lines, but there is something else too.
the knowledge that here be dragons, but this is not the end of the map. There is more map, more space, more road untraveled.
The stain at the beginning, the forest in the middle, the dragons that emerge from the shadows, they are not the end.
I get up from the mirror and walk away