He said I love you
Now I am cold, lost, and alone
Our paths frequently cross for about a week in downtown Charleston. Spring is rapidly approaching, and the crisp air is refreshing. As always, she bundles up under numerous layers of clothing and blankets. Is she wearing her world? I attempt to engage but fail to establish a connection. Her cavernous eyes are void of emotion, and she rejects my faint, apprehensive smile.
Opting to take a break from the pottery studio, I walk to Davis Park and see her resting on a bench. I sit close by but far enough away as not to intrude on her claimed space. I struggle to read, but my curiosity distracts me.
Not long after my arrival, she comes over, and without hesitation, plops down next to me and immediately starts speaking. Her soft melodious voice surprises and intrigues me - I am spellbound.
It was not supposed to be this way. Jonathan and I were happily married with three adorable children: Maria, Susan, and Michael - two, four, and five. We created an ideal loving nest for six glorious years. My husband worked hard but was available for dinners at home, parties, vacations, and church. We were busy, cheerful, and deeply in love.
Jonathan was extraordinarily handsome and brilliant - the quintessential Renaissance Man. And forgive me for boasting; I was a captivating Southern lady back in the day. Born and raised in New Orleans, I moved with him to Atlanta - his hometown, after graduation. Our life was divine - family love and family first.
She is shivering uncontrollably but continues without pausing.
It all happened so quickly. First, we stopped dining with friends. I agreed having the extra hours together at home was an excellent idea. We valued and focused on education and etiquette. Unfortunately, Jonathan was excessively strict. They were too young to meet his expectations. As for me? I was confused and overwhelmed with fear by our abrupt lifestyle change. My friends stopped confirming our weekly games of tennis, golf, mahjong, and bridge, each followed by lunch at the country club. Mystified, I recoiled into silence - paralyzed. How could I not have the strength to fight for my children? Jonathan smothered my former self. My fire was out, and I was gone.
Her story has many untold details, and I do not want to interject with questions. I remain in the audience, content to listen as she elaborates, excludes, and contradicts.
Did I tell you I enjoyed baking? My pastries were delicious. I had a fabulous kitchen - flawlessly designed. Long ago, Jonathan made sure I had everything I wanted - not anymore. What happened to our family bundle of love? There are no more hugs, or tender whispers of I adore you.
Isolated from my parents and siblings living in New Orleans and banished to the unknown by my friends - both old and new - I am on an island occupied by ferocious, grotesque, and venomous monsters. I knew my only way to escape the increasing torment was to leave. I stayed to save Maria, Susan, and Michael.
One day my children, like my friends, vanished. Cold, lost, and alone, I slipped further away. My life transformed from a fairy tale dream to a horrific nightmare. I left the screams behind and woke up in Charleston, West Virginia.
Standing, she reminds me of her past - the days when she was a proud Southern lady. I silently challenge her heritage: Southern? I do not detect even a slight hint of an accent. Reaching in her bag, she pulls out a small bunch of withered daffodils and gracefully hands them to me. Not waiting for a response, she backs up slowly, turns around, and walks away.
I never see her again.