Hand Picked

Until today, I wasn’t privy to her preference in lipstick. 

(The label on the slim gold tube says Helena Rubinstein.)

Until today, I didn’t know about her.

I found her lipstick as I rifled through the contents of a small, elegantly beaded evening bag, wedged carelessly behind a deer-motif needlepoint pillow resting against the left arm of his overstuffed horsehair sofa.  The bag wasn’t mine.  And neither was the pair of violet-blue silk knickers, wadded up behind the pillow as well.

Sporting Pink.  An odd name for red lipstick. Unsporting Pink would have been more fitting.  I am a big believer in fair play.

What’s your poison? he likes to ask when I’m over for cocktails. I perch demurely on the edge of the sofa, the deer pillow at my elbow.  He begins mixing a dry martini-two olives-even before I answer.  It would appear that he has me all figured out. 

Of course an incorrect assumption.

He doesn’t know it yet, but he’s going to be sending her a bouquet of flowers. Aconites, to be precise, with blooms the same violet-blue as her knickers.  She’ll be delighted, naturally, burying her face among the glossy green leaves and deeply hued blossoms to inhale their scent-and find the aroma to be utterly heart-stopping.


What’s your poison?

I wonder if he’s ever asked her that.

Twinkle Twinkle

You wanted the stars at your fingertips.

Real stars.

Set against a backdrop of blue, so deep, so velvet it would make you dizzy.

Instead you settled.

For cosmos colored glitter studded nail polish.

Words to the Now Wiser

Always,  when I remember that time in my life, I feel as though I am looking through a car’s windshield on a rainy day, the view cascading-water furrowed as the wipers afford, for mere seconds, an opaque glimpse of a road already years ago traveled.


It is, after all, a rainy day in Camas, as days in Camas often are.  Out of the half a dozen or so college friends weekend gathered, shortly before Christmas at his parent’s home, he’d asked me to accompany him to the family owned liquor store, and I’d said yes, riding shotgun in his old blue Dodge.  It is still raining when we return, unpaved-driveway gravel crunching under the tires as he brings the Dodge to a halt. Before he jumps out of the car, before he jogs around to my side to open my door and help me out, he reaches into the brown paper liquor store bag and big-smile hands me a bottle of my favorite Baileys Irish Cream.  And then, there we are.  Standing in the pouring rain, as he does what I am not prepared for.  His arm encircles my waist and he kisses me. Clutching my bottle of Baileys I start to cry, not wanting what just happened.  Not wanting him.  And feeling guilty as hell because of it.


When you are in a struggle with life, lose.  There is no triumph over truth.

He’d written it down on a scrap of notebook paper and shared it with me days before. In a let-your-guard-down kind of moment.


I dropped out of college at the end of that year, floundering in my attempts to keep my grades above failing, while failing in my attempts to stop partying, to stop my excessive drinking.  Though not understanding what he meant by them, merely finding them to be hauntingly beautiful, I wrote his words down in a book with blank pages.  My collection of inspiring quotes that would keep me glued together over the years.   And I lost touch with him-learning only a couple of decades later that tragically, he’d already died.


This morning, after yet another night of too little toss and turn sleep, I inexplicably out-of-the-blue recall his words, and in a flash of insight I think I finally understand what he meant.

Just this.

As daunting a challenge as it may be, inner peace comes from discovering your authentic self, and then living your life accordingly.

And though I am forever left to wonder what his own battle was, I honestly believe that his words are truth.


Quote credit Chuck  Sorweide

A Long, Long, Detour

On this particular morning she’s chosen to wear a royal blue angora sweater, blue plastic triangle earrings, black mini skirt, black tights and her black suede stiletto boots.  Though the seven day-ahead hours promise little but the her heart is not in it drudgery of trying to increase her typing speed and learning a dozen or so new shorthand symbols, she is excited to hear what her friends think of her outfit, and she is eager to see what they are wearing as well.

And on this particular morning, she is the first rider on the bus that takes her to the voc tech.  She is already picturing lunch time.  How the guys in metal shop will be hanging out in the hall waiting for the clutch of friends to whom she belongs to blush and giggle past, heading to usual tables and three and a half hour longed for cigarettes.

She becomes aware that the bus has left the paved road and is now jolting down a dirt lane.  The driver applies the brakes, turns in his seat, and smiles at her.  Her hands are suddenly ice cold, gasoline fumes from the idling bus already beginning to turn her stomach.

You’re pretty cute.  You know that?

She stammers out a thank you, desperately wishing that she was seated in front of her typewriter instead of where she is now.

Of course you know that.  His tone voices irritation.  And you know what else? I am not moving this damn bus until you are nice to me.

She starts talking.  Not even knowing what she is saying.  Trying to change the subject.  Trying to buy time. Begging for him to please take her to school.

He remembers to look at his watch, realizing he is soon going to be terribly behind schedule, turns to face the steering wheel, and circles the bus back around  to the paved road.

Her whole body is trembling but she does not cry.

After that, she catches a different bus.  One that takes her half an hour out of her way.  She still does not relish the typing and the shorthand but neither does she relish what used to be the fun of showing off her outfits to her friends.  She starts to wear the same baggy green sweatshirt almost every day.  Smokes more, and counts the days until June.

But on this particular morning, she tells no one.  Nor does she ever.  Because of course she blames herself.



This is based on something that actually happened to me when I was 22.  I’ve thought about it a lot lately because my own daughter is 18 and learning to navigate the world on her own.  And that, I confess, scares me at times.


Looking over the edge, I quietly recite the adage that what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.

I am clutching the drawstrings on my black skull hoodie, a sort of makeshift rosary, asking forgiveness for my lack of trust.

Asking for faith, for courage, for freedom from this fear. 

For nets and wings.

And most of all, for the jump.


Inspired by the Five Sentence Fiction prompt falling.

A Perfect Fit

Hangers entwined, they belong together-the jacket and trousers.  And judging by the skinny lapels and cuffed hems, the duo in olive green and aqua plaid wool have been together for an awfully long time. Therein lies the problem.  How to separate them.  How to break it to the jacket that in fact, it is not desired nearly as much as its other half. The trousers, however, are ideal.  When she tries them on they become her as though they’ve actually been waiting all these years just for her. The jacket is another story.  Its exaggerated length makes her appear to be even shorter than she is, the sleeves ending long past the point where her fingertips do.

Once home, she drapes the jacket over the back of a chair before she takes the trousers to her bedroom and begins to pair them up with potential new other halves.  Funny though. Over the next few weeks, the jacket remains where it is.  As if it too is waiting for the right someone to come along. This thought occurs to her, and consoles her.


This piece was inspired by a recent Goodwill purchase of a 1950’s man’s suit.