Park Bench

By- Traci Taylor
October 2014

As I was sitting on a park bench just the other day, I began to imagine how much significance it must hold. How many people fell in love, or how many had their hearts broken on this bench. It’s someone’s safe place to visit on a day where they just need silence and a good book. Something so simple we do not realize holds so much importance to humanity. A sense of sadness and happiness rushed through me simultaneously while all of those thoughts were processing.

Then I began to ponder about those things that occur on a park bench and how they are similar to the moments that happen in life. People come and go into each other’s lives every day. Strangers become lovers and vice versa.

It could have been the peaceful autumn day or the book I had in my hands that made me reflect. Sitting in the park, in silence, on that bench seeing strangers pass by every moment can make someone question things. It made me consider the reason why I was amongst everyone else sitting in the park. I was there trying to seek happiness in a place I once felt the most love in my life.

Being in the park, reading a book, alone with my own thoughts is where I truly appreciated the life I was living. For so long I was unaware that discovering and loving who you are is the answer to happiness in this life.

In that park, on that bench I notice lovers both young and old spending their days together. Both couples believing so strongly in love, it is as if no one else around them exists. Their time is now, or forever. No one ultimately knows how long their love will last, but it exists in that moment, on that park bench. I still consider myself to be a hopeless romantic, despite my own shortcomings in past relationships. As I sat on that park bench alone, I no longer felt envious of the lovers surrounding me, but a simple sense of joy.

Losing love in life should not make a person bitter, but in fact make them grow as a human being. The unhappiness I had been feeling, slowly faded away. As I looked out into the golden scenery of October and back down to my book, I smiled. I was ultimately on the track I have been trying to focus on for months, and one I had ignored my whole life. Finally I no longer felt like I was destroying myself, I was beginning to love who I am.

With age many people start to lose their sense of wonder or longing for true love. I think hopeless romantics and park benches have a lot in common. If a person can find peace by sitting on a park bench alone on an autumn day, it is quite possible they are the type of person that has been broken yet still believes in true love. The benches in a park hold as many memories as the people that sit on them. Whether it is finding self love or loving another person, sometimes all that is needed is a walk through the park.

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The Uncertain Purpose

By- Traci Taylor
October 2014

(Note from the author- This is a story of hope and struggle. My own experiences were merely an inspiration, and overall the following story is one I declare fictional. Take it as you may, but either way I hope you enjoy it.)

There has been more than one time in the past few months that I have questioned how I got where I am. Most people when they ask themselves that are either at a very high point in their life, or at rock bottom. For me, I fell somewhere in between.

My rock bottom was being dependent on alcohol to forget my problems, but I still managed to pay my bills on time. Not to mention the relationship to the woman I thought of as my best friend had recently come to an end. That hit me like a damn avalanche.

Life is full of endings, but I wasn’t ready for that one. For weeks I had tried to find my purpose in the life I was living. On top of my relationship failing, my work life was just as bad. The job I once loved was now completely filled with stress and had me questioning why I was choosing to repeatedly put myself through this unhappiness.

The fact that I was still a server with a college degree wasn’t what bothered me. What irked me was how unpleasant the environment was making me as a person. Of course it also had a bit to do with having a college education, being beyond twenty thousand dollars in debt, and nothing else to show for it other than service with a smile. In the moment I could not find one thing that was positive in my life. My mind was clouded with negatives and memories that brought nothing but sadness. Nothing seemed to be worth going on for.

It wasn’t until I found myself drowning in boxed wine and Jack Daniel’s with a side of pills that I realized I needed to change something. I chose to stop my dependency on alcohol and seek help. This was around the same time I realized how long I had been masking my depression by excessively drinking.

In that moment I promised myself to not drink even a glass of wine again until I was certain I was doing it to enjoy that one drink. The simple pleasure of drinking had lost all essence for m. It has only been two weeks now, but I already feel more at peace with myself. I don’t think there is any rhyme or reason why people choose to go to substances to numb the sadness they feel inside other than to simply not feel.

From my experience, it is more common than some people may be aware of. I had been struggling personally for years, and I guarantee only a handful of people suspected it. I’m not even sure I realized how bad I had gotten until recently. Something I have learned along my journey so far is that everyone has demons, even the people with contagious laughter.

If you really look at the people that surround you, look deep into their eyes, I bet you’ll be glancing into a black hole of stories untold. It’s vital to remember not everyone deals with things in one particular way, but everyone deserves to be reminded that people love them. That of course is easier said than done. I was intellectually aware of the love I was surrounded by, but emotionally I felt isolated and alone. There is something to be said about the mind that over thinks, and it is without a doubt a dangerous thing.

The days went on and let me just say, the mornings were the absolute worst. Looking forward to brewing a pot of coffee was the only thing that brought me a sense of optimism. My worst enemy was my own brain and how often I tended to over think things. Memories of the past, especially in the morning hours, would play back in my head.

There was an instance where I was in the shower and I felt a pain in my chest. It was as if my heart was still breaking after all the time that had gone by. I had to force myself to think of other things just to get through the day. My brain just wouldn’t stop replaying her laugh or her smile. It was as if I was mentally experiencing Chinese water torture with thoughts of my past. Emotionally crippling does not even begin to describe the intense impact I was feeling. I knew this was no way to live, and I was aware of that. I needed to focus on getting better, on returning to the person who could find the sun even on a rainy day.

The next time I chose to smile at the sun, I wanted it to be because I felt genuinely happy to be in existence. Walking down the city streets, breathing in the autumn air, and looking to the horizon for a sign that there is a reason I have survived this long.

Today with each moment that passes I still struggle, but it has gotten easier. My past still comes back to me in waves and that is when the sadness takes over again. The key to getting past the melancholy is finding an outlet of some kind.

Music has always been my go-to. Whether it’s blasting the upbeat sounds of Grouplove or losing myself in the melody of Glenn Miller. Whenever I feel my heart aching because my mind has chosen to reminisce of memories of a lost love, I choose music.

Dealing with life isn’t easy and every human being figures that out on their own time. Perhaps some humans are lucky enough to never get close to hitting rock bottom. From my perspective, I think going through any sort of struggle and surviving opens a person eyes to how lucky they are.

Appreciation for life, love, and nature comes after disaster occurs. The point is to keep treading through waters that at some point seemed impossible to get through. As I look out my window towards the skyline of Philadelphia I feel just okay and I am happy with that. To be able to say I am okay today is more than I could say for myself months ago. The lesson in the life I am living I am still figuring out, but now more than ever I am trying my best to rediscover the sunshine when it rains.

Shattered

By: Traci Taylor
Short fictional story January 2014

Repressed feelings and hopeful thoughts are the poison of my existence. More so than ever I am beginning to think my life is a cycle of events played out by different characters each time. Then I look internally and realize I am the one who pulls the trigger to my misery. It is like I am drawn to situations where I know I will fall to pieces at one point.
I still haven’t figured out why I am wired this way. If I could trade places with a coldhearted person just for a moment, I would. My defenses are always up and the facade of a tough exterior shields people from the soft core of my soul.
The search to define myself is never ending. A long and winding road is what I travel on metaphorically in my life. Ever since my youth I have been on a journey. The type of journey that has me overcoming what seems like impossible obstacles. My stepping stones in life are an accumulation of the multiple people who have had major, but mostly minor impacts in my life. It leads me to wonder what exactly is permanent. What makes something permanent, or better yet, what can make a person actually bear to be around another human after they have exposed themselves.

Loss of a Jewel

BY: Traci Taylor

After we said our goodbyes at the bar, we didn’t talk for months. I couldn’t even tell you what made us drift apart, but something did. Such is fate.
Time and distance never affected our love though. I think the time we spent separated from one another proved to me that the love I felt for Jewel was real.
Busy schedules made it so that I didn’t see her again for another year. I had been away in New York after I graduated college and decided not to come back home to the small town in Jersey. Too many memories that I wanted and needed to get away from. Not that I ever associated her with the stigma. I did with the rest of the people I knew in my hometown though. Jewel was different. She was one of those girls you look at and know. Maybe not at first, but once you get to know a girl like Jewel, your entire world makes sense.
Had I known then what I know now, I would have never let her slip out of my life for even a second. There are only a few things I have been certain about in my life as it is now and one of things is this: If at any moment you can’t begin to fathom the greatness you feel in your heart for a person, don’t ever let them go. No matter what.
When I finally saw Jewel again it was different, but not in a bad way. It was a precious moment and I say that without trying to sound like a fucking sap.  This time when I laid eyes on her she had a sudden aura similar to a sunset. I blushed when she glanced my way and couldn’t help but awkwardly shuffle towards the bar to get a drink. I hadn’t talked to her in months, let alone seen her in a year. In this exact bar we always used to spend time together at, Hodges Pub.
It was fate (as the majority of our time together had been since the day we met). I saw her and the feelings I had in my heart came rushing back as if they ever left (in my mind and heart they never did, as I always had promised her they never would- no girl ever could or ever would compare to Jewel).
We caught up on our lives, she mentioned she was finally single and though I tried not to seem over anxious, I was. That was the only thing that ever kept us from being together. She talked of how great I was, but she always chose him.
I was delighted to hear the girl I had wanted for well over a year now was finally available. I don’t even mean it in a promiscuous way. We had been plenty intimate in the past. I had just always viewed her as my Catherine and I her hypothetical Heathcliff.
In the moment being so close to Jewel, I wanted to grab her hand and take her away- but I wasn’t quite sure she felt the same way anymore. I feared more than anything I was still the only one who felt the spark of pure love in the air.
Suddenly, she looked at me in the eye and nudged her head towards outside. I knew then that nothing had changed. I took her hand and we ran towards the side of the building of Hodges.
I’m sure an hour or two must have gone by but we didn’t notice. We were too busy looking into one anothers eyes like we had been doing it every single day since we had been apart.
I told Jewel I kicked myself for never contacting her, but I didn’t know what to do anymore. I had tried so many months before I left to be with her. She just refused to admit what I had known. I knew for once it wasn’t the tequila. Maybe one night of tequila can secure intimacy, but nearly two years is a different tale. I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her, but I knew it wasn’t that time yet and it killed me. So, I chose to let her live her life and I moved to New York.
Jewel once told me the reason her grandparents worked out was the will to fight for one another. We had that and I didn’t want to lose it, so I walked away- even though it killed me.
Never before had I considered myself a damn hopeless romantic till I met her. That kind of love was literally only like the stuff you see in the movies. Not even in Romeo and Juliet crap. I mean like Ted and Robin, but they actually end up together in the end.
Now that I had her in my arms I truly didn’t want to let go- I felt only blessed to have her in my life again. I gave it a few months after till I decided to ask her to seriously spend the rest of her life with me.  I walked her along where the sand meets the ocean. Then we casually strolled passed the old gazebo where we once spent the night under the moonlight sky. I got down on one knee and I looked at the curly haired, brightly blue eyed, gorgeous woman I had fallen in love with the moment I met her and asked her to marry me.
I knew before that day together she never believed I was serious about her being the only woman in my life. She swore I needed more life experience and sexual adventures.  To my surprise she ended up saying yes to my insane marriage proposal. We wouldn’t even be able to be legally married, but it was the thought of putting my ring on her finger that mattered most.
We packed our bags the very next day to spontaneously look for that apartment in the city with a rusty fire escape that we always talked about. We knew getting away was the only way our love would survive like it should and deserves.   We stayed in a crappy hotel in Brooklyn until we made our first payment on our apartment on the lower eastside.
Jewel got a job before I did waitressing at a fine dining restaurant on the corner of our apartment. It took me awhile to get a freelance job, but the minute I got it we went out to celebrate. Starting with a walk through our favorite path in Central Park., she told me then she was ready to take the next step.
I was too oblivious to realize Jewel meant she was ready to start our family together. We talked about children for awhile now, but she never looked at me with such passion before until this night. I knew she was ready and I was so happy. It’s a moment you wait for your whole life. Something you have been so sure of. I was only sure I was meant for Jewel. Nothing else seemed to be a sure plan for me.
All I ever wanted was to start a family with Jewel, probably since the first day I knew I loved her. I had known I never wanted to have children with any other woman. When I was younger I didn’t even want a family. The minute I met Jewel it was an instinct. It’s the feeling of true love that reassures the brain.
We met multiple different donors, but decided on our original decision of having my good friend Jeremy be the donor. I’ve never seen her look so happy in my life.  Her eyes lit up like diamonds in the sky.
I was an absolute train wreck over it. I knew with a family of our own on the way I would have to start writing like a maniac. No writer was successful in this day and age. I never lived up to my dream of being a comedy writer. I just didn’t have the connection or the talent. I was a hopeless cause in my opinion. I started to question my own career choice.
Our little apartment would no longer be suitable for the children we had on the way. I decided to get a side job as a waitress in order to support our family. I think the hardest part wasn’t even the crap hours, but the hours spent away from her. I was never good at spending time away from Jewel.
She was pregnant and our child was on the way, it was an unbelievable feeling- but nothing had ever felt so right in my entire life. There are time when a person is sure of the feeling of bliss. Loving her was my bliss.
When the day finally came, the birth of our son, I was never so happy to hold him in my arms and look at Jewel knowing what I knew all along. The minute I laid eyes on Jewel those years ago and she had called me a fool. I knew I wasn’t. I knew where I was in this moment was where I was meant to be since the moment I looked into her eyes.
In my heart I always knew I would end up with Jewel and start a family, but it was actually a reality- I was holding our child in my arms. I couldn’t even comprehend or control my excitement. I felt like it was too good to be true. I would find out sooner rather than later it was.
Everything was perfect,  all of the clichés of movies had come true for me. Nothing else in the world could compare to the joy I was feeling. When she came back from the hospital I made sure she felt nothing but completely comfortable.
I didn’t want her to feel lost, especially after she had been courageous enough to carry our child for nine months while I worked. Jewel was surprisingly blissful. From that day on for the next three years we took walks through Central Park with our son Chase every single morning.
Nothing had ever felt so routine than those walks we took. Being with her felt just as right as it did those nights we used to spend sleeping at my Dad’s house when we first met. Every day and night with Jewel had always felt like it was what I would and should be doing for the rest of my life. I knew that since I first really looked into your eyes I think.
Then a few years went by and Jewel made the decision to go back to work. She had gotten a job at a local diner close to our apartment.
It was a cold December afternoon when I got the call. I couldn’t fathom how my body seemed to melt to the floor. There had been a random shooting on the corner by our apartment, where Jewel was working her shift. To spare the details because to this day it breaks my heart to believe the love of my life was taken from me unjustifiably.
I will never regret a day I spent thinking about or being with Jewel. Even our days apart before we were married I knew there was no other woman for me. The toughest obstacle in my life was not losing my love from her death, but holding on at a time when no one else believed our love was that of eternity.

I Heart NY

By: Traci Taylor

The ocean waves crash down and my eyes are closed dreaming of city lights. The time span of the distance between me and where I belong is eternal. The road ahead seems never ending with block roads galore. To shorten the distance seems impossible. Success is my goal and the sounds of the cars along Broadway would confirm. Every stop along the way has proven failure and disappointment. To think those incidents have only made me stronger is too optimistic for my taste. My head is filled with dreams. The center of it all is to reach out to people and help change a life through words. The only scenery I wish to awake to is the building across the way or the trees in Central Park. Words have yet to bring me success is an ordinary life. Obstacles are the fear of the writer. I wish to be more than I am. My soul will never be satisfied with a small town. I crave the smell of the hot dog stands, the bright lights, and the ridiculous tourists with their I heart New York shirts. I want it all. I want everything. I want to be known.

Fallen a part.

By: Traci Taylor
Written in 2011, edited in 2012

I look to my left. Nothing. I look down and begin to realize what exactly happened the night before. It takes a lot of recollection to even fathom the events. It is hard to believe I have woken up naked on this couch every morning for the past week or two. My life was never at this rock bottom, for a consistent time at least. I would blame it on the drug addiction and alcohol problem but I usually consider that an addicts easy way out instead of pin pointing the real issue.
Truth is, this past year I have done some self realization. None of that Buddhist or any other religious bull shit. Just regular inner thoughts and self coping. I think what I discovered about how fucked up my life actually is drove me to try to self medicate. Not that I am saying that is acceptable, it is just the route I took. I can barely look my own family in the eyes. They have no idea how bad everything has fallen a part in the past couple of months. The only people that really know are a few buddies of mine. Truly they don’t even know the details of every story though. The majority of things that I experience in my life I feel too embarrassed to even admit to my best friend.
Self disclosure aside- I am still trying to piece together last night. It all started with a phone call from this chick I had been trying to get together with for awhile. We met up for a drink or five. My memory is a bit shaky. I remember the bar and the first few drinks. For that time span I remember picturing how sexy she would look once I convinced her to spend the night at my apartment. With my charm I would assume that is how it went down. Confidence aside, waking up naked also leads me to believe that is true. Considering my weed stash seems incredibly low I know smoking was involved.

SIDE NOTE: The story wasn’t doing anything for me- I started it and didn’t continue. The beginning of it I cherish so I wanted to post it among my portfolio.

June

By: Traci Taylor
Written in June 2012

It was June. I remember the night as if it happened yesterday and it gives me chills down my spine. The fear I felt that night is a feeling no one should endure. It was crap. I mean human beings weren’t put on this Earth to ruin one another’s lives were they? I sure as hell thought so that night. My brother’s face was over taken by tears and my father looked so broken, unsure of how to feel. No one spoke to me right away, they both just stared. I realize now they were too in shock to speak. The night had finally come when my mother had reached her breaking point. There had been days and nights before when she had lost it, but it finally had come to her driving into the telephone pole by the old ice cream parlor off of 3rd avenue.

SIDE NOTE: This is the beginning to a short story I never finished.