by K.J. Tracy
This is a sample of my writing that I would like for people to review. Please be honest.
Another sleepless night.
"Crazy Michigan weather" muttered Tracy, as she sat her coffee cup down on the coffee table and looked out her patio doors.
Yesterday she had noted that nearly all the snow had melted, allowing various beautiful shades of green to be displayed in its place. The April temperatures the previous week had topped out at 55 degrees Celsius causing her to believe that perhaps Old Man Winter was finally packing up and going home. Apparently he had decided to show his wintery love one final time before exiting his annual 4-5 month seasonal stay. 5 inches of snow had fallen out of the sky overnight replacing the color green, once again, with the color white.
She sipped her coffee and watched as a neighbor was driving out of the apartment parking lot. Even though this was her second full winter season in Michigan, it still amazed her that people actually drove in snow. In the South, where she lived for the majority of her 43 years, 1-2" of snow meant 'no school', 'no work', and 'no driving' except for emergencies. She glanced at the tire tracks left behind by her neighbor's car. "Slush" she said disapprovingly. Tracy liked the clean, fluffy, weightless snow, despite all the bone-cold temperatures that came along with it. She did not like the dirty slushy snow which meant tougher driving conditions for her, not to mention more wet shoes. Dry snow can be dusted off with a simple 'clacking' of one's shoes together. Wet snow was not so simple and was quick to soak through the hems of her jeans. Snow boots are a definite 'must' when living in a snowy state. She sighed and made a mental note to grab her own ugly pair of snow boots later and place them beside the living room door.
Ignoring any more thoughts of slushy tire tracks and snow boots, she continued to peer out the patio doors of her second story apartment and concentrate, instead, on the snowflakes currently floating down from the sky. Every few minutes a gust of wind would blow the floating flakes into a swirling motion that had them going back up and down and shifting from side to side before finally breaking free from what reminded her of a tiny tornado and falling softly to their final resting positions on the white blanket that covered the ground. There was something mesmerizing and calming about watching the snow fall that seemed to make drinking a cup of hot hazelnut coffee first thing in the morning a much more enjoyable experience. The falling snow seemed to be buffering her lack of sleep from the night before leaving her remarkably alert and able to reflect on the direction her life was going in, which up to this point, seemed to be resembling the current swirling motions in which the wind was blowing the falling snow. She let out a slight chuckle at how she was able to make a connection between the falling snow and her life and drank the last of her first morning cup of coffee.
As she sat the cup down on the over-sized wooden coffee table in front of her, she heard the familiar sounds of a 10 month old baby-in-waking emanating from the bedroom. It wouldn't be long before the morning coo's and baby gibberish sounds turned into cries of protest that meant "come and get me now!"
Tracy debated for a moment on if she should go ahead and rescue the baby from what he would somehow, in his own baby way, perceive to be a 'baby-prison' very soon, or if she should just grab another cup of coffee, leaving him to play and fully wake up first. She opted to leave him be and poured herself another cup of coffee rationalizing that 'everyone needs time to wake up before starting their day'. She walked to the patio doors and opened them to step outside for a morning smoke.
"Brr! It's cold!" she thought to herself as she lit up a cigarette. Standing in the cold snowy air was just one of many downsides to smoking that she disliked greatly. She reminded herself of her decision to quit smoking and vowed to set the date for this monumental feat real soon. Of everything she had ever quit or let go of, smoking had been the hardest to stop doing. "I should've listened to my grandmother when she told me years ago to quit." Her grandmother had died from emphysema caused by smoking. Holding the vision of the last time she seen her grandmother alive, hooked up to all those tubes and fighting for her life, Tracy looked at her half-smoked cigarette, took one more drag and extinguished it.
Closing the big glass door behind her, she heard the familiar "come get me now!" cries and headed in the direction of the sound.
Peeking into the bedroom before announcing her arrival, she saw the 10-month old baby boy standing and holding the side of the baby bed rails and mock crying. She stood and watched him for a few moments observing how he would bounce up and down seemingly entertained one moment and then suddenly realize what his original goal was and return to the fake crying. "Babies are funny" she mused. It didn't take long for his fake cries to start sounding more sincere. Not being able to stand it any longer, she made her presence known with her usual greeting to him, "Good Morning Caden Daniel! I'm so happy to see you!" She watched as his little body stopped bouncing, his cries fell silent, and his head turned to look in the direction of her voice. It only took a split second for him to find the source of this familiar morning sound signaling hugs, kisses, freedom and best of all...food. He spotted her with his bright blue eyes and an immediate smile swept over his tiny face revealing one of the most precious little gapped-tooth smiles she had ever seen. Tracy's heart instantly melted. His smiles always had this effect on her. She gently picked him up and began her morning ritual of hugs and kisses before changing his diaper. He responded with his usual baby gibberish and looking at her as if he too was happy to see her, followed by a failed attempt to try and escape the clutches of another diaper being put on his bare bottom.
Bringing Caden into the living room and putting in one of his favorite DVD's, Tracy re-heated her coffee and sat back down on the couch. She glanced out the patio doors again. It was still snowing. She noticed that the neighbors slushy tire tracks were now almost covered with new snow. She looked back at the little boy, who, by now, had crawled to the coffee table, pulled himself up, strategically taken everything off of the coffee table and strewn them about the floor. He had a look of triumph written all over his face. Smiling, she leaned forward and tousled his sandy brown hair., "It's a good thing we had no place to go and nothing planned for the day Caden." she said in a tone meant for babies. He looked at her and began 'dancing' to the sounds of the music coming from the children's DVD. She smiled at him again. She had nothing to do today but just sit back and relax and spend time with this beautiful little baby boy.
The past week had been very physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting as she moved all her belongings into a new apartment. She needed these past few days to let her aching back, legs and arms rest. She had done no moving on Monday and Tuesday, but was still feeling the effects of the move today. Though she was in pretty good shape for her age, she was still not as young as she used to be and it seemed to take a lot less to wear her slightly aged body out and longer for it to recover than it used to take. She was grateful that the weather had been so nice while she moved her belongings and would've hated to have moved them all in this snow...especially if she would've had to wear her ugly snow boots. The thought made her grimace. She really disliked those snow boots. Spring would be here soon and she could then wear her flip-flops again. This thought made her smile. She loved her flip-flops. There is just something very 'freeing' about a good pair of flip-flops that she could just not quite put her finger on. Perhaps it reminded her of a time when life was simple and free from pain, troubled times, tragedy, and regret. Maybe it just reminded her of much warmer Summer sunshine, something she was definitely not experiencing today.
Her wandering thoughts of why flip-flops are so awesome were quickly interrupted by the baby who was now trying his best to cleverly place her cell phone into her 3rd cup of coffee. Several scolding's of "no" later, he finally gave up and decided he was hungry.
After being fed, bathed and having played a little while longer, he began rubbing his eyes indicating that he was full, tired and ready for his morning nap. Tracy placed him in his little bed and turned on his musical mobile and quietly stepped out of the room. Warming up her third cup of coffee again, she sat back down and watched out the patio doors as the snow plow had finally arrived to clear the apartment's parking lot. Wonderful...more slush.
Kicking back on the couch so that she was able to observe the plow truck doing its job, and listening to the sounds of a 10-month old fighting his nap time, she realized she also had time today to reflect on her life and all that has happened up to this point. She wondered if the words 'reflecting' and 'relaxing' even went together. To her, they somehow seemed to conflict with one another. 'Relaxing' meant to do nothing to cause stress. 'Reflecting' would cause stress on some levels for her. With all that she had been through in life and survived, the last thing on her mind was to cause more stress. However, if she were to get any peace of mind, or to be free of the nightmares that kept her from sleeping at night she was going to have to face it all sooner or later.
For a moment she allowed herself to think about what caused her broken sleep the previous night before. Bits of dream memories, like shards of a broken mirror, exploded through her mind cutting deep into her very being and bleeding images and sounds at random:
The sounds of her mother screaming at her.
The bottom of a boot before it hits her face.
Her ex-husband yelling "no one will ever want you again!"
The sound of her own sobs as her innocence was being robbed from her.
The warm blood oozing down her face.
Her daughter pleading with her "please dont go mom!"
The sizzle sounds of a crack pipe in use.
"You're not good enough!"
The sound of the jail house doors being slammed behind her.
A flash of blinding light.
The evil laugh of a man as she pleaded for her life.
The sound of the gun hammer being cocked back.
The deserted streets at 3am.
As the image of a wooden pine-box began to fill her mind Tracy forced herself to "snap out of it", stopping even more shards of pain from entering her mind. Shuddering at the memory involving the wooden pine-box, Tracy sat up, took a deep breath and wiped away the wetness that had begun to seep from her eyes. She looked around her tiny apartment and all that she had acquired over the past few years and thought of the beautiful baby boy, now napping peacefully. She wondered how she had survived it all. Tears and emotion welled up in her soft grey-green eyes. "Soon these nightmares will turn into dreams", she gently told herself before turning her thoughts back to the present.
Repositioning herself so that she could look out her patio doors once more, she leaned back onto her soft brown couch and cleared her mind. The buffering that the falling snow had provided earlier for her lack of sleep was now wearing off. She yawned. As she watched the snow-plow drive away leaving behind a messy and very slushy parking lot, she closed her eyes. She made a conscience effort to think about something positive and peaceful before letting her body and mind fall asleep. Some place special, familiar, and warm. Some place she could be totally free to be who she wanted to be. Grasping an image in her mind, she let her body relax. In just minutes, she was asleep and dreaming of a safe place.