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'Twas XIX: One Night At A Time


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And here we are again, good people of OCR. It's December 18, one week before Christmas, and the next poem in this little tradition of mine is ready to go. So relax, grab a stiff drink, and something to munch on. Here... we... go!


Twas XIX: One Night At A Time
by
The Coop

 

Twas the night before Christmas
and from where she stood,
Liane stared thoughtfully at
her old neighborhood.

The bridge that she stood on
stretched across a river
that was running some
one hundred feet below her.

It was just outside of town,
not far from the mall.
It gave her a good view
so she could take in all

the sights and colors that
lit up the cold night air
as she looked off with a
somewhat despondent stare.

Yet for a brief moment,
she let a small smile come
to her, 'fore it went back
to where it had come from.

Her eyes left the scene of
distant colorful lights,
for she wasn't in the mood
for such thoughts or sights.

Her stare lowered a touch
as she stood in place and
looked at the falling snow
as she held up her hand.

The snowflakes landed on
her dark jacket and she
took in the six-sided flakes
she could clearly see;

each flake's lovely design
and tiny, fragile form,
created by the impending
winter snow storm.

She watched as more flakes
collected on her dark sleeve;
something that gave her a
brief moment of reprieve

from the thoughts that had been
taking root in her mind;
ones that were not of the
“merry” or “good cheer” kind.

It was then that she heard
footsteps off to her right.
She looked over and saw
a peculiar sight.

A man in a long coat
that was colored deep red,
with black boots on his feet
and white hair on his head,

was walking toward her
with a smile on his round face,
from which hung a white beard
that was not out of place.

He had quite the belly,
and deep wrinkles that told
of the many years behind him,
in each one's fold.

“Good ev'ning young lady,”
the man smiled as he neared,
bringing up his right hand
and stroking his thick beard.

He turned his head and looked
off at the same lights that
the woman he'd spoken to
had been looking at.

“Lovely, aren't they?”
he added. “They're such a sight
to behold as they glow
so brightly on this night.”

“Usually,” she said,
her voice rather subdued.
The man asked, “Why are you not
in a jolly mood?”

“Don't you have something else
to be doing?” she spat.
“The last thing I want is
any idle chit chat.”

“My apologies,” he said
as his good cheer fell.
“I was just on my way back
from my work, and well...

“I saw you standing here
and just wanted to say,
that I hope you have a
wonderful Christmas Day.”

Liane looked him up and down,
then nodded a bit.
“You a mall Santa?” she asked.
“You'd be a good fit.”

“Something like that,” he smiled.
“But, if you would prefer,
I'll leave you alone and
give you space, as it were.”

“I'd appreciate that,”
she said in a flat tone.
“I really just want the chance
to be left alone.”

“Then I'll be on my way,”
the man said quietly.
Without another word,
he left and let her be.

It wasn't long before
the man was out of sight,
which left her as she felt;
all alone in the night.

Her thoughts about him
gave her pause for a moment.
Her gaze drifted down,
and a grin came as it went.

But this pause did not last
and soon she began to
revisit dark thoughts of
what she'd gone there to do.

With it just shy of midnight,
no one was around.
Just the slowly falling
snowflakes that were abound.

She remained there, alone,
as she stood on the bridge
motionless until both
her feet moved just a smidge.

Her grip on the cold handrail
soon grew more intense
as she continued to stand
in complete silence.

No one was there to see
the resigned look that grew
in her saddening stare,
and her expression too.

It was then that Liane
climbed over the handrail,
then felt dizzy enough
that she began to flail

one arm in the air as she
used her other hand
to steady herself with
the rail where she did stand.

Her face filled with panic
as she looked down below
at the dark void where she
could hear the river flow.

With one hand on the railing,
she let out a sigh.
She looked to the colored lights,
then uttered, “Goodbye.”

Liane leaned toward the void,
let go of the handrail,
then fell through the cold air
without a word or wail.

The wind rushed past her,
growing louder as she fell
for what felt to her like
an impossible spell.

But soon the cold water
was approaching her fast.
She then took in a breath;
one she hoped was her last.

A moment later,
a hard slap rang out and she
felt a flash of great pain
as she thought, Now I'm free.

It was for just a moment,
that all had flashed white
and taken what she'd seen
on this Christmas Eve night.

But soon, that white began
to fade to a deep gray,
one that surrounded her
and did not fade away.

It was like a dense fog
that shifted and slowly
swirled all around her,
and made all seem quite murky.

She looked down at her feet
that saw what she stood on.
It was the only spot
where the fog was all gone.

In its place, was what looked
like a deep frozen lake,
covered in ice that seemed
too thick to ever break.

She took a small step and
heard the ice give a CRACK!
which startled her and made
her take that step right back.

“Where am I?” Liane asked.
“Did I survive the fall?”
She heard her echo,
as if off a distant wall.

“Hello?” she called out.
“Is there anybody here?”
“Just me,” came a reply.
“I'm here with you, my dear.”

Liane looked around at the
ever shifting mist.
“Show yourself!” she cried out,
then heard, “If you insist.”

From off to her right,
she could see a shape start to
come through the thick fog,
and she asked, “Um, who are you?”

“You don't know me?” came the voice.
“You should. After all,
you've known about me since
you were just two feet tall.”

With each step, the figure
began to grow clearer.
More details stood out
as each step brought it nearer.

Red and white fuzzy patches
began to congeal
into someone that
seemed familiar, yet unreal.

A red coat with white fur
that lined its waist and cuffs.
Shiny black boots that had
no dull spots, cracks or scuffs.

A red pointy hat that
had white fur on its base
and a fuzzy white-balled top
that hung by his face.

His gloves were pure white.
His black belt hugged his belly
that jiggled as he walked,
as if made of jelly.

His long hair and his beard
were as white as fresh snow.
She knew who it was and
let out a baffled, “Whoa.”

“Hello, Liane,” the man said,
he tone soft and kind.
“This isn't real,” she said.
“I think I've lost my mind!”

“I'm quite real,” he said
as he walked up to her and
gave her a wistful smile
as he held out his hand.

“We've met before,” he smiled
with a warmth in his stare.
“It was on the bridge, yes?
I'm quite sure it was there.”

She took a step back and
kept her hands at her chest.
“Don't touch me!” she uttered
to the man who was dressed

like a rented Santa
from some nearby big store.
With a panicked stare,
“Who the fuck are you?” she swore.

“Do you really need to ask?”
he said with a wink.
“My attire make's it pretty
obvious, I think.”

“You're not him,” Liane spat.
“There is no way in hell.
You're some kind of mind trick
that came from when I fell!”

She took a second step
and again heard the CRACK!
of the ice, which brought her
to stop taking steps back.

“About that,” the man said
as he moved up to her.
“Don't move too much, please.
You're on thin ice, as it were.”

“I'm what?” she asked as she
looked utterly confused
at the analogy
that the man had just used.

He took her right hand and
held it up in the air.
That was when Liane noticed
the bad bruising there.

“This isn't a dream,” he said,
“or some kind of ruse.
I'm very much real,
just like what's causing this bruise.”

“Wait,” Liane said. “The fall.
Does this mean that I'm dead?”
“Not yet, but that time isn't
far off,” the man said.

“I don't understand,” she said.
“What the hell is this?”
He gave her a sad smile
and asked, “What happened, Miss?

“What brought you to this point?
What went so very wrong?”
When she gave no reply,
“Please, I can't stay for long.

“Your time's running very short,
so please talk to me.”
She pulled her hand away with,
“Look, just leave me be.”

She looked down at her hand
and she was clearly pissed.
The bruise there was bigger
and it spread to her wrist.

“What the hell?” she uttered
with a vexed, puzzled tone
as she began to feel pain
that dug to the bone.

She looked to the man
with some panic in her eyes.
He said, “This is what happens
before someone dies.”

“I'm dying?” Liane asked
as she watched the bruise grow
over her whole forearm,
then up to her elbow.

“You are,” the man said.
“And your time is running out.
Please talk to me, Liane.
What brought this all about?”

Liane watched as the bruise
slowly grew larger still.
And panic in her, this
sight did greatly instill.

“Who the hell are you?” she asked,
her voice filled with fear.
He then simply smiled with,
“You know who I am, dear.”

For a moment, her words
could no longer come out,
and she winced as the pain
that continued to sprout

from the growing bruise
that had covered her whole arm.
“Where am I?” she asked,
her voice filled with much alarm.

“You're in the last moments
of your life,” the man said.
“That final bit before
you're gone and truly dead.

“I know you're growing scared,
but I'm right here with you.
But before our time ends,
what I'd like you to do

“is to tell me what pushed
you to reach this moment.
What made you seek this out
as if you were hellbent?”

Liane stood dumbfounded,
unsure of what to say.
But after a second,
she turned her gaze away.

“This is some nightmare,” she spat.
“It doesn't make sense.
You're lying to me
like I'm ignorant or dense.”

“I wish I was, Liane,”
the man said with remorse.
“These are your final moments.
Your life's run it's course.”

“If that's true,” she said with ire,
“then just let me die!”
The man looked heartbroken
and asked her simply, “Why?”

She turned away from him,
as she winced in pain and
looked at the massive bruise
on her right arm and hand.

“My husband cheated on me,
then shifted the blame
and said that I had done it.
So ev'ryone came

“to his rescue as if
I had been the bad guy.
No one believed me,
regardless of how I'd try

“to show I was the one
who been cheated on.
But ev'ryone believed him.
My friends were all gone.

“Then in the divorce,
my husband said that I had
abused my son daily.
Then things got really bad.

“He accused me of being
an alcoholic,
then made up all these lies
to help make it all stick.

“I pleaded and swore what
he said wasn't the case.
But somehow, I had it all
blow up in my face.

“The judge took ev'rything.
My ex-husband had won
the house and full custody
of my only son.

“I was barely allowed
to visit with my son.
Then I lost that too
once that Covid had begun.

“I was just hanging on
with my job as it was.
Then back in November,
I was let go because

“the store I worked at
chose to cut my position.
One day I had work,
and the next day, I was done.

“I tried for unemployment,
but I was turned down.
So I took a hotel room
on the edge of town.

“I got that check for
1,200, but it went fast.
I tried to stretch it out,
but it just didn't last.”

“I was broke and lonely.
I had nowhere to turn.
The world was against me
and just watched my life burn.

“My friends all turned away.
My family did the same.
I really needed someone,
but nobody came.”

Liane brought her bruised hand up
and covered her eyes.
“I was someone they came
to completely despise.”

The man stood quietly and
watched as Liane fought
with ev'rything inside her
that made her so wrought

with sorrow and anger
from all that she'd been through.
In a soft voice he said,
“So you chose this for you.”

“What else could I do?” she asked
through a fought down sob.
“My rent is past due and
I've got no goddamn job.

“I got a note from my
landlord that says I'll be
evicted on the second
of January.

“My family hates me,
and my friends feel the same.
My life went to complete shit,
yet I'm not to blame.

“No one gives a damn and
I can't take anymore
of ev'ryone thinking
I'm some abusive whore.”

With a grimace of pain,
she unzipped her thick coat
with a hand that looked like
it was starting to bloat.

With concern in her eyes,
she pulled up her shirt some,
as she noticed her hand
had started to feel numb.

The large bruise on her arm,
was not just forming there.
She could see it spreading
seemingly ev'rywhere.

It was on her belly
and growing on her side.
And the pain she felt was
impossible to hide.

“What's happening?” she asked
as she looked to the man
she had been speaking with
as her bruised arm began

to feel as if it were
starting to fall asleep.
And into her eyes,
more panic began to creep.

“Where we are is like limbo,”
the man said calmly.
“Time is much slower here,
but not stopped completely.

“It crawls forward so that
things still happen in here
that mirror what happens
in the real world, my dear.”

“I don't understand,” she said.
“What does that all mean?”
The man gave a sad smile
with, “We are in-between

“life and death in this moment
that we briefly share.
You're not dead yet, Liane,
but you are nearly there.

“What you see is a slowed
version of what happened
the moment you hit
the water just one second

“before I brought you here
so we could have a talk
and see if from your life,
you're still wishing to walk.”

“So, I'm not dead, but I'm
not alive,” Liane posed.
“No,” he said. “But you life's book
will shortly be closed.”

“Let it close” she sneered.
“I just don't care anymore.
Just leave me alone and
let me walk through death's door.”

“I can't do that,” he said.
“It's not in me to do
something as callus as
turning away from you.”

“Why should you care?” she asked.
“No one else gives a damn.
They're just as sick of me
as I sure as hell am.”

The man looked at her sadly
and said with remorse,
“If that's your choice, Liane,
you can make it, of course.

“But while I know you're in pain,
in more ways than one,
is what others did reason
enough to be done

“with the world around you
without fighting back for
the chance to reclaim some
of what was taken, or

“to find a way for you
to start your life over?”
He stepped up to Liane
and placed a hand on her

shoulder as his eyes
were filled with much sympathy.
“But please, let me say this,
if you'll listen to me.

“What happened was unfair
and heinous to go through.
It hurt you very deeply.
I know this is true.

“But of those that you lost,
some are not gone for good.
Your life may be painful,
but I think that you should

“not let the man you loved
or your own family
push you out of this world
for all eternity.

“You ache and you're tired.
I understand this too well.
But there's one thing to you,
I can truthfully tell.

“As bad as all of this
has been feeling to you,
I believe that you still
have the strength to get through

“the mess that's swirling
around you at this moment.
You have already survived
so much as you went

“through a divorce and
all that followed after it.
You have made it this far,
taking hit after hit.

“I know things feel much too dark
to continue on.
But I promise, others
will miss you if you're gone.”

“Oh, like who?” Liane spat.
“My landlord or that guy
who peaks out his door,
and gives me the evil eye?”

“I can't really say,” he said,
as he cupped her chin.
“If you want to get back
at them, don't let them win.

“Don't let them define you
and tell you who you are.
Don't allow their vile actions
to push you this far.

“Turn away and just leave if
they won't let you be.
Write them all out of your life
and get yourself free

“of all the reminders
of what they put you through.
Don't worry about them
and just focus on you.

“You were a good person
before things went so wrong.
That much hasn't changed, Liane.
You need to stay strong

“and see that this world,
despite all it's put you through,
would still be a lesser place
if it loses you.”

Liane said nothing as
she stood while what he'd said
hung over them both as it
echoed in her head.

Her body ached more as
the bruising continued
to spread under her clothes
where it couldn't be viewed.

He took his hand from her chin
as the bruising spread
up her neck and continued
slowly toward her head.

“They tried to hurt you,” he said,
his voice soft and kind.
“Show them your great strength and
leave this outcome behind.”

“I don't know if I can,”
she said in a meek voice.
“I do,” he said warmly.
“But you must make your choice

“now if you hope to
take back what you will soon lose.
So please tell me Liane,
what is it that you choose?”

Liane grimaced again
as the bruise reached her jaw.
Pain shot through her body
as she looked down and saw

that her hands were swollen
and split open as well.
She couldn't feel her legs
and had started to smell

a strange odor that was
not unlike rotting meat.
Her body had grown cold
and she felt her heartbeat

had started to slow and
get weaker with each hit.
She knew what was coming
and soon uttered, “Oh shit!”

“Make your choice,” the man said,
his voice filled with unease.
Liane looked to the man,
then said, “Send me back, please!”

With a flash of white light,
she no longer felt pain
and found herself on
that cold, snowy bridge again.

Then a wave of dizziness
swept over her too,
which gave her a powerful
sense of deja vu

as she gripped the rail firmly
and looked down below
at where the cold, dark river
continued to flow.

“I'm back where I was?”
Liane said with some surprise
as her sense of bewilderment
shown in her eyes.

For a moment, she stood
on the handrail's wrong side,
but quickly stepped over it
while she was wide-eyed.

She looked about at the scene
that surrounded her.
At the falling snow and
the distant lights that were

filled with dots of colors
like blue, red, green and more.
At the old neighborhood
that she used to adore

back when her life was
filled with joy and family.
But that stuff felt like such
a distant memory.

She lowered her gaze
and stared down at the river
that she thought would be
some kind of release for her.

Her stare drifted a bit
as her mind did the same.
She then turned and walked off
back the way that she came.

She left the bridge behind
and went back to her pad;
an old run down apartment
that housed all she had.

She looked very drained as
she got herself undressed
before she climbed into bed
with such little zest,

it was almost as if
she wasn't really there.
But she was far too worn out
to pretend to care.

It took barely a minute,
but sleep came for her
and took Liane away
to dreamland, as it were.

The alarm soon went off,
which pulled her from her sleep.
She slapped its snooze button
and didn't make a peep

as she rolled onto her back
and laid there a bit
with a drawn look that told
of her beaten spirit.

But in time, she got up
and got herself some food,
as she tried to shake off
her melancholy mood.

As she sat at the table,
she heard the small squeak
of the mail slot in her door,
which brought her to peak

from where she was sitting
to see if she could tell
whether or not from
that small slot, a letter fell.

And sure enough, there was
a letter on the floor.
She got up from the table
and went to the door.

She reached down and picked up
what someone had slipped in.
She saw that the envelope
had nothing written

anywhere on its front
and not on the thing's rear.
She then muttered, “Now who
in the hell put this here?”

She went to the sofa
and sat down before she
opened the envelope with,
“Who gave this to me?”

She took out a folded
sheet of old, thick parchment.
When she opened it up,
she picked up the faint scent

of peppermint candy
that was mixed with the smell
of burning wood, like from
a fireplace, as well.

“Dear Liane,” she uttered as
she began to read.
“I hope that you're better,
after your time of need.

“We spoke for a short time
while you were in such pain
from how life had become
far too much of a strain

“on your broken heart and
on your world-weary mind.
So much so, that it left
you in a horrid bind.

“I know things seem hopeless
at this point in your life.
That ev'ryone and -thing
is out to cause you strife.

“But please do not forget that,
just like each new day
these bad moment's will pass
and start to fade away.

“Their pain will lessen
bit by bit as time goes by.
And though at times it will seem
far too hard to try

“to push on through it all,
please don't give up the fight.
A new day will follow
each dark, harrowing night.

“It may seem as if there's
no way for you to win,
but don't let those thoughts rule you.
Don't let those thoughts in.

“You're stronger than you know,
even if you don't feel
as if you can face the world
when it makes you reel

“back in anguish or sadness
when it comes at you.
And I hope that last night
showed you what not to do.

“Don't let liars and those who
wrong you have their way.
Don't let those who hurt you
get your life's final say.

“It won't always be easy,
but please, don't give in.
Take last night's dark moment as
a chance to begin

“the next chapter in your tale,
not the final one.
See it as a sunrise
and not a setting sun.

“New days bring new moments
that can be good or bad.
Some will be wonderful,
while others, will be sad.

“But face them all, and know that
you can make it though.
Even if you doubt yourself,
I believe in you.

“I wish you all the best
on this bright Christmas Day.
Stay safe, well and healthy,
and don't forget to say

“'I love you' to her when
she calls you up, my dear.
And say 'yes' when she asks
if Santa Claus was here.”

Liane was confused as she
looked at what she'd read.
There were quite a few questions
that ran through her head.

A moment later, the phone
let out a loud ring
which gave her a fright and
brought her to quickly bring

her attention to her phone
that was sitting on
the table by the couch
as she let out a yawn.

The next moment saw
the room fill with a white light
that made her gasp from how
it was blindingly bright.

It lasted just a second
before it winked out.
She blinked a few times
and said, “What was that about?”

She looked down at her hands
and saw the note was gone.
That was when she uttered,
“What the hell's going on?”

Her phone continued to ring
as she sat with a
confused, annoyed look,
'till she said, “Yeah! OK.”

She reached over and picked up
her phone's receiver.
With it next to her face,
a “Hello?” came from her.

“Hi Liane,” came a voice
that Liane hadn't heard
in quite a few months.
It was one that quickly stirred

her emotions as she sat there,
taken aback.
“Mom?” she managed to say
with her face a bit slack.

“It's me, honey,” came
a somewhat subdued reply.
In just a few seconds,
Liane began to cry.

“Hi Mom,” Liane said,
with her voice cracking as she
let out a sob while her
tears began to run free.

“I've missed you,” she added
as she tried to regain
some control of what was like
a runaway train.

“I've missed you too, honey,”
her mom said as she too
had her own stirred up feelings
begin to shine through.

For an hour and a half,
Liane and her mom spoke.
At first, it was quite rough as
their words did evoke

a lot of bad moments
and feelings in Liane.
But slowly, that had faded,
and over the span

of the time they'd been talking,
some things did improve.
They laughed here and there
and the mood began to move

from one of unease and
uncertainty abound,
to one where some comfort
had finally been found.

It was as they talked about
all things Christmasy,
that Liane grabbed the remote,
turned on the T.V.

and soon found herself watching
the city's parade
as she took in the floats
that volunteers had made.

Her mother was saying
how her father had been,
when the cam'ra on T.V.
began to zoom in

on a float that looked much like
a big Santa's sleigh
as the announcer said,
“And Santa's on his way!”

The cam'ra continued
to zoom in closer still.
As it did so, Liane's mind
had begun to fill

with a strong feeling of
familiarity.
One that brought her to utter,
“Are you kidding me?”

There, on her T.V.'s screen,
she could see Santa's face.
She recognized it well,
which made her freeze in place.

It was the same man she'd seen
on the bridge last night
and in the void after she'd
given up life's fight.

That was when the man
on T.V. turned his head and
looked at her with a smile
and brought up his right hand.

He waved and winked as if
somehow, the man could see
Liane as she sat and watched
him through her T.V.

Her bewilderment swelled,
but after a short while,
her face became graced
with a warm, genuine smile.

She turned off the T.V.
and brought her focus to
what her mother was saying
when she said, “And you?”

“And me what?” Liane asked
as she realized that
she'd missed what her mom
recently said in their chat.

“Did Santa visit you?”
her mother repeated.
Liane smiled a bit and said,
“He certainly did.”

Liane continued to talk
with her mom a while.
They touched on Liane's
ex-husband's spouted revile.

Of all that Liane had
gone through when ev'ryone
wrote her out of their lives
when the divorce was done.

Of the pain, abandonment,
and many a tear.
Of how she felt so alone
for nearly a year.

Her mother then stated,
“This is long overdue,
but I'm deeply sorry
I turned my back on you.

“We walked away when
you needed someone so bad.
We left you on your own
when we were all you had.

“I hope you'll be able
to forgive us someday.
Until then, just know that
we'll help in anyway

“that we can to make up
for all that you've endured.
We'll be there for you.
On that, you can rest assured.”

“Thanks mom,” Liane smiled,
then added, “I love you.”
Her mother replied with
a heartfelt, “Love you too.”

As they continued to chat,
Christmas Day rolled on
until hours later,
when the daylight was gone

and like the night before,
colored lights shined anew
as the night came alive
with their many a hue.

At times, the world can feel
very cold, dark and cruel.
Like it revels in things
that only seem to fuel

the darkest of thoughts in
the minds of some people,
and makes a problem that
feels like a huge steeple

that's too high to jump over
or climb past somehow.
As if it were a cliff
that would never allow

that person to get by
and find some way to heal
from what caused them to endure
a tragic ordeal.

Just when Liane's life was
about to reach its end,
she was given one last chance
to let her heart mend.

To withstand what had been done
to her and her world
and give more of her life
a chance to be unfurled.

This steep cliff had been climbed,
yet still more lay ahead.
Her moment of weakness,
now gave her strength instead.

This step could have never
been taken if her life
had been left to be claimed
by dark moments of strife.

And as her life's new start
gave off its growing light,
Merry Christmas to all,
and to all, a good night.

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On 12/19/2020 at 5:04 PM, AzureZeal said:

I've always enjoyed reading your poems throughout the years you've been doing this. Amazing that it's almost been 20 years you've kept this up. Happy Holidays to you.

Thanks. Yeah, nearly 20 years of this. I may have to try and come up with something special for 'Twas XX.

On 12/20/2020 at 12:16 AM, Dyne said:

Dang it, Coop... I'm not crying, you're crying. ;_;

Heh. Sure, blame it on me ;-)

 

To all those who made their way through this 25-page beast of stanzas, hope you enjoyed it. And of course, Merry Christmas :-D

Edited by The Coop
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