Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of “All that Glitters is Not Gold” (without using the actual phrase or literal example). (01/24/08)
TITLE: The Pearl
By Jack Taylor
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The drip, drip, drip of the intravenous is hypnotic. After eleven hours here this curtained space is shrinking quickly. My pulse races. My lungs grab small snatches of anti-septic air. My ears strain out the endless beeping of machines.
Every knot hole is counted and triple checked. Every tile subjected to the sole of my pacing. Every small adjustment on the digital monitors analyzed a dozen ways. The blinking red numbers whispering assurances I don’t feel. Any distraction is a plus at 4 am.
The adrenaline spiked long ago. Seeing my fourteen- year old daughter motionless. Empty Tylenol and Paxil bottles. CPR. 911. Sirens. Lights. Uniforms. Hands pulling at me. Prying my baby away. Screaming through traffic into the night. Clawing for heaven in my soul.
A smudge of mascara from Kinsey’s left eye has crawled across the bridge of her nose. Black charcoal mars Chartreuse stained lips. She is a rose in full bloom, a woman in every sense. I watch her aqua hospital gown slowly rise and fall just to give myself permission to keep breathing. Drip… Drip... Drip.
I refold her hot magenta T shirt for the twentieth time just so it would be ready. A whiff of Liz Claiborne. Jasmine. Tommy Hilfiger blue jeans sprawl across the back of the black plastic chair. Navy Born boots stand at attention underneath.
It was all in her journal. The instructions called me to see -to really look. Tory left her. Her prince had abandoned her for another princess. Her knight had designated Kinsey as his dragon. The apple of her eye had returned an arrow into her heart.
I ran my fingers through her raven hair. I kissed her satin smooth forehead. This was my sunshine. My rainbow at a dark and stormy time of life. My sole companion. Drip… Drip… Drip.
How do you tell your daughter not to put her whole hope in a man when she has watched you yearn night after night for love? How do you convince her that the security of hugs and the intimacy of passion isn’t worth trading for your soul? How do you woo her into staying a child when her body has long denied her that innocence?
A picture of a pearl fluttered like a feather across the whispers of my mind. My thoughts chased it through the valleys and hills of synapses and cortexes until it landed on the words of Jesus. Someone found a pearl of great value and sold all he had to grab onto it. But what good is a pearl when you have nothing left to feed yourself and clothe yourself? When you have no one left to share it with?
I’d chased a pearl that was plastic, a hologram, a mirage. I traded my love for a milky-ivory bubble that burst as I tried to grasp it in my hands. Now, so had Kinsey. But she was fourteen.
The curtains rolled back like a scroll while the metallic rings screeched along the rails like fingernails on a blackboard. The nurse cruised in like a laser guided missile focused on the target. A quick glance at the monitors. Pressure cuffs. Fast. Efficient. Gone. I was a phantom invisible.
There are many days I feel invisible. Alone with my pain. Empty with my misery. Hungry in my pew. Waiting for someone to see me. Hear me. Know me. Reach me. Touch me.
My daughter’s groan startles me awake. She is tossing. Back and forth. A nightmare. “Shhhhhh! Everything’s going to be okay. I’m here. It’s all right. Shhhhhh! Just rest.” I stroke her hair and caress her brow. Drip… Drip… Drip.
From the vapors of faith that support me in this moment the stifled shrill of bagpipes breaks through. “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I’m found.” A lost pearl. Discovered. Treasured. Purchased. Guarded. Me.
My parched throat and my chapped lips scream for attention. Not until Kinsey is okay. My muscles call out for movement. Not until Kinsey knows I’m here. My eyelids move in unison with my chin toward my knees. Not until Kinsey knows she’s a pearl.
Kinsey is a pearl. Plastic tubes run into her nose and into her arms but she is a pearl. Charcoal smears betray her attempted suicide but she is a pearl. Her heart is broken and her head is filled with nightmares but she is a pearl. My pearl. His pearl.
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