The Birth of a Lioness

by Brooke Miller, Cornell University, October 7, 2009

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Darkness stretches its finger tips out across the earth blurring my vision as I try to find the keyhole to unlock the car door. It is 3AM. As I sit down in the seat, close the door, and place the key into the ignition to start the car, I am thinking to myself, why? Why am I putting myself through this again? I start the car and grip the steering wheel tightly as I pull out of the driveway and onto the road. The car seemed to be driving down 69th Street much slower than usual as if it had extra weight or a heavy burden it was carrying. There was no one else on the road. I look into my rearview mirror but can not recognize my own reflection. Red light stains my face. I have arrived at my destination but am still wondering if I should have turned around. My phone rings. Your Leo animal instincts must have told you that I am here. I slowly open the car door; it feels heavier too.

***

You never told me you were going into the military after high school. You just left. No one knew where you were not even your brother. I never stopped worrying about you. We were so good together; nevertheless, I thought it was something I did...I thought I was the reason you left. For weeks and weeks I searched for you and came up with nothing. I hated myself. I cried every night, and sometimes I would scream. When you came back, you did not tell me. I did not know if you were even alive for two years until one night you called me and told me to come outside because you were waiting for me there. That was nine months ago. You called me again tonight.

***

My breathing follows my footsteps as I walk towards the apartment complex. The building is five stories high. From the outside, you can look up and see that each apartment had its own balcony. I see cream colored walls with coral painted squares. I arrive at the backdoor and you open it for me. We enter the elevator and I go to its opposite corner. We reach your floor and the doors open; I take a deep breath as I exit. Silence's strong hands choke my vocal cords as we walk down a hallway that seemed to last for miles. Every few steps you turn around to make sure that I am still behind you. It is hard for me to still be behind you. We finally reach your room number and you unlock the door and push it open. It is dark. I am entering the lion's den.

***

"I can not apologize for the past because my actions speak louder than words. I don't want to help you; I want to heal you. I was wrong, stupid, and childish, and I needed to grow up. I was afraid of what we had and afraid of you, but now, I am a better man. Tomorrow is never promised, so you have to live today to the fullest and I realize that now. I have not been complete since I lost you. There has been this void in me that only you can fill. " I did not even say "Hello" yet. Not even a "Longtime no see-where have you been for the last nine months or better yet, three years?" Your deep, dark brown eyes are alert and frantic looking. It seems like you would have burst if you had to keep those words in for another second. "I don't know if you can find it in you to forgive me because I can not even forgive myself, but I need you to give me another chance."

You always know exactly what to say to me. Your tenor voice makes your words seem poetic. When you speak, it is as if you are reciting a song or a stanza from an ode that you wrote freestyle just for me. That is why I never trusted you. You were always too good with words. Every time you speak, it is almost as if you have played and replayed this scene in your mind or have practiced it on someone else. How many people have you hurt? It is because of you that I package my heart away, and now, cinder block walls and barbed wire guard my emotions. I can not welcome the calm, soothing words of another. My heart is cold; it is now synonymous to the warmth that radiated from the cold, wet, dirt floor that you slept on in boot camp. My feelings are numbed like your toes were on those cold nights when you could have been warmed by my words even if they were only on paper. My thoughts are silenced like yours were when the platoon leader screamed your name. For the second time in my life, I am at a loss for words. The first time I lost my words was when you left. How dare you take my words from me! You have no right. I had it all planned out earlier, so that I would know exactly what I was going to say to you, for I had played and replayed it in my mind over and over. I was going to tell you how much I hated you, and how I had waited for the day when I could lay it all out for you in person because a phone conversation would not have given me the same satisfaction.

Nevertheless, a lump is developing in my throat preventing my thoughts from leaving my mind. You reach for my hand and I give in...but then I take it back. You always did like the feel of my hands...but I can not let you win this time. My body wants what my conscience will not let it have. Your eyes are piercing my soul. I can see that your biceps have grown since I saw you last. My heart is pounding like a symphony of car horns in a traffic jam. My thoughts are racing and my vision is blurred. I can never think straight when I am near you. " No, " I begin to say as the lump that blocked my words began to dissolve; thus, allowing my words to flow free like water after the ice thaws. "Are you crazy? Did you really think it was going to be that easy? Did you honestly think that I was going to completely disregard all the pain and anger that you have caused me so that we could pick up where we left off all those years ago? You just think that you can walk in and out of my life whenever you feel the urge? I am no longer the same person that you once knew. I am different because of you. We were so good together. I loved you but I..." Your hand drops as I begin to step backwards. Your shoulders tense, and the look in your eyes scares me; they are growing in size so that all I can focus my attention on is darkness and splashes of white. Your face is blank. Tears trail down my cheek. Your eyes are turning red as they fill with tears that you refuse to let drop. My chest aches, and I remember this pain. It hurts to breathe. I grab hold of the nearest chair with my flimsy arm to sit down because I no longer have the strength to stand. You are sitting on the couch across the room staring at me, hoping I will change my mind, I guess. I can not look you in the eyes because that is where your power lies, so I stare out the window.


***


The sky is now a shade of pink. It is 6:35AM and silence still prevails. I look over at you, and you are still staring. I look away. You say, "I'm sorry." The only two words I ever believed as they left your mouth. The only two words throughout your whole rehearsed routine that you never said and the only simple words I wanted to hear from you. You were never the type of person to say that you were sorry. You will say everything but those exact words. As I look over at you again, the sun begins to shine through the open spaces in the blinds and project slices of light on the carpet and your face. As I still sit in the darkness, I can not help but ask myself if this is a sign? Am I supposed to forgive you or am I just looking for a reason? My mouth has suddenly become dry; it is as if I have swallowed a handful of sand. I decide to say, "In time I might forgive you. Dealing with your memory has made me a stronger person and forced me to mature in a sense. I know now that I can not let just anyone get too close to me so soon or get inside my head. I have learned that I can not be so naïve and so open. Nevertheless, just because I might forgive you, that does not mean I can fully trust or believe in anything you say anymore. If I can not trust you, then I don't understand how I could ever be with you again." I stand up and proceed to get my coat. I put my coat on, walk to the front door, and turn the knob, and step outside. Suddenly I hear, "I will be patient and wait for you." I turn around and you are right behind me as I step down. Your scent is intoxicating. All I can do was glance into your eyes and take a deep breath. I am inhaling your pheromones. My knees...my palms are damp...my...maybe I can just...past images flash in my mind... I blink..., breathe..., turn around..., and continue to walk outside. The lion's claws did not claim me this time. Lust and past feelings can not control me. They are not stronger than I am. The sun peeks through the clouds forming a teepee of light around me. The Libra finally beat the Leo. The scales are balanced. A lioness is born.

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