You never asked for this much insight.
But you can’t have both innocence and experience. Experience. A charming euphemism for pain and suffering. Either one will drive out innocence altogether.
Isn’t that what you’re really after—a return to Eden? Minus the snake. Minus the apple. Minus Adam, for that matter.
However, if you had stayed in an unspoiled world, you would have learned nothing. You would have felt nothing. You would have seen nothing.
Better to have loved and lost—etcetera etcetera.
Now let’s talk about your baggage.
Put it down.
You’re like a paranoid vagrant pushing around your prized possessions in a wobbly shopping cart. A shady businessman shoving his shredded tax returns into a nondescript briefcase. A hobo hoarding cans of ham and beans in a big red handkerchief tied on the end of a stick. A church lady clutching her oversized handbag full of mints and tissues and unanswered prayers.
Stop feeling sorry for yourself.
You aren’t the only one who is tracking Kübler-Ross’s Five Stages of Grief like an air traffic controller on a Friday night at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
So put the bag of grief down.
You can pick it up later.
You’ll have to.
🜋 🜋 🜋
But at least open it.
(Are you afraid to open it?)
It’s been long enough.
What could possibly be in there that could hurt you more than It already has?
It. The incident that handed you your bag of grief in the first place.
The bag is purple velveteen with a gold tassel drawstring. “Drawstring” starts with the letter D. So do discouragement, disappointment, delusion, damage, deceit, divorce, disease, and death.
Pick your poison.
🜋 🜋 🜋
Put your hand into your bag of grief to find out what’s really in there, not just what you’ve imagined. Goblins and gremlins and goldfish feasting on your peace.
Know what you’re dealing with. It's the only way to live while dragging that sack around for the rest of whatever. (You aren’t going to find anyone else to carry it for you.)
🜋 🜋 🜋
Good for you. Kudos for taking some initiative.
Fortune favors the bold.
Dig deep. Deeper…
Ah, you see?
It’s only a camera! Something both useful and harmless. (What kind of camera, you ask? I don’t think you get to pick. You get what you get and you don’t get upset. Any more upset, anyway. I mean, you’re beyond grief stricken and lapsing into something biblical. Like "woe.")
Frankly, it doesn’t matter if it is Daguerre’s camera obscura or a pixel-shifting digital camera—your memories of who or what you lost will be continuous snapshots taken over and over in your mind, conveniently stored in your hippocampus, neocortex and amygdala.
So the experts think.
But you know that those pictures of memories are stored in your heart. Sometimes they fade, sometimes they sharpen, sometimes they morph into angels or demons or both.
How you wish you could burn the negatives! Unfortunately, those past remembrances are part and parcel to whom you’ve become.
It would be easier to untangle your DNA than to forget what you longed for, what you will miss every day until you cease to be.
Hey, what are you doing? You can flick through the pictures later.
When it’s quiet.
Or when you’re alone.
Or during the holidays.
Or while you’re in the cereal aisle and you see a box of Froot Loops.
🜋 🜋 🜋
A little farther...
It’s such a capacious bag. It could hold anything. It might hold everything.
Ooo. A magnifying glass!
This will be useful in enlarging the things you’ve been berating yourself over. Afterall, your loss was entirely your fault. There were a dozen decisions you could have made to affect a better outcome.
You could have set up decision matrices or run calculations or hedged your bets. A magnifying glass will be useful in rehashing all the missed opportunities.
But you have time. You can ruminate on what might have been forever:
What you should have done.
What you should have done better.
What you should have done differently.
Pull out the magnifying glass again. Feel the thick glass oval, quaintly affixed to a wooden handle. Spend the blue-black hours of the morning reexamining your life in grotesque detail. Agonize over every jot and tittle. Relive every moment before It came into your life. Wallow.
Surely your own actions called down this plague of grief upon you!
As if you had that much control over random events.
Please. You aren’t the god of this world or any other for that matter.
You’re a victim of circumstance, not consequence.
Just like the rest of us.
🜋 🜋 🜋
Check the bag of grief again.
There must be something heavy, I bet.
Saints preserve us—it’s a telescope!
A lovely one, too. Brass and leather.
Hold it up—like you are on the bow of a sailing ship heading north for new adventures!
(All right. We both know you are going back to bed. Existing is so exhausting.)
But note the artful arrangement of curved mirrors and lenses. See how the rays of light collect to magnify the image.
Now you can make distant things appear closer—just slightly out of your grasp!
Like the job you wanted.
Like the lover who spurned you.
Like the would-be friend who always suggested grabbing coffee.
🜋 🜋 🜋
So, is that it?
Have you changed your perspective on grief while rummaging around?
Then take out the last optical instrument.
Behold the kaleidoscope. (Trumpets sound.)
See how the mirrors are tilted towards one another at an angle, causing an endless reflection—the backscattering more interesting than the simple colored objects it refracts.
Rotate the cylinder. The glittering bits shift. The symmetrical patterns are impermanent, ever-changing with a flick of a wrist.
Like your moods:
You are fine. You are not fine.
You lay prone. You lay supine.
You look at the kaleidoscope again, spinning the tube, shaking the colored shards, trying to decipher the mosaic in front of you. (Surely, the intricate patterns must mean something.)
And that is where you are stuck, my love, trying to find the meaning of It all.
Perhaps accumulating experience is the point. Experience buys strength and wisdom. You’ll need both for the next time It comes.
But this time, you will see It much more clearly.
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Mm, love me some meditations on reality, perspectives, and coping with it all. Camera, magnifying glass, telescope, and of course the kaleidoscope - all tools for looking at stuff. Really drives home the point about perspective. Though it does make me wonder, how does perspective look for the other senses? Or, what metaphors are there? Maybe a volume dial for hearing, different shapes and textures for touch? A pleasant scent disappears when we get used to it (an unpleasant one too!) Distorted perspectives = distorted thoughts. Therapy 10...
Again, the analysis is 100% better than the story :) I love your idea of metaphors for the other senses...might steal that. (For hearing, definitely a gramophone and a cassette tape player.) Men are meaning making machines, affixing narratives to everything from Creation to the End of Times. I think, therefore I find meaning (as absurd or nihilistic as it is, sometimes. :) O there is a classroom in Cambridge or Oxford with your name on it! (Get that PhD in Literature & Philosophy, Mr. P.)
Cassette tapes, of course! Audio recordings would be perfect for sound. Anyway. Congrats on shortlisting!
12th time is the charm. Pay is the same :) haha
This was an awesome read. Great job, honestly.
Woo hoo! I'm glad you liked it :)
Hey Deidra! I loved the premise of this story. It pulls on old childhood memories long forgotten of kaleidoscopes and sunlight. I also loved the bigger adult themes of attempting to understand the world. This piece had incredibly beautiful imagery woven with deeper thought. It certainly needed to be read more than once. Congratulations on the shortlist! It was well deserved.
Thanks, Amanda! We just moved and I found an old kaleidoscope from 30 years ago. Amazing how a little light (and lots of mirrors...) can change the ordinary into the extraordinary.
Congrats Deidra. You are on familiar terrain. Interest capturing one here.
Thanks, Philip. It was fun to write. I love extended metaphors, except when they crash and burn. (Wasn't sure how that was going to hold together...)
I love this kind of writing. The flow is gorgeous, and I love any reference to Fruit Loops ;) Congratulations on the shortlist, another well-deserved entry.
Happy Turkey-Week :) Did you all get that incredisnow? Buffalo still digging out. This was a palate cleanser...needed a break from writing a longer work. Hope you are churning out something fantastic :)
Congratulations on the shortlist! I knew I'd see your name here this morning 😁🎉
Always a rush 😎 Thanks for the support. Onward!
I suppose I should start off by stating that I have developed an instant and deep-seated jealousy of you because your writing is about 1,729 times better than mine. So there's that. I should also state that I have been the 44th person to click the 'Like' icon for this story, and this leads me to believe that I am the 44th person to read it. I can't imagine anyone reading it and not liking it. Where to start? The second or third paragraph, I think: "Isn’t that what you’re really after—a return to Eden? Minus the snake. Minus the apple. Minu...
No need for jealousy — sometimes the words, phrases, and clauses just align. (Monkeys typing the works of Shakespeare and all that…) I am honored by you comment. Perhaps you’d like to collaborate sometime?
I'd love to, Deidra! Working with you sounds fantastic, though I feel as if I might be the weak link in this chain. Thank you very much for the offer. It is truly appreciated.
Check my bio and we can discuss. Also — join some of us on the Discord channel.
This is wild, spirited writing - like hang on and buckle up, not for the faint of heart journeying. I absolutely love it.
I absolutely love your comment :)
I love your style! Its definitely the type to inspire and move. I think many readers and authors alike can relate to this. It stirs something deep in everyone's soul. The lonely pain, the screaming agony, and the burning hate. Whatever it may be, many need to experience it and deal with it. Your piece here will definitely help.
Thanks, Olivia. Unfortunately, it's hard to pass on personal experiences with grief. We can only watch sufferers from a distant shore and wave, maybe shout encouragement. But it's the loneliest of places :)
A polished pleasure, an ode to grief, as neat as a solar system. The swift, clean prose darts wittily about the central, weighty, ill-defined blob of grief. But can we do without our burden of grief? I think not. The galaxy gains order and light from the black hole at its center. Our microscopes and telescopes peer, but 95% of matter remains dark. The kaleidoscope appeals to the intellect but disallows a foothold in infinity. Grief ain’t a walk in the park, but at least it has gravity and, given enough eons, will supernova.
Holy smokes, Mr. Bell. I may have to read a Carl Sagan book or two to decode your comment. (Where's Bill Nye or Neil deGrasse Tyson when you need them?) It's nice to know that even black holes have a purpose in the general scheme of things. I'd like to believe there is some semblance of order and light in the universe. Something should be organized, for heaven's sake. Even if it's a sock drawer... And is 95% of matter dark or just misunderstood? :)
JL Borges peers into his sock drawer and sees ... ?
I read the other comments and wish I could view this story and the world with such a perceptive microscope. Alas, all I can say is I loved it. Your mastery of the written word leaves me speechless.
Mr. Casper, you are making me blush.
And perhaps the coloured shards, and the chance to wonder at them, is what our grief and perhaps life will amount to....this is Mary Poppins' carpetbag taken to a whole new, deeper, level. The objects inside the bag are just the ones which should be inside that bag of grief but it's what the narrator proposes we do with them that's transformative, as each will help us to live on and not keep just plodding with the bag some dead weight. I was expecting the bag to be abandoned; I'm so glad it wasn't. There was some very interesting meta narrat...
Huge fan of your work, Rebecca. Thanks for coming by and reading my ruminations. I wasn't sure if this was going to come across as contrived, trite, or nonsensical. (I'm still not sure. I had to rewrite the ending a bazillion times.) It was quite a kaleidoscope itself to conjure up. Grief is such an elusive feeling, I remembered loving kaleidoscopes as a kid; they made magic out of the ordinary. Grief seems to strip the pleasure out of life; at first, colors have no hue, touch no feel, smell/taste no pleasure, etc. Only sight remains. Yo...
Your fears are unfounded; I found it quite wonderful. Enjoy Duffy; she really is a remarkable poet. Her collection of love poems, Rapture, is just that. Making magic out of the ordinary; we writers are just shifting those coloured shards: kaleidoscopic writing. Thanks for reminding us all what a gift we have with each humble word.
Ugh, all of this is a pleasant punch to the gut, which I previously did not think possible until I read this beautiful piece of work. Imagine if this had been left with as a piece of scripture; I read it as a profound and universal guide for humanity. I loved your incredible use of alliteration (all those D words, and the gremlin and goblins and grief). Short and concise lines and paragraphs that leave no room for imagination because they are so full of image already (isn't that what every writer wants to be capable of?). Wonderful job thi...
"Pleasant punch to the gut." (Thank you?) hahhahaha - I think this is my favorite compliment of all time. Thanks for ascribing a deeper meaning to my scribblings. This was a whole new speaker persona for me; the vibe I was going for was a crazy-cool-Aunt-telling-you-to-quit-feeling-sorry-for-yourself. It just occurred to me that it's probably my older sister's voice. We were very close and she passed away 16 years ago. I miss her and her council all the time. Thanks for the amazing commentary. Your words make me feel like I've won alread...
I did indeed mean that as a compliment! But I was raised with tough love and I appreciate when people use this voice - it is tough but it toughens people when it is confident and wise (I didn't get the crazy aunt vibes, but that might be a reflection of my own craziness)- so it sounds that your sister was both (wise and confident, not crazy)! I'm sorry for the loss of her, but it seems you've found a way to remain connected to her, calling upon her voice and writing through it. I find writing to be my most effective and prominent form of pro...
Seeing "it" through a camera lens, a magnifying glass and a kaleidoscope. Brilliant use of optical metaphors. This is another story, along with "Shuttered Hearts," that deserves to be analyzed and discussed in a chapter to a dissertation in English. One of my favorite lines: “'Drawstring' starts with the letter D. So do discouragement, disappointment, delusion, damage, deceit, divorce, disease, and death." D; a weighty letter, indeed. But on another, more upbeat note, I need to ask, "How is the latest book going?"
Mike! :) Thanks for the read. The older I get, the more I understand how perspective is everything. You could say that my perspective on perspective has definitely changed over the years, (She said, pushing up her trifocals.) The latest book is definitely experiencing a sophomore slump. It's not great literature; hopefully good entertainment. Looking forward to beta reading your chapters at some point? :) "D"-eidra
Deidra, I have faith the slump will soon become more of a slalom. If you're interested in reading what may be part of a chapter of the novel on the normalcy of psychosis for neurodivergent types (which include the characters Nino, Foley Gaspers and Tay Schwartz), you might be interested in my submission for this week. Feel free to even suggest that I discard it, if that's what your viscera advise. Let's not forget "D" for delectable as well (it can't be all bad). Take care.
And "D" for doughnuts! 🍩 🍩 🍩 🍩 🍩 🍩 🍩 🍩
Glazed and sprinkled with bacon, my favorite!
Congrats on your shortlisted story. It was amazing!
Glad to see you on Discord. Lots of talented and generous (and FUNNY) people there.
Thanks for telling me about it. And I'd love to beta read for you. It would be an honor.
Woah. This was so packed full of...everything. This story captures a lot of the human experience. I love the metaphor of the bag of grief; it's a compelling, tangible image. The objects in the bags are great symbols as well. I'm just going to take out some lines and talk about those, because like, wow. You could spend forever analyzing this. - "Experience. A charming euphemism for pain and suffering. Either one will drive out innocence altogether." - Is that the truth or what? - "A church lady clutching her oversized handbag full of mints ...
I love comments longer (and more intelligent) than the story (!) I'm so sorry for the loss of your grandmother. Love makes us vulnerable, but what's the alternative? :) And yes: bonfire for all magnifying glasses. We just don't have the time to waste. As for grasping, I'll turn it over to my buddy here: "Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, Or what's a heaven for?" - Robert Browning
A magnificent quote. Thank you!
You wrote some excellent prose here Deidra! There are sections with a lovely cadence and sound, and you can tell you've thought of each word, or else they just flow to you naturally! This is one of my faves: 'The glittering bits shift. The symmetrical patterns are impermanent, ever-changing with a flick of a wrist.'
Thanks, Edward! I've probably been teaching high school English too long. Alliteration, anaphora, assonance, onomatopoeia...rinse and repeat. :)
Great story! I use the telescope the most of my tools for finding perspective, stepping back however I feel the kaleidoscope is the most valuable because truly we are like the Frost poem, 'The Road Not Taken' justifying a choice through hindsight. Does meaning exist, do we exist? I Read, therefore I Am.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep, But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.
Gorgeous writing. The multi-faceted tone and structure of this story so beautifully ties into your kaleidoscopic title/theme. The rhythm and concision and alliteration in these lines made me go back and reread them to see just how you did it: "You’re like a paranoid vagrant pushing around your prized possessions in a wobbly shopping cart. A shady businessman shoving his shredded tax returns into a nondescript briefcase. A hobo hoarding cans of ham and beans in a big red handkerchief tied on the end of a stick. A church lady clutching her ov...
I majored in Snark in college, with a minor in Wit. Thanks for the read, Aeris. I so look forward to your novel(s) :)