I used to think I was invincible. Nothing could hurt me without me fighting back. Then I realized I was my strongest when I accepted pain, when I saw ‘letting go’ as a state of being and not a forced action, when I listened to my heart for not just running fast at something or someone, but listened to it for slowing down, taking a breath…for protecting it against what doesn’t feel right anymore. I realized peace in the middle of a trail run, surrounded by tall greens and dancing waters. The night before felt like four months prior; constricted in a bar by a person who wasn’t there. That night, things, moments flickered fast. I recognized the Vance Joy song, Georgia , on the radio. My friend called his number from her phone, he answered. At a gray booth within a small San Diego bar called “The Red Door,” it felt like he was there, I felt small. As she rang his line, that’s when the Vance Joy lyrics disrupted my anxious mind. It was a familiar sound, words that strike you, putting you in a calm fire.
“ She is something to behold
Elegant and bold
She is electricity
Running to my soul”
Same room, but I was away from him, from this call that weighed heavy like the large stones painting the
bar’s face. I drifted, unknowing, into,
“ Pulling me back into the flames
and I’m burning up”
“ I never should have let you see inside
Won’t you let it be”
“Well, he answered — ”
“He said, Hello.”
I didn’t know whether to cry or scream or have the two actions dance together in the middle. I couldn’t think or feel. She swishes her leather skirt against the booth, a prevalent noise, signifying she’s leaving.
“If you want to call him, you can. I’ll leave my phone. I’m going outside.” She walks away like this is nothing.
“I never thought your love was worth it’s wait
Well now you’ve come and gone
I finally worked it out”
He answered. He said Hello . The prior two minutes rang in my head. He was there. Someone who was so far away from me for four months. A stranger stares at me in phases of six clutching months- a moon of film reeling- running to car windows, parks at midnight, behind dark trees, dark corners of rooms, restaurants. Extending poetics on lined, ripped journal pages, more than two open hands in one day, every naked thought in three hour conversations. Where I smiled and laughed and cried and became too stuck in moments. Where I didn’t stop running. Chasing. Where I fought strong and weak. Where I’m sitting in a bar now, months later, not afraid to admit those mistakes.
He was there. A slap to the face he was there. Reaching out with no response, he was there. I didn’t want him to hurt me there anymore.
I feel loose tears, a smile ascending into my cheeks. It’s like a happy-sad song. There’s freeness building throughout indigo veins, making breathing while crying easy.
“You ready?” She has a big grin on her face.
I nod with a full-moon smile. She grabs the phone. Before I know it, we’re leaving to get into an Uber. I’m sitting between two tipsy strangers. I feel lighter than I did at the bar. We’re making a loop-turn to get on the freeway, I look above me to see an opening, a sunroof. All I think in that moment is, I want to fly.
“Hey! Hey!… — my arm reaching out— Can I go out of your sunroof?” I’m shouting at the driver like he’s football fields’ away. The strangers harmonize laughter — the ‘is this drunk chick serious’ giggles — little do they know that it’s not alcohol talking, it’s happiness, freedom. The driver twists his head. “Sure, sweetie — I start motioning myself to the open night sky — as soon as we’re off the freeway.” My frame, mid-air, sinks down. “Okay, that’s fair.”
“Girl you’re awesome!” my new friends cheer me on as I look ahead. The signs reading, Sea-World Dr. , Clairmont Dr., Balboa. I eye Clairmont strong. It’s my exit. As we veer off, I wonder if I wait for his signal. He turns onto Clairmont and I think, “F*ck it!” I rise and turn with the wind. My crowded section of two people screaming “Woo’s” and “Yesss Girls,’” “We love it!” Then, the screams become distant. I’m out with street lights and star speckles. I’m travelling fast through each light. Head back, hair flying. I close my eyes for split seconds— breathe in, out. The ‘out’ lasts much longer — those ‘on top of the world moments’ — for me, everything goes away. I was out of any moment but now. I don’t want it to end. To feel stuck. In a bar. In six months prior. In just the backseat of an Uber. I want this free, to be a constant. A flow, a dance, a living — a state of being. Pulling up to my apartment, this isn’t where I start crying.
Something has left me, but I don’t cry yet.
I thank the driver for his role, his heart more than anything. We’re on the ground now.
“So, it was a good night, you crazy beauty.” She looks at me to make sure I’m okay.
“It really was girl, thank you.”
I go up to the apartment, straight to my bedroom, feeling wobbly like the rye wants to
check in again. I crash slow onto the bed, fast into my pillow.
Something leaves me.
If tears had muscles, it would be these tears — swinging at scars, wounds, bruises. Invisible bleeding. All of them painted on my pillow who couldn’t fight back. Nothing could. I didn’t turn the light on. If I took myself out of the freeze frame of crying in a black room, it would feel like so much time had past. So many moves inside me — waves (of ocean), phases (of moon), rises and sets (of sun) — those natural kinds of motion.
But time wasn’t there.
Happy cries strike angry cries that smack sad cries.
I promised myself two weeks ago that my letter to him, a final stitch of closure, where I penned together every vulnerable skeleton of feelings, ‘things I could have changed ,’ ‘my side of
the story,’ how everything was of good intention, a genuine heart — that braid of sacred ink was it.
Through this stream of tears, the letter sunk its beautiful claws in me — I gave myself, my heart to someone I wanted to give it to, I was proud of it. But, he didn’t take it. He didn’t even graze the thought or potential of it. Maybe it scared him, the spark that could electrocute him…the blaze that could burn him. But, the other ‘but ’ is that I couldn’t care anymore. I didn’t want to care anymore.
This moment was more powerful than anything.
Being vulnerable, wearing your heart on your sleeve like an emblem — vulnerability as strength is my namesake. In the bar, my dark bedroom — I decided he didn’t deserve that beauty anymore. I cried for me more than anything or anyone else that night. Release. Passion. Connection. A click in life. Where things collide. Where things make sense. Acceptance and peace holding strong hands. I promised to protect myself, and up until that night, I didn’t know what that meant. To me, protection wasn’t a concept when it came to my heart. I run fast at things I want, especially flickers of love. He wasn’t the wall that broke my spirit, my free-loving energy would just sparkle in different directions, towards parts of life that give back, my dreams, aspirations.
That next morning, I went to one of my favorite running trails. It was a cloudy day. I ran the trail into the trees, over a bridge, stopped. Calm, quiet air. My breaths from running weren’t short enough to make noise. Looked to my left, looked to my right — emptiness, peacefulness. I felt alone in the strongest way. I picked up a huge brownish-yellow leaf on the ground, holding it with intent. I wanted to remember this slice of time. Everything that mattered so much to me flickered, and the past, that significant part of past within one person, it was let go. Not just last night with a mix of tears. But now, with only happy tears. The concept ‘happy ’ is what made it easy and right. He didn’t bring me happiness, he didn’t need to. As much as I used to think this one person controlled my smiles and joy, he never did. It’s always been me. The things in life that give back to me, life itself, the world outside of one person. I realized peace when it clicked — my happiness is at my own expense. It always has been. And it’s stronger than any wound. My universal message is to not ignore your pain or your heart. To listen in all voices. To let dots connect on their own. And when you least expect it, life happens and makes sense. Peace is found.
Today, I still have that big leaf (it’s a little dried out, still beautiful, forever significant).
Author: Stacey L Herrle
Author Bio: My name is Stacey Herrle. I am a driven writer and full-fledged dreamer. For me, my writing and dreams go hand-in-hand, and I derive my inspiration most from the heart, personal experience, and adventure. As a writer, I want to connect to others and leave a mark. I want to make noise, to write artistically. To write fire. Electric. Raw. The things that are scary to write. To shake it up. Tell my truth. One day, I dream to be a powerful voice for individuals who have trouble living out what’s in their heart- the feelings, the truths, the wants, and vulnerable doors and windows they want to open and share. Overall, I vow to be a writer that makes a difference when it comes to matters of the heart and being proud of who we are.
Link to social media or website: Instagram @posted_duck