journals my inside voice

cookie smuggler

Often my own writing bores me, but that’s to be expected when my own thoughts bore me, too.  The problem is not the glitchy syntax, or the clickety-clacked rhythm, or the improvised grammatical leaps.

The problem is, I am non-fiction.  I rarely ever write something fictional and, when I do, it is heavily doused in the trueness of a real life experience. Everything I write, I have already thought about.  Everything I think about, I have already lived.

It’s unappetizing.

It’s recycled content that I drown in a soup made of itself.   It is a cold raindrop falling into an old ocean.  It is a day’s sweat being washed free in a well-earned shower.  It is wish-heavied tear diving into a well.

Water to water, words to words.  It is all the same.

There are topics I am bored by, but I am not free of the stories that build themselves from my thoughts.   Often lately, I start writing only to ask myself why.  Will this build a better world? A stronger world? A softer world?  Will this inspire action or love? Will this cleanse my mind of a thought it does not need to hold alone? Will this turn an idea into a process?  Will it heal anybody, even a little bit, maybe even myself?

In county jail, the girls would open up a sack nasty, and take out the four slices of bread and pack of four county cookies.  They would put the cookies in between two slices, and eat it like a sandwich.  They were those types of cookies that pre-date Oreos, but now just look like sad, vanilla Oreo knock-offs.  My late husband used to buy them from the dollar store.  He liked to fill his pockets with them, and then– for no reason, usually in the middle of a solemn or important moment, press one firmly into the palm of my hand.  I gave a eulogy with a cookie hidden in my hand once.

When it was time to make my plea deal official, the officer let me carry a cookie in my palm, if I promised to not let anyone see it.  He cuffed me and let me out of the concrete cell I had been sitting in for over 6 hours.  My muscles were aching from sitting on the cold flat surface, and I was disoriented from being up since 3am.  My eyes were tired from seeing sunshine on the drive over, the first natural light I’d seen in weeks.  I followed the arrows on the ground, up a flight of stairs, and another, and then turned into the court room.  Every time I tripped, the cookie would smush a little in the palm of my hand.

They locked me in a cage the size of a normal studio apartment shower, facing the courtroom.  I hid the cookie from everyone, just in case.  Three walls were a tangled metal design, but the one connecting me to another cage was just plexiglass.  That was the side for boys.  In there was a man who was a hairdresser and through the proceedings, whenever no one was looking, he would write his booking number, in mirrored form, on the glass with his tongue.  He wanted me to write him.

It was warm in the courthouse, a comfortable temperature-controlled type of room, and I signed my final papers through a slot in the tangled wire wall.  My lawyer was beautiful, I thought.  A woman who looked like she was built from a medley of strengths.  The officer guarding the door was tall and seemed to be singing music to himself.  He might’ve looked mean if he hadn’t kept tapping his foot and subtly shimmying his shoulders.  It was a good song, I’m guessing.

When I was sentenced, he opened the door for me to return to the cells below.  I smiled up at him, looking directly in his eyes to say thank you.  He hesitated, then leaned down and whispered to me: “Don’t write him, little cookie-smuggler. Men is trash.  Keep on gettin’ your sugah someplace else.”

I guess I didn’t make for a very good cookie smuggler.

Before entering the concrete cells again, the officers below removed my cuffs.  My wrists were bruised from holding and hiding the cookie, but it was worth it.  The cell was cold, the sliding metal bars closing me in with new faces.  We were out of toilet paper and the water fountain didn’t work.  These girls had arrived after lunch because of a scheduling error.  They hadn’t eaten all day and were picking through what was left behind by the girls with whom I arrived.

I opened my hand to look at the crumbled cookie, thinking about what I would see next, thinking about all the things I wouldn’t see for a year still, thinking about all the things I would have to get through without cookies or Dave.

A sprite-sized young girl with two black eyes and bruises everywhere sat down next to me.  I didn’t know her yet, but later she would live in the same dorm.  She’d be there a month, depending on state-appointed legal assistance, before the court decided that locking her boyfriend out of his house in the rain wasn’t abuse.  It was self-defense.  The judge only fined her for the window her boyfriend broke while trying to get back inside.  By then, she had lost her job for being gone so long and so suddenly– but she loved him still.  Bruises fade like memories, you see.  I would’ve warned her, but back in that moment, I didn’t know her at all.

“Wanna talk about it?” she asked.  I didn’t, so I shook my head.

“In that case,” she said with a grin, “can I have the cookie?”

I laughed and peeled the pieces of it into her hand, telling her I’d been holding it for over an hour.  She ate it anyway.

Cookies aren’t any kind of substance, and these re-hashed knock offs weren’t any kind of interesting, but when you’re in a particular kind of need,

they will fill you up.

They will give you the strength to survive and the will to heal.

And maybe that’s why my mind won’t let these memories fade.  Maybe it’s why these thoughts just keep falling on my head, like raindrops that used to be oceans.  Maybe it’s why they drown me, like oceans that used to be tears.

It’s all just water.

It’s all just words.   Sometimes, often, it’s as unappetizing as a cookie that’s been squeezed in a stranger’s sweaty palm for an hour.

But I try to remind myself:

When you’re in a particular kind of need, running on a particular kind of empty,
it might just be the thing that fills you up.

 

_____________

P.S. I’m sorry the site is a mess.  I’ll clean up soon.

28 comments

  1. Ha! You don’t need to write to save the world Ra. Or to help anyone. Just write for you so these stories don’t keep rolling around inside your head. Every single person that can benefit in some way from reading your stories will magically find them without you having to do a thing.
    I benefit from reading them. Every time I’m bowled over by your writing and by your strength.
    Much love
    Alison xox

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Beautifully written, your non-fiction life leaves a surrealistic taste in my mind. Like in the virtual world, cookies also represent a tag in time, a vignette of stories and holographic dreams.

    * “Blessed be the one who sits down.” 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, Ra. Your words are entirely edible, and if I may say, a delicacy. I wish to have half that skill for fact or fiction! You can make rainbows from dishwater.

    Thank you for the cookie. xx

    P.S. So far, I like the new format better. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I love reading your writing. How amazing that you were able to show a stranger kindness, even amidst the crazy horror your life was becoming. Our world needs more stories like this. The cookie may have crumbled, but the light of your soul still shone through it all.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Mmm, that filled me up to the brim. What a great practice, to ask ourselves why we write. If you ever need a reason, please just think of me. I’m sitting beside you asking for the crumbled cookie you held in your hand for an hour or a month or a year or a lifetime. ❤

    P.S. What mess?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. ❤ I love it when you write. I leave the posts open on the computer (or before, the letters on the table) to read over and over. Your words sing on the page and even when you write about things I don't know, and haven't lived they still connect. It's the thing you wish for everytime you open a book by a new author right? That as a reader you find a writer who's words know how to sing to you. So, as one reader to another, I hope the part of you that writes sometimes keeps it up because you are one of this readers favorite authors. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  7. That was beautiful Ra. And words are important even though they seem to used and re-used again..just as some memories are important..as long as we carry them within light 🙂 Hugs

    Like

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