Monday, June 18, 2012

Vagina Blog: No Longer a Dirty Word

In response to the recent political debate involving lawmaker Lisa Brown to be silenced, a movement towards women's voices being heard speaking against this unfair treatment not only toward Miss Brown, but to all women everywhere who are being treated unfairly by the political system, has sprung up. It all started with Veillee contributor Rachel Lynn Brody reaching out to Vagina Monologues writer, Eve Ensler, asking her if she would she be willing to support a round-the-clock reading of her play outside the Michigan State Legislature. Ensler responded by organizing the reading TONIGHT on the steps of MI's capitol. Now, Rachel is organizing one in Union Square, NYC, and heeding the call for bloggers and women-lovers everywhere to have their voices heard.

Here is Veillee co-founder Jessica Pherson having her voice heard. If you have something you'd like to say concerning this issue, please send it to At the very least, spread the word and love your vagina!

No Longer a Dirty Word
by Jessica Pherson

Growing up for me, vagina WAS a dirty word.

It was practically a curse. It felt wrong in my mouth when I said it- even uttered it -and it made me feel…uncomfortable. 

I could never really explain why, but I think I know now. I was only a kid then, simply absorbing the thoughts and feelings of those around me, and clearly, they felt that vagina was not a word you were to speak out loud, unless perhaps in a doctor's office. Even then it was a bit…taboo. To say the name of a body part. Yes, taboo. 

Even as a teenager and young adult  I chose to use other words to describe my vagina, such as "my lady parts", or simply, "down there". Yes, down there. The forbidden region below my waistline. 

For whatever reason, saying penis wasn't as bad. I'd still prefer to say "dick" or "schlong" or "rod" or whatever, but saying penis was never as bad as saying vagina. Vagina. Vagina, vagina, vagina.

I'm all grown up now and I can say it out loud without getting that weird twitch in my tummy that tells me I just said something I shouldn't have. It's the name of my genitals. My birth canal. Where all human life comes from. Why on Earth should I be embarrassed to call it by its given name? 

I have even heard a story from my friend's mother who used to be a nurse, where a woman from a Spanish-speaking country didn't know what the word vagina meant, and thought it sounded lovely. So, she named her daughter Vagina. True story. Somebody out there thinks its a pretty name.

A few years back, I took part in a spiritual ceremony where, with a group, I went into a deep meditation and entered the nether regions of my mind, bringing to light many hidden away thoughts and feelings to the surface so they could be dealt with properly. It was a profound and cleansing experience to say the very least, and one of the feelings I dealt with had to do with my body image and the way I saw my vagina. Apparently, not so subconsciously, I felt that my vagina was ugly and weird. My higher self decided this just could not go on, so I was given a fantastic visual display of vaginas pasted onto faces and flying through the air and generally forced into my vision, up close and personal. And, at first, it made me uncomfortable, as much as I hate to admit that. But, then I saw its beauty. I saw it for the rose that it is, and I felt so happy I couldn't stop smiling. This was something so magnificent, and it was a part of me. I have one of those, I recall thinking. This is the mystical organ that brings human life to this world and brings men to their knees. This is the organ that starts conflict and debate and power. Power to ME. Why oh why should I feel anything negative towards it all?

Yet, here we are. So many of us human still look upon this appendage, this "God's stab wound", as something that causes trouble, and therefore must be controlled. By men. Not the women who they belong to, but the men who somehow got the idea that they are higher than God and believe they are the ones to decide what goes in and out of these "love caves." 

But, NO MORE. Tonight, in Michigan and in NYC and wherever else women who are not taking this crap anymore are standing together to bring attention to this situation before it gets any more out of hand than it already has. I invite you to the steps of Michigan's capital to join Eve Ensler of "The Vagina Monologues" fame and stand in unity against this war against the rights of women everywhere. Can't make it to MI? Join Rachel Lynn Brody and many other amazing women (maybe even myself) tonight at Union Square in Manhattan to bring the message there. Can't make it to NYC either? Start your own gathering wherever you are, however you can. Whether it be in a public place with a large crowd, in the privacy of your own home, or simply in a post like this on the internet- get the word out there! Let's stand in unity whatever way possible and have our voices heard! No bra burning this time- it's time to use our words, our hearts, and our inner vagina-love to put a stop to this silent battle that will be silent no more.

Thanks for reading, I hope I made some impact and perhaps awakened something inside of you as well. Please feel free to submit your words to The Veillee for publishing if you have no where else to put it, and we will be happy to share it every way possible. 

More links related to this endeavor:

Sunday, June 17, 2012


Please consider participating in this effort! We will be joining other bloggers and concerned citizens tomorrow evening at Union Square.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

On Duarte Street: Part II

Today we present the second part of On Duarte Street. Please read, enjoy, and don't forget to leave Mia some feedback!

© Regina Garcia, 2012

A Selection From:
An Illustrated Novel in Four Parts
Written by Marirosa Mia Garcia
Illustrated by Regina Garcia

Part II

Inside, the Bruja motioned towards a large red chair for the Girl to sit while she went into the kitchen. It made a strange creaking noise as the Girl sat and she bounced up and down several times just to see what other noises it would make. The Girl ran her fingers across the fabric of the large red chair as her eyes danced across the room, drinking everything in. The Witch’s apartment was stuck in the days of dinner parties and deep rich fabrics; when men still wore linen guayaberas and furniture had wicker inlays.  Though well kept, it didn’t stop time from wearing out the fabrics and dulling its colors here and there.  The couch – large and imposing – retained the imprints of the bodies that once spent hours lounging on it.
The Bruja returned with a plate of cookies and sat in the chair opposite the Girl.
¿Que quieres?” she asked, fiddling with one of the two gold rings around her fingers.
This seemed to be a simple question to the Girl.
Mi abuela,” she answered.
The witch shook her head. She is gone. You know this.
“You cannot bring her back?”
“No. She is on another journey now.”
“It’s not fair!” the chair squeaked as the Girl slammed her hand against the armrest.
“It never is. But that’s not why you are here. ¿Que quieres?
“I don’t understand.”
“Yes, you do. ¿Que quieres? What do you want? Your grandmother is dead, yes. But there is something that you want. It nags at you. It’s why you are here, why you sat at the steps.”
The Girl – nose scrunched once again - stared at the ceiling. The Bruja waited, patiently, the plate of cookies still in her hand. She was in no rush. This part often took the longest. Then finally, as if she had found the answer in the cracks the Girl smiled.
“I want to say goodbye,” the Girl said.
Si,” the Bruja said and placed the plate with three cookies in front of the Girl.  “That is it, then. I can help you with that.”
    The Girl reached over grabbed one cookie, taking a large bite as she listened.
“You will need three things,” the Bruja said, watching the crumbs fall down deep into her carpet, fighting the urge to clean them.
Three things?”
Yes. The first, I have, and would be glad to lend to you. You will, of course, return it to me at the end of your journey.”
The Bruja reached under her blouse and produced a shiny gold key that dangled from a chain. It shone for a moment in the sunlight before the Bruja removed it from her neck and handed it to the Girl who turned it back and forth in her hand.
A key?”
Si, una llave. You will need it to cross the boundary.”
The Girl finished the cookie, placed the key inside her pocket and reached for the second cookie.
The boundary?” the Girl asked.
“Yes. Between Life and Death. It will be the first of the few boundaries you will be able to cross and return from.”
How many – ”
The Bruja held up her hand. “Many. But only a few are known to the living.”
How- how did you get this key?”
The Bruja chuckled and her cheeks turned red.
“I’m afraid that is a very long and complicated story, only half of which is mine. I would love to share it, pero, time is short. Now, the second object you will need is knowledge.”
At this, the Girl brightened quite a bit.
I’m very smart,” the Girl said. “My teacher tells me so all the time.”
Do you know any riddles? ¿Adivinanzas?
The Girl’s shoulders fell and she shoved the last of the second cookie in her mouth. “No.”
Ask your grandfather. I remember he had the best adivinanzas in the world, back when I was young and he was single. You will need them, just in case.”
Just in case what?”
“Just in case. A good riddle is invaluable in certain situations.”
The Girl reached for the last cookie.
    “Finally, the third thing,” the Bruja said picking up a large crumb that had fallen. “Which might be the hardest thing you will need to get: Four traveling coins.”
“What are traveling coins?”
“They are coins that have seen the world and back in the pockets of a traveler. They start off as nickels, dimes, quarters – but through time they change. They become more. They have gone on many journeys and you will need them for yours. To get a traveler to part with four coins will be a hard task. But you will need them to cross – for safe passage with the boatman - to reach her before it is too late to say goodbye. And, of course, to return.”
I must find a traveler then?”
And get him to part with the coins.”
Once I have the three things, what do I do?”
The Bruja stood and reached for the empty plate, to take back to the kitchen. When she returned she had a small bag with a few more cookies and a small glass bottle.  She handed the cookies to the Girl.
Escucha. These stairs that lead down to your grandfather’s apartment, they keep going.”
“They don’t. They stop at his door.”
Callate y escucha. Yes, they do. When you’re ready to start your journey, I want you to stand behind the steps, right where the stairs form their shadow. With the key in your hand, your shadow must reach into the darkness and open the door.”
My shadow?” the Girl pointed to herself. “A door? There is no door, there’s just a wall.”
Trust me. There’s a door; it has always been there. You’ve seen it many times, but like many things that can only be seen from the corner of your eye, you disregard it. We all do. But, it is there.”
The Bruja continued, telling the Girl a few things she would likely encounter, the things she would need to know – just in case. The Bruja knew many things, but not all.
Now you must go. If you wait too long, the sun will disappear.”
     As the Bruja ushered the Girl out the door she handed her the small bottle and wrapped the Girl’s hands around it.
A small favor, for myself.” the Bruja said. “A bit of earth, if you don’t mind.”
A bit of earth from below. When you can. That’s all I need. When you return, I would like to hear about your journey. There are many things I still do not know and would love to learn. Therefore, you must be careful. Don’t lose the key and don’t lose yourself. Remember who you are at all times and why you are there – that is the best advice I can give you. A memory is a terrible thing to lose and to forget things would be very bad. Now go.”
As the Girl turned to leave, the Bruja grabbed her hand and brought her close once again. The Bruja held the Girl’s face in her hand and waited for their eyes to meet.
It will be hard, this journey. But I have no doubt you will make it. I see it in your eyes,” the Witch smiled. “Yet I also see stubbornness – I recognized it as I would my own. And I tell you this de todo corazón  – your grandmother is dead. She is dead. Don’t forget that.”
And even though she wished that she had given the Girl some words of inspiration, the Bruja knew that it would do more harm than good. Letting the Girl go, she turned back inside and closed the door. Holding the bag of cookies and glass bottle, the Girl headed down the steps. She stopped to collect the soda her Grandfather had left her, then entered the apartment. She passed her parents as they called relatives on the phone - discussing arrangements.
Si, al medio dia. Funeral…” she heard her mother say into the phone.
Heading to the kitchen she placed the soda on the counter but kept the bag of cookies with her.
Then she entered her grandfather’s bedroom, where he sat in his rocking chair – very quiet, very still. When he saw her, he mustered a weak smile in her direction.
Dime, did she open the door?”
The Girl nodded.
¿Que dijo?
“She said you used to tell riddles. She said you were very good. Can you tell me one?”
Her Grandfather smiled and motioned to his lap. He whispered the riddle into her ear and she scrunched up her face.
“I don’t get it.”
He smiled and tugged at her ponytail. “Think about it.”
Minutes later the Girl walked out of the room in search of the four coins. Back in the room, her Grandfather sat, in his chair, letting the warmth of the day settle in his bones. He wasn’t sure what for, but there he stayed. Waiting for his own journey to start perhaps.
The Girl didn’t have to go far in search for the coins, just a few steps outside the doors of the Duarte building, out into the blazing sun. As if waiting for her all along, the Old Man turned and extended his hand.
“You owe me a quarter,” he said to the Girl. “I cut to the chase when it comes to people owing me things, tu sabes? Otherwise quarters just pile up all over the place.”
Yes, I know,” she said to him like she’d owed quarters before and wasn’t worried.
Well, where is it? I don’t see any quarter.”
“I don’t have any right now.”
     The Old Man huffed and started to walk away.
“Wait! Necesito algo.”
“You need something from me? You owe me a quarter, what makes you think- ”
“Please,” the Girl said and her eyes started to tear.
The Old Man’s shoulders slumped in defeat and he kicked the dirt in front of him. “¿Que? What do you need?”
Four traveling coins,” she said, shifting her weight from one leg to the other.
The Old Man stared at the Girl like she’d sprouted a second head.
¿Queque?! What did you say?”
Coins for safe passage.”
I know what they are! Why do you need them?”
I need them. Do you have any?”
Quizas. Depende. What will you give me? I don’t do charity!”
     The Girl presented the bag of cookies.
“What else do you have?”
Moments later the Old Man gulped down a can of soda with one hand, while the other held the bag of cookies and 2 other sodas.
“Ahhhhhhhhhhh. Not a cervesita but it’s not bad.”
He handed the Girl the four small coins that once upon a time used to be quarters, nickels, dimes, but now, either warped by time or magic, were something else. She inspected them closely; holding them up to the light then placed them in her pocket.
“Can’t use those to buy candy. Only good for one thing.”
“Safe passage,” she said.
“You’ll need it where you’re going.”
How do you know where I’m going?”
Only one place to go with those.”
Where did you get them?”
Always keep some coins on my self,” he patted his pocket that jingled softly. “Just in case. You never know when you need to pay the fare.”
How do you know so much?”
He looked away.I travel – things have a way of finding me.”
    Tucking the cans and cookies into his pocket, he waved to the Girl as he turned.
You still owe me a quarter. Don’t forget. I won’t.”
     The Girl sat on the steps for a moment, staring at the objects she’d gathered.  The sun bounced off each one as she moved them around on her palm. Eventually, she placed the objects in her pockets and walked around the stairs to where the shadow dwelled. She walked by the shadow several times, trying to catch a glimpse of the door as she passed. A woman entered the building and stared at the Girl for a moment – puzzled by her actions. The Girl stopped and smiled politely, as her mother had always taught her.
    “It’s hard to look out of the corner of your eyes,” the Girl said. “I forget to hold still and then it’s no longer the corner.”
The woman nodded, as if understanding, and smiled before she rushed up the stairs to her apartment.  The Girl returned to her task. She studied her own shadow and practiced for a moment – extending her empty hand forward – making her shadow hand disappear below the steps. She found that because the sun was in an odd position she had to lean forward just a bit before extending her hand. She fell in a couple of times and even disappeared into the darkness below the steps, before re-emerging seconds later in a panic.
Finally, finding the correct footing, she took the key from her pocket and reached into the dark.
For a moment the Girl’s hand remained suspended in the shadow. Nothing happened. Then, slowly, the shadow wound itself around her hand, causing it to turn slightly to the right. The Girl’s eyes widened; a sliver of light – not white, but orange, red, and violet - colors of the dusk – sliced through.
The Girl glanced at her Grandfather’s apartment door for a moment, worry and doubt clouding her thoughts. Shaking her head to get rid of them, she turned back to the opening.
“Remember who I am and why I am there,” she said to no one in particular before stepping into the light and down, down the endless steps made of tree roots and old ruins jutting out of the ground. The light was darker now, deeper tones of orange and red.
The stairs kept going and going. They turned into small bridges over large chasms then back to stairs. She stopped on one occasion to look at a ruin that peeked out of the earth, its marbled columns like weeds. Finally, the stairs ended, and an open expanse lay before her; an underground cavern as infinite as the universe, yet not.
A place where in its darkness you could almost see the edge of infinity, as the night starts to play at the edge of our universe.
    The Girl placed the key – which had been dangling from her hand – back into her pocket. She took out two of the traveling coins and rolled them over in her hands, then put back in her pocket.
“Now where do I go?

To be continued...

We sincerely hope to see the full illustrated novel in print sometime soon, Mia. (The sooner the better!) Thank you so very much for sharing.

Marirosa Mia Garcia was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from the New School in New York City. Her first novel, On Duarte Street, is an illustrated novel inspired by the residents of Duarte Street in Santurce. You can often find her reviewing books on

To learn more about the author, please take a look at her Q&A in the Matchbox section of this blog.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

On Duarte Street: Part I

Hello, beautiful people! We are so excited to introduce the work of a writer whose imagination knows no bounds. (Hyperbolic? Not in the least.) Marirosa Mia Garcia has agreed to share with us two selections from her new novel. This week we give you part one.

The supernatural fantasy starts off in a colorful, magical, timeless San Juan. Where it goes from there, you'll just have to find out for yourself. 

Also, please note the gorgeous illustrations by Regina Garcia. Artistic brilliance clearly runs in the family.

© Regina Garcia, 2012

A Selection From:
An Illustrated Novel in Four Parts
Written by Marirosa Mia Garcia
Illustrated by Regina Garcia

Part I

The Duarte building had its day in the sun back when buildings had character and personality. When erecting a structure meant sweeping arches and detailed tile floorings; not pane upon pane of mirrored buildings stretching high to a sky they could never reach. A time when the sun played off its angles, instead of stripping it of its color and helping the vines creep their way up its walls.
A Girl – no more than nine, no less than seven - sat on top of a trash collection bin, wearing a worn school uniform. She reached over the iron-gate to pick some yellow flowers, which grew around the bin that stood between her and the rest of the world. She watched as an old bum came walking up to the gate, tipping an imaginary hat her way.
Psst. Psst. Oye mija oye,” The Old Man said from his side of the fence.  “No need to be accused of anything. Little Girls can get you into trouble nowadays…” he thought to himself. He shuffled back and forth for a moment – mindful of the gate and the distance between himself and the Girl. “No need…”
¿Que?” she said, barely lifting her head to look him in the eye.
Clearing his throat, he leaned forward. You got a quarter?”
“What good is a quarter?”
“Always start small,” he shrugged. “Do you have one?”
The Girl took a moment to consider this – scrunching up her nose and looking up at the sky - as if somewhere on her person, she might just have a quarter she had forgotten about.
“No,” she said letting her eyes drop back to the flower.
You sure? I’m not looking for charity, pa’ que sepas. Give me a quarter and I’ll tell you a secret. Pretty good price, si me preguntas a mi.”
Don’t have one.”
How about your Papi? Go ask him for one.”
The Girl shook her head and twirled the flower before starting to pull the petals off one by one, and watching them as they danced their way down to the grass below.
He’s busy.”
Humm. It’s a pretty big secret. Too big. Too big not to tell I think. It’s just a quarter.”
Don’t have one.”
The Old Man nodded but did not leave; instead he continued to watch the Girl as she tore the flower apart, pulling at each petal like she hated every one of them.
¿Que te pasa? You got a grudge against that flower, or something?”
            The Girl didn’t answer; instead she reached for another flower and began to destroy it as well.
You need to talk, nena? Seems to me like you need to talk. People say I’m a good listener. From Mayaguez in the West to Caguas in the East and every place in between. Nobody listens like me.”
With no answer and a mound of flower petals forming under the Girl’s feet, the Old Man decided it was time to move on.
“You sure? Makes no difference to me. Not like you got a quarter, or anything.”
She lifted her head then, and looked him straight in the eye.
My grandmother died in her sleep. They wouldn’t let me see her.”
The Old Man looked at the remains of the flowers, then back up to the Girl. She reached for a new one and started to pluck the petals once again.
You’re going to run out of flowers at that rate, nena.”
¿Y que?
¿Y que? Listen, your parents are protecting you. Be grateful. I had no parents to protect me. I was born just like this, old.”
He smiled and waited for her to smile back, but she didn’t.
            I’m not grateful.”
I can see,” he said.
It’s not fair. I should get to see her,” she said.
A smile crept across the Old Man’s face as the Girl continued to stare him down.
Should it is then.  I guess you need this secret more than I do.  You can owe me the quarter. You’re good for it, I can tell. You see up there, on the third floor. That window there.”
He pointed off to a window with a dark green awning and horizontal metal shades that were white yet dingy with time.
“¿Si y que?” she said.
“A bruja lives there.”
“A witch, there? ¿Ahi?
Ahi. Ask around, I’m no liar, a bruja lives there. Just ask. From Isabela in the North, although come to think of it, it’s more West-ish – ”
So? Kids these days,” he scratched the top of his head. “A bruja does magic, magia, nena. Don’t need to say more than that. You owe me a quarter.”
And with that the Old Man turned to leave.
“Where are you going?”
“I’ve got other things to do,” he said and waved. “I’ll be back, todavia me queda un poquito mas.”
The Old Man weaved in and out of the crowd, disappearing into the mass. Alone, she stayed for a few minutes more until the wind carried the petals off then entered through the wrought iron gates of EL DUARTE and disappeared herself.  Inside she stood by the steps of the building and craned her neck back in hopes of catching a glimpse of the Witch’s door, even though she would never see it from where she stood. With her head still craned up Grandfather arrived and tapped her lightly on the shoulder. He was a thin old man, though his face was still kind. Worn out from the dealings of the day he still managed a smile.
Does a bruja live on the third floor?” the Girl asked as soon as she saw him.
I don’t know, mija. No one ever sees her anymore,” he replied.
“Was she a bruja back when people saw her?”
“I do not believe so,” her Grandfather said. “Why does it matter?”
Can I sit here for a while?”
Her Grandfather smiled and nodded. You can sit for as long as you want. She will not come out.”
I can wait. I don’t want to go back inside. I’m in the way.”
            He nodded once more.
Me too.  I will bring you something while you wait. But, do not move from this step. I saw you earlier. No more of that.”
The Girl sighed. “Esta bien.
Alone, the Girl moved up the steps closer to the Bruja’s door and sat on the dusty orange stairs and waited. Moments later her Grandfather brought her a soda and repeated his instructions before leaving once again. Still, she waited. She stared at the door on the third floor then back down to her feet. She found a trail of ants making their way from one step to another and she watched as they marched down and down.
Slowly, a sliver of light emerged from above, though the Girl was not conscious of this. It grew as the door opened and the Bruja peeked out through the blinding light. Eventually, seeing the light, the Girl looked up. She and the Bruja stared at each other for a few seconds, before the Bruja’s face broke into a sad smile.
Mija, I’m sorry about your grandmother,” the Bruja said.
“How did you know?” the Girl replied.
I know. I feel things moving. Settling.”
Can you – Can you bring her back?”
But you can do magic. Isn’t that what brujas do?”
The Bruja smiled. It was a strange smile. Not human, but not evil, almost fairy-like, impish in a way.
It is not a journey for me to take,” the Bruja said, shaking her head. “There are things…es complicado.”
The Girl nodded but found that her breathing sped faster and faster until she felt her heart would burst. She covered her face and wept. The door swung open and the Bruja stepped out. She held the Girl in her arms and rocked her slowly for a moment. And though she was a small woman her arms enveloped the Girl with ease.
Come, come inside,” the Bruja said. “We will talk.”
The Girl looked back down the winding steps and in her mind she followed them down to her Grandfather’s place. He would worry.
But my grandfather.”
Dejo la puerta abierta. He will know you are here. Ven, entra.”
The Girl stared at the Bruja’s open arms and without hesitation followed her inside. True to her word the door remained open - light streaming out and down the steps. 
Marirosa Mia Garcia was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from the New School in New York City. Her first novel, On Duarte Street, is an illustrated novel inspired by the residents of Duarte Street in Santurce. You can often find her reviewing books on
To learn more about the author, please take a look at her Q&A in the Matchbox section of this blog.  

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Poet: Part 2

Without further ado, here is the second installment of The Poet. Enjoy!

Photo courtesy of this blog.

 The Poet
Part II

By Jessica Pherson

Francine’s poetry collection was a success. She titled it Shades of a Spirit and it was an instant hit in the poetry world, topping the bestsellers lists for weeks. In this day and age, poetry was nearly dead; only names of figures who’d been prominent decades ago still rang in the average person’s mind, like John Keats and Sylvia Plath, who were both long gone. Most people only heard such names in school, and quickly forgot them afterward – perhaps only dredging them up again on occasion for the odd trivia game.  Francine Gordon had become a household name, and she feared this would happen to her one day as well, all but forgotten until someone on Jeopardy asked the eternal phrase: “Who is Francine Gordon?”

Francine did many live readings, readings that packed bookstores to the brim. Readings after which the entire room formed a line to get an autograph from her. Readings that reaped tears and joy and applause.

At the end of one particular reading at a little bookstore in lower Manhattan, a gentleman with large, doe-like eyes approached her. The man’s eyes appeared large because he was staring at her in complete awe. His deep blue irises glistened with a veil of tears, tears of astonishment and admiration. His eyes were accentuated even more so by his dome-like bald head- shaved bald –and quivering moistened lips.

She remained calm as he walked slowly up to the table, as if each step was getting heavier than the last. Was he so afraid to meet her? He was clutching a stack of books- her books; collections of sorrow and serendipity. Finally, he was within a foot of the table and Francine flashed him a friendly smile. Forced, but friendly. The man let out a little whine and bit his lower lip, bringing the books closer up to his chest as he did so.

“Would you like me to sign those for you?” Francine asked him, somewhat cautiously.

He snapped out of it for a moment, and nodded his head goofily, then placed the books on the table top before her.

“Who shall I make these out to?” She then asked the man as she clicked the top of her pen.

“D-Donald,” the struck fan stuttered.

“Okay, Donald,” Francine said. She bent her head down to write in the front of each book, all the while the man just stood over her, mouth agape.

Once she had finished her task, she handed the books back to him and smiled, the smile that was becoming a trademark smile for her with lips tightly clenched. Her default expression for fans and polite exchanges. The man took them, then managed to stammer something out as he grasped the books tightly to his chest. “I-I just adore you,” he said.

“Oh, why thank you,” she replied. “I’m glad you enjoy my work, that means a lot.”

“Your work- no, your masterpieces, have gotten me through some tough times. I just want you to know that.” 

Francine regarded him for a moment, for some reason not sure what to say right away. She eye-balled him, with a single eyebrow raised, then said: “They have only created tough times for me.”

The man just stared back at her, his eyes still wide but this time more so in wonder rather than awe.

She should have been happy, and sometimes she was. But, still, she felt the cold hand of sadness on her back, a hand that poked then prodded then soon tightly clutched, unrelenting, until she found herself having long, sleepless nights where she would just stare and stare and do nothing but sit or lay awake in bed. Sometimes it was like she was not even in her body anymore; it was like her spirit had fled her and was drifting along aimlessly somewhere else in a world she could not reach physically. Those were the times when she just felt numb and her mind seemed to simply make a whirring sound that echoed between her ears. It was strange, yet familiar. Like how it would sound inside of a vacuum.

She did a good job of keeping it from Carmen and anyone else who might notice. She didn’t have any close family or friends, so it wasn’t too difficult. She would just paste on the plastic smile whenever Carmen would ask how she was doing or squeeze her shoulder in an encouraging way. Why should she be sad, after all? She had everything she wanted- a great career, a beautiful home, good physical health…

But, her personal life had always been dreary. She had never been very good at relationships. For someone who could so easily connect so deeply with feelings through written words, it was very hard for her to actually speak these words. This was why she wrote. This was how she released those feelings, feelings that would not and could not ever be spoken about to anyone. Yet there they were on paper for all the world to see. What a paradox. This often left her feeling lonely and isolated, yet also seemed to further her work.

The days went by and Francine’s star continued to rise. She was invited to be a guest on the Poet’s Corner radio show; she went to many parties where she was considered a “very special” or “high-profile” guest; toasts were made to her, and fan letters poured in faster than she could respond to them. Life was all one big blur of excitement that should’ve kept her happy and satisfied, but instead only seemed to drain and empty her all the more swiftly.

Carmen was pleased, and most of the worry in her eyes had disappeared. Francine wondered if her friend really knew her as well as she thought. Could she see through her façade of happiness? Or was she too swept up in Francine’s success to notice anymore? Francine tried not to let it bother her, as she had enough on her mind anyway- albeit hollow void. She tried to use Carmen’s upbeat perkiness as an example of how she should be, but she simply could not replicate it.

One day Francine, Carmen, and three of their colleagues were out for a late dinner after a live reading at a prestigious benefit for young readers in New York City. Everyone was laughing and drinking and clanking their glasses together, slapping each other on the back, enjoying desserts, generally having a good time. Francine did what she could to blend in, but eventually it got to be too much. While a fellow poet, Leon de Venti, was telling a story that had everyone else at the table rolling with laughter, Francine sat silently, staring into her glass. She studied the little red straw sticking out and the glistening ice cubes within. At some point it registered: Carmen’s muffled voice calling her name. When she looked up, everyone was staring at her, expressions of deep concern and confusion painted across their faces. The laughter had died and all eyes were on her.

She figured she’d better speak up. “Hmm?” She mustered, but it was a sad attempt. Even her “hmm” drifted off back into her stare.

An awkward silence befell the table as Leon coughed and Delia Hanford shifted uncomfortably in her seat. Carmen spoke. “Frankie, are you alright? Can I get you anything?” She laid her hand on Francine’s shoulder.

Francine did not look, and just kept on staring, transporting herself into a world of infinite void. “No, Carmen, darling. I’m fine,” she said mechanically.

The others at the table exchanged worried, uncomfortable looks, and then it was Leon who called the waiter over for the check. Each guest put out their money due and then bid Francine and Carmen farewell, for they knew the fun of the night had now come to an end. Once they were alone, Carmen squeezed Francine’s hand, finally snapping her out of the trance.

“Francine, what’s going on?” She asked quietly.

Francine looked into her friend’s eyes then sighed deeply. “Carmen, I just don’t know anymore. Why do I feel this way?”

“What way?” Carmen replied.

“So…empty?” She tapped her long white finger on the side of the glass as Carmen searched for a response.

“How ‘bout I drive you home?” she finally said.

The two women paid the bill then walked the two blocks to where Carmen had parked her Town Car. They were silent at first, but then Carmen finally said, as if she’d been mulling over the proper words: “Describe this feeling of ‘empty’ to me.”

Francine was at a loss for words. The feelings she never spoke of simply could not be suddenly formed into sounds of actual words. Instead, she just started to silently cry. She let the warm tears slide down her cheeks, and at the same moment, raindrops began to hit the windshield.

Carmen was focused on the road at the time. She did not see Francine’s tears, and only called out to her. “Francine?”

“I don’t know how to put the way I am feeling into words right now,” she replied. “But, you have read my work, so I think you can figure it out.”

Carmen was silent, too silent. It was as if someone had hit the mute button to the volume within the vehicle. Even the rain was silent. Or did it just seem to be silent to Francine?

“I’m worried about you,” Carmen said. “I don’t want you to…do anything rash.”

Francine said nothing.

“Promise me you won’t, okay? She continued. “We’ll get you some help. We’ll call Dr. Berger in the morning, okay?” Francine felt her friend’s eyes on her as she waited for a response. Francine just nodded and sighed a deep sigh, then stared out the window all the way to her home in the Catskills.

                                    *          *          *          *          *          *

Carmen walked her in and asked her if she wanted her to stay over. Francine told her that would not be necessary, that she would be okay and that they would call her therapist in the morning and set up an appointment to help figure it all out. She must’ve sounded convincing, because Carmen did leave after about half an hour of watching her and bid her farewell, promising to call her first thing in the morning.

“Get some rest,” she told Francine as she pecked her gently on the cheek. Then she was gone.

As soon as she left, Francine sat down in her study and stared at her computer. After a while, she turned to one of the pieces of paper beside the computer and started to write a letter.

Dearest Carmen,

I cannot explain to you why I am the way I am, for I do not know why I am the way I am. I am as deep a mystery to myself as I am to you. What I do know is that you are my dearest and most loyal friend, and I highly value our friendship in my heart. You have always been there for me and have always been honest with me, and for that I thank you.
I am also grateful for your patience and understanding in these dark chapters of my life. The only regret is that I had to have the dark times at all, for I would better enjoy my time with you and the rest of this world had it not been always overshadowed by a gray cloud.

Please forgive me if this hurts you; you are all I have. I hope you understand, and know that I love you very much.

Francine Esmeralda Gordon

Final Farewell

As the tide comes in, it must also recede
And this time my waters will not return

It is time for this jet of blood to be drained completely,
And for this waterfall of foolishness to come to an end

I am ready for peace,
I am ready for the infinite void
I am ready for the blades of grass to wave above my head
While I slumber in the soft, warm Earth

Cover me, O welcoming arms of The End
What comes next-
-if anything
I do not know

All I know is
I am ready to go

The next morning, Carmen called her as promised, but after three tries gone unanswered, worry grew inside of her and she decided to drive over instead. When she got there, she found the door unlocked. She called out, but got no answer. She checked the kitchen, the study, the living room, the back porch; her friend was nowhere to be found. A feeling of dread rose inside of her as she walked up the stairs to the second floor. She went to Francine’s bedroom door, which was slightly ajar. She called Francine’s name again, softly, as she slowly pushed the door open. She gasped hollowly when she saw her dear friend lying on her bed. She was face-up, on her back, with her hands carefully folded over her chest, as if she were lying in a coffin. She could’ve been in a deep sleep, but Carmen’s instinct knew better. She knew her friend had done it, that she had left this world for good. And even though she rushed over to Francine’s bedside and called her name and checked her pulse, she knew the EMTs who would later arrive would not be able to save her.

She had made sure this time; she had taken the right dose, some time ago too, probably shortly after Carmen had left her the previous night. Guilt overcame Carmen at first, along with deep loss and sadness, but then she knew it was okay. Her friend was where she wanted to be, and she would forever be without the cold hand of sadness on her back.

Jessica Pherson is one of the Founders of The Veillee and author of her own blog, Healthy Mommy, Healthy Baby. She works from home part time for an eco-friendly jewelry company/retailer and is also a stay-at-home mom to Lily.

Learn more about Jessica by checking out The Matchbox section of this blog!