“Purple Heart”

“Purple Heart”
A short story by Emily Maye Sweer

She never finished her English breakfast tea in her broken purple mug. Her raggedy dark brown boots were never taken off. Twenties and fifties were laid out on the sofa, her father’s black wallet destroyed on the floor. Money was no issue…not anymore. She never even bothered to pick it up. Frozen mud trailed into the home, leaving forgotten footprints inside; forgotten, but not lost.

Left on the kitchen table, wooden and cold, were her purple mittens. With holes and old, dry paint on them, she liked them like that. Her father gave them to her when she turned 16; with his wise and unkind words, they became her scripture.

Her home was an unforgettable mess, fit for a lonely country girl. By the fire sat an ancient silver cat statue that she never bothered to dust because she didn’t like it all that much anyway. The crooked, three-legged rocking chair was placed 16 feet from the fire, and 16 feet from the front door, so that at any given moment, she had the choice to freeze or burn.

Outside the window, you could see the blue-green sky and its juxtaposition with the frozen, white ground. Clear as day: beautiful, but despairing. She rarely went outside. She wanted to keep to herself, as the loneliness comforted her and tucked her in at night. No one ever met her, no one ever knew her, no one ever asked about her…no one existed as far as she knew. Her town had a population of one. There were no others, so she made her own laws. She kept her own keep.

Years passed since her father chose to leave her. Alcohol poisoning. She had to cut a hole in the river that turned to ice and drop him in like an oreo in a glass of milk. She was the new man of the house; the new population dropped fifty percent in the span of 18 hours. It nearly killed her as much as it killed him. Since then, she chose not to go outside unless she needed to hunt, once a month at most. It kept her fed to a bare minimum; she was skin and bone. Surviving like a skeleton, secluded, without stamina, but she refused to surrender to her weakness.

Three years to the day, a winter storm came and went. She went outside for but a minute and started to shake like a small leaf on an even bigger tree. She fell to the ground; it was a cold and bitter chill so bad that when she inhaled, it colored her heart purple. No tears: she never wept for herself, she would not give her sadness the satisfaction it wanted.

With the storm came her inability to survive. It came in and out like a swift and careful hit of a bat on a baseball. She sunk further down to the ground, her pants hit the icy patches of snow and she gasped for air as the whispering wind hit her face, head on. For a moment, she could no longer move. She coughed incessantly, ready to give in to nature’s call, but she was strong enough to push herself up onto her hands and knees; a deep sigh was let out as she remembered her mittens, forgotten in her home. Within seconds, she crawled like no animal has crawled before, howling and screaming from the pain in her limbs, the ice digging into her body with every tiny movement. She crashed through the front door and pushed herself up as her fingers bled, while the icy mud from her boots trailed behind her. She was strong enough to move from the kitchen table to the sofa, breaking house items as she went, but weak enough to collapse on the floor with her boots still on. She had frost bite everywhere; second, maybe third, degree burns. Her limbs were sacrificed to the snow. She knew her fight was over. This was it for her.

It was not her loneliness or her will to survive that killed her. In the end, it was not a death that came to pass by the hands of another. It was winter that killed her. The clear fire of a true hail storm, and she died an ice queen in a forest with a new population of zero.


“For Fear or Fright,” a poem.

For Fear or Fright
By Emily Maye Sweer

I try to stay cool
I try to stay charming
But, in the end, every day,
It’s just alarming.

An alarm that goes off in my head
That tells me to stay in bed.
Not to go out, for fear or fright,
But staying in actually takes all my might.

People think this sadness is something controllable,
But sadly this feeling is just unknowable.
I’m no introvert, that much is clear.
But I also cannot find an extravert here…

She’s lost.
She’s broken and bruised.
She’s part happy, part sad, right in the middle.
Always meh, always eh.
Always belittled.

Go ahead, look at me without your eyes,
See with your ears, I can smell your despise.
I am paranoid; fearful that I am hated,
But, really this fear is overrated.

Nothing is clear, nothing is simple,
Everything is lost, but I am found…
Here with my thoughts.
I keep thinking, keep overthinking,
My head is in knots.

Do not try to decipher my words,
This is not a maze, there’s no way out,
I’m angry, I’m baffled that there is no cure,
Only time as treatment, that will endure

The end is just the beginning of anew.
The cycle continues, the feeling steeps through.
Like my morning coffee that I do not drink,
I bet you that I will sink…

A ‘rewarding’ challenge.

What does it mean to have a ‘rewarding’ job? To me, ‘rewarding,’ does not have anything to do with money or tangible items. It means ‘fulfilment,’ in some way or another. With this in mind, I would like to share something beautiful from my work life this week.
As a teacher, it is not always easy to get a proper night or day’s rest. The ‘teaching’ part of the job is simple enough; it is the rest of the job that involves extra enthusiasm and determination. In my spare time, I am prepping for lessons, correcting, asking or answering questions, talking to students and staff/administration, dealing with interruptions or students in need, etc. In addition to my 40 hour workweek teaching adult education, I have also taken on a second teaching position for ESL at night, for an extra 6 hours a week. My 46 hour workweek does not take into consideration all of my prep work and lesson planning, which can take 5-10 hours a week, depending on the week. I am not complaining…I love my job, but emotional exhaustion plays a large role on my energy level.
With all of the chaos lately, I have not had much time to sit down and relax. This morning, my class was completely disrespectful. Many students arrived 30-40 minutes late to my two hour class, and 5 students were on their phones and disrupting my class for a lot of the time. I left that morning class feeling let down and hurt. I always try to find new ways to incorporate technology into my classroom, but sometimes it doesn’t work as expected.
Instead of sulking and being negative, I went into my second class with a smile and a new idea in mind. I told my students that I wasn’t having a great day and I started the class on a positive note. Every student in my second class worked extra hard and not ONE student took out his or her phone.
At the end of the class, when everyone was mostly gone, two students stayed behind. One student said: “Miss, I know it has only been 4 weeks so far, but I wanted to say that you have really helped me to improve my writing. I can’t believe I can actually write…and write WELL!” At which point, the other student chimed in and said “I would like to add that you are the kind of teacher that anyone can understand. You explain things in great detail and you are clear, and I thank you for that.” Needless to say, I teared up after hearing these comments. It was so heartfelt to hear this from my students.
So, what does ‘rewarding’ mean to me, then? A rewarding job means to feel fulfilled, like I have done a good job, and that I will continue to positively influence the lives of my students and my own life in return. Today, I feel rewarded as a teacher. I will cherish moments like these, because I am sure that there will be more challenging days in the future, and I am sure that there will also be even MORE motivating moments that can change my outlook on those challenging days.
When all is said and done, the good outweighs the bad, and you can always find it in your day, if you look hard enough.

A Clean Break, a poem.

Her heart broke faster than a clock could tick.

In less than sixty seconds, she was a corpse without her organs, a ballerina without her legs, a bird without her wings.

Her body sunk like the Titanic, in the deep blue sea of her room.

Six feet under, yet six feet above.

She was torn between two worlds: that which giveth and that which taketh away.

She became her own world: one full of sadness and hatred, not only for herself, but for the one she loved that broke her existence into tiny pieces, like a puzzle missing its core edges.

What do you do? – a poem.

What do you do?
A poem by Emily Maye Sweer

What do you do when you don’t know what to say?

Do you react?
Quick? Spur-of-the-moment?

Do you wait?
Thinking deeply, passively?

I am at the point of breaking – a breaking point. Well, not breaking: shattering. A shattering point.

I want to express myself: completely, emotionally, openly.
But, I can’t.

I can’t allow myself to break down these walls I’ve built. Years of building; manual labor on my part.

If I let myself feel more, I will feel upset, angry, negative. If I ignore these impulses, I may benefit from letting it all go.

What does it mean to let it go?
I feel everything. I physically feel everything.

When I am anxious or nervous, my body reacts. Then, all I want to do is talk and vent, but I can’t find the right words to say, or the right time to react.

I have been holding it all in… all my feelings have been remaining in my brain, waiting to jump out and attack the next victim. I cannot ignore them. But, I refuse to let them loose and out of control.

I do not know how to live in a world in which I cannot control anything that happens. All of these emotions and feelings I hold so dear to me come at a price.

Every time I try to open my doors, something inside me hides the keys.

So, what do I do when I don’t know what to say?
I will let you know the next time I feel vulnerable, if you can wait ten seconds.