“I’m Suffocating, Jane.”

The emotion covered her like a blanket, and it was suffocating. She thought this was over, these attacks where she stopped functioning while the torrent welled up inside her and took control. She couldn’t breathe and she was sure she felt a pain in her chest—on the left side. She had stopped in the middle of the hallway, her left arm hanging at her side with the forgotten clipboard, her right hand pressed to her heart. Her eyes were burning with the anticipation of tears she desperately fought to keep hidden. Get a grip! You’re at work!

A sound, a very disapproving sound, seemed to draw her back from the brink of what was surely going to be an emotional meltdown, right there in the sterilized white hall of Rock Hearth Home for Seniors. Blinking, her mind struck out for the source of the sound, like clinging to a bouy for salvation. She found the source immediately. Hank Hardy was glaring with open irritation at her. He was perched in his doorway with his walker gripped in his gnarled, liver-spotted hands. He arched one cotton-swab eyebrow at her.

“Got a problem?” He sounded gruff and put out—as usual. Hardy had a way of making sure no one liked him, and he was just as happy to like none of them in return. Great, she thought, I’ve been caught emotionally distraught by the Home’s most unpleasant and mentally unsound guest.

She was sufficiently distracted, but the pain in her chest still throbbed and her breathing was still labored. “No, Hardy. I’m fine, thanks,” she said in a tight voice, still worried tears might make an appearance.

“That’s a lie!” he barked sharply, his brightl blue eyes burning.

“Excuse me?” She was used to his crochety behavior, but he appeared so angry his face was turning red. Then suddenly he appeared slightly mollified, his grip on his walker relaxed and he looked a little unsure how to proceed.

“Think I haven’t seen a heart break before?” he growled, turning back into his room, inching his walker around. “You’d think I was born yesterday,” he muttered.

She stood there like a moron for a moment, not sure what to say. Finally she followed him into his room where he was slowly lowering himself into an ugly old lounging chair, his body creaking with effort.

“You seem awfully…um, present today, Hardy,” she remarked casually, not sure how to phrase it as she checked his pills; they were still sitting in the little plastic cup, untouched. “And there’s no such thing as a broken heart,” she continued quietly but firmly, not really sure who she was trying to convince.

“Ha!” He spat out. He watched her, irritably,  invade his room. “Ha!” he said again. “No such thing? Then I suppose you’ve just been suffering a prolonged heart attack for the past week or so?” His words dripped with condescension, and she was genuinely surprised. Was it that obvious? She, of course, knew it was true. Her heart felt like it had been hollowed out and now the shell was fracturing, preparing to shatter into a million shards of unfixable hopelessness. “And—” he continued, “I believe the word you were looking for is ‘sane’.” Sane. Present. He was exceedingly clear today; there were no sign of the delusions and madness, which seemed to come and go as they pleased. And, in the arrival of his sanity so too, it seemed, had his keen sense of humanity.

Hardy watched as she stared at his food tray, unseeingly and absently massaging the ache in the left side of her chest. He looked over to a photograph of a pretty smiling young woman in a bronze frame on his nightstand. Black and white. When he spoke again his voice was softer.

“Don’t lie to me, kid. I know it when I see it. When it’s real.” She looked up at the change in his tone, and followed his gaze to the smiling woman. She had seen the photo  there every day since he moved into Rock Hearth. The picture suddenly made her curious.

“What would you know of a broken heart, Hardy?” she asked curiously. “Who is she, anyway? Not your wife, Lilith, and you have no children.” An affair?  she wondered. Why should he have her picture, and no one elses?

“She,” he said carefully, wistfully, his eyes looking a million years into the past, “is Jane.”

She saw it, in his eyes. It was like a door closing. She could practically hear it slam shut with such force that the walls of his being shuddered with it. His hand absently rubbed a spot in the left part of his chest and his breathing suddenly seemed labored. He looked so sad.

She understood. The tears finally showed up, not over her own pain, but over someone else’s. Over a shared pain. Jane, whoever she was, must have broken Hardy’s heart. She put a hand on his shoulder as she wiped a tear off her cheek.

“Hardy?” She asked, “Will you be alright?”

“Ha!” he said, not nearly as forceful as he had only moments ago. “Not possible, my dear.”

He was gone, his sanity having slipped away again into his other reality. But suddenly he smiled and patted her hand with his old, leathery one, as if to comfort her. That was the way of it. Mean in his sanity and dazedly happy in his madness. Tragic, was all she could think.

“Will you take your pills, for me, Hardy?”

“Sure! Sure. Whatever you say, Jane.” She stared at him, tears on her cheeks, as he popped the pills back with a bit of water. She turned to leave.

Suffocating. She needed to get out. She couldn’t breathe. Her heart hurt.

“Oh, and Jane?” he called softly, just as she reached the door.

“Yes, Hardy?”

He blinked slowly for a moment, looking at the floor, before his eyes, a dim blue-gray rimmed in the shadows of sadness, lifted back to hers.

“You might never breathe properly again.”

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For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Barb Black challenged me with “The emotion covered her like a blanket, and it was suffocating.” and I challenged Jester Queen with “The faded and stained wallpaper was peeling and drooping grossly towards the floor in long pieces. Like a snake shedding its skin. Oh! If these walls could speak! The tales I’m sure they would tell. “


Why be CREATIVE?

I am cheating. My first post to The Hidden Tree has been stolen from my other blog, The Bold Spirit. Why be CREATIVE was originally published January 12, 2012 at caitlindurkin.wordpress.com. Seeing as it pertains so perfectly to the purpose of The Hidden Tree, I re-share it here.

Why be CREATIVE?

All my life, people who know me have called me “creative,” largely because I spent all of high school in the art room, turning ideas into paintings and projects, because I headed the photography club, because I love writing and being crafty. And it’s true that the most common description people associate with “creative” is that of artsy, musical, writer, poet and so on. But I argue that being creative is much more. After all, the root of creative is creation, or the act of making something—and that description can go beyond the art room and find itself in anyone’s hands.

Have you ever thrown together a new recipe based on what you like? Have you ever built something, like a tool shed, or your own company from the roots up? Are you a parent?—because the best creation you’ve ever made are your children. Creation happens all the time, but often people don’t call that being creative.

Why do you want to be creative? Because creating something, anything, is self-affirming and proves that we can put a bit of ourselves into something real, tangible, lasting and/or meaningful.

Pride—Think about what you already create and be proud of it. You have put yourself, your ideas, and your hard work into that creation. If you are a member of a team at work, and help in its creation as the top team of the company, that’s something to be proud of.

Communication—Often, people create things in an effort to communicate. Whether it be a work of art that communicates sadness, a multi-million dollar corporation that communicates success and great customer service, or a happy home that communicates love, family and safety. What we create sends a message about ourselves, too. That work of art says “I’m an artist who likes sharing ideas through visual methods.” That corporation says “I am driven to succeed, to make money, and to build something that lasts.” That home says “I love my family and want to raise it well.”

Direction—Think about what you want to create, and work towards that. It could be anything. Your life is your own creation too. Sure, sometimes life hands you the unexpected, and alters your path, but the path still exists. And what you do with it is your own creation. Put yourself into the direction of your life—create it, and leave something behind for others to see/follow.

Dream realization—We speak of the importance of being bold, and how it will help us achieve our dreams. Creativity, as a part of boldness, helps us do the same. By creating things we recognize our ability and gain confidence in it. Sometimes our futures appear nebulous and intangible, something we can’t control the outcome of. But by being creative, we can create it and make it real by purposeful action.

So be creative. Put yourself into your life, into your work, your family, into whatever has meaning for you. Direct it and conscientiously make it what you want it to be. Find pride in your creations, communicate more, find direction and realize your dreams.