I pondered giving up the fight - I'm not sure of which fight anymore - for a long time before totally giving in to giving up. First came the crying, rivers of crying, pouring into nothing - nothing to catch my tears except the flannel sheets. Crying for those dreams I'll never see. For the mistakes, and worst, the pain I caused the innocent ones with my mistakes. Five years ago, I ended my marriage. I moved myself and all that was part of me into my daughter's old bedroom. When I broke my wedding vows, my marriage ended. Well, it had ended long before that, but I would not be an adulteress. So I kept my loyalty to my lover, who had treated me kindly before he left me. I never had sexual relations with the man who was supposedly my husband ever again. Not since I broke my wedding vows five years ago. I guess, contrary to popular belief that I became a loose slut. But the giving up was so gradual in coming, and so hard to release. First, I fought it with drink, then with drugs. And the tears continued to flow, regardless of my mind being stunned, and stunted and getting sicker. I decided to starve myself to death - a new method I had not yet tried - and it wasn't too bad. Until they had to cut my womanhood out, and then I was forced to eat. But not any more. So much death has surrounded me. I've silently watched as so many souls have passed away. Oh, the people - their bodies - have lived, but their souls have perished. One thing or another has killed them off - the lust for money; the sadness of an unfulfilled life; the natural progression of mental illness, gone unchecked, untreated and unloved; the loneliness and isolation brought on by being surrounded by other bodies without souls. Dying and the decay of all those in the process of dying, the smell of death engulfing me, and luring me in, a little more each day. I thought of Caroline - Woody Guthrie's Caroline - who came from Spencer, over the hill, to look for work in times of hardship. And when death surrounded her, she turned to whoring on the street. But she was a young, beautiful Caroline, whom the sunshine walked beside. Not an option for an old and ugly hag like me. I thought of the junkies downtown - the ones for whom I had made separate Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners for many years. Driving down in my little, battered Geo Metro, the hatchback filled with platters and bowls and paper plates and plastic silverware. Setting the food out on an open cardboard box, as they eyed me with suspicion. I never knew if they ate any of it, but their little scruffy dogs - their only companions who still retained a soul - I know they had their fill, at least. If I went now, would they remember me, or would there be all new, all different junkies on this day? Would they save me with their magic elixir and what would I need to pay? My price is anything, everything, whatever they want to have of me. Is there anything left of me worth having? Was there ever anything worth having to begin with? I know the answer is no. I am a scrap of paper, tucked away in an envelope that's sealed shut and stuck in the back of a drawer that never gets opened. Being such, why would they share their magic elixir - the one that makes your mind stop - with something as nothing as me? Maybe they would beat me, stab me with their steely knives, kick me and grab hold of my hair and bash my head into the concrete sidewalks. It's not the way I would prefer to stop my mind, but someone such as I doesn't get much choices in this life. And would they ever let me be one of them? Joining them in their daily struggle to scrounge together enough to stop our minds for a while? Probably about as much as the rich folks living on Van Ness would let me into their black tie events and social clubs. No, I'm way too much of an ugly old troll to take Caroline's route to numbness. I don't think the junkies would have me, either. So I can lay alone in my little twin bed and cry my tears into the flannel sheets. In this building that houses three separate people in three separate rooms. Because I'm not really an adulteress. I haven't been married for years. I've retained my celibacy for a lover that is long gone, never to return. I know my place in this world. It's in a place where there's no space or time. All alone, without people, souls or no souls. It's in a place where nothing ever turns out right - where happiness never visits - where pain knows no boundaries or end. It's on the other side of the river - not the side that contains the living. The side where death and decay seduce me, tease me, only to keep me alive, day after day. To remind me, moment by moment, of that vast expanse of joy and laughter that lies on the other side of the river - to be able to hear it and see it, but never reach it. I can't swim across, and there are no bridges or boats. One side can never mix with the other. The balance of the world would be forever in chaos. I was born on this side of the river of life. The dead side. And my destiny demands that I remain here, until my body finally decides to give itself up, completely and forever.

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