The thorns we keep

I know a woman; let’s call her Betty. 

Betty has a brother. 

She loves her brother. She is several years older than her brother so she feels, on some level, like she raised him. 

Betty had a dream for her brother. She wanted him to graduate college and he did. 

Then she pictured him finding a wife and having children, creating a beautiful life she imagined for him. 

Maybe Betty wanted that life for herself.  But she sacrificed it for her brother. Everything for Brother, Betty told herself. 

But brother didn’t find a wife. Brother broke his arm. And then brother found Norco. 

Norco was good. It fixed the pain. 

Brother had lots of pain. More pain than a broken arm. Deep pain. So brother looked for more Norco. And he looked and he looked and he looked. He looked so hard he lost his job and his home. 

And then Brother found heroin. Heroin is like a spell. 

Heroin bewitched brother into believing his life with pain was not real and the life in the cloud of heroin was real. So he kept trying to enter the heroin world and he kept leaving the life of pain behind. 

He forgot about having a home. 

He forgot about Betty. 

He forgot about food. 

He forgot. 

So, so many forget.

But Betty didn’t forget. Betty tells me she remembers the dream. The wife and the kids. 

Betty hold the dream like a sword. She is ready to throw herself on the sword. She is ready to bet her life that Brother’s life was supposed to be different. 

What do you mean? You are probably asking.

Betty thinks she can’t live in a world where her dream does not come true. Each time brother forgets, Betty makes a break for the exit. 

Betty has pain too. Deep pain. 

Why do you choose to believe such a painful story, Betty?

I do it too. 

Sometimes I hold my painful stories like pins in a little voodoo doll that looks just like me. I poke the pin into my heart, my brain, my back over and over again. 

I hold the story because I don’t believe I can put it down.

I mean…I could, but I won’t just leave it there. It is precious to me. And so even if I set it down for a minute, I can’t resist picking it back up again to fondle it, admire it. 

It’s still beautiful and shiny and I don’t notice the dust and the jagged edges until I pick it up again and again and again and it cuts and burns and abrades my flesh. 

I have lost some of my favorite possessions this way.

I leave them behind as relics, entombed in pages of my diary. 

I am lighter now.

But I’m still unpacking. Unlearning. Sifting. Sorting. Probably forever. 

Do you, my dear reader, have a story you can put down? 

It’s just a story, after all.

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