Appalachian Grit

“Hey, Punk, I feel like bleeding tonight.” 

Strip it away. Strip away the perception. Rip out the fake hair. Wash away the conditioned, weathered face. Can you see my dark spots? I’ve been living too close to the sun. Burnt up by rays scorching my freckled lace shoulders. Posting filtered images with fake smiles. Trying to paint over those Prozac eyes. Contorting my face into different angles in an attempt to hide my dilated pupils. Hardened under the reality where I convince myself that I am capable of bearing such a burden.

Take me down to the floor. Throw those carpets outside and let the snow cover them in diamond sparkling glitter. Let the truth soak into the patterns swirling around the tan and blue flowers. The sun fades their stains. It dries up the truth and we let it sit in the front yard to expose our secrets.

I’ve bled enough.

I’ve bled a thousand tales within the last few years.

We’ve been down the same roads, explored the reasoning as to why. Nature defined not by nurture, but by simple birth in a Cabell County hospital. Fate put me there on a windy, slightly bitter cold Friday the 13th day as I entered the world with color changing, mood ring eyes.

How many times shall I shed my tears for him?

Some people go through their life wanting to be loved. Just one true love. Just one person to sit next to them as they cuddle under fleece blankets. They sit curled up together on a worn out, stained, beat-up couch as the television illuminates a dark room. They laugh at the scripted jokes and staged comedians. Their hands grasp a lover’s palm as a movie repeats the lines:

“They didn’t agree on much. In fact, they didn’t agree on anything. They fought all the time and challenged each other ever day. But despite their differences, they had one important thing in common. They were crazy about each other.” Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook. 

I can’t save him.
Just as he couldn’t save me.
Some people have to save themselves.

There is a boy, with his Mama’s mood ring eyes, and an ornery misfit smile. He wraps his childish hands around my face and says, “Mama, are you okay?”

“Yes, honey. I’m alright.” I’ve got to be alright because I’ve got work to do. Books to write. Places to go and money to make. I got to make sure you have the best birthday. I got to make sure you understand love. Real deep, soul fearing, can’t-live-without-a-person kind of love. I want you to know compassion and kindness. I got to make sure the strength you obtain is inherited from me.

They say women are the weaker of the sexes. They are wrong.

Beaten bloody. Beaten unconscious and violated. Hit with fists from a grown adult I called “Daddy”. My heart shattered knowing I couldn’t be his daughter. Knowing as an adult the only way I could save myself was to distance myself from my own blood. To cut the tie and tell people, “I don’t have a dad.” Strangers don’t ask questions when you tell the truth. Not a weakness, but a strength to do what I knew was best for me… what would eventually be best for my child.

He’d hurt that child to hurt me.

This isn’t my weakness. It’s became my greatest resilience. Protection from a childhood I never want my child to know.

“Punk, I’m bleeding and screaming tonight. My voice is hoarse from trying to be heard. Can you hear me?” 

You and I have dripped our blood stained hurt onto these templates. We’ve screeched and howled the worst days in our lives.

They tell us “we’re brave.” Are you like me?

I’m terrified. What if I done all this for nothing? What if I fail? What if they both are right? I’m a nobody. I’m no Hemingway. I can’t compare to Hunter or Palahniuk. Plath gone before she could reach her full potential. Don’t let me burn out like Cobain.

They can’t be right. I won’t let it happen.

There are parts in me built to withstand. Made up of iron clad perseverance.

You remember when that one lady said she’d never publish a single word of mine? I sure showed her. 

My grandparents were born with New Jersey stock, Lincoln and Mingo County blood. Mountain people combined with Newark grit. That’s what I’m made of. Every once in a while, I got to remind myself where I’m from. Who I am. What I need to do.

There comes a point where words are only white noise and they don’t matter. They probably never did. They are just the ramblings of sadness built up over a course of a lifetime. But that ain’t my sadness, no sir. I’ve faced my demons and came out on the other end. A little rougher, not as lady-like as my Mama would like, but I came out. I stood up, brushed the pain off my heart, and continued doing the things I love to do.

You’re reading my love. These words…. words have never failed me.

Even under their zombification, they can’t take away my raw, natural born, God-given grace.

My husband called it a curse tonight.

The curse is his to bear, not mine. It’s mine to embrace and nurture. The strength rests in my old worn fingers. The strength comes from hands which waited tables through high school and college. The strength comes from never giving up. Even when I want to, I can’t stop. Too much Appalachian has been bred into these bones. It got combined with some New Jersey determination.



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