the Universe speaking – a true short story

there’s a lot of people who come through the corner bar. the neighborhood middle class regulars needing a break from the kids. labor guys covered in dirt and dust, always ordering domestic. the ones who NEED the drink, hands jittery, searching for the crumpled up twenty borrowed from a friend.
and then there’s the one offs.
the ones who stop in and you never see again.
the random passers-by who had a good day, a bad day, need to pass some time for an hour or so – i am always amicable and of service, but reticent. it’s my nature.
such is the way of the local watering hole…
i think as i clock in for my shift.
another slow night. more of the same banal small talk, random chit chat with the same people, repeating the same stories, retelling the same jokes.
he walks in. a one off. older, 60’s maybe, quiet at first. kind eyes. i can always see the truest intent of someone in their eyes. i am comfortably friendly.
the night goes on.
he talks.
he likes to talk, he explains to me that he’s a first generation italian and an extrovert. i respond that i am neither.
“well, that’s a shame aaaand you’re in the wrong business, hon.”
don’t i know it.
i am tired.
the constant conversations with the crowd are draining me.
even the one off.
though we’re keeping it to a basic back and forth.
nothing too personal.
hobbies, dislikes, pet peeves…
and now the bar is emptying.
he asks to close out.
i hand him his check, he signs the slip, but before he goes – he grabs my hand.
“listen. i’m an empath.”
i am visibly cynical. there is no hiding the defenses going up.
he laughs.
“oh you.” he pats my hand with the other not holding it.
“listen, i’m an empath and i’m not telling you this for any other reason that i’ve known this about myself since i was a kid. and i can feel your hesitancy right now, but hear me out. as an empath, we can always tell when there’s another one of us. you, my dear, are an empath.”
i begin to disagree, but i am cut short.
“you can call it highly intuitive if you want. i get the feeling you don’t like labels. but i bet you probably know what someone is feeling before THEY even do.”
i am silent. he’s not wrong.
“the only reason i’m bringing any of this up is because i can tell you been through some things yet still remain a KIND soul. you have a good heart. and i just want to say that i think it’s wonderful that you haven’t let those things make you hard. your kindness, your goodness – are beautiful qualities to have. and to have kept them this long… *pause*… just be careful. there are people who will take advantage of that. know when to walk away.”
i think i mumbled thank you. i was a bit taken aback.
he stood up, fit his winter hat about his head, gave the smallest smile tinged with the tiniest speck of rue, and left.
were it not for the credit card slip, i’d say he wasn’t even real.
he was. and his words landed.

lately, i’ve been second guessing decisions i’ve made… this was a needed jolt to the senses.
and i know i don’t always listen to the Universe. 90% never.

okay, love. i hear you. loud and clear.

*paying attention… paying attention to the Universe when it is talking to me.*

Back in ’93 pt. 1

The girls around her seemed confused. Defiant, pre-pubescent, semi-women, almost always sure of themselves, now gazed upon her with direct indecisiveness. Sixteen year-old Ramos felt their eyes boring through. Looking down, she felt her heart fall and rise with each breath the dying animal took. A grey squirrel lie almost still, its bloody entrails scattered and staining the ground around it. Apparently, the girls had scared away its attacker, yet the damage was immense and irreversible. It heaved, trying its hardest to swallow the air which it thought would keep it alive. Ramos stared down at the poor animal, subconsciously aware of her peers.

“I think it’s dead.” said Ramos.
“Nah… it’s still breathing.” Said Jennie.
“Fuck. It’s almost dead.” Said the girl with the braids.

They were only going for a walk. The staff said it was okay. A beautiful day for the girls no one wanted to go for a walk in an out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere place designated by the state for the keeping of such misunderstood, delinquent pseudo-orphans. She had been in places like this before, but was new to this group. She had only been there a week and a half, was still feeling out most of the girls and had no idea what to say and/or do.
Ramos stood long and stared hard at the squirrel. Its innards were disgusting, yet sad. she didn’t know what to make of it… or the current situation surrounding the fragile little creature’s looming demise. All she knew was that she had to come up with an answer.

“Whatcha gonna do?”
The question came from outside. BB had walked up. No one ever talked to her – she, in turn, could care less. Ramos dared to speak.
“They let you out?”
BB snickered. “No. I do what the fuck I want. What, you gonna say something?”

Ramos made the conscious effort to keep her gaze blank as she eyed BB. For all the bouncing around she did, she had never been wary of any of her fellow peers, but this one – this one was different. BB had been in the system since before she could walk. Almost every section of her body had some visible remainder of past abuse from every foster home she had ever been in. Were it not for the scars, some might think she had the prettiest caramel skin they’d ever seen. But the beauty would stop there. One look into her eyes – she had eyes of the deepest darkest pitch and they never looked kind. The only time Ramos thought she ever saw any hint of joy or life in them was when she witnessed BB giving a fellow ward the beat down of her teenage life. With that memory in mind, Ramos didn’t feel the need to deliberate much longer. Her eyes fell back to the agonized animal and she made her decision.

“Does anyone have something heavy?” Ramos asked very quietly.
“What are ya’ gonna do? Smash its head in?” BB asked with a smirk, all the while staring Ramos down. Ramos had never before been in such a situation. The girl with braids, Baby Doll, looked upset to see that the animal might still be alive. But BB – fuck. BB seemed to be completely unaware of the animal. She just seemed to relish the testing of Ramos’ character.

“Yeah.” Her voice came out clear and calm, barely recognizable to herself.

Somewhere near an abandoned barn that happened to be part of the property, Jennie had found a heavy cement block and painstakingly brought it to Ramos. Taking it from the skinny thirteen year-old, she felt its weight, stood square above the animal gasping for breath, and realized she was holding the dying animal’s subconscious death wish. A dose of her Catholic upbringing nudged her into muttering a prayer beneath her breath. She raised it above her head – and ONE, TWO, THREE! She brought the block sharply down upon its head, the sound of a crunch beneath her blow. However, it wasn’t quite dead yet. Panic swelled and the horror of causing the already injured animal more anguish flooded her faltering resolve with all too dangerous emotions. Swallowing hard against the lump in her throat threatening tears, she braced herself. One more time. ONE, TWO, THREE! This time she made sure there was force behind the thrust of the cinder block. The sound of another crunch followed and for a moment, a brief split second of silence came with it.
Jennie was crying somewhere. Ramos heard her. Baby Doll was screaming obscenities. Ramos heard her. BB had already begun to walk away. Ramos heard that too, the soft padding of her feet upon the summer grass slowly fading away. She knew that now, she would have one less adversary to be concerned about. That’s just how things worked with girls in the system.

The one thing Ramos found strange was that her own thoughts were a ghost town, nary a cricket or tumbling ball of thistle. She couldn’t hear a thing. The only sound audible in her head was that of the wind against barren ground, quietly brushing over a lifeless squirrel.