Monday, March 23, 2020

Short Story - Inside

I wrote this piece last year in response to a photo prompt offered by Blank Spaces Magazine (be sure to check them out, fellow Canadians!). Though my submission was not a winner in the competition it was a winner for me. Writing it urged me past a place I was stuck staying in myself. 

It is certainly specific to me. Hence, I didn't plan to share it. I couldn't quite see how it would be of interest to you.

However, now that many of us in the world are practicing some sort of staying inside, it feels a little relevant. It is about being inside, all the way inside, and exploring. 

The image I'm using here is not the one that inspired the piece (I don't have permission to use that pic I imagine) but it is equally as much a self-portrait for me and it works. The only edit I had to make in order to use it was getting rid of the word "snow". 

Whether or not this piece has any relevance to you I hope you can feel the value of taking time inside. Of exploring all the styles of ourselves and the memories we make and the rooms we build that we sometimes refuse to leave, regardless of what other memories or rooms we could be taking time to create and experience. For me, a big one is simply my sons growing up. Seriously, I couldn't wait for it until it happened and then I didn't know how to live with it. Now, I do. 

And largely because I wrote this.

I hope you are equally able to take advantage of time inside.

Happy reading, friends!

Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)


I was sent here – brought here? – as some form of punishment. Banished with the expectation of reflection. Yet, I can see no punishment in this.

The beauty is breathtaking! 

Literally, my breath stops often here and I feel it being accepted as a gift by This Place. I want to give it, too. Give my breath away. However, so far I haven’t. 

Just as my vision distorts and the pain that exists on my peripheries (quiet pain, a reminder of where I am not) begins to fade, I pull the breath back to me, back into me. 

This Place returns it gracefully. It seems to have no agenda.

And so I spend much of my time attempting to reflect. I would say I spend many days, but it is always some form of day and night here. The passing of time counted in how many things I’ve thought rather than calendar or clock. 

Yet the beauty and scope of This Place don’t encourage reflection from me so much as it demands exploration. Oh, not so much of the adventurous treasure hunting kind. More of a curious probing and bringing to life. Well, there is adventure and treasure in that. 

Inside I am warm and cozy. The coffee here is always perfectly percolated, even though I don’t remember ever perking it. In fact, that is something I’ve never been good at. Choosing instead to own drip coffee makers even though percolated coffee is my favorite. I’ve always been someone who will accept what is good rather than risk ruining it in hopes of making something better. 

I enter new rooms often. Coffee wrapped in my hands, tapping my ring on the mug – I’m wearing my ring here, I hear. 

I consider first the room’s d├ęcor. Aside from the kitchen and living room, which are styled in a way I imagine many would expect if walking up to this house, rustic with a fireplace and area rugs, other rooms are surprisingly decorated. 

I call the room at the top of the stairs Angry Teenager. Black, metal, dangerous, on edge. I go there for that feeling. Of course, as I explore, items reveal themselves that invite more complexity. Scribbled hopeful poetry, an Anne Murray CD, a picture book of only cute kittens. 

The Princess room – prettified with fairies and forest animals - rarely calls to me but I’ve visited more than once. Creating, as I do here, backstories for the room and its occupant. 

Now that I think about it, I guess it isn’t true that I’m not called to reflect here. It’s just that my reflections are always imbedded in my inventions. Backstories – invented or experienced - and explorations guide my reflections. 

Other than the kitchen-living room combo, it’s The Boy’s room I spend most of my time in. (If you know me you may have been surprised I didn’t say the library. Of which, in This Place, there are a few! But, no. You aren’t surprised. If you know me.)

The Boy’s room is also upstairs, on the opposite side of the living room. It has a window that reaches slightly away from the house and I know that’s dangerous, calling as it does for adventure that moves away. But I also approve, and think it’s just the right amount of danger and away.

Oh, how I love imagining and remembering stories in there!

The toys are familiar (Admittedly, everything in This Place is familiar. For a person who craves creating I’ve never been good at inventing things that are wildly different from what I live with or know well. Rearranging, working with what is familiar, that’s my forte.) and I play, while bringing The Boys to mind. 

Confession: This is a place where I am only alone, can only be alone, and I don’t mind that for now. Eventually I’ll want more. My own ideas are limited without diverse others to add and elucidate. Also, I do crave The Boys. I’m aware, in a reluctant way, my desire for them when they are no longer available is why I am here. 

Right now, though, I’m looking outside. Telling this while I stare out at the trees. (Of course, trees. A little on the nose! In many ways my imagination is truly lazy.) I feel the pain on the periphery and allow it, not for the first time, to wrap around me. 

It is only when the pain is pervasive that I can exist simultaneously in This Place and That Place. I’m able to feel and hear and sometimes even see everything and all of it at once. I can only hold onto this for a short moment, like trying to hold onto the splendor of having an epiphany. Or an orgasm. 

I think I must not let the pain get its hooks in me or I will be stolen from This Place entirely. I’m sure of it. 

I’m not sure I want that. 

But something is happening. As I’m doing this telling, feeling a desire to explain, have it make sense, I can’t ignore what I’ve been trying not to know. 

If I go back to That Place, I will be stolen from This Place. But also, This Place will be with me. 

True, I won’t likely be sent – brought? – here in this way. But This Place is me. A self-portrait. Nothing more or less magical than that. 

And That Place, where the pain waits, is where The Boys are. Well, no. That is the point. Where they no longer are. 

There, they are men. 

None live home with me, snuggling, fighting, playing, sniffling, reaching always ultimately in my direction and me in theirs. 

But in This Place I am only alone, can only be alone. (Let the breath go: stay!)

And the pain in That Place is where the people are. (Embrace the pain: return!)

I did this to myself. I banished myself. 

I brought myself here. 

I must choose.