The Companion Broker (Fiction with photo by Emilio Pasquale)

Okay, it’s been a while since I’ve posted a collaboration with Emilio, where I write a story inspired by a photo he provides.  It’s completely my fault!  See, Emilio gave me this photo to write for September.  I have no excuse for my delay, other than 2015 isn’t landing at the top of my “best year ever” list :)   If you haven’t checked out Emilio’s blog before, you really should – click his name to link to his site…. I gave you three chances here!  I’ll stop rambling now – the story begins right after the photo.

Photo by Emilio Pasquale... story by me!
Photo by Emilio Pasquale… story by me!

I had a knack for finding the broken ones.  I would take them in.  I would love them.  I would lose myself in them.  Each time, I thought my heart was full enough to make them whole.  Each time, the shine tarnished and I escaped with a little less of me.

My present is made up of their pasts, the cracks in my broken heart filled with pieces of their pain.  Desperado, Cat’s in The Cradle, Father of Mine, Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough… their burdens set to music. As I sped down the remote highway, I played each and every one of these songs, over and over. It’s funny how the years of heartaches wrapped in catchy melodies slid along the hardened spaces of my soul with such ease. At least the tears reminded me that I was still alive.

This time, I didn’t care if I lived to give again. Phillip had been my latest broken bird, on the verge of falling into the dark abyss. I scooped him up and nurtured him. For three years, he greedily fed on my love and affection until he was strong enough to fly. And he flew all right… straight to my ex best friend, Sarah. I took his bad and gave him my good. It all cancelled out in the end and left me… empty.

Off to the right, a row of rusted old cars and a seen-better-days ranch caught my eye. On impulse, I pulled onto the shoulder, kicking up a cloud of dust and gravel behind me. When the dust settled, I stepped out of my car and eyed the street sign perched atop a leaning metal pole. I didn’t know which was more ironic; the fact there was a street sign marking a span of dirt that could barely be considered a road, or that the sign read “Opportunity Way.” I doubted opportunity traveled back-roads.

I walked for a little ways until I came to a waist-high wooden fence that encircled the yard. For a time, I perched on the fence, staring at the row of cars. I couldn’t help but relate to them; we had all been shiny and something to look at back in the day. But now… well, I cried.

I didn’t want to think about it, but I suspected I would always see the lost ones, broken, looking for validation and something that felt like love to make them okay for a while.  I could see my future so clearly… like beggars pleading for loose change, their eyes would search mine for a bit of my soul they could have.  On my strong days, I would turn my head and quicken my pace. “I don’t have any,” I would mutter.  It would be true.  If God was merciful, they won’t pursue me. They would see I was as broke… broken… as they were. They would sense I had nothing to offer, no hand to grasp in desperation.

“Howdy, ma’am!”

I startled, losing my balance and fell back into someone’s arms. I twisted my neck and glimpsed a not-completely-unattractive man, possibly in his early fifties. Exactly what I don’t need. I jerked my weight forward and steadied myself on the fence.

“You’re welcome,” he said.

“I didn’t thank you.”

The wood bounced as he hoisted himself to sit next to me. He shrugged. “I was overlooking your lack of manners.”

I clenched my jaw, but kept my gaze focused on the cactus that took root next to the blue car. “Speaking of manners, it’s not polite to interrupt someone’s thoughts.”

He smiled. “Maybe not, but when the thoughts are thunk on my property, those rules don’t really apply.”

“You’re right. I’ll go.” Before I could slide off the fence, he touched my arm.

“You’re welcome to stay.” He shifted his gaze toward the cars. “Lots of people come here to think. It keeps me in business.”

“Business? What kind of work?” I thought maybe mechanic, but his khaki pants and pastel blue polo shirt didn’t fit.

“I’m a companion broker, you could say.”

“Companion broker?” The words tumbled around in my head as I tried to figure out what that meant.

He laughed. “Lemme explain. I help fix people.  This highway is traveled by lots of lonely people; people with heavy stuff on their mind. Sometimes all they need is human connection.”

My eyes widened. “So you’re a pimp? That’s horrible!”

He lifted a rhinestone and gold-plated Zippo from his pocket and lit the cigarette hanging from his pressed lips. “No, not a pimp. I mean, sometimes people are looking for that, but usually, they just want to talk so they don’t feel alone.”

“Not a pimp, huh? That blinged-out lighter says otherwise.”

“Hmph. One of those.” He shook his head and exhaled a trail of smoke.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

He shrugged. “Bitter, disillusioned and bearing scars of past loves. I’m guessing you’ve convinced yourself you’re on a journey to find you, but really, you’re running from who you are.” He paused to exhale another puff of smoke. “You judge me because it makes you feel better about yourself.”

“Listen, Mr…. Mr. whatever-your-name-is, you may think you know my story, but you don’t!” I clenched my eyes shut, hoping it was enough to keep the tears back.

“They call me Big Guns.”

I stifled a laugh. “Big Guns?”

He pushed up his shirt sleeve and flexed, I think. “See what I mean?”

I saw a barely perceptible bulge in his bicep. I shook my head, “I’m sorry, but those aren’t even purse pistols.” I laughed, almost forgetting that moments ago, I wanted to cry.

“Come on,” he said as he hopped off the fence.

I didn’t move. Following him seemed like insanity.

“Trust me. You need to see this.” He held his hand out, waiting for me to grasp it.

Impulsively, I took the invitation and his fingers curled around my hand. “Is it more impressive than what I’ve seen so far, Mr. Guns?” I shocked myself with the flirtatious tone in my voice.

This time he laughed. “I think you’ll be amazed. You can call me Thomas.”

I followed Thomas to the row of rusted cars. With his back to me, I slipped my tinted gloss from my pocket and swiped a quick coat on my lips.

“These cars were my dad’s hobby, but he passed away three years ago. I can’t bring myself to get rid of them, yet I don’t have the expertise needed to restore them either.”

“I’m sorry for your loss.” I didn’t know what else to say.

“I found another way to use them to honor his memory, though.” He opened the door to the first car and gestured for me to look inside.

Paper filled the inside of the car clear up to the windows. “What is all this?”

Thomas smiled. “These are letters from the lonely. We’re all broken in some way and these letters allow those passing through to let go of some of their burdens.”

“What do you do with the letters? Do you read them?”

“I don’t read them. I leave them here so the intended recipient will find them. There’s no such thing as coincidence; our paths cross for a reason. Some people write letters, but others read them and take one with them when they go. All I ask is that writers include their name and phone number, and when you take a letter, you contact that person.”

Companion broker… it made more sense. “Do these people ever meet?”

He shrugged. “Some do. I’ve gotten a few letters thanking me, but really, I’m just doing God’s service.”

“God’s service?”

Thomas smiled. “I used to be a pastor but disagreed with the human way of organized religion. So, I decided to minister to people on my own, according to God’s word and Jesus’ principles.”

My cheeks flushed. “I-I’m so sorry, I called you a pimp.”

“And you laughed at my biceps.” He closed the car door and led me to the blue car. “I think this one might have what you’re looking for.” He pointed to a notepad and pen on the dashboard. “Write a letter, or take a letter, it’s up to you. Take your time.”

I watched as Thomas shuffled away, dust trailing behind him. A pastor. Unbelievable. I turned my attention to the mounds of paper filling the car. I shoved them aside so I could sit. I wondered why he thought I’d find what I was looking for here. I didn’t even know what I sought.

I grabbed the paper and pen and wrote my first tentative words. The rest of the words followed swiftly and before I knew it, both sides of the page were filled. I hesitated. Then with a deep breath and long exhale, I scrawled my name and phone number. After I dropped the paper onto the pile, it felt like a weight had been lifted from inside me.

The dense pile swallowed my hand, and my arm up to my elbow, before I grasped a page. I held it up so I could focus on the scrawled words. I can’t believe I’m writing a letter to leave in an old car for some stranger to read. I smiled. My letter started similarly. By the time I got to the end, my eyes blurred. I swiped the wetness from my cheeks with the back of my hand.

Seth Mitchell.

My breath caught as I stared at the familiar name. A buried past, exhumed and resurrected by one hand-written letter. I folded the page into fourths and shoved it into my back pocket. Twenty years felt like a span of a few breaths. That letter transported me from middle age to mid-twenties. I stepped out of the car and slammed the creaky-hinged door behind me. The thought crossed my mind that the old car was a time machine of sorts.

Maybe Seth had been right back then… that love wasn’t enough. Maybe I was right in my proclamation that time doesn’t heal all wounds. Maybe right or wrong no longer mattered.

All I knew in that moment was that I needed to find out.


Thanks so much for reading! If life cooperates, the plan is to have another Emilio photo/story collaboration posted in December.  Stay tuned :)

Flirting With Darkness

10-12 Lava Tube5

I’m submerged,
on the brink of
forever losing my footing.
Arms flailing,
body swaying…
threatening to tumble
from the narrow plateau.

I curl up to absorb
the crushing blows;
the one-two punch-
sadness aches,
loneliness paralyzes…
I avert my gaze to hide
the mottled bruises inside.

I waver between
giving in and fighting back,
succumbing to weakness
or summoning strength;
I taunt the darkness…
I beg it to finally claim me,
yet dare it to set me free.


I’m not sure how much explanation this poem needs – it seems pretty straightforward to me… but then again, I wrote it :)  Here’s some background just in case:

I wrote this poem a couple months ago.  After several months of not seeing hope or a reason to look forward to another day, I grew tired and frustrated.  In the first verse, I’m balanced on the edge of darkness, in danger of being swallowed forever.  It’s like a force was pushing me from behind and I did everything I could to not fall.  In the second verse, I’m tired- beaten down by sadness and loneliness.  My bruises are on the inside, so no one can see them but me.  The third verse is the contemplation of whether to keep fighting the darkness or let it claim me.

This struggle has been very real and obviously, I’ve chosen to fight it.  With the loss of 2 of my pets recently, I’ve had passing moments of darkness, but nothing like the total immersion I experienced for the first half of the year.  Right now, I feel that little hope is good, but too much hope is a set up for disappointment.  Perhaps the longer I’m in the light, the more I will trust that hope is more than just a mirage shimmering on my horizon.

Thanks for reading.  I hope you have a beautiful Monday!

Inspired By 6 Words And Loss

This represents what 2015 is for me thus far
Snapshot of my 2015…

Death trails behind me,

Decaying carcasses lie uncovered;

Youthful hopes and dusty memories-

Remnants of broken dreams,



Each breath reminds me,

Eternal failures rediscovered;

I’m unable to escape shortcomings-

Fragments of who I used to be,



Scattered ashes cover

Three quarters of a year-

Whether I rise remains to be seen,

But I have to accept what will be.


I have a bad habit of explaining my poetry, and I will continue that, but first, I’ll take you on a scary ride of how my train of thought ended up here.  Hold on, it’s a twisty one :shock:

This post was originally going to be to refer you to a post compiled by Eli Pacheco at Coach Daddy where he asked bloggers how they would upgrade themselves – in six words.  (If you have some time, check it out… there were some great contributions.  Mine is #46)… “accept what will be; no worries”.  Hold this thought…

In the past month, I’ve had to say goodbye to two of my pets.  First, my seventeen-year-old Yorkie-Poo, Bulwinquel.  Then, a few days ago, I lost my beloved cat, Cybil.  She was fifteen years old and had been in kidney failure for over a year.

When I started writing this poem, it was to deal with the grief of loss over my pets.  Then my mind wandered a bit farther back, over the landscape of this year.  I half-joke that I’m done with 2015, but I don’t think it’s done with me.  This poem ended up being more about another loss I’ve been dealing with:  in January, I made the decision to end my 18-year marriage. Until last week, we were living in the same house which has been… well, miserable.

I won’t go into details as to what led to this because I have kids who might happen upon my ramblings here someday.  There were several factors involved, but one aspect, I wrote about last October in a poem that was particularly difficult to share.  Sharing that poem forced me to see things I chose to ignore for years.

This brings me back to my six-word contribution and this poem.  The death that trails behind me are my pets, my marriage, and the idea of what I thought my life would be eighteen years ago.  I failed.  I don’t like failing and stubbornly tried to deny this failure, but the first 3/4 of this year has been coming to terms with it.  It’s a continuing process.

I have spent a lot of time thinking (obsessing, really) about things I have no control over.  It’s a daily thing to remind myself not to worry about tomorrow and to instead, rely on faith.  I have no idea what the future holds.  I’ll find out when it gets here.

This isn’t supposed to be a depressing post. I’m okay really. I’m working on a photo-inspired story but was too busy to complete it for September as I had planned. I’m not going to jinx it by saying when I think it’ll be done. I’ll just leave it at “soon.” :)

Thanks for hanging on to this thought train. Now, relax and have a beautiful Thursday!

The Problem With Darkness

I took this photo on July 4 - the first creative photo I've taken  in several months
I took this photo on July 4 – the first creative photo I’ve taken in several months


Darkness settles…

a heavy burden,

a shroud over hope:

the absence of all emotion.

Darkness lies…

taunting whispers,

deafening in my ears:

misery is all there is.

Darkness defies…

disobeys rules of logic,

world turns upside down:

death rules over life.

Darkness distorts…

a faded mirage,

an alternate reality:

coercing me to believe.

The problem with darkness

is that until light streams through,

I accept counterfeit promises:

I’m blind to hope- my sustaining well of truth.


This poem came to me while cooking dinner this evening.  I’ve limited my posting for several months now.  I am generally a positive person, so this extended period of darkness has taken a toll on me.  Recently though, I’ve started to see some rays of light cutting through the pitch-black.  When not submerged in the overwhelming nothingness, I am able to have moments where I believe that what is now will not always be.  That’s what this poem is:  acknowledging how this darkness has bound me, and being able to recognize that hope is freeing.  I’m not quite “me” yet, but am finally approaching a place where I can write honestly, and yet keep this an encouraging space.

I am woefully behind on reading blogs, but am catching up a little each day.  Thank you so much to everyone who has continued to read my sporadic posts, prayed for me, and have sent ‘good thoughts’ my way.  This darkness would be a lot darker without you :)

Freedom Is A State Of Mind

It’s almost Independence Day here in the United States, but I thought I’d look at freedom in a different way. Freedom isn’t just about rights that are awarded from sources outside of us; freedom is also what we allow ourselves to make of it.

For a while I’ve been imprisoned by my own thoughts and circumstances. My mind has settled on the impossibility of what life is and I’ve been unable to comprehend a time where things could be different. This has led me into some really dark days. I haven’t written on my blog for nearly a month, mostly because the majority of what I’ve written has been so dark and depressing, I simply cannot share it.

During this time, friends have tried to lift me up because I can’t stand on my own. I know this has been exhausting for them because it’s been tiring for me as well. Waking up each day has been a chore. I’ve been caught in an endless loop of not wanting to do anything, and then feeling down because I don’t find joy in anything.

I know; it’s all in my head.

A glimmer of hope came through in my writing recently, and I thought I would share. It’s the first hint in a long time that maybe I will be right again, someday. This poem was written about a friend who has put a lot of effort into trying to get me to see hope. I’ve not been able to look beyond what I could see for today and tomorrow. But sometimes (I’m told) hope waits over the horizon, just out of sight.

Just because I can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

Hope is the light streaming in between clouds
Hope is the light streaming in between clouds

You are…

A seedling sprouting

on the charred forest floor;

the sun rising

bathing desolation in golden light;

fresh rain soaking

into parched desert soil;

the smile spreading

across a tear-streaked face.

You are the today

that makes me want to see tomorrow;

you are a gift-

a reminder of God’s amazing way.

These sentiments also apply to everyone who has offered prayers and well-wishes over the last several months. A big, heart-felt thanks to all of you! There is still so much uncertainty in my life, and most days are emotionally and physically draining, but I’m starting to believe one thing IS a certainty: I will be okay. “Okay” might not turn out to be what I thought it would be… but that’s okay :) I am so far behind in reading blogs but I am finally to the point I think I can set aside a little time most days. I always enjoyed the blog community and I think perhaps taking the step to interact again will bring some normalcy, which I’ve been lacking.

I wish you all a beautiful weekend!  If hope isn’t clearly visible, may a shift in mindset bring it out of the shadows.