Marks first experience with tragedy, came to him at fourteen years old; when he lost his
parents to a terrible car accident. Easily tempered since youth, his parents sent him away to a
boarding school, in the far end of Prescott, Arizona, to attain discipline. He blamed himself for
the sad ordeal, because, they were on their way to visit him at school the weekend they both lost
their lives. Never able to move past his loss, he retreated to his daydreams. By the time Mark
was sixteen, he was standing at an astounding six foot two; with amazing posture, and a strong
angular jawline. One would think he was quite the ladies’ man; he repelled those who found him
the least bit striking, with his deep, dark, menacing, hazel eyes. His anger flowed through them
like water, cascading down a river bank. Because of his wandering mind, he seldom had the
ability to hold face to face conversations with those outside of his job. Mark was very well read
and educated, graduating from A.S.U with a PHD in Aerospace Engineering. From there, he
relocated to Ward County, North Dakota, to work as a Missile and Space Systems Maintenance
Apprentice for the air force, at the age of twenty three. He dreamed about being able to build an
austere flight suit, to escape the world, and find a planet less populated by humans. He knew it
was improbable, but that thought never eroded his fantasies about the idea. In his mind, his
creation would be recognized by our world, but could never be duplicated by another: his
originality preceded all others.
During work hours, Mark did as he was told, followed instructions carefully, and was a
precise worker (anal). He was adamant about perfecting each and every plan set forth upon him
with precision. For that, his higher ranks respected him. He left little time for leisure, not to
mention personal relationships. The idea of a life to Mark was: work, eating three square meals
daily, keeping his toned physique, paying bills, keeping a roof above him, and, on rare occasions,
karaoke. In between all of the above, he lost himself in his fantasies. His repeated, melancholic
dream: included a small, secluded cottage, with a generous flourish of sweet smelling flowers,
like azaleas and tulips, and an assemblage of dragonflies, whipping though the air. He would
catch a glimpse of a woman inside, cooking a meal. But, he was never able to see her face
through the shutters from the outside; only her small slender frame, shoulder length hair, and the
shift of her flowy dress. He’d try to peer further, but as soon as he seemed too close, she would
disappear. His latent anger would boil to his outer surface, momentarily affecting his daily
routines; wondering who she could be, and why he was never able to connect with her. He would
swiftly gather his focus and thrust the anger deep down inside of him, where he usually buried all
of his emotions.
Marks’ compulsions with his dreams, and what they meant, led him to a very secluded,
lonely life. After twenty five years of working for the Air force, his retirement came and went
without celebration; no family, siblings, and definitely no children. He blamed his parents’
absence, or women being too needy, for his empty life. Marks’ lack of compassion for the
feelings of others is probably the reason he never had second dates. Soon after relocating to his
home town in Arizona, he felt different. He was mindful of his surroundings. He rented a small
home; that consisted of one bedroom, barely big enough to fit a dresser and bed at the same time,
a small eat in kitchen, with a console table and two stools, and a day room, furnished with a love
seat and a table lamp. His walls were naked and pale, like the bones of a calf, left bare after they
were feasted on by a coyote. It was depressing to look around but, he was unable to fill the walls
with pictures of loved ones; he had none. The only picture he did keep was of himself and his
parents at a park; his memory of it is non-existent. They all smiled, so he thought, “maybe we
were happy”. It was faded, and the faces that looked back were barely visible anymore, but, he
kept it anyway. Any heirloom from his childhood was disposed of long ago by the new owners
of the house he was born in. He could never bring himself to visit, after his parents were gone.
The money from the home was put into his college fund, done by the state; it also included living
expenses. Mark was fortunate his parents paid for the boarding school in advanced, so he never
experienced suffering, like the less fortuitous children in the world, whose parents didn’t plan
ahead. Money and security shaped Marks personality in ways he never realized. Although, he
was never a flashy dresser, and name brands never interested him, he did enjoy the comforts of
acquiring proper attire: neat, ironed slacks, button down shirts, and plain black leather shoes,
with tassels on the top. Having money opened many doors, mainly, for furthering his education.
His imagination was prominent and obvious to his fellow educators, who motivated his decision
of study within the sciences.
Mark decided he would have to eventually familiarize himself with his neighborhood; he
hadn’t been anywhere but to town for a few groceries and essentials for the house. He thought
the life of retirement would be great, after all of the hard work he’d done the past twenty five
years, but, he felt void and emptiness. He walked through town aimlessly exploring. It was late
in the morning, and the streets were mostly empty, accept for the few patrons going about their
daily routines [he imagined] of errand running. His eye caught a road at the far end of town, and
curiosity took hold of him. He journeyed his way through the brush and rubble as he attempted to
keep clean. After reaching what seemed to be the end of the road, his breath caught in his throat.
He stood shocked, and stared deeply at the cottage. It was just as he’d seen in his dreams. Never
believing it existed, he stepped closer. He reached to touch the window, but was stunned by the
sound of a gun cracking behind him. His hand lowered, but his body didn’t move a centimeter.
“What do you want?” yelled a squeaky small voice. “I, I”…. Mark stuttered. “I apologize”, he
finally said. “I was just exploring, I didn’t know anyone was here.” “This is private property, get
off of my land!” The small voice yelled again. As Mark turned, looking into the barrel of a
shotgun, he was stunned by who was threatening him. She was breath taking. She had almond
shaped eyes, the color of copper [almost], with hints of yellow around the outer surface. He had
never seen eyes of this color, [not that he’d taken notice of many eyes in his life before]. She was
thin, but not fragile, holding the gun to her shoulder as her non-threatening eyes peered at him. “I
am Mark, I’m new to town. I’m sorry I frightened you.” She looked puzzled, as if I had told her a
joke that wasn’t funny. Her eyes softened a bit, but she did not lower her gun. “Mark James?”
she said. “Yes” I said. That moment, she lowered her weapon and smiled. Her smile was
familiar, but I couldn’t place it. I tried to resist the urge to touch her face with both of my hands;
I hesitated and set my eyes to the ground instead. Something stirred in my stomach, perhaps
hunger. “How do you know me?” I asked. “We graduated from ASU together” she said. “I’m
Julie, I’m sure you don’t remember me.” Shock overtook me, as soon as I realized why I was
having those daydreams. But, I’d never been to her home. I barely spoke with her. She would
stare at me with what seemed like disgust. Why her? I don’t want to be here, but my feet fail me,
and keep me in place. She continues to ramble, but I try to think why would I think of this girl,
countless times, for years, why was she special? I apologized again, and told her I would leave,
but she stopped me before I could continue. “No, please come inside, I just put tea on, and I
baked gluten free muffins.” She said. She was insistent, and before I knew what I was doing, I
followed her through the threshold of her quaint, lived in, charming cottage.
“So what have you done with yourself all of these years?” she asked. I wasn’t sure where
to start. She made every hair on my body, stand up. I was nervous? I’m never nervous. I
collected myself, and breathed in deeply, let it out and began my “story”. After hearing all of my
accomplishments, I felt fatigued. Was my life really that boring? I never dispensed that much
information about my empty life before. Now, I feel dejected. I need to separate from her
immediately. “I have to get going, thank you for the tea, it was lovely”, I said. Did I just say
lovely?! Yes, I need to leave here, NOW. Julie extended her hand, and urged me to stay with her.
I’ve never felt a jolt like that; of her just placing her hand on mine. “Do you have someplace to
be?” she said. I had nothing, but shook my head as our eyes made a connection. “It’s a perfect
day for a walk, and perhaps a picnic?” Julie was insistent, again. I argued that I had my own
errands to tend to, so she invited herself along. Is she lonely? I wondered. Who’d want to waste
an entire day, with me? She was an incredibly buoyant person, and delicate to the touch,
someone who I should clearly stay away from. We conversed of many things [she spoke mostly]
throughout the day. “Have you ever been hiking? Julie asked me. Not in years, I replied grimly.
“Well, maybe we should make a day of it next weekend, unless you’re otherwise occupied?” she
said coyly. I don’t know, I began to say, but, before I was able to stop her, she contended I
wouldn’t regret it. So, I had a date, a date? I don’t date. I have never felt so out of control before,
it angered me, but I couldn’t bring myself to raise my voice or hurt her feelings.
Mark thought about Julie every day, for six days, counting down till their next “meeting”;
with such adoration, and a healthy combination of irritation. She was so pushy, and earthy, and
bubbly and annoying, but, also, beautiful and naturally funny [she made me laugh, I cringed] and
easy going, light-footed, and intelligent. How can anyone have the perfect combination of
intellect, and spunk? Well, I can now admit it, life has meaning, so it seems.
The Saturday of our first “date”, we planned to meet in town before our hike, in a small
café, perfectly across the town gallery. She expressed how fond she was of the aesthetic
creations in the window. So I thought, we could sit at the window, admiring the works of the
local people, while eating our breakfast. I didn’t understand what beauty could be found in the
loud colors used, and the lines perfectly set with no real direction in any of the paintings viewed
out of the gallery window. What could it mean? Hopefully she could explain it to me. “Where
could she be?” Mark thought, as he peered at his watch. Aggravated, that she was over an hour
late, he decided to walk to her cottage. During his walk, Mark worked himself into and angry,
distorted state, confused as to why; he didn’t want to go in the first place. When he reached the
cottage, something was amiss.
Lights were off, and the curtains were drawn. He suddenly felt a surge of fear, travel up
his spine; crippling all the anger he previously felt. He began rapping on the front door, hard
enough to take it off of its hinges; the door was locked. He tried to calm himself, inhaling and
exhaling as slow as his chest would allow. When there was no answer, he concluded to find any
way inside. A small window behind the house was cracked ever so slightly. There was a
dragonfly, resting on the ledge of the window, eerily still. He stared at it, feeling a sense of Déjà
vu. As he came closer to the window, it took flight, passed his face, almost hitting him. He jolted
back to avoid it, but the nuisance was immediately forgotten, and his concern fell on Julies well-
being once again; he began to climb up the side of the house, pried the small window open, and
toppled inside, landing on a soft fluffy rug. As his eyes came back into focus, he noticed a small
cozy sitting room, with a couch, large enough to occupy a small family, and a side table that a
single lamp and book rested on. The walls were covered in paintings, which seemed self-made.
He was impressed, but snapped back to the original notion of why he was “breaking” into Julies’
home. He began creeping through the narrow hallway, with one door on each wall. With each
step, he hesitated. “What if she is with someone?” The thought alone, hurt his heart and head
simultaneously. When he reached the door to his right, it was closed, with purpose, it seemed.
Swallowing the lump in his throat, he reached for the door knob, with a shaking hand; he turned
it and forced his way in. Before he could say anything, relief seized all the anger/fear he
previously felt. He regained composure, and straightened himself out, before fully entering her
bedroom. “Did you forget we had an appointment?” Julies shock was apparent; her eyes were
wide and her mouth in the shape of an O. “I was trying to pull myself out of bed, but I couldn’t
find the energy.” she said lightly. “How did you get in?” she asked. “Well” I started, with my
eyes staring to the ground, “I thought something happened to you, so, I may have found an open
window, and, I may have crawled into it, and, I may have landed on a very soft rug, to make sure
you were safe” I blushed at the confession, and looked up slightly. A smile spread over her face,
“you worried about me?” she asked through a smirk. “Well, you don’t seem like the type of
person to make plans, and decide last minute, you would not show up. Am I wrong?” Julie laid
her head on her large pillow, and requested I join her, with the reach of her hand. I had no words.
I froze at her suggestion, but, I wanted nothing more than to embrace her at that moment. I
hesitantly approached her, urging my feet to move faster, but they refused. When I reached her
hand and clenched it, ever so slightly, I felt her tiny bones under the thin layer of skin that
covered them. I wondered, had she’d eaten in the days we’ve spent apart. Before I could assume
not, she spoke. “I need to tell you something.” She declared. I waited patiently for her to
continue, but she stared into my eyes with urgency, for what seemed like minutes or even hours.
“Is everything ok?” I asked. “Yes, I just think we should reschedule our hike for another day,
when I have the energy. Maybe it was something I ate.” She said unknowingly. “I think that’s
fair, but, you should put something of substance in your stomach, perhaps lightly buttered toast?”
I suggested. She shook her head, and said “maybe, just some tea for now.” I agreed, but I will
insist again, after her tea. We stood together all afternoon conversing about things that seem
trivial to me, like global warming, and gardening; but she enjoyed it, so I attempted to embrace
I went home in the evening, but not before making sure she was locked inside safely. I
can’t explain why I feel the need to protect her; I’ve known her all of five minutes, but I want to
keep her safe every minute, of every day. As I lay my head down on my uncomfortable mattress,
in the lonely little coffin; some would call a home, I imagined how it would be, to fall asleep
next to Julie. My last thoughts before drifting off to sleep, was the intensity in her eyes when she
last spoke to me.
Every day, I would try to avoid seeing or speaking to Julie. I wanted some sense of
control again in my life. She stole my ability to think and be who I was. Mid-morning, I was
awoken with panic. My brain was foggy; it needed coffee. I tried to shake the sensation. I know
avoiding Julie was taking its toll on me, but I had to. I’m no good for a woman like her. She
deserves better than me. I picture her face staring out of the window, with a tender smile. The
angle of her face, complimented her prominent cheek bones and her long slender neck. Her eyes
full of joy, but a hint of mystery behind them. She is very open about herself; which I love. But
it’s also, the fact that I think she’s afraid of something. As if she can’t allow herself a moment of
silence; if she does she will explode like a canister put under pressure. She always keeps me
wondering and intrigued about what she’ll say next. Her stories always full of color and her
laugh so robust, you can hear it come from her stomach. I want her. I need her vibrancy, but how
could I subject her to my dull secluded ways? I pace back and forth, from my boxed house, for
what seems like an eternity, when a knock came to the front door.
“So are we in a fight?” Julie asked. “No of course not, why? I said, hesitantly. “Well, I
haven’t seen you in an eternity, and you’ve yet to answer my messages, so, I figured, I’d come
over and talk, perhaps over dinner?” Julie said. I was taken back; I was at a loss for words. I
suggested the diner in town, but she had other plans. “I’m going to cook for you” she said. But, I
don’t have much here, I replied. She pushed passed the door and walked to the kitchen area.
Before looking around, she noted how “whimsical” my living arrangements were. I happen to
disagree, but who am I to interject her opinion.
She found that I own one pan; I use to fry eggs in, and a small sauce pan; to boil things
in. My ice box was infertile, because I usually shop daily and seldom have left overs. She
suggested we go in town to “shop”. I didn’t want to shop, but I followed anyway. We bought an
array of pots and pans, silverware; that served eight, cups, mugs and dishware. I was puzzled at
how many things a single person, who scarcely had company, needed these items for. She said it
was all necessary, so I agreed. When we went to the grocery store, she chose a large quantity of
food; meats, chicken, vegetables, juices, fruits and coffee.
When we re-entered my barren rental, she made it somewhat feel like home. I felt at
peace, somehow; she rid me of my anxiety, almost entirely. She cooked an amazing meal, and
placed two dishes down. I helped her set the table, and she lit a candle. She spared no time to
discuss why I was avoiding her. I wanted to tell her why, but the words refused to leave my lips.
I knew at that moment, looking into her eyes, that if I told her how I felt, she might agree with
me. I couldn’t lose her, not now. I stuttered, and stumbled over words that were barely legible, so
she stopped me. “If you don’t want to be friends, I understand, I know I come on strong, but, I
really like you.” She said. Then she focused on the remainder of the meal.
Throughout the meal, we barely spoke, and I knew she was considering her words, as was
I. It was the next moment that I realized, I liked her too. Forming the words was as difficult as
lifting a two ton car, but I wanted her to know. I went on about my upbringing and shared with
her my darkest secrets. She stared at me with her large eyes, and I wondered if she wanted to run.
She didn’t, she sat there, and absorbed every word, seemingly bitter. I wondered if she could
love someone like me, and realized, no one could love someone like me. I’m an empty vessel, a
loner, who was vacant of giving and/or receiving love.
I left the table and hoped she would leave in my absence. I turned to leave the room as
she caught my hand. Her touch surged through my skin like a lightning bolt. I tensed, and felt
tears form in my eyes. She embraced me, to my shock, and placed her large soft lips on mine. I
held her tightly and consumed her mouth with mine.
She spent the night, and the night after, for a week. I was blissfully happy, but my energy
was spent. She decided she needed to go home, because she had no clothes. I suggested buying
her a new wardrobe; she laughed lightly and gently pushed my shoulder. Her playfulness,
allowed me to discover I was able to make her laugh without trying. I’m funny? What a concept.
I suggested joining her, but she rejected the idea, almost immediately. I was surprised how upset
it made me, but, I let her go.
The evening fell rather quickly and I felt uneasy. I hadn’t heard from Julie all day,
although she promised to phone me when she reached her house. The pacing started again, this
time faster than before. I needed to leave and go for a walk, yes a walk, to clear my head.
I wandered through town, hoping to mistakenly run into Julie. When the shops started to
close for the night, I decided to sit in the park further in town. I sat down on a patch of grass, and
realized how exhausted I felt. I lay back with the intention of staring at the stars, till my energy
regenerated. I slept quickly.
I was awoken by a loud buzzing; thrown into a state of panic, wondering if I was being
attacked by bees. My eyes refocused, and through the light of the moon, I saw a beautiful flock
of dragonflies, circling me in harmony. It was breathtaking. I stood up slowly so they wouldn’t
disperse, but they seemed drawn to my direction. I stretched my hand out, palm up, and one lay
gently on the tip of my finger; wings in frenzy but, gentle to the touch. I gasped by the beauty I
was surrounded with, which caused the sudden disbandment of the elegant insects, with wings.
That was the night I found Julie laying on her floor, motionless with a color of a full
moon. The doctors claimed that it was a heart defect she had been born with, that caused an
aneurism, leading her to an immediate, untimely death. The paramedics spoke quickly and tried
to intercede; I held her in my arms, in refusal to leave her side. They pried her from my hands,
clenched tightly around her fragile fame. I was in the ambulance with her, where they allowed
me to stay with her.
The walls were white and brightly lit. It was painful to keep my eyes open. There was
nothing that could be done for Julie; her body was cold. I walked for miles, trying to understand
the doctor’s words to me. He apologized constantly, but could not tell me much else. I was
floating in the world; empty and alone again.
I entered my house; through the darkness I could see the flashing red light on my
machine. I numbly touched the button; Julie’s voice blared through it. My breath caught; she
Julie expressed how much she enjoyed our week together and how much she hated being
away from me. She claimed that she would pack a bag for the next sleep over, or I could join her
at her home, which ever I felt comfortable with. I could almost hear her smile through the
I left with urgency, I needed to be where she was last alive, to feel her spirit. I needed her
warmth, her laugh, her touch. Despair came crashing down; knowing I will never feel her touch
again. It was all too much to believe.
I reached the enchanting cottage, I dreamed of prior to meeting Julie; it seemed changed
somehow. I walked through the unlocked door, and made my way to her bedroom. I sat on the
floor, with my knees to my chin, and lay my head to grieve her. I touched the place on the floor,
where I found her; wilted like a flower, in need of sunlight.
Each moment spent with her, came as a cataclysm; a painful reminder that she is gone, forever.
Her hands ever so gentle, her smile so serene and celestial, and the warmth that radiated off of
her skin; that purity only existed in her. I knew at that moment, she was the love I was meant to
have. As quickly as it came, it was taken away without respite.
The sound of light tapping on her window startled my trance. I walked slowly to see what
was so eager to come into Julie’s bedroom. To my surprise, it was a lone dragonfly, dancing
around my head. I felt peace fall upon me; Julie was sending me a sign.
I was lying on her bed, eager to see her again, drawing in my last few breaths; the dragonfly lay
lightly on my chest. I accepted, a love like ours’ was once in a lifetime, and rare to come by. My heart belongs to her for all of eternity, Mark said, so that’s where I’ll meet her.