A thousand empty vases


Doghouse Rose – This is one of them roses you can buy at 24 hour convenience stores like 7-11 or a corner market. They come wrapped in cellophane with a little water bulb at the bottom. Usually they don’t look so healthy but when you’re buying a flower at 4 am it’s all relative. See they’re called doghouse roses because you only ever buy them when you know you’re headed home to the doghouse. You missed something important, you have been gone for three days or the last time you went out the door it was with a wild word or two and a smashed picture frame or three. And you’re standing on sailor’s legs because the best choice you made was to get lost in a bottle or pill.

And you take your peace-offering and you walk in the door, looking like a sorry case and a lost child. Sort of repentant, sort of sly like. Watching her out of the corner of your eye. Hoping this little offering makes it okay. And see it does man. It heals a whole mess of wounds at first, in the beginning when love flies like a wild pitch. Then she comes to you and takes it, throwing her arms around your neck and kissing and sobbing into your chin. She lets you in. And you think you done it, you are the smoothest cowboy on the range. You rode your horse back into town and everything’s A-okay.

But they stop working after a while. Because you see she has a secret little stash. A Ziploc bag full of petals from a hundred other roses. A hundred other times you broke a promise, where you broke a heart, where you messed up so bad that each time it inched her a little ways further down the hall to the door. She don’t wait up no more, she don’t wonder, she ain’t there to wrap a blanket around you as you drop into a heap on the living room floor and embrace and touch, knowing forgiveness. You walk in the door and the lights aren’t even on. So you drop the rose on a bedside table. Then make your way back to the living room and set down on the couch in your clothes and fall asleep feeling somehow slighted. Somehow like she took away your magic and you probably curse her under your breath as you pass out.

Because you just don’t see old hoss. That it isn’t the rose. It wasn’t the sad eyed puppy in the door that worked on her. It was the worry and fear. It was that you’ve got this death wish and a wandering mind. And every time you walk out the door she is so scared that it may be the last time. That the streets, the drugs or the threats of never coming back may just take you. And no matter how bad you did wrong it don’t matter. Because you’re safe there with her. And you still smell like you and smile like you and you still make all them promises again. You still make love in earnest and fall asleep with an arm around her giving her some hope. And that’s all she ever wanted. All she ever needed. You and a hope that maybe tomorrow when you wake up it won’t start again. That you’ll become the man she sees through the fog and stone walls.

But it never really happens. Each time, each disappointment and each wound just push her heart back a little further and her step a little quicker. Until she isn’t sure how she loves you anymore and her own secret heart tells her she loved a ghost. And now it’s a habit just like yours. But maybe tomorrow she’ll kick. She’ll brave the hurt and the withdrawal and go on out that door and never look back. There’s still time for her. Even as she watches yours run out.

Then one day she does just that.

And you don’t feel it right away. Even heartache takes a while to weasel through your woods. You just get angry and you get high. You think that she’ll be back. Ain’t you a cowboy. Misunderstood and a little wild. She loves that about you. But then she don’t come round. And it starts to get in on you. The loneliness, the loss and the missing her. Even if you really don’t understand. And your heartbreaks. Into a thousand sad little pieces. You wander the streets at night because you don’t want to go home. The pillow still smells like her hair and the toothbrush she left behind still hangs in the bathroom. There are love letters in the drawer. A picture on a shelf of that time you were happy and she was still blind. There’s even a half empty bottle of wine in fridge from when she decided to join you in some adventure a while back but she didn’t have the legs to keep up. And you gently put her to bed, kissed her forehead and loved her as best you could. Then nursed her through the hangover the next morning. So you find no comfort and you hurt like a spike is being driven hard into your soul. You moan and sob when you’re alone. You stand on bridges too long thinking of jumping. You write suicide notes and try to figure out where to leave them so she can know you did your best. You suffer the consequence of your actions. But you never quite see it then. It’s just white-hot pain and lingering sadness.

Till years later when the pain has pulled back and the ache and mental pictures of her and where she might be, who she might be with fade into a gray-white haze in your mind. When you can’t hardly remember what her voice sounded like over the phone when it was warm and full of love and longing. She becomes stone angel in a graveyard of a life lived all wrong. Some place you visit once in a while to remember and pay respect. To lay a single red rose on.

It’s a death died a thousand times. And it is all your fault just as sure as if you fired a pistol. That hole in time and heart where she once was. That’s your doing. And not nothing can take it away. It’s just a truth in your life. You live with it, you pull it along and drop it down in each new grave as you dig it. Another woman but the same song is sung and the same dance is done. Another stone angel and another hundred roses.

And then you’re alone. Not sure you can love or even if you know how. And age and scarring have told you that you can’t do it no more. You can’t hurt another soul like that. But the lonely carves you apart every night as you lay in bed. You wish just once that damn phone would ring and the voice on the other end was soft and warm and says “Hey I missed you, do you want to come over?’ But if wishes were horses…

So you’re left with a thousand doghouse roses and not much else. A little box you keep hidden in a drawer of memories and mementos that you can’t open anymore than you could open a coffin to see what’s inside.

You drop to your knees and beg forgiveness. From God, from time and from the ones who left you behind. For their own lives they ran away.

Prayers and echoes man. That’s it. That’s all. That’s everything.

a confession

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13 responses

  1. Jen Webb

    Wow. Great stuff.

    November 28, 2009 at 3:19 pm

  2. I’d never heard the term “doghouse rose” before, but I totally love it. Along with a bit I heard from a celebrity on TV over the weekend it inspired a post I put here: http://www.timvansant.com/otoh/2009/11/30/doghouse-rose/

    November 30, 2009 at 8:04 pm

    • Hey man that’s pretty good. I’m impressed.

      I first heard the term “doghouse roses” from Townes Van Zandt, it was later adopted by Steve Earle and he eventually used it to title a collection of short stories. If you can find it it’s a great read.

      I just sort of fleshed out the term in my own experience.

      November 30, 2009 at 8:08 pm

  3. Pingback: A Thousand Empty Vases – Archive » Indie Ink . Org

  4. Hey man, found you by way of Indie Ink. I really dug this story, maybe it hit a little too close to home. Impressively written, you’ve gained a fan.

    January 13, 2010 at 12:46 am

  5. Oh wow. Found you on indie ink. This was fantastic. Loving everything about it.

    January 13, 2010 at 12:56 am

  6. Jesus. That is some amazing writing.

    January 13, 2010 at 2:18 am

  7. This was a wonderful piece. Truly something special.

    January 13, 2010 at 5:38 pm

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