It was close to midnight when Charlotte’s plane landed. She hurriedly retrieved her bag from the overhead bin and filed behind the other passengers into the almost deserted terminal. As Charlotte stepped through the automatic doors into the humid night air and made her way into the dimly lit parking lot, she paused long enough to get her bearings and fish her car keys from her purse. Scanning the almost empty lot for her car, she realized she was alone. Clutching the handle of her suitcase with one hand and her keys threaded between the fingers of her other just in case she needed to defend herself, Charlotte picked up her pace. Her footsteps echoing in the darkness were the only sounds she heard. When at last her car was in sight, she let out an audible sigh. It wasn’t until Charlotte was within a few yards of the trunk of her pale yellow Eldorado, that she noticed the sound of another set of footsteps close behind her. Not wanting to seem alarmed, she tightened her grip on her keys and quickened her speed. A rush of adrenaline made her acutely aware she and the owner of the second set of footsteps were the only living souls in the otherwise abandoned lot. Charlotte briefly thought of digging into her purse for her phone, but she didn’t want to risk the time it would take to make that happen.
Instead, she tried to convince herself her imagination was creating something out of nothing. And for a moment or two there were no more foreign footsteps. Relieved, Charlotte darted the last few feet to the back of her car, unlocked the trunk and began to hoist her luggage into the cavernous darkness. Just as the bag landed with a thud, Charlotte felt the warm breath of someone inches from her neck. She opened her mouth to scream only to have a gloved hand reach from behind and silence her before she could utter a sound. Panic stricken, Charlotte struggled to turn toward her attacker and have her keys land an effective blow. But before she could gather the necessary momentum to do any damage, her assailant forcefully shoved Charlotte into the trunk and began closing the door. Charlotte, flailing about, tried to free herself, but the gloved hands pushed her back down and resumed lowering the trunk door. With no hand to cover her mouth, Charlotte began screaming “Help, help, please, someone help me. Help, please…” As the door moved past the halfway point, Charlotte looked up in time to see the eyes of her captor, gasped and then let out a whimper because she knew she’d never be found. No one would ever know she was missing. The even stare that had met Charlotte’s was her own, and with that the door slammed shut, leaving her in total darkness.
Charlotte’s eyes flew open at the sound of the trunk closing. Relieved it had only been a dream; she took a few deep breaths, and turned on the lamp by her bed. It had been a long time since she’d been startled awake by a nightmare and even longer since she’d been able to remember the dream’s every detail. Charlotte figured it was stress related, but she had no idea it was a foreshadowing of the days to come…And that’s as far I got in what I had hoped would be an uplifting Charlotte story where humor and gumption triumphed over yet one more dating tale of woe.
The trunk dream really happened. The car was one I had photographed almost a year prior to it making an appearance in my nightmare. At first, I was certain the dream was an omen of what would happen if I let my fear of being alone dictate my love life. It seemed pretty transparent, even down to the airport parking lot. If not careful, I was in danger of losing myself for the sake of proving I could make a relationship work, while compromising all I had fought so hard to achieve. The yellow Eldorado was going to be Charlotte’s vehicle that helped her to leave her past heartbreaks in the rearview mirror. But two weeks after stuffing myself into a trunk, the world was drained of all its color and silly stories of love in all the wrong places lost any importance I had assigned them. The events of May opened the door to every skeleton I thought I had banished years ago, and I spent the rest of my summer becoming acquainted with them and dancing to the mixtape of messages they hummed in my ear.
Since one’s relationships involve intersecting stories, I am not at liberty to share what is not only my story to tell; however, I believe what came as a result of colliding narratives is a shared experience of many who choose love and light rather than succumb to the numbing balm of apathy. I know this to be true because I was privileged to be surrounded by amazing people who shared their wounds while they were binding mine. For every haunting mixtape refrain that echoed in my mind, these lovely people countered with restorative choruses. They became my marigolds.
In a garden, marigolds protect their companion plants, combating the weeds that threaten growth and productivity. Marigolds in many cultures represent love, honor and guidance. Their vibrant colors serve as a reminder of the beauty among the thorns. My marigolds have loved me through the darkest times, and remind me I am not alone. They have shown me love is greater than fear, and we only become strong when we share our vulnerability. Now when the skeletons begin to whisper their tired verses of my inadequacies, I have a new tape to play instead, one made for me by the people who God has planted around me. The lessons of May brought me to my knees, and not the stuff of pithy Charlotte stories. I have learned it is futile trying to convince people from the past I am not who they think I am. Not only is it a waste of valuable breath, but it is no longer a compulsion. The people, who view me as fragile, don’t know me. I have also learned there is a difference between being taken care of and being cared for. I now know to choose the latter. I believe we are each called to minister to one another, to be “marigolds” or companions on the journey. It is only when we share each other’s burdens that we free ourselves to experience joy. Isolation, fear and pride stunt our development. We have been created to live in community. I am thankful for the family and friends who are my marigolds, and I hope I can share in their legacy.