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She walks in beauty like the night, because she cannot overcome her wild fire of insomnia.

Not tonight. Tonight, her mania overwhelms her best intentions pushing her into the dirty side streets of Tampa, Florida.

The city pulses with danger. Everyone looks at her with blue eyes of an impending cruelty. Everyone looks at her with blue eyes of an impending violence.

It’s Thursday late night, Friday early morning. The moon hides. The stars hold no empathy only more burning.

She stays in the shadows although she is afraid of what she may find in the dark.

She walks, runs, crawls, then exhausted falls.

They find her passed out in the isolated 7-11 parking lot among crumpled Slurpee cups and cigarette butts.

The siren’s red mimics the discarded cups’ colors. She never escapes the mean reds.

The siren’s wail reminds her of the shrill voices screaming in her head. She never escapes their sad cacophony.

She wishes to continue sleeping– too weary, too sick to wake once more.

Her angel whispers. “Come back.”

The angel’s voice is soft, inviting, and firm. Beguiled, she turns back. She knows the angel makes no promises of a better or easier life. The invitation is just to live.

She makes the choice to live again– one more time in a long series of one more times.

Maybe the angel was an EMT, a nurse, her mother.

Maybe it was just a self-preserving dream jolting her back into consciousness.

Whatever made the call, she decides to answer.

Fluttering then opening her tired eyes and releasing her midnight memories of madness, she slowly focuses on a new rising sun.

This piece was recently published in a new anthology the women’s initiative’s “Challenge Into Change 2017 Writing Contest.” You can buy it and support mental health services at New Dominion Bookshop on the Downtown Mall, 404 East Main Street, Charlottesville, Virginia. (434) 295 2552. Thanks!

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