She sits on the floor amidst the crash of it all — the wreck of plans and finances, the broken bits of house and body, the whirling sense of collapse. She sits there and holds her knees to her chest, reciting insults like a rosary, repeating the words of the small enraged creature under the desk. The blinds are drawn. She thinks she feels safer this way, as the creature chants louder and louder a litany of wrongs, and she repeats them. “What kind of adult are you? Look at the mess you made. Who would want you now?”

The room is dark; her eyes are closed; and each word spins a nightmare that stalks the hallway, a sorrow that drains her blood. It is an infinite loop.

But a breeze moves the curtain — she forgot to lock the window — and a ray of light falls across her face. It is warm, and she turns to it briefly, opens her eyes to see it streak yellow across her hand, illuminate the dust motes that dance in the air like snowflakes. And the air goes out of her. A sigh rises from her belly through her chest and fills the room with the first sound of surrender in hours.

It is a shame, she thinks sadly, and wraps her arms around herself gently, strokes her legs. It’s a shame we’re not perfect. It’s a shame things are so hard. She peers under the desk. Dark eyes gaze back, wounded and scared.

“It’s not our fault, you know. We didn’t kill the company or the economy. Far better minds than ours have lost their shirts. This was a good plan when we started. It hasn’t panned out. But we didn’t fail.”

The eyes are round and uncertain.

“Lack of success is not failure,” she continues calmly, slowly, taking deep breaths to guide the breathing of the being in the dark. “I can’t promise not to make mistakes. I’m not omniscient. You want me to be — and it would be nice if I were (maybe), but I’m not.

“And it might not be nice. There’d be no surprises then. And you do like surprises, right?”

Two dark eyes nod.

“Well, some surprises aren’t as much fun as others. But we’ll be okay.”

Shame nods and sighs. It is a small sigh, and it sounds like it could break her ribs, her poor body is so tight from holding her breath and cursing. A small sob follows.

“Oh,” says the woman, understanding. “Oh…Come here, little one.” And she opens her arms.

The small thin creature creeps out carefully, wary, unsure if this is a trick or a trap. But the woman is patient. She just breaths deeply, extending her breath across the closing space between them, calling the child into her own deep rise and fall. The girl creeps forward until she is close enough to touch. Gently, the woman draws Shame into her arms and lap. The sob that escapes her is old and huge. They sit there for a long time, breathing, sobbing, held in a tight embrace.

© Deborah Edler Brown 2012

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