Each mile we move towards the Texas border feels like a ripping away. Like piece after agonizing piece of my carefully constructed armor is being torn from my insides.  

Dramatic, much? 

Not usually. 

But now, is anything but usual. Now, is a leaving behind and an unknown forward. Now, is saying goodbye to constant motion and hello to empty space. 

Now…I’m just a motherless daughter. 

From the passenger seat I sit stoic, betraying the angry, unshed tears boiling beneath my freckled, sun-kissed skin. I stare, eyes fixed on the passing desert landscape all around me, feeling more raw, more exposed than I’ve ever felt in my life. 

It’s too much … too much has been taken already. 

How much more? 

The stranger in the driver’s seat next to me, wears my thunderstorm eyes and long, unruly ginger waves like they were always hers. This stranger, wears my face, twenty years from now, like a passport stamped with stories. This stranger, with my blood coursing through her veins, leans back into her sun soaked seat, like this road, right now, is where she was always meant to be. 

And all I want to do is disappear into comfortable shadows, and pretend my face, my eyes, my hair…still belong, only to me. 

Chelsey Whitlow



I tell myself I won’t be afraid this time. I tell myself I’ll look up and not so quickly away this time. I tell myself I’ll let them see. 

My breath catches in my throat, as I dare to meet his gaze, instead of just the hand outstretched in introduction. 

And oh … his eyes. They’re not blue. Not exactly. No, they’re more a piece of a cloudless Texas summer sky, burning and brilliant, recklessly set into a kind and weathered expression. They’re bright and wise and focused on me. I can’t even be bothered to mind.  And wait, did his breath catch too? 

I stand, struck. 

So many years spent with downcast eyes watching sidewalks pass by in grays and black and white. So many years seeking refuge in shadows, looking every other place but present. And this, this cloudless, extravagant blue …how could I fear such a color now?

Chelsey Whitlow



When I think of him now, he’s clothed in shadow…

Blues and gray,

Cool and controlled.


It’s the only way I can carry his memory awake;

Truth covered in hazy, cold distance.


Oh, but when I dream of him, he’s armed with fire,

the way I left him…

Red and gold,

Burning and alive.


It’s the only way my mind will let my heart remember;

Sleep shrouding my sorrow.


I realize now…

I never knew real loneliness,

Before he spoke my name.


Chelsey Whitlow


My scars bear the beauty of my story…

Wounds inflicted by others, 

just as broken as I, 

Knit back together by threads of Hope and irrational Love.

I tried, for too long, to keep them hidden, ashamed people might see what lie beneath… 

Afraid they wouldn’t stay.

I covered them up in smiles and over-exuberant misdirection. In humor and many weary years, dancing alone, with their weight in shadows.

I masked them in prettier tales, in what-if’s and isolating lies.

I cloaked them in supposed submission and milder words, easier to swallow by “perfect” listening ears.

After all, I’d been bred to believe…

It’s a shame to be found weak and bleeding.

In my pride, I believed the lie that broken things belong in shadow.

In my shame, I believed the lie that their stories held no power for good, that they could never inspire, that their pain was better left untold…

that I would never be free. 

Mercifully, not all were fooled…

There were those gifted with braver eyes and wiser hearts. 

These were the tools of my salvation, the vessels that harbored my hope. They were Light, messengers of irrational Love. They were the champions of my scars. They were my reminder of the Truth….

 A broken thing redeemed,

Thread together by Hope and Irrational Love, is, in fact,

The most powerful story of all.

Chelsey Whitlow