The Drought

8 May

Sunset inflamed the horizon like a chafing white blanket. It was hot in January. The orchards should be sprouting mustard and the hills going green. Some prayed for rain. Prayers left unanswered, or just ignored.
I crawled into bed. It’d be dark in 20 minutes, or less. All my peace was gone, for my heart was truly broken. I still had on the clothes I’d worn to work. I wanted to brush my teeth, but I couldn’t get up. My breath was hot. My lips had cracked from all the coughing. I called Jack.
His lanky form appeared at the door frame. “Please son, find the thermometer.”
A fever had clawed its way into my head. Jack brought me tylenol and orange juice. Then he called his wife.
By the time Beverly entered through the front door one floor below, Jack had dragged me off of the daybed and out into the hallway at the top of the stairs. I was still crying silently, soaking my face and my salty lips. Bev and Jack stood there with me for a while. None of us could make a decision about what to do next. Had any of us thought in a moment without pain what to do, we would have had a consensus.

They would take me to the hospital. I wanted them to drive all the way to Santa Theresa. Clearer heads prevailed. We went 10 blocks to the nearest ER.
My temp had increased despite the tylenol, but I couldn’t convince the MD that I had pneumonia. An xray was done, which I was told revealed nothing. The irony in the phrase, “the film revealed nothing.” made me laugh, because films fail totally if they have not told the story they were directed to tell, the reveal, the climax of the narrative, no one else thought it was funny, as a nurse slapped a mask of oxygen over my face and mouth. I was so cold I began to shiver and chatter. I yelled. The same nurse brought me a blanket. It was then that I realized I was wearing the same short skirt I’d had on all day working. I slipped out of it without it being unzipped. Why was I not undressed? The nurse appeared, giving me an injection from an invisible syringe. I forgot to ask her why I was wearing just pantyhose and a blouse. I couldn’t remember what shoes I had worn.

I woke when they were bundling me off to the car. Jack was driving this time, taking me home. It was then that I remembered my bird. Her cage still hung outside on the ramada, uncovered in the dark. A pet now for half a year, she sang and sang, bathing in a stainless steel ice cream dish that rang with the most beautiful sound as she washed every feather- tip pinned to her brown little form at 50 RPMs. I’d found a nestling on a scorching sidewalk outside the cinema in June. A house sparrow I had had to feed every 20 minutes, 12 hours out of the day, for 3 weeks. I smuggled her into work, keeping her in a closet to keep her alive. Soon she was able to eat what other birds ate.
I’d call Jay from work and remind him to hang her cage outside before he went to work. He was always agreeable.Then Jay had left me. He said it was “Too hard.” Too hard to be married, suddenly, after 21 years. Too hard for him to be married to me for one more day. I knew I would die of sorrow.
“Jay, the bird!” “It’s Jack, Mom. I’ll get her.”

He placed her cage in the spare room, covering it with a rose- colored duvet. I stripped off my remaining clothing with the strength of a rag doll, lowering my form first onto the floor,then pulling my torso into the bed, dragging my legs up last. Time felt wrong. My heart was thumping against my ribs. It was quietly dark. A street lamp sent vaporous light stealing through the drapes which silhouetted the furniture in my room in an unpleasant way. I believe I slept, but I’ll never be certain of this. In a period between today and tomorrow I became aware that I was hunted. Death had become tangled in the curtains and struggled to free himself. Had I planned it this way? I stood at the bedside with my hands raised as high over my head as I could reach. He would not see me if I stood rigidly in my nakedness, as still as my hopelessness allowed me to.
Hours passed. Death rattled around the room, bumping into me on occasion. I feared his insubstantial fingers would reach into my lungs. My lungs, in such close proximity to my heart, would fail me as well. I didn’t care. It was taking too long. The pieces of my soul that Jay had taken with him left me with little enough, making me unfit to even consider a fight. I was trapped by the sourness of his silent rage. Pathology that I hadn’t considered left me blinded. There was no way out. It was raining.

2 Responses to “The Drought”

  1. karblaze May 9, 2023 at 4:34 pm #

    I felt every bit of this. Lived a good bit of it. Thank you for putting down these words…this experience.

  2. karblaze May 9, 2023 at 4:35 pm #

    It’s good to see you writing T!

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