Between my bubble bursting and my period, I can't seem to get any equilibrium back; I'm caught up in loss. I've been crying on and off all morning, as though my face had some kind of leak. There is a heavy weight on my chest and from time to time, I must take a deep, steadying breath. I move randomly around the house, unable to sit still.
I don't want to be out on the deck, covered with a thick layer of dust, even though the heat of the day beckons. I can't be in the empty space and it is too much to see the grill, untouched for so many weeks. I can't go outside on the front lawn, though I want to rake the leaves. I can't do that because I would have to go in the garage to get the rake and there's no way I'm going in there feeling like this. I feel nauseous and distracted.
There's nothing for it, I guess I must suffer this outpouring, as illogical and humbling as it is. So, I will take refuge in what I always do; my writing and my memories.
I keep remembering our last weekend together, high up in the Rockies. I don't know why my thoughts keep returning to this time. I remember our last night, the pure, chill air, the black night sky pierced with the twinkling, white light of thousands of distant stars. The pine trees rose up all around our camp, towering and dark in the night and the wind moved through them with a quiet, rushing sound like the ocean.
Keith had lugged up wood from the bottom of the ridge we were on, he had had to go far afield to find any and was gone for a longer time than I thought. I was absorbed in my book, leaning back against the pillows in the tent. The silence brought me out of this world, I lifted my head and listened. There was no sound at all in the late afternoon. Before me, the dirt road wound by, dusty and beaten by the hot, late afternoon sun.
Absurdly, my heart dropped a beat. Then I heard a rustling and he came into view, struggling up the slope on the other side of the road, his arms full of branches, his face shadowed by the cap. He dropped the armful in the dust before the trailer and wiped the sweat from his forehead, hot and irritated.
After night had fallen he poured gasoline on the wood, waited a few minutes for most of it to evaporate and then lit the wood. The fire flared up, orange and red in the night, sending up flares of sparks as he moved this or that piece around. Satisfied for a moment, he came over and sat beside me on the trailer. I could feel the heat from the fire on my face and the chill, mountain air on my bare feet.
"Well," he said heavily, breaking the peaceful silence, "I'll be gone day after tomorrow. Is there anything you want to say?"
Confused and alarmed, I searched quickly through my mind, wondering what he could mean. I realized he was giving me one last chance to back out.
"I married you; what more is there to say?" I replied, feeling weary of the constant reassurance he'd needed so much from me in the past month, and running out of new ways to say the same thing.
"It will be harder than you think," a friend from his company cautioned me, as the three of us sat around in the house during the summer. I was working on the John Deere puzzle that now, hod podged securely, sits proudly and slightly off center above the kitchen table, where Keith nailed it.
Keith sat beside me on the love seat, his hand possessively on my thigh, or around my shoulders; he never could, for very long, keep his hands away from me. He waited, intent, to hear what I would say to this.
I looked at his friend's calm, kind face and thought for a moment. "I think it's one of those things that cannot be imagined until one has gone through it," I replied quietly. My answer surprised them both, but his friend nodded slightly, almost to himself.
He was the first friend of Keith's who approved of me, Keith had shocked and horrified everyone who knew he well by the speed with which he had taken up with me. My awareness of this was usually only peripheral, since Keith rarely brought his friends over to the house.
I won Keith's mother complete approval with the help of a boiled egg. Several, in fact. We were at her house one evening during our trip to Indiana, and Keith had made a boiled egg sandwich. I had never heard of such a thing before, but watching Keith, I saw that it was merely hot, boiled eggs placed between two pieces of white bread.
I raised my eyebrows but said nothing, the trip had been stressful and exhausting for both of us; it had caused us to turn to one another for support and strength over and over again and this required keeping my mouth shut when I might otherwise have teased.
One sandwich was not enough; Keith put the bowl of eggs in the microwave to reheat before making another one. He went to take the first bite and the moment his teeth sunk into the eggs, the sandwich exploded with bang.
I jumped out of my skin and then stared at the spectacle of Keith, mouth still open, splattered with shards of hard boiled egg. Pieces of yolk were everywhere, on his face, his collared shirt, on the table around him, even up under the brim of his prized black cap.
Of course I burst out laughing, the kind of laughter that squeezes tears from one's eyes; I had to hold onto the edge of the table to keep myself from collapsing on the floor in agonies of irrepressible mirth. His mother, pacing around the kitchen in bathrobe, on the phone with his older brother, also burst out laughing and shared with him story as soon as she could speak.
Keith found absolutely nothing funny about the experience, he was shaking with rage and pain from the burns. It took the rest of us a little while to catch onto this, by the time we did, it was too late. Keith refused, stonily, our belated sympathies.
His mother was the first to try and when she fluttered away to try and find some pain medication to offer, I went up to him cautiously. He was at the kitchen sink, trying to rinse the yolk off his cap.
"Sweetie," I asked tentatively, "are you alright?"
"No," he snapped, "I'm not alright. It fucking hurts; and I'm not going to take any fucking medication."
He didn't need to say this to me, I already knew his aversion to taking medication; I had already seen him limp away to a full day's work on an ankle so swollen and strained he could barely push it into his boot, the same ankle he had broken twice, and still refuse to take anything for the pain.
"What I should do," he continued stonily, "is to drink whiskey until I pass out."
The thought of this horrified me. "Honestly?" I asked, my voice low with disbelief, leaning toward him.
"Fine," he replied, with absolutely finality, turning away from me. "Have it your way. I'll just fucking suffer. You'll see; in fifteen minutes my mouth will swell up so fucking bad I'll probably have to go to the hospital. But you don't care, you won't let me do one thing that would help."
He stomped off into the living room. I rolled my eyes in exasperation and worry and followed after him. "I didn't say you couldn't," I said to his back, but he didn't answer. He flopped himself into the recliner and lay back, his arms crossed, his face stormy.
I watched him, gathering my thoughts, feeling guilty and worried and at a loss. His mother fussed about him, imploring him to take the medication, offering it to him with a glass of milk. I sighed.
"Glenda," I said at last, gently, "you might as well take the milk away; he won't drink it. He won't take the medication."
She looked up at me, her dark eyes forlorn. Keith shifted in his chair slightly, I knew I had caught his attention; he was waiting. I looked down at his red face, burned without doubt and criss crossed with stony frown lines; but so inexpressively dear to me.
"He's angry, first of all, at the egg, but he can't take it out on the egg," I began. "And he's angry that when he wanted to drink until he passed out, I was horrified. But most of all, he's angry at us for laughing at him. So he's going to force us to watch him suffer. He's going to sit there for fifteen minutes and let his face swell up and there's nothing we can do about it. We might as well just wait."
As I was speaking, I saw a look almost like fear pass over Keith face. He looked up at me, his anger shaken but stubborn still, despite everything.
"Fine," he said, pulling himself together, "so you know what I'm doing. I'm still going to do it." He recrossed his arms, looking suddenly so like beloved and recalcitrant child.
"You do that, Sweetie," I said simply, the humor of it coming back to me. I kissed him affectionately on his hot and sweaty temple, and sat down on the arm of the chair to wait with him, leaning my shoulder against his.
His mother leaned forward, her face reflecting sheer awe. Glenda pointed a shaking finger at me while looking her son straight in the eye.
"She was sent by God," Glenda told him, in a low voice.
"I know what she is," Keith retorted quickly, not ever comfortable stating such things out loud. "I picked her, damn it."
I have to stop writing; I have been writing on and off all day and I'm exhausted.
Ha! I just logged onto hotmail and found a forwarded advertisement for a 1989 Bayliner on sale on Craig's list. My errant Staff Sergeant has re-emerged on the grid and still on the prowl for a boat to purchase when he returns from deployment. That is, if he doesn't buy a dune buggy, another truck, or a house he can fix up and rent out. How ridiculous are my fears and how annoying to be captivated by them despite myself. I'm going to bed now.
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