I was not there when my town disintegrated, and you were not there, either. You probably would not even have thought of my town, some two hundred miles from yours, unless you turned on the news, unless the next morning, your daughter picked up an envelope from your lawn and asked you to sound out the letters — Tuscaloosa. They say the debris traversed state lines. They say the winds of a storm like that one can surpass two hundred miles per hour. They say you should always know where to take cover, where to find the people you love. That night I knew: a basement, a hallway, next to the only wall left standing. One of them was in the company of colleagues. One of them was wrapped around a girl he barely knew but knew he needed to keep safe. One of them was watching the artificial light that bound him to us, waiting to remember enough language to communicate I am okay. I was not there, but I drove back there, back to the house where I danced through the lightning of my childhood, back to the hill where I once stood with a different boy and watched the darkness roll across the river, back to the town where I first loved you, the town I ran to when I last left you, back in a time when I believed that you were the one who had left, when I believed that you would come back. I know now that things were never as certain as we believed. I know now that I am sorry. Love, I have finally learned to be sorry. I have finally learned to quit waiting, to embrace whatever’s before me. I have learned the value of improvisation. I have learned the value of cooking for masses. I have learned the value of chainsaw oil. I have learned that when storms come, people are like dogs: less scared when in groups. I have learned that veterinarians prescribe pheromones for pups without packs, to trick their bodies into believing in presence. Love, I have always believed in presence. Love, I know where to find you, but I promise to stop trying. I promise to leave you to the child who shares your smile and the woman who shares my name. (I like her. You did well.) Remember to lead them to shelter when thunder comes. I weep now at the sound of thunder, and I don’t expect this will change. At the sound of thunder, I will remember the value of presence. I will wrap myself in the scent of you and head to the basement alone. I will hunker down and hope to ride it out.
“Astraphobia” by Elizabeth Wade
August 12, 2011 by 3 Comments