Wednesday, December 19, 2007
(Second in a series of vignettes exploring the basic needs of human life. Prior needs: Shelter.)
The softness of her pillow hardened sometime in the night.
Her cheek was numb. And her right ear. But she didn't move to relieve them.
After lying for hours, she opened her eyes to break the march of her obsessive thoughts.
Not enough light crept around the curtains for 9:30 in the morning. The color was wrong, and even the stillness beyond the walls sounded like deep, deep night.
In the shower, hot water slithered through her hair and down her back. Every switch was on, but the extra bulbs only thickened the orange light. The shadows lingered.
She dressed in soft clothes as the television talked winter storms, wind, and snow accumulations. Buses were parked at schools. Trucks flashed down empty roads spraying white fans of salt.
The same spot as the day before.
Knees close. Back propped against the headboard.
Already, she felt the day aging. After lunch, the sun would rest on far away tree tops. It's rays would flatten and fade. Twilight would be long, and even that would seem precious when the darkness took hold.
She cried sometimes instead of sleeping. Now dawn failed her too. Nothing but grey squalls and gloom. She closed her eyes again.
The phone rang.
Her machine voice answered.
No one left a message.
The television flickered. Things circled in her mind. Minutes. Maybe hours.
The bare skin of her ankles took on the shade of stone.
"Honey?" he said.
His cheeks were splotched with cherry red.
She narrowed her eyes at him. Too confused to be startled.
"Hey," he said. "What's going on?"
"The storm. Haven't you been watching?" He pointed to the continuous news. "It's a monster."
She focused on radar images. A gigantic mass drifted eastward. The trailing edge just cleared their city.
"I barely made it," he said. "I followed a snowplow. Thank God for four wheel drive. That got me the rest of the way."
"Of course, now it's letting up," he said. "Perfect timing."
She watched him smile.
It looked foreign.
"Come on," he said, tugging her.
"Come on. You'll see."
He pulled her enough to force her feet to take over.
Her steps dragged down the hall behind him.
"You have to see this," he said.
He pulled open the front door.
She didn't think to prepare.
Brilliant white needled her eyes. Winter sun igniting infernos of snow.
She shuddered a step backward.
"Cool, huh?" he said.
She dropped her fingers one by one.
Her lips parted.
Shadowy thoughts curled like smoke.
"Wanna go out?" he said.
But her hand was already on the storm door. Still in slippers, she stepped into the trailing edge of a snow drift.
There was no sound.
Only trivial cold.
Light bathed her body from every direction. It reflected and ricocheted hotter than a summer day.
She felt taller.
Her heart beat strong instead of hiding in her chest.
For the first time in endless weeks, she stood higher than the ground.
For the first time she saw herself breathing a lilac spring.