A voice stumbles down the hallway. Sputtering fragments like smoker’s breath.
Sustained wind speeds
800 kilometer diameter
I tell you that the radio was left on overnight but you’re not listening. Asleep beneath the hurricane season, lipstick smudged along your teeth and neck. The stench of cigarette lingers in your hair, breeding sultry in the sheets along our bed. I wonder where you’ve been. (The photographer? Big hands, clove tucked behind the ear, the one I’ve caught you with before?)
A black spot boils thick above the horizon, shedding white herons across the reeds. Yesterday the birds drank with ease from the bay water. Feet planted safe on the pebbled bank. The coming storm has ended that peace, collapsed it down to a sentiment long past. Soon there will be nothing but hard, hard rain.
You turn into me. Tightening your fists. I let you touch my side before getting dressed and walking out onto the front porch, where I sit in the wooden rocker your father gave us, a gift from the baby shower that came too soon. The chair reminds me of a horoscope my grandmother once sent me. Proof that Tauruses are to be the most sensible of creatures.
Doubt seeks to be obeyed. Keep low. Don’t let it drown the reason coming from your heart.
You wouldn’t remember, but we’ve been here before. Last summer I watched you pick lemons from the surrounding orchard, eyeing the way your auburn hair moved in symmetry with the breeze rubbing against your favorite jean skirt. You were five months along, stomach ripening faster than anyone could have expected, our carelessness laid bare for all to see. That night, when the rains came, I watched you shovel down heaps of homemade cornbread, slathering on butter with each progressive bite. I marveled at you then—how you resembled my own mother—letting down your precious guard to fend for one of your own.
That was then. Back before you waited for an empty house to do what you did (Do you remember it still? How dark the halo cast around your upturned feet?). I saved what was left of us. A jar buried beyond the orange daylilies. Vitals unfulfilled. I didn’t tell you. You didn’t deserve to know. I only tell you now so you can understand. It would be easy for me to leave.
But it’s those words that make me stay. Keep low. A plea for patience once love runs out. I walk back into our bedroom and lay down on the bed next to you, listening to the rain as it leaks damage into the surrounding wood. The wind pushes through your hair, and I imagine that the smell of burnt tobacco is gone.
Your mouth opens. You’re trying to say something but I can’t hear you, your voice covered up by the drumming of the rain. I find myself studying the movement of your lips. Tender, they say, Wait, wait. We can.
W i l l i a m Y a r b r o u g h