He fights sleep with furrowed brow, pursed lips turned down. He rages against it, scratching my face and grabbing my hair as if his tight grip will wrest him from the grasp of Nod. But we are learning each other, he and I, and his nightly storms are like those roll in before baseball games in the summer. This is all going to blow over, my friends and I said, driving toward the stadium through thunder and lightning and sheets of water. His storm passes, too, giving way to smooth-faced sleep, his arms relaxed beneath the swaddle.
I saw a photograph of an intersection shrouded in fog, and remembered parking there once, long ago. It had been clear when I nestled my car in line with the others, but by that afternoon, mist enveloped the city and it would be awhile before I could discern things properly again.
It is a good reminder, this photo, this fog, this memory of other times when the next step might not have been so obvious. We don’t always know what lies around that curve, up that next hill. We don’t always forecast all the joy that is to come.
The kettle’s lid no longer holds true, so it should be no surprise when it clatters over the pouring stream of boiling water, past the awaiting mug and onto the counter. It should come as no surprise when the steam from inside the kettle escapes all at once, then, and envelopes your fingers, curled around the handle, and leaves pink splotches that sting the rest of the day. There is so much, now that hurts without warning, so many small, unpleasant accidents that leave burn marks on body, on soul.
Have you ever seen water burn? he asked, and she shook her head, because everyone knows water doesn’t burn, but, rather, turns to steam, and that was when he struck a match and tossed it toward the lake below, and the flat water lit, making a sound like someone punched in the stomach, and everything she had known to be true evaporated before her eyes.
She had not needed to make the bed the next morning—she’d only laid down for 10 minutes, and even then, not slept. She had nodded off at her post at the window once, losing minutes—maybe even hours—while her head drooped, chin to chest, and her hands finally relaxed.
She wasn’t sure what she waited for, or how it was different than what she’d always wanted, but she knew it was coming. She knew she’d recognize it when it arrived, but she had to be vigilant. She did not want to miss all the good things to come.
Once they met, he could not fathom a life without her. She seeped like the sun into every corner of the dark room of his heart, warming all the places inside he had once thought too cold to share. She left no room for him to imagine her absence, and so, even as the light in her eyes went dark, he wondered if he could carve out more time with her by stepping outside his clock-bound world. Everything dimmed again once she was gone, and he shivered, feeling the cold creeping back to its old places with each lonely minute that passed.
That night, she sliced a bell pepper in half, and it opened to reveal a heart-shaped outline. She grew angry, then, tired of seeing love everywhere she looked, when she was trying so hard to keep all her hatred walled off inside her chest. She chopped that half of the pepper into small squares, eradicating what it revealed on the cutting board. Someday, she’d have room in her kitchen for romance again, but at that moment, she just wanted a salad.