Stories from the Muddy

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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Sleeping With Electricity

A story of fiction by
Naomi Lewis

            No key-hole peeping.  No ear-to-the-door straining to hear.  No.  Hidden in plain view, I listen.  Sometimes they inhabit my room for hours with their talk and games and music.  When they go, I listen to the wind in the pines outside my window where dappled light falls on all the worlds I’ve ever loved.  I know the people dressed in white think the only life left to me now is pressed between two covers.  They are wrong. 

            Even though my present is a murmur of air, rising and falling – breathing, my only chore, the clamor in my quiet room goes through me like living currents.

            The clock down the hall chimes.  Four hours have passed.  The people in white come to roll me on my side.  Now I can look through lace curtains, woven so sheer, I see the bobbing pine bough outside.  I hear them say there will be snow.  Good.  I can watch the white fleece fall – someone sheering sheep in Heaven.

            Life is so fragile, it breaks even as we reach for it, but my senses still inform me and I harvest pleasure from each moment.  The first flecks of snow begin, challenging me to make a stand against the chill.  Remembering Stephen, drowsy and warm next to me helps.  He was my Bunsen burner.  I couldn’t tell where my fingers ended and his began.  We were rich in contentment as new gold glinted on our fingers in the firelight.  Once we took a gondola straight up a precipice to the woods above.  I would have been terrified, if it had not been so exhilarating.

            Do I miss losing the kind of life I enjoyed for so long?  Yes!  But I regret Stephen losing his more.  I didn't know when I let myself fall for such an "innocent," we would both lose our innocence.  We married at an auspicious time on an auspicious day, but it didn't change a thing.

            I was numb with fear and prone to stomach aches.  He was one of Uncle Sam's "volunteers."  When he was a fully trained soldier, we walked the streets of my home town, not knowing that would be the last we would see of each other, at least until now.  He was sent to die for his country in an unpopular war.  It was his duty and he did it, and I did mine.  I found a way to go on, one foot in front of the other, day after day, until the piercing pain faded. 

            We made agreements before we were married.  We were young and thought we could keep them.  This one I did keep, to live each moment as if it were my last.  So, if I have fallen on hard times, I have also gulped down life by mouthfuls every day.
            Time to turn again.  I am so small in this giant bed.  I know they think I'm small.  They don't know I'm still in here.  They probably wonder why I go on, what could possibly entice me to stay?   I'm sorry I can't tell them my life is rich, the lights are on, somebody lives here.  Memories, like electricity, run through my tired body.

            I stare through the open door into the hallway.  If I could, I would walk into the kitchen, open the refrigerator and pour peaches over vanilla ice cream.  I know the gray mush they pump into me through a tube would be nauseating, if I could taste it.  I can still feel warm and wet as they bathe my back with some English soap, so flowery I could gag.

             Seagulls line up for take off and waves roll over my bare toes.  I can't wait for Stephen to take me in his arms again and fall with him into the foam at the edge of the world.  He kisses my eye lids and gobbles my lips, and I can't tell where this world ends and heaven begins. 

            Even when the lights go out, even when I close my eyes, I know there will be surprises.  I lie on a hill, in air so tepid, I can't tell if I am human or grass or cloud or wind.  I know where Sleeping Beauty roamed for 100 years.  She was not alone, for in this suspended state, the dead and yet unborn come to visit, bringing their talk and games and music.

            Now I close my eyes, I know Mama will come to sing to me, or Grams will bring me strawberries from her heavenly garden, or I will sit among all the Aunts weaving, spinning, and telling tales, as women do.  Lying here with my memories is like sleeping with electricity and it is enticement enough, for now, to make me want to stay.

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