Something jarred me awake shortly after midnight. I could not decide whether I had been pulled from sleep by the jab of bruised ribs or hunger pangs. I stood in the darkened room, bending to look through the broken slats of the blind on the north-facing window. Porch lights stretch into the distance, across the horizon. I cannot see the stars.
Thoughts of Arkansas rise unbidden in the silence. I think about the many trips downward, towards the Missouri border, winding into the welcoming slopes of the Ozarks. A perfect snippet of Ellen Gilchrist sifts itself from the morass of my memory: her description of a car floating through space and time, on a winding road in the mountains coming into Fayetteville. I catch my breath, close my eyes, fall into the rhythm of those remembered words and the times I traveled that same road. I feel the contours of those miles, eastward to Jasper and my estranged husband; coming back to town, dogged by the lingering odor of desperation and failure.
I am a woman too familiar with that pungent scent.
I pace; I feel now that rippling burning in my legs which tells me that my brain has given over its duties to the damaged cells. I force my body to reach, bend, contort, working the kinks. I will my brain to take charge, to grab the lightening bolts and shoot them across the synapses. I visualize the pitching arc, the flash of blue, the landing. I laugh outloud at the cursedness of my writer's way of tackling any problem.
A memory slips from the recesses, darting between the bursts of light in the murky pools. Driving to Kansas City, 1991, with Patrick nestled in the car seat. Suddenly my body begins to shudder and I can no longer drive. I pull off the highway; park on a road to nowhere. I lift my sleeping infant and hold him against me. We have no one; we are utterly alone. My chest tightens. A sob escapes and echoes in the little cavern where we huddle. I cannot move.
I sat in that car cradling my son, until a highway patrol car pulled behind me. The officer rapped on my window. We exchanged a few words through the lowered glass and then I secured my child and continued my journey northwards, to the only place where I could hope to find comfort.
The highway patrolman followed me for miles. I did not blame him. I guessed what he had seen in my eyes.
A ripple across my shoulder tells me that I've sat too long at this computer. In three hours the sun will pull itself into the eastern sky and I will rouse my brain with coffee. I will dress and drive the few miles to the cemetery for a brief commune with the dead, two dear old souls who once loved me. Then I will return home and start my spring cleaning. But just now, here, in the dark of the room lit only by the glow of the laptop, I let the cobwebs linger, seduced by their silken caress.
I peer into the night. A distant shape flickers across the glow of a streetlight, then quickly vanishes, too fleeting for me to discern its nature. I linger for a moment longer; then close down the computer and go to summon sleep.
Saturday, April 9, 2016
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The Missouri Mugwump™
- M. Corinne Corley
- I've been many things in my life: A child, a daughter, a friend; a wife, a mother, a lawyer and a pet-owner. I've given my best to many things and my worst to a few. I live in Brookside, in an airplane bungalow. I'm an eternal optimist and a sometime-poet. If I ever got a poem published in The New Yorker, I would die a happy woman. I'm a proud supporter of the Arts in Kansas City. I vote Democrat, fly the American flag, cry at Hallmark commercials, and recycle.
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