The chipped blue door’s groan is louder, she noted. He’d meant to fix it, but never did, and now it hangs like a loose tooth in its frame. Its chipped paint, its creaks and groans, no longer her shame.
Thunder claps sharply when she opens her car door. A feral cat startles and leaps onto a wooden fence and disappears. The wind shudders and leaves spin and lift. What are the odds, she thinks, not a cloud above, but a sudden crackle, and we all move into action. She is sure it will rain tonight.
Quietly, one after the other, their children step into her waiting car.
She expects his remorse: the flying fist, the searing slap, the broken wrist, the cruelty of glass. Never again, he promised. She’d stayed because she believed.
Earlier she’d emptied the bookshelves, packed the kitchen, vacuumed the closets, returned the keys. I feel nothing, she thinks as she drives away. He’d told her there was just one way in and one way out. This, he’d warned, was the hardest part. Still, she feels nothing.
The rain is relentless. It comes and goes, and its direction, undetectable. The cupboards, he notes, are empty. The rooms lay newly bare. He listens to the front porch door swing loudly, unhinged; he knows the damage is well beyond repair. There’s no pause in the rain and there’s only so much water their roof can take. Eventually, it too will buckle.
He lies alone in the darkness and the pain is blinding. The familiar vice grip tightens his heart and he is afraid. Tonight he is sure he will not last, cannot resist. And this night, just as the ones before, is interminably long, so he will curse it the whole way through, alone. Though he won’t remember it, he will succumb to spasmodic sleep.
They’ve left, she’s left. Later, he will remember it rained for days.
Behind a dusty walk-up door miles away, she is unshackled. Try prayer, she was told. Behind a closed bathroom door she kneels. Try supplication, she was told. She puts her head on the unclean floors.
God will fix this, she was told. But how? God is merciful, she was told. She quiets her mind and listens. Where is God? Not in this bathroom, not in this space – and this much she knows: Not here, not between you and me, and certainly, not for me.
Last night’s white pigeon has returned. It alights anew on the slender window ledge. Its darting eyes speak my language, she thinks, and this space is our shared prayer mat. Through the window pane a thin light trembles against the clamorous rain. It’s waning particle light slices walls and her alike.
Outside the rain calls. Swiftly it falls on her skin, splitting open wounds with salves for benedictions. In the tender penumbra of a lamp post’s light, birds lift in unison, glide east and away.
In the room, soundly their children sleep, terse and curled each to each, like clenched fingers in a fist.