Sunday
Aug252013

Damnation

By Janice Lee


Penny-Ante Editions
October 2013
978-0985508579


 

THE HORSE

Today the wind is relentless. It is dry outside and the trees sit crooked, bowed, stripped of their leaves, but the wind does not let up, even for a second. A horse approaches the town. He is saddled and blinded but no rider sits atop him. Though the rain has been stopped for some time now, the horse's hair is soaked, matted and caked with dirt and other informalities, strange uneven patterns have formed on the horse's sides, patterns that radiate grotesque meanings and chill minds, remind those who can see that this is no weather for memory to live in. This is no weather for men to live in. The hair is clumped and flattened in irregular patches cruelly, as if whipped into place by the harsh wind and rain (or perhaps, the horse had been drowning and has somehow been saved by the flood). As the horse approaches closer, people only look at him through their windows, afraid to bear witness to the wind and its beasts. Or if they are out and about, simply pull their coats tighter around their bodies, turn their heads away, and hurry towards their original destinations. It is the mail sorter's wife who is the first, and only, to approach the horse. She steps up purposefully, a strange obligatory and bewildered look in her eyes before she closes them shut as the wind can be blinding at a time like this, as even she fears extinction and sees that the earth can only be an extension of the sky. She takes the reins, pats the horse above his nose and leads him over to the eastern side of the post office where the roof slopes out to create a small covered area and is the spot where the villagers often take shelter while waiting for the bus or to have a cigarette away from the rain. The horse waits dutifully while she sets down a paper bag next to the doorway and goes inside to find a bucket and fills it with water. She grips the heavy bucket with both hands and walks back outside where the horse still stands alone, as invading animals do not know fear, only their victims do. As she sets the bucket down, the horse takes a step toward the bucket and turns its head towards the woman, just for an instant —a look that freezes the lamentations of the shredding, lashing winds, stone-cold and somewhat dismissive but forcing the woman to suddenly reckon with herself and remember that certain actions are sins in His eyes and she sees herself burning at a stake, her face silent and mouth closed as if feeling no pain, and being reduced to a pile of ashes in an urn above her husband's bed—before lowering its head to take a drink. The wind is ferocious today, and it has already thrown pieces of debris into the bucket, dust swirling around them both. The mail sorter's wife lifts her left arm to shield her eyes from the attacks, pulls her coat more tightly around her shoulders and fastens the top button of her coat that has come undone, a devilish trick the wind is playing on her now no doubt. She pats the horse another time before turning around, picking up the bag she had set down by the side entrance, and walks inside once more to deliver her husband's lunch.


THE LOVERS 

It is raining.

He starts waltzing in the rain, because he knows there may never be another moment like this again, when rain is just rain, when his boots are just slopping down on the mud and the mud is just mud, when he has a warm bed to go back to after he has sufficiently soaked his feet through and has the practical fear of catching cold but the luxury of dipping his feet in hot water when he is done, the luxury of hanging his socks to dry over the fire and then going to sleep, just like that.

With no future nostalgia for rain or lost love, the young couples in the dance hall are careless tonight. It is raining and they are out late and they are celebrating the rain and their youth and the music and their young love and the illusion of freedom that they will hold onto as tightly as they can, for as long as they can.

Outside, the music is faint and spilling out onto the empty streets, protracted and muffled by the sound of falling water.

The next time it rains, it will remind him of loss, it will sting like needles, and he will see only her face.

She comes to him for the last time, embraces him strongly and forcefully. They teeter back and forth slowly, awkwardly, easing into a grinding, a turning, and then a soft waltz. He puts his face to her hair and smells the fresh rain, feels the slight dampness with his nose.

It is too much to try and remember, to try and store everything of every moment of this last embrace. To know he will never experience it again isn't of any use to him because there are so many things he will never experience again. In these two minutes that have already passed, he can so far count at least forty-six experiences he will never experience again:

01. The smell of fresh rain on her hair
02. The feeling of the slight dampness of her hair on his nose
03. The feeling of smelling, looking at, and feeling her hair simultaneously in the rain
04. The feeling of being rained on while with her
05. The experience of waltzing with her in the rain
06. The experience of waltzing with her in the rain knowing that this is the last time
07. The experience of seeing the young couples dancing in the dance hall through the window and being outside with her
08. The feeling of her chest on his chest
09. The strength of her embrace
10. The feeling of her hands on his body
11. The experience of seeing the raindrops fall slowly down the side of her face
12. The experience of seeing the raindrops fall slowly down over her left ear
13. The smell of the rain when he is with her
14. The feeling of being in love and being loved back
15. The feeling of being in love in the rain
16. The feeling of being in love in the rain with the woman he loves holding him tightly
17. The feeling of his wet clothes weighing down his body while with her
18. The feeling of water in his shoes while waltzing in the rain with her
19. The fear of her catching cold in the rain
20. The feeling of not caring if she catches cold in the rain because he doesn't want this embrace to end
21. The feeling of the darkness settling in while with her
22. The feeling of the darkness and the rain falling together while waltzing with her
23. The slight blush in her cheeks as she catches him staring at her wet legs in the rain
24. The paleness that returns to her cheeks as they waltz in the cold rain
25. The feeling of being cold in the rain with her
26. The feeling of being cold and feeling her subtle warmth in the rain
27. The feeling of being cold and knowing that she feels cold but the overwhelming selfishness that won't voluntarily let this dance end
28. The way the moonlight reflects off the puddles forming in the mud while with her
29. The way the moonlight reflects off her wet hair
30. The way she runs her fingers through his wet hair while waltzing in the rain
31. The gratitude that it is still winter
32. The sound of the rain hitting the ground while with her
33. The sound of the music mingling with the sound of the rain while with her
34. The way she makes him feel in general when she is looking at him in the rain
35. The way she makes him feel in general when she is touching him in the rain
36. The knowledge that this was to be his last embrace with her
37. The knowledge that spring was coming
38. The feeling that maybe she was right about everything, as she usually was, but just this once, he needed her to be wrong
39. The desire for her to be wrong
40. The desire for it to never stop raining
41. The hope that she would follow him home tonight and dry off together
42. The knowledge of her stubbornness and the certainty of how the night would follow
43. The feeling of regret
44. The feeling of gratitude
45. The feeling of remorse
46. The feeling of desperation

When it was this kind of grim and dark and desperate kind of love, it was every experience he would never feel again.

Yes, he loved her more than he loved God, which to be honest, wasn't much at all.