Heal, Out There, in the Darkness

It hasn't rained in nearly two weeks. The ground is hard and the dirt cloud from the gravel at the top of our road kicks all the way down the mountain. The bugs are thriving and their sound mixed, with the haze of the sun, create a lull in the stagnant air. The hours bleed in the heat. I am standing in Ali's room, next to the open window as Emmy paints nail polish spots on my feet, legs and hands. I wince at the incessant pain of the 50+ chigger bites, that intensify briefly as the polish suffocates their last breaths. I stand, half naked in front of the mirror: Kat the Leper. My heart is inaudible--I call out of work. Iris finds me sitting on the edge of Ali's bed with both legs hanging out the window as I blow dry the life out of each tiny colored spot. "It's gunna pour this afternoon," I say as I follow her up the mountain to her house. "No, its not," Iris replies, and looks at me with subtle surprise, giving the impression that she is in direct communication with Mother Nature. "It can't. We're putting on the new roof today." I am deeply grateful for the manual labor. The tin slabs are sharp and heavy but hold much more promise than the rusted slabs we pull off. Before lifting the new roof on top of the frame, Iris and I lay on the few clustered floor boards of her home and look at the spots of blue sky, visible between the rafters. "I want to keep it like this," Iris says. I wish we could; keep everything exposed. But we both know the value of strong armor so I lift the 10ft long slabs over my head and raise them to Iris as she hops the timber frame and screws the tin, all in a line. By the afternoon, it still hasn't rained a drop. Iris and I eat lunch on the porch, rocking to add a slight breeze in the heat. "I can't remember a lot about my past." I tell her its hard for me too. "Sometimes, its not so much about what you remember but how you remember it. I try to tell myself the story in a way that I can live with; in a way that makes sense to me. Having that allows me to keep going." Later, I lay in the dark of my room, covered by blankets. I fall asleep trying to think about what this part, this pain, means but too afraid to crack the armor. Deep in the night, a loud noise wakes me. I sit up to open my window--heavy, heavy rain beats down on the house. I listen to the black pellets for a long while before pulling my naked arm out from cover. The warm water trickles down my hand and eases in to my bites. I rest my head on the sill and begin to heal, out there, in the darkness.