Black skies opening. If she was religious it might seem a sign.
An apocalypse. It is an inconvenience. It seems meaningful
even without religion. It seems a parable. And it seems unnecessary.
She has learned. Learned it as a daily lesson. Small pieces
of glass crumbled into the apple sauce. Are you serious? Absolutely.
One hundred and ten percent, little lady. Her Uncle Mike used
to say that. He chawed tobacco. People thought he was ignorant,
just getting by. He lived in a trailer park. He bet the horses
over to Fairmont Park. He always won. He paid for Diana's first
two years in college, what the state grants didn't cover. He
took month long vacations in places like France and Peru. She
loved him. Mostly.
Shivering in the rain. The bad kinda shiver like before the
dentist put his drill in your mouth. Like.....penance. Rain was
god's way of spitting. Rain was god's will they said in the
church. Diana had given up the church. Her sister, Ellen, and
Ellen's six children were devout. Ellen husband, Tom, and Diana
would stay home and watch cartoons. Sunday mornings meant fresh
cranberry muffins. Meant hot sweet tea. Meant....
It all means that.
Diana looks up at the sky. Pitch. The street, crowded ten minutes
earlier, is empty. It is like a bomb has gone off. Rockets red
glare. Glaring. It is only water. Not poisonous gas. Diana
She has a laugh the men compare to tinkling brooks. When they
want to be close to her. Even afterwards sometimes. She isn't
pretty, but she is sexy. Her eyes are dark and smoldering. Anger.
Pain. Heat. It's all taken for heat. She is taken as hot. She
is cold all the time though.
She is...she reminds herself of that. I am I am I am.
Sometimes she isn't though. Sometimes she's gone. Once, for
eleven months, she went biweekly to a therapist. Her lover, Ben,
had paid. He had suggested it along with a new haircut along
with making her give up tobacco. He was married. He cheated
on Diana with whores and brought their trademarks into the bedroom.
He compared her to them. He went back to his wife and Diana
went back to smoking. It was cheaper.
She know she ought to seek shelter. "You're a crazy one,
little lady," her uncle Mike said. There was admiration
in the tone. There was something else. There always was. She
matured late, fourteen or so, she was skinny but with big tits.
She had short stocky legs. She was nothing special. Her parents
made sure she knew that. She knew that. Mike didn't seem to
He told her she was special. He took her to the symphony in
his pick up truck but wearing a tie and jacket. He didn't care
what people thought. These were good things he shared. Mike
persuaded her to go to college and made it possible. Mike stood
up for her when she wanted to leave home and go to Chicago. Mike.
She loved him. Mostly. He taught her to dance He brought her
books from France. He fought her parents when they tried to put
her in the business courses in high school. He'd never married.
He had the same girlfriend for years. Katie. She was fat and
slatternly with fine pale blonde hair and big blue eyes. Diana
It rains. It is black. Diana stands in the middle of the street
and absorbs it. She is black inside. She does not hide it well.
Shame and loathing. Self-loathing. She hated herself early
on. It grew with her. Black pit. Writhing snakes. A game she
didn't know. And pain. Always pain. She likes pain. Sometimes.
She likes things to hurt. That way she knows she's there.
She jumps in a puddle. A child again. Throwing herself into
piles of wet leaves. Joyous. At least not unhappy. Once there
was a snake under the leaves. A real snake not an earthworm.
It was shivery scary. It did not stop her jumping the next
time it rained.
Splash. Splash. She cannot swim and is ashamed. She jumps again.
Drowning in 6 inches of water. Of six inches of self pity.
On a busy Chicago street. Drowning in tears. Suffocated by
having it so far down her throat.
Kneeling. Maybe why she hates church. Why she hates her parents.
Her therapist, had wanted her to explore these thoughts. She
hadn't wanted to. She does not want to. She hadn't said though.
Had never said, "I don't want to". He should have
known. They also should have known.
Her shoes are ruined.
As suddenly as it began the rain stops. The skies clear. Diana
sits down on a bench to watch. It doesn't matter how wet the
seat is: she is soaked through her clothing. She cares nothing
for clothes. For trappings. She has no fashion sense. No flair.
Ben gave her silk scarves from Italy and lacy underwear. They
stayed in the drawers. She wore lollipop underpants as she had
all her life. And a gold chain around her neck. She touches
it now, absent-mindedly as the sky turns blue. A gift. From
Mike, of course. Everything she treasures comes from him. Her
parents had been clueless, tasteless. Dolls until Diana was fourteen
and then a Bible and then blouses in pastel colors better suited
to Ellen who inherited them unworn.
Diana's clothes cling to her. She shivers under the sun. The
people reappear from somewhere, wherever it is they went, deserting
the ship as it sank. Sailors never learn to swim. It makes them
drown more quickly. It is humane. She gets these facts from
books and magazines and day time television. She files them away
on imaginary index cards. She forgets nothing.
It is like the rain never happened if you don't look carefully.
If you ignore the puddles. If you ignore Diana. It is easy
enough to do. Just ask her parents. Just ask her sister. Jesus,
Diana thinks, Ellen does it herself. Six kids. Six in hand
me downs and worn shoes off to church. Taylor, Turner, Thomas,
Tina, Trevor and Tracy. "T" her sister calls them.
There's individuality for you. Tom senior jokes about making
a basketball team. He's fooling around. Diana is sure of it.
And he looks at her during the chase scenes in the Bugs Bunny
cartoons. She does not blame him. Ellen is a bitch. She's thirty-four
now, two years younger than Diana. The kids range from thirteen
to three months. Ellen wants another one. She loves them when
they're babies, less so when they start talking. Diana steers
They are fundamentalists. They are fundamentally weird. She
sees them infrequently.
The blue skies are a sign too. She needs to study religion.
Study fates. Learn. Diana watches the rivers in the street
flow into the gutters, become streams, become little twists of
water, and dry up altogether. Discarded umbrellas line the sidewalks.
Diana shakes herself like a dog.
She considers where to go, how to get there, she considers mashed
apples and mash whiskey. She worries about apples not falling
far from the tree. Sometimes, at night, brushing her hair in
the mirror of her apartment in New Town, Diana catches glimpses
of her mother. In a gesture, a glance, the way her hair flows
down her back. Sometimes she sees Ellen there in a self-righteous
sneer. Sometimes her father in a nearly hidden leer. Sometimes
Diana cannot see herself no matter how she strains, how many lights
she puts on. Or dims.
Standing, droplets of water forming and falling, Diana reaches
for her bags. In them she carries her life. They are empty save
the rain water. She thinks about drowning in six inches of water.
She thinks about swimming or sinking and about sailors. She
thinks she better be on her way, about her business. "That's
110% right little lady," she hears Uncle Mike say.