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Faith Miller


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.

Sometimes not.

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 laughs.

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 know that.

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 adored her.

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 clear mostly.

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.


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