Following a violent storm a man wonders about the kind of husband he has been.
|AFTER THE STORM|
The storm brought its force quickly, violently, and without warning. Even while standing inside my house I could sense the foreboding in the darkness that suddenly filled the room. It was early afternoon, but looking through the living room window, the quickly waning sunlight suggested early evening. Suddenly the rain noisily pelted the roof, its rat-a-tat loud and filled with energy, and then the windows began their rhythmic shaking. I turned on the radio to get the news of what was happening just as the electricity went out with a soft, pop, leaving me in semi-darkness. Instinctively, I sought cover under an open doorway; I had heard this was the smartest action I could take.
The rattling windows finally fell silent, the howling fireplace chimney was again silent. Stepping outside, the scene confused my senses. The normally evenly trimmed, neat lawns up and down the street were strewn with leaves, broken tree limbs, and all sorts of litter. My own lawn, which I always kept with great care, was a gnarled tangle of tree limbs and debris. Looking up into the grey sky, I took comfort in seeing the massive, black cloud of darkness that had covered the neighborhood was racing away from me.
I walked to the end of the driveway to talk to my neighbor who was already assessing the damage the storm had wrought on us.
“Can you believe this, John?” he said as I joined him. “What a mess.” He stood there scanning his littered lawn.
“It came on so quickly,” I replied, “and it was so violent.”
“At least now I have plans for the weekend,” he quipped.
As I walked across the mass of confusion that was once a lush, green carpeted lawn, my attention was captured by a single, pastel slip of paper that had been trapped in the leaves of a branch. It fluttered gently in the slow breeze like a miniature flag. The words written on the paper, at first, looked like a list, but on closer inspection I could see it was a poem. I held in up in the dim light and read.
My life is full of pain,
I’m always standing in the rain.
Except when my thoughts turn to you
That’s when my heart is no longer blue.
The damp paper I held looked familiar, it was the same light pink color my wife used for writing. Her work she called it. She had been writing for years now and we had many arguments about her activity. I thought it was a waste of time and didn’t hesitate to let her know. I read a few of her early stories and found them to be boring. “This is all well and good, dear,” I told her, “but it’s not of the caliber that anyone would consider publishable.”
“Maybe so, John,” she had replied, her voice full of hurt, “but it gives me pleasure to write.”
It had remained a sore spot in our marriage for years. Why she didn’t use her time for more productive activities escaped me. But now, reading this heart-felt poem, full of longing and love, I began to wonder who she had written it to. I even wondered if she had written it at all. For one thing, it was good, and I never considered her writing to be this good. And for another, our relationship wasn’t such that she would write this to me. So, if she had written this, I wondered, who had she written it for? Had I not been paying enough attention to her? My internal honest answer was that I had not. And I certainly hadn’t been paying attention to her writing for the last few years. How much of her life had I been ignoring?
Looking up at the broken window that looked into the room where my wife would go to write, those questions, and more, began to race through my mind. And I continued to wonder who she had written this haunting poem for. If it was for me why hadn’t she shown it to me, asked me to read it, or even left it someplace where she knew I’d find it? She must have hidden it, and it flew out of the broken window during the violent storm, finishing its flight here, tangled in the branches of a fallen limb.
As I walked slowly back into the house I read the poem again. Was she really full of pain? Did her life make her feel like she was always standing in the rain? And who was it that caused her heart to no longer be blue? I doubted it was me; I hadn’t been that kind of husband over the last couple of years. But as I entered the kitchen and sat down at the table, I vowed that I would become that kind of man—that kind of husband--the kind that had a wife who would write him poems, just like this one.
*****Word Count: 856
Writer’s cramp entry for: March 11, 2011. Prompt: Write about something you find on your lawn after a violent storm.
Winner, First Place in Writer's Cramp for March 11, 2011.