When it started to rain, we didn’t know that it wouldn’t stop. We didn’t know that the sunflowers would bow under the weight of the water and kiss each other goodbye, that the horses would swim until they sank in surrender, that eventually even the wood of our crude boats would rot from underneath us.
Our arms would become pale eels and our eyes would dilate in the depths, but we didn’t know it then. We stood under the banana leaves in the backyard, holding hands as the pattering began. Our fingers were braided and our breath smelled sweet as it raveled between us, binding lungs to lungs. We smiled at each other with flickering mouths full of sturdy teeth. We whispered each other’s names; we used names then, we spoke them aloud and they traveled on air like dandelion parachutes. It was summer.
He pressed his palms to my swollen belly although it was too early to feel a kick. His hands were warm and dry, and the rain dribbling down over the edges of the leaves was cool as it hit my pinked shoulders. We gambled on the appearance of a rainbow.
We speak now only in dreams, drag memories to each other like our cats once offered small corpses on the altar of the cellar steps. He brings me the sound of cicadas, and I give him the taste of bread. He brings me our first kiss, the smell of marigolds, a snowy morning curled in bed with a paperback book. I give him driving at dawn in his gold Valiant, a sour swallow of beer on a humid afternoon, the baby’s nursery filled with the origami cranes he folded for weeks. The patterned paper hung from fishing line, pointed wings spread; they floated on the morning sunbeams, a trick.
I go back down to the house. Our house, now a shipwreck. I drift through rooms, cling to the door frames, see precious things crumble and rust. He brings me fish in the evenings. I wait at the back window, watching the detritus of our lives tangle in the submerged treetops. A threadbare Black Flag t-shirt, his favorite wool socks, the feathers I collected and kept stuck in the neck of a brown bottle. The family Bible, spread open, ink washing from the pages, records of births and deaths trailing into nothing.
Little phosphorescent things curve themselves toward the surface, mingle with our belongings, rise through the pecan branches like fireflies once did. The glow is the same. He appears with fish in his hands. He cuts away the scales for me, I close my jaws on the raw flesh. The baby tumbles in my belly. His hair has grown long and he has a beard that sways like seaweed. I wonder whether we will lose our hair eventually, become as smooth as whales or dolphins. I wonder whether our fingers will web. I wonder if this baby will be human. He swims away into the black above and I know only that we will meet again soon in sleep.
He’s brought me a memory of a spider’s web, backlit by the porch light. There’s no spider, just the silk strands, imperfect and shuddering. I offer him the radio playing in the kitchen while I slice into warm and bursting tomatoes. It was a Sunday, and he walked up behind me and put his hands on my hips.
I know you are looking for others. But I don’t think there’s anybody else, I think, reaching to touch his shoulder with my knuckles. I want him to come home, I want him to haunt this place with me. I want him to stay. The baby will be born soon.
No, I’m not. I’m not looking for anybody else, he replies without sound.
What are you doing then? I don’t have to move my lips, but I do. I clutch his hand.
Searching for God.
Yes, exactly. Exactly.
I don’t need to know. I am building a nest in the nursery. I am weaving driftwood, piling shells. The walls sag but my muscles have become hard. My ripe belly is a taut white ball. It hasn’t grown heavy for me. There is no weight; the water cradles. Little fish tap at the window glass. Everything is quiet here, everything is undisturbed. The baby will not need a name. The baby will not need answers.
I free the dish towels. They float away like jellyfish, they are whispers. I empty the house of linens, they twist like mermaids. Books, photographs, monarch butterfly wings released from their carved wooden box. They drift up.
One day, soon, I know he will not return. And the dreams will fade, the tether will snap. The child will be human, or not. But we will have the water.
Anna Lea Jancewicz lives in Norfolk, Virginia, where she homeschools her children and haunts the public libraries. She is an Associate Editor at Night Train, and her writing has appeared or is forthcoming at Atticus Review, Hobart, Phantom Drift, Wyvern Lit, and many other venues. Yes, you CAN say Jancewicz: Yahnt-SEV-ich.