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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Chapters 4-6 REVISED

Here are three more chapters, titled and slicked up. I'm trying to think of words of revisionary wisdom, but it's hard. So much of what I do is automatic. I noticed some awkward repetition. I think I used "soft" in every line of Leesie's poem. Awkward. That's something you need to look for. Repetition can be an effective tool, but when it's unintended, it makes your prose (and poetry!) look sloppy--especially when the words you're repeating are lame to begin with--have, just, looked, glanced, walked.

I hate it when I discover sloppy repetition that's slipped into print. I was reading the second chapter of SING ME TO SLEEP a few weeks ago to a bunch of very bright high school students competing to advance in "Poetry Out Loud" (I was a judge--yikes!), and found a word used twice in a two-sentence paragraph. Demoralizing. I felt like I had lipgloss on my teeth or a nasty green thing hanging out of my nose.

I know I'll keep finding repetitions I need to clean up on every read through of CAYMAN SUMMER--probably for the rest of my life. I hope I find most of them before it goes to print.

I'm speaking at the ANWA Conference (see side bar) this weekend, so I won't post again until Monday. Oh, and Wednesday, March 2nd, a letter I wrote to my teen self will be featured on Dear Teen Me. I'm excited and hope you'll all stop by and comment.

Okay, here's revised Chapter's 4-6


CHAPTER FOUR

HAIR-RAISING

 LEESIE’S MOST PRIVATE CHAPBOOK
POEM # 76,  WHO AM I?

Nurses dressed in sunshine yellow
pour into my breezy room.
Soft island hands,
some black, some white,
undress, unwrap, unwind,
expertly draping and
robing so I’m never
exposed, so gentle I only
cry out once.

The clinical whirlpool bath
isn’t like a hotel hot tub—
metal, deep, sterile.
I’m in it up to my neck,
arm sling, diamond and all,
my straggled hair bundled
in a clear shower cap,
left hand encased in plastic.
“Don’t get your face wet,” they tell me.
“When can I get this off?”
I point to my nose wrappings.
“We’ll check with your doctor.”
“I don’t have a doctor.”
One glances at my chart.
“You do now.”

The enormity of the burden Michael
shouldered for me makes
my eyes glisten.
“Don’t cry, sugar. It’ll make your
cast soggy.”

I stay in so long I’m dizzy.
“You need to eat.”
“Not hungry.”
The “sugar” nurse brings new
cotton underclothes and a large
frothy fruit drink rich
with banana and mango.
I sip and remember.
“I think I used to
use this on my hair.”

Sugar and company clean
my wounds and soothe them
with aloe and ointment.
They wrap my ribs fresh,
change my wet sling for a dry one,
admire my ring, and
wind new figure eights.
“Keep that immobile,” Sugar orders.
I nod meekly.

My blue bruised ankles
are less swollen now.
They snug on fancy post-op
cast boots lined with support—
nothing like the floppy foot gear
I’ve been wearing. Sugar gets
me to walk. It hurts but in a clean
triumphant way—like a good stretch.

My walk ends at a black and gold salon
with too many mirrors.
Bruised eyes, fat lip, bandaged up nose,
ugly, ugly stitches and so much of my hair
shaved away—nearly half my head.
A stylist washes what’s left clean.
“This is going to be a challenge.”
She holds up the ugly, wet mop
that seems foreign.
That’s not my hair.
Not my long, full mane. Not the silky
locks Michael tangled into knots
whenever we made out.

The stylist frowns at it.
“You’ll have limited mobility. Looking
after this will be tough. Will
you have help?”
I think of Mom at home
who would wash and blow dry
my hair every day if I asked her.
“Cut it, then. I don’t care.”
She chops it to my shoulders,
parts it on the side,
experiments with a comb over,
but there isn’t enough hair
in the world to cover my stitches.

I stare in the mirror and hate it,
detest the silliness of the pathetic
subterfuge, loathe who I am,
what I’ve become, revile
against any effort to cover
up my damnation
with a transparent attempt at normal.

The stylist shrugs her shoulders,
agreeing with my silent assessment.
Yes. It’s awful. Yes, you are hideous.
Yes, it’s no use. She combs a bit of hair
down over my forehead. “Bangs
will help when this shaved part
grows back.”

Shaved?
Good
idea.

Michael, sun-kissed and saltwater fresh,
sleeps on my bed when I hobble
back to my room. I dismiss
my guides with a promise to rest,
touch his hand to wake him.
“Michael. Hey.”

His eyes open,
focus,
explode.

“Freak, Leese. What the hell
did they do to you?”
He’s on his feet, wrapping
me in his arms. “I’m sorry, babe.”
He trembles with emotion.
“I thought they’d look after you.”
He chokes back a sob.
“Come on let’s get out of here.
I’ll find someplace else.”

He touches my stark white
new-shaved scalp like it’s lethal.
“What did they do with it?”
“My hair?”
“Did they save it?”
Tears fill his eyes.
“I don’t think so.”
“It’s gone?” His finger withdraws.
“It’ll grow back even this way.”
He swallows hard. “But your hair, Leese.”
“I couldn’t look after it.”
His head shakes denial.
“That’s why I got nurses.”
I close my eyes to block out his pain.
“I can’t stay here forever.”
“I would have washed it for you,
babe, every day.” His voice throbs.

I open my eyes and watch tears,
one by one, roll down his cheeks.
I wipe at his tears with my
robe’s sleeve. I never thought of that—
thought of him—thought of
what he might need to hold
on to.
I thought only me.
And what I’d lost.

I try to kiss away his tears
and feel like a coward.
A cruel, selfish coward
who crushes,
maims,
and kills.


MICHAEL’S DIVE LOG – VOLUME #10

Dive Buddy:            Leesie
Date:  04/28
Dive #:
Location: Grand Cayman
Dive Site: Rehab Center
Weather Condition: Stormy inside
Water Condition: pouring down my face
Depth: can’t tell
Visibility: 0 
Water Temp: hot 
Bottom Time:  the rest of my life
Comments:

I don’t know how we go from me sobbing like a wimped-out baby over Leesie’s lost hair to us making out on her cushy white bed, but that’s what happens. She starts it. I don’t resist.
I have to be careful not to jar her injuries, careful not to lose control. Leesie offers no barriers but makes no demands. She just lies flat on her back, my ring balancing on her stomach. The chain’s too long for her. I’m on my side so I can reach her.
We kiss soft and slow. Her lip doesn’t bleed this time. It hurts her, though. I can tell, even though she kisses me over and over. The movement of her mouth on mine is incredibly tender—like I’m the patient. And she the comforter.
I move my mouth to her unhurt lower lip, suck softly a moment, slip my lips to her chin, her neck, her ear. I hesitate a moment then move my mouth to the velvet soft skin of her new shaved head, exploring every inch, trying to fall in love again.
“I’m sorry,” she whispers.
I pause and murmur, “More safe skin,” and go back to kissing it, absorbing every contour of her skull into my soul. I avoid the jagged gash and purple stitches holding it together. Her scalp is warm, vibrant, alive against my lips. That’s what counts, I try to convince myself. She’s here, alive—not on that mountainside dead.
“I love you, Michael, forgive me for making it harder for you.”
“Will you marry me, Leese, at the end of the summer?”
“I’ll marry you tomorrow.”
“Sorry, babe. No can do. I want you in shape for 24/7.”
We both laugh at that, and I cradle her head, afraid to let it go again.



CHAPTER FIVE

HEARTLESS

LEESIE HUNT / CHATSPOT LOG / 04/28  9:37 PM

Kimbo69 says: Where’ve you guys been? I signed on three hours ago.
Leesie327 says: Hooray, Kim!!! Michael just told me he found you. This is a cool surprise. He says he filled you in.
Kimbo69 says: With everything except where you are and why you’re hours late for our chat.
Leesie327 says: We were busy.
Kimbo69 says: Busy? He told me he wasn’t taking advantage of you. You big dirty liar. Busy? How busy?
Leesie327 says: Be nice to him or I’m signing off.
Kimbo69 says: Was that from him or you?
Leesie327 says: Me. We were truly busy. I shaved my head, and Michael asked me to marry him.
Kimbo69 says: Cause and effect? Odd strategy for getting him to commit.
Leesie327 says: He’s always been committed.
Kimbo69 says: You believe that?
Leesie327 says: He’s very convincing in person.
Kimbo69 says: I’ll give him that much. So he proposed for the hundred millionth time. What did you say?
Leesie327 says: Yes, of course. He didn’t really need to ask. I’ve been wearing his ring since I woke up from the accident.
Kimbo69 says: Get you when you’re down, huh. When’s the big day?
Leesie327 says:  He says end of the summer. I say tomorrow.
Kimbo69 says: Don’t you have a cast on your hand and other broken stuff?
Leesie327 says: I’m on a ton of pain pills and Michael is creative. I’m sure he can work around my shortcomings.
Kimbo69 says: Did that come from you or the scribe?
Leesie327 says: Me. The scribe is blushing.
Kimbo69 says: I’d like to see that.
Leesie327 says: It’s totally irresistible. (Change the subject, girls, or the scribe is out of here.)
Kimbo69 says: Touchy, touchy. Listen up, Leese. Take it from your friend with years of experience. If you’re going to finally do it, wait until you can use your hands.
Leesie327 says: (Come off it, Kim. Don’t go there.)
Kimbo69 says: Butt out, Mr. Secretary. This actually has nothing to do with you. She needs to hear this. I bled for like a week after my first time. You need to be able to deal with the mess.
Kimbo69 says: Hello? Where are you? Don’t get mad at me. I’m just telling you what you need to know.
Kimbo69 says: Hey guys, this is getting rude.
Leesie327 says: sorry slow
Kimbo69 says: He bailed?
Leesie327 says: yup
Kimbo69 says: Figures. Such a wimp.
Leesie327 says: be nice
Kimbo69 says: I don’t trust him, Leesie. What the hell are you thinking?
Leesie327 says: he saved me
Kimbo69 says: Don’t go making him a hero.
Leesie327 says: i wanted to die
Kimbo69 says:  He told me you blame yourself for the accident. Don’t be crazy. Accidents are accidents.
Leesie327 says: my fault
Kimbo69 says:  It must be rough, girl. But you’ll get through this. Take it easy with Michael.
Leesie327 says:  im living now for him…doing a crap job so far but trying
Kimbo69 says: At least now we can really talk. How’d you convince him to get baptized?
Leesie327 says: hes not
Kimbo69 says: But that was your thing. You wouldn’t say, “yes,” until he joined your church.
Leesie327 says: doesnt matter now
Kimbo69 says: excuse me?
Leesie327 says: i dont even care if we get married first
Kimbo69 says: What’s got into you? You told me it was huge earth-shattering sin to do it without being married.
Leesie327 says: nothing compared to what I did to Phil…God won’t forgive me that
Kimbo69 says: He forgives everybody—even girls like me. That’s what I’m counting on.
Leesie327 says: not me
Kimbo69 says: What’s so awful about you?
Leesie327 says: i murdered my brother
Kimbo69 says: Murder? That’s kind of extreme.
Leesie327 says: i am why he is dead
Kimbo69 says: And you think God thinks it’s murder? That’s twisted. It was an accident. I don’t think your parents blame you, either.
Leesie327 says: they will
Kimbo69 says: Why?
Leesie327 says: we fought
Kimbo69 says: You and Phil? You always fought. That doesn’t mean you murdered him.
Leesie327 says: over Michael
Kimbo69 says: Oh crap, is that why you’re with him? He says the Mermaid Thai Queen was a friend. How can you buy that?
Leesie327 says: his eyes dont lie
Kimbo69 says: When are you going to tell him about Phil?
Leesie327 says: never
Kimbo69 says: Go home, Leesie. It’s not too late. Tell your parents everything. They’ll understand.
Leesie327 says: no
Kimbo69 says: At least call them.
Leesie327 says: no
Kimbo69 says: They just lost their son. Running away like this is too cruel. How can you do that to your dad?
Leesie327 says: had to…cant go home
Kimbo69 says: Can I tell them where you are?
Leesie327 says: did Michael tell you
Kimbo69 says: No. Can I at least call and tell them you’re safe?
Leesie327 says: dont
Kimbo69 says: Come on.  Give them something.
Leesie327 says: ok
Kimbo69 says:  Good girl. You owe me huge for this, by the way. Gigantically huge.
Leesie327 says:  don’t tell them about my hair
Kimbo69 says: What should I tell them?
Leesie327 says: best medical care
Kimbo69 says: That’s good. What about you’re wedding plans?
Leesie327 says: no
Kimbo69 says: You want them to think you’re shacking up with him?
Leesie327 says: no
Kimbo69 says: Okay. I’ll try to explain that. What if they ask me why you left?
Leesie327 says: dont tell them…i trusted you…please…i’ll die if my mom ever finds out i was screaming at her boy when i lost control of the truck
Kimbo69 says: She’ll understand. They love you. You call them. Tell them everything. Michael will take you home. He told me so.
Leesie327 says: no…im fine…tell them that
Kimbo69 says: Okay.
Leesie327 says: crap
Kimbo69 says: Is he back? You better delete this chat.
Leesie327 says: jarons online got to get off


LEESIE HUNT / CHATSPOT LOG / 04/28  10:27 PM

jRun says:  Leesie? You’re online? What happened to you? You’re parents are going crazy. They called me. Your dad’s voice. I’ve never heard so much pain.
Leesie327 says: please tell him im sorry
jRun says: I blame myself for trusting that creep, Michael. He came off so sincere. And you wanted him not me. That much was clear. I couldn’t stand to see you with him like that, so I walked.
Leesie327 says: not your fault
jRun says: But he stole you. Where are you? I’ll come get you. I’ll call your Dad. We’ll both come. The whole branch will come. Anything to get you home. I love you, you got to believe that. I’m kicking myself for leaving you alone with him. Whatever’s happened with him—I don’t care. Let me make it up to you, Leesie. Please. Where are you?
Leesie327 says: my idea to run
jRun says: You must have felt so desperate. I didn’t realize. I should have stayed.
Leesie327 says: forget me
jRun says: No way. You’ll get through the grief. I saw it on my mission. I can help you.
Leesie327 says: im a murderer
jRun says: No. You’re not. Talk to my dad. He’ll help. That’s not what those scriptures mean.
Leesie327 says: im dead
jRun says: That’s stupid. Think about what you’re doing. Who you’re hurting.
Leesie327 says: you?
jRun says: Your mom and dad, Stephie—all of us back at the branch. And, yes, me.
Leesie327 says: sorry
jRun says: I still love you. Doesn’t that matter?
Leesie327 says: it did in high school but you ignored me
jRun says: Ancient history—don’t throw that in my face at a time like this.
Leesie327 says: when would be a better time
jRun says: I didn’t know you were like this.
Leesie327 says: honest
jRun says: Heartless.
Leesie327 says: taken
jRun says: Tell Michael to remember what I said in the hospital. I meant it. Every word.
Leesie327 says: my idea…not his…leave him alone…leave me alone
jRun says: Don’t say that. A week ago you kissed me and said you loved me.
Leesie327 says: no, i didnt…i couldnt say it…remember? i love him…thats never going to change


LEESIE’S MOST PRIVATE CHAPBOOK
POEM # 77, HOME?

Run home,
run home,
run home.

Heartless.
Heartless.
Heartless.

Run home,
run home,
run home.

Heartless.
Heartless.
Heartless.

Michael discovers me,
laptop slammed closed
on my stretched out thighs,
propped straight up in my
bed that sits for me,
beating my broken hand
against my glossy head.

“Whoa, babe. Stop.”
His hand closes around mine.
“Kim’s an idiot. It won’t be
that bad. I promise.”
I slit open one eye
like a cornered creature,
realize he’s talking about
our first time. My face
squinches up. “Do you think
I’m heartless?” emerges beyond
my control.

He doesn’t answer right away,
doesn’t pat my head and kiss it better.
“Michael?”
He won’t meet my eyes. “Please,
let me call your dad. That’s what
I feel worst about.”
My eyes drop, too. “Phil’s funeral
is tomorrow.”
“Can I call in the morning?”
Our hands meet in the covers.
“Kim’s going to call and—”
“Then I should, too. Please.”
He kisses my head, and I melt.
“Okay.”
His next kiss finds my mouth,
speaks relief. “You’re not heartless.”
His lips press against my beating,
bandaged sternum.

I should warn him about Jaron
who is probably calling right now,
screaming into the phone,
cursing me—cursing Michael.
Maybe Kim called first.
“What time is it there?”
He glances at the silver globe
iPod dock alarm clock by my bed.
“About 8:15.”
“Call him tonight then. Back
at your hotel.”
He nods, frowns. “You’re
okay? I can leave?”
I force a smile and hold up
my white nurse buzzer.
“Yup. I’ve got nurses.”

I hold his lips too long
when he puts them on mine
to say good-night. “I’ll
stay ’til you sleep.”
I kiss him once more, push
him away. “No. Call him.”



CHAPTER SIX

UNSAID

MICHAEL’S DIVE LOG – VOLUME #10

Dive Buddy:            Leesie
Date:  04/29
Dive #: not in the water
Location: Grand Cayman
Dive Site: Rehab Center
Weather Condition: mild
Water Condition: dry
Depth: wading today
Visibility: better
Water Temp: thermocline—cool to hot
Bottom Time: 24 hours
Comments:

            It’s past midnight when I get back to the hotel. New day. Yesterday seemed like a lifetime. Leesie’s home phone is busy when I try to call. If her dad has a cell, I don’t know the number. Leesie never had one back home. Too broke. Crap reception in a wheat field.
            I try again in ten minutes. Busy. Fall asleep before the next ten minutes are up.
            I wake up a couple hours later. Don’t know where I am. Freak. Figure it out. Pick up the phone. Try again. It’s still not too late back there. Eleven. Big deal. He’ll be up.
            “Hello?” It’s him.
            I should have planned this better, written it out or something. I’m at a total loss what to say. “Please, sir. Don’t hang up.”
            “No. No. Of course not.” His warm voice sounds like rescue. “Don’t be afraid, Michael. Just bring her home. That’s all we care about. She’s hurt.”
            I want to tell him we’re getting on a plane tomorrow. “She’s getting the best care on earth.” Plus Cayman sunshine. Nothing can beat that.
            “Where are you?”
            “She won’t let me tell anyone yet.”
            “That’s okay.” His voice breaks. It takes him a moment to regain control. “Bring her back to us. We don’t blame you.”
            “I beg her to let me every day.” Now emotion gets to me. I swallow hard and whisper, “She won’t listen. She’s—ashamed.”
            He breathes a moment and whispers back, “Tell her we love her. Is she close? Can I talk to her?”
            “No.” I should have called from her room, put her on. She knew she’d have to talk to him. That’s why she made me call from here. “She thinks you’ll be angry with her.”
            “Never.” His voice is stronger, solid again.
            I stand and walk to my window. “I know.” The parking lot is dark except for one light. “I’ll tell her, though.”
            “Has she”—he pauses so long I think he’s gone, but finally gets the words out—“said anything more about the accident?”
            I wish I could give him something, but I’ve got nothing. “No. Just that it’s all her fault.” I hesitate, hating the words that rise to my lips. “She thinks her mom hates her. And your God, too.”
            “Tell her that’s a wicked lie.” Wicked? Yeah. Evil and wicked. He says in a voice that sounds like a prophet. “No matter what. We love her.”
            “And, sir. I want you to know.” I swallow, switch the phone to my other ear. “I’m keeping that promise I made at Thanksgiving.” My hand grows slick with sweat. The phone slips. “I won’t touch her—not until we’re married.”
            “You’re getting married?” Does that scare him worse than anything else? “When?”
            End of summer? Tomorrow? What do I tell him? “Someday.”
            “Bring her home first.”
            “If I can, I will.”
            “Take care of her, son.” His voice fills with infinite sadness. “We miss our girl.”
            Him calling me “son” chokes me up like it always did. “She’s sorry. Tell her mom, too. She’s sorry.”

            I sleep past nine in the morning. Feel half-way human again. Talking to Leesie’s dad grounded me. We’re going to be okay. It’s all going to be okay. I got to tell Leesie—get her grounded, too. I book it down to the rehab-place, but when I get there, Leesie’s room is full of nurses and a tall, black man wearing a white doctor’s coat.
            “What were you thinking,” he speaks with a muted Caymanian accent, “traveling all this way injured as you are?” His rich voice fills the room like a preacher’s.
            Leesie holds up her ring with purple swollen fingers. “We’re supposed to be on our honeymoon. I crashed two days before our wedding. The hospital said I was good to travel.” Leesie lying? Weird.
            “Well, they were crazy to let you leave.” He flips through the release papers I turned over yesterday when I checked Leesie in here. “How long is this honeymoon supposed to last? You’ll get no beach time for weeks.”
            “All summer.” I walk in and shake the guy’s hand. “I’m a dive instructor. Looking for work.”
            “Have you got Cayman papers?”
            “Working on it.”
            He knows I’m lying. “Have you been here before?”
            I nod. “It’s my favorite place in the world to dive.” At least Little Cayman is. Got to get Leesie over there.
            The doctor turns back to Leesie. “Let’s see what we have here.”
            He starts with her head, examines her cut. “Nicely done.” He glances back at the clipboard. “Concussion?” He flashes a penlight in Leesie’s eyes. “Good dilation. Does your head pound?”
            “Not right now.”
            “When your pain meds wear off?”
            “Yeah.”
            He raps under her knee with the side of his hand. It jumps like it’s supposed to. “Good. The headaches should subside in a few more days. No permanent nerve damage.”
            “That’s good?” Leesie looks over at me and smiles slightly.
            “Yes.” He snips off the bandages to examine her nose. Black, blue, purple, green. The colors twist together and scream pain. He touches her nose. “The packs your surgeon placed in the nostrils are well-positioned.” He runs his finger over the bump high up on her nose. “You’ll end up with a bit of a bump here. But we’ll keep the nose straight. You can opt for cosmetic surgery once all this is healed up.”
            “I can have any nose I want?”
            No way. She’s going to stick with the nose I fell in love with. He keeps touching it and Leesie gets paler and paler. The garish colors seems to ooze and twist, moving, crawling, spreading all over her face. The room grows hotter. My heads turns fuzzy, and I can’t breathe. I think I sway.
            The nurse Leesie named, Sugar, takes my elbow. “Let’s get us some fresh air why don’t we.”
            I jerk my elbow away. “No, I’m fine.” I sway again.
            “Do you want to faint in front of her?” She grabs me firmly by the arm, guides me out Leesie’s sliding door, and deposits me on a bench in the garden. “A few deep breaths, sugar, and you’ll feel better.” She disappears.
            I cycle through my free dive breathing, inhale the flowers around me. Smile when I detect my mom’s favorite scent. Gardenias. I’m glad she’s close. I could use her help about now. I wander around, find the bush and break off branch after branch of dark green leaves and small white fragrant flowers.
            When I make it back to Leesie’s room, she’s got a new pink bandage on her nose, and the medical team is gone.
            “You are a wimp.”
            I inhale gardenias for strength. “If you saw your nose, you’d faint, too.”
            “Pretty gory?”
            “The goriest.” I stick my bouquet in her half-empty water cup.
            She motions towards her hospital gowned torso. “Do you want to see my ribs? He left them undone.”
            “Are they gory, too?”
            She nods. “The bruising is ugly, but the doctor is most worried I’ll get pneumonia.” She’s supposed to breath deep so the air sacks in her lungs don’t stick together.  “I told them I learned everything I know about heavy breathing from you.”
            I crack a smile. “You didn’t.”
            “No.” She manages a crooked smile back. “But it’s true.”
            I bite my lip. “I was just out there doing free dive cycles.”
            “That’s what I told them.” She punches a button so the bed sits her up more. “You’re now my coach.”
            I sit beside her. “Cool.” I smooth my hand over her head.
            She closes her eyes and leans into my caress. “He thinks it’s a good idea to keep me trussed up like this for another week so the collarbone can set. After that I’ll just need the sling.” Her eyes open.
            “What about your hand?” I pick it up, inspect the fingers, wonder when my ring will fit on them again. “Did we keep it elevated enough?”
            “He said that’s just for the swelling.” She wiggles her fingers. “We’re past that crisis now. I don’t have to worry about it anymore.”
            Her fingers still look puffy to me.
            She pulls the sheet up to show off her footwear. “I have to wear these new boots night and day for the next three weeks so my ankles heal strong.” Her new boots, lined with support, snugged tight with Velcro, are nothing like the floppy footgear she had before. She looks tired, worn out, strained.
I try to read her eyes. “Did he hurt you—poking and prodding?”
            She shakes her head. “Heavy dose of morphine this morning.” That’s why she’s dozy. “They’ve got me back on it. He said I’ll need it around the clock for at least another week. Then we can taper off.”
            “No more skipping your pills?”
            She nods—so obedient today.
            I balance her hand on my outstretched palm. “When do you get your cast off your hand?” And your nose, but I don’t want to bring that up again.
            She pulls her hand away, lays it on her own chest. “Another five weeks—maybe longer. They are going to X-ray it tomorrow and put on a new waterproof one to match my nose.”
            “Pink?”
            “Yes.” She scowls at my tone and sticks out her tongue. “And then we can go to the beach.”
            I smile. “Cool.” The smile fades as I remember what I came to tell her. “I got a hold of your dad.”
            She closes her eyes and turns her face to the wall.
            I bend down, hover over her. “They aren’t mad. Don’t blame you.” I stroke her silky scalp. “You can go home.” I lean closer so I can whisper in her ear. “You rest here another couple weeks, get really strong, and then let’s fly home.”
            She speaks in a small tight voice. “I can’t. He doesn’t know.”
            “He does, Leese.” I kiss her temple. “He says God doesn’t think you’re guilty. He says they love you.”
            “They’ll hate me.”
            I nuzzle my lips against the side of her bare head. “Let me call him and tell him I’m bringing you home.” I slide my arms around her so I can embrace her. “They need some hope right now, babe. You got to go home.” I squeeze her close, .
            She doesn’t answer.
I kiss the back of her neck.
“No.”
            My arms relax defeat. “What happened, Leese? This isn’t you. Why—”
            She turns terror-filled eyes towards me. “Don’t ask me. Ever again. If you love me—” Her voice sounds ominous.
            I back off. “Look.” I slide off the bed and pick up the flowers. “I brought you something to inhale deeply.”
            “Gosh, you’re psychic.” She bends her head toward the branches and tries to smell the gardenias. “Sorry. I can’t smell anything. I’ve got stuff shoved up my nose holding the bones in place.
            “No problem. Let’s get to work on those free dive cycles.”
            She frowns. “Or I can inhale you.”
            I help her to her post-op surgically booted feet, guide her out to my bench, hold her on my lap and coach her through cycles one to three. She’s not ready to pack yet. Then we make out in the sunshine.
            She whispers, “Kissing you is the only thing that feels right.”
            My lips moves against her mouth. “That’s just the morphine talking.”
            “Then let’s enjoy it.” She sucks my tongue into her mouth and keeps it.
            I do enjoy that. Way too much. I finally break loose, sit up straight. “Freak, Leese. That so not allowed.”
            “But we’re officially engaged.” She picks up the ring, dangling on its chain, and twists it so the diamond flashes in the sunlight.
            “No—on our honeymoon.” I nuzzle her neck. “You little liar.”
            “You backed me up.” She tries to get my lips again but can’t reach.
            “What else could I do?”
            “Let me have your tongue back.”
            I move my mouth to her ear and whisper, “Not until you can follow it up with more action.”
            “Party pooper.”
            “Torturer.”
            A lopsided grin breaks out on her face. “That totally frustrates you?”
            “Totally.”
            “I’ll have to remember that.”
            I peck her lips one last time. “I won’t let you forget.”


LEESIE’S MOST PRIVATE CHAPBOOK

POEM #78, PHIL

They buried my brother
today. It hangs in the air
between me and Michael
unsaid,
untouched,
unwept.

If we don’t speak it,
is it real?
Could it happen
without my words?
My consent?
He’s there in the locker
room, driving the tractor,
dancing with Krystal
wrapped tight in his arms.
Not cold in a coffin
too gruesome too open.
Not slid into a hearse
filled with flowers.
Not lowered into a deep hole
in a place he didn’t want
to rest. Not whispering
at the edges of my soul.
“I’m here, Leesie.
Let me in. I’m here.”

Michael doesn’t bring it up.
Keeps the silence—even
when he tells me about dad.
He sticks by me all day—drinks
half my smoothie, shares his
French fries and does his best
to make this ugly bruised cue ball
so hideous to look at he nearly fainted
feel sexy,
adored,
beloved.

He sits by my bed
while I nap—worn
out by doctors’
ministrations, Michael’s
attentive encouragement,
and holding Phil back.

I dream I’m there.
Dream fingers point.
Dream angry faces
screaming condemnation
surround me.
Dream rocks, big ones,
clutched in their hands.
Dream they raise them high
over their heads and no
gentle Savior intercedes,
no quiet voice says,
“He who is without sin.”
The stones fly but I feel
nothing—they form a cairn
around me. I’m entombed,
untouched—imprisoned
forever.

Hands knock on the outside,
voices call my name—
Michael, my dad—mom—grandma,
even Phil,
and a sweet, strong voice
I know so well.

I block my ears
scream and scream and scream.

Michael wakes me, holds me.
Haunted by his own alternate
reality, he doesn’t leave me alone
with mine. The morphine dulls my pain
but doesn’t make me sane.
He does.

We watch movies all night—
stupid ones, funny ones
and one that makes me cry.
Those tears are the best
medicine yet.
And Michael kissing my
fingertips, lotioning
my itching bare head,
sitting on my bed beside me,
sleeping on the sofa
when I wake late the next
morning from a sleep touched
only by dreams
of him.






1 comment:

  1. It's coming together so great and it's only the sixth chapter! Thanks for posting the revisions :)

    ReplyDelete