by Mary Akers
The first thing you do is tell yourself that nothing is more important than love. That the great, hulking live oaks, dripping with Spanish moss, echoing with the liquid cries of translucent tree frogs, and the lazy, muddy rivers running deep and wide through your dreams are as nothing, compared to the love of a man.
Next, you try to stop yourself from saying things like, the weather up here and the people up here, realizing that to qualify in that way immediately makes you someone from down there. Realize also, that when they say, "people from down there" the words infer ignorance, inbreeding, sloth, bigotry, and rot. Remember, briefly, your own husband's idea of a southern joke: "Lose a shoe?" "Nope. Found one!"
The third thing you do is shop, in the grocery, for a friend. You find, as you walk the numbered aisles, that you are buying the same things as a lovely woman with soft eyes. You are shy, and feel--as if through the heart of a man--what it must be like to seek a kind and clever woman. Yet you cannot cross that bridge. You say nothing, and leave the store alone.
The fourth thing you do is turn over the autumn soil, sifting out the layers of grit and gravel and adding rich black manure and powdery peat. You dig holes and drop in bulbs with papery, layered skins, saying, "Bloom where you are planted little ones" and already you desire Spring as a great honking V of geese retreats above you, heading for warmer coasts.
Then the bright, white, wind-sculpted snow arrives, blinding, hovering over the eaves, shrieking down the roof in a cacophony of tin and ice. Out-of-doors the wind howls from Lake Ontario and bites its way into your unsuspecting lungs, tearing your eyes. Your lips crack in complaint. You leave a pot of water to simmer, always, on the stove. You forget, and it burns, filling the house with an electric, dark odor.
As you scrub the charred, black-bottomed pot you begin to accept that the one you chose over the bayous of your birth, no longer loves you. You remember how his eyes film over and dim when they settle on you. How your touch no longer raises the small hairs upon his arm. How he brushes aside conversation. He will not even miss you when you're gone.
And still the sky grays and the snow falls. Large, wet, thick flakes obscure the giant hemlock across the road, bringing the world in close, enveloping all in a heavy, draping shroud. The days are short, and yet the hours slowly thicken to a vast, white, oppressive nothingness.
In April--what should be spring--you slip on mittens, coat, and boots and walk your tiny perimeter of land. The garden of bulbs, asleep all winter, lies somewhere beneath the ever-present cloak of white. Heavy with hope you sift through the crust of winter, craving a sign. The delicate cap of a snowdrop emerges, and you remember the gardens of your childhood. You sit on the frozen ground and scoop away the heavy cold, then brush a final talc of snow from the tiny, green, bobbing head. You remove your mittens and cup your hands around the fragile stem.
As you force a steam of breath outwards, surrounding the flower, animating it (like a lover), a flock of overhead geese cast their flapping shadows, and honk their way towards home.
About the author:
Mary Akers is a graduate of the Queens University of Charlotte MFA program in creative writing. Her humorous articles examining the lighter side of parenting have appeared in ParentLife Magazine. She was a 1997 winner in the Rupert Hughes Prose Writing Competition, and her work has appeared in Ray's Road Review, RE:AL, Wisconsin Review, Bellowing Ark and Compass Rose. Although raised in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, which she will always call home, Ms. Akers currently lives and writes in upstate New York.