I wrote this a long time ago (in the original version Tom Brokaw was still hosting the Nightly News). Slightly edited. Music inspiration below “Volcano” by Damien Rice.
A late afternoon downpour left the atmosphere sticky and oppressive, a feeling all too familiar to DeAnn. Water droplets glistened on the half-open roses not quite ready to cut. She clipped away a dead bud, evidence of a bloom that passed its prime without notice and withered on the bush. DeAnn twirled the bud between her fingertips, crushing the dried petals before tossing it aside. The sound of the Nightly News with Lester Holt drifted through the open kitchen window, and she listened as she tended her small, urban garden. All Mark had watched for years was the news, and the headlines grew more depressing by the day.
“Toxic volcanic ash is raining down on a small town in Iceland today. Farmers rush to protect their herds. Inhaling the ash can cause internal bleeding, long-term bone damage, and…”
DeAnn’s eyes moistened as she tried to tune out the news and concentrate on her flowers. She didn’t know anyone in Iceland, but she grew up on a dairy farm. Overwhelming commiseration struck her in the gut.
I wish Mark would turn off the news, if only for an hour.
She knew better. It was his escape, as the garden was hers. How it comforted him, she couldn’t understand. Perhaps seeing the terrible things in the world made him feel his life was not the hell he adamantly expressed.
They didn’t love each other and hadn’t for years. They stayed together because they each felt too old and too flawed to find somebody new. His infidelity a decade ago, gnarled her trust and love beyond the point of reconciliation, but because of the daughter they fought so hard to have, they persisted. Together, but alone. Smiling through misery. Putting on a good show for the neighbors in a once warm home that became a frigid shelter after their daughter fled. DeAnn fought to breathe in the stifling air, or was it the thought of her daughter who called on rare occasion and visited even less that made breathing difficult. DeAnn didn’t fault her for escaping the noxious environment.
A flower cannot thrive…
The tomato plants were last in line to tend, and DeAnn adjusted the clothespins attached to the dowels and twine that held the burgeoning vines off the ground. Dusk was approaching and she needed to sleep. She trudged inside, mild satisfaction with her work in the garden vanishing as she passed the threshold. The man she used to call her husband remained fixated on the television. An empty six-pack on an end table; she would remove the discarded bottles tomorrow before Mark came home to make room for more. DeAnn uttered a good night that fell on deaf ears, the steady squeak of the rocking chair the only indication he was alive. She’d long since given up hope for a response.
On autopilot, she brushed her teeth, combed her hair, and slipped into her nightgown. The slow-burning ache that remained after the raging fire from ten years past filled her chest as it did every night, smothering her as she fluffed her pillow and crawled into the king bed alone. Always alone. Demons that plagued her mind during the day were not banished by sleep but intensified. DeAnn reached out in the night, fingers traversing the glacial area beside her searching for someone to reach back, to wrap her in his arms and comfort her, but all she found was desolation.
Music Inspiration: “Volcano” – Damien Rice