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Natural Disasters

ISSUE:  Winter 2017

Illustration by Kristen Radtke

You’re clutching your left side when you arrive home late Friday evening. You bring some of the outside cold with you into the living area of the house. Small traces of snow run along the creases and folds in your coat, and flakes thaw along the fur trim on your hood. Your dress pants are soaked beneath the knee, snow lines the space between your shoes and your socks. Your toes burn and the inch-wide gash on the left side of your forehead continues to bleed. Alexa is making her way down the stairs as you enter. She stops at the sight of you. 

You think about what you have left out there, the dark-haired Latina woman propped behind her air bag who was motionless for what seemed like a long time but then began to groan and call out for someone—or something—in Spanish. The front of her vehicle was mangled, like a crushed soda can, and the entire passenger side of your Honda Accord had caved in on impact, the frame twisted into savage metal tentacles that clawed toward you as though summoning you to your death. You had climbed out of the car and cast your eyes over the pieces of shattered glass, spangled in the road’s track marks, iridescent under the streetlights. Having something to focus on had helped the shock subside, and your heart rate had begun to slow as oncoming headlights approached. That’s when you felt a sense of urgency and the need to be home. That’s when you shuffled toward the sidewalk, away from the wreck and its debris, and started on the quarter of a mile left between yourself and the house.   

Now that you are home, you remove your gloves. You feel pins and needles at your fingertips as you pull a Swiss Army knife from your coat pocket. The way you lay it on the coffee table—as if it might be the line on your exclamation mark. 

You make your way downstairs to the basement bathroom where you remove your coat and clean yourself up a little. By the time you head back upstairs you can hear Alexa ordering Joshua to bed. Her Motorola cell phone sits on the loveseat’s armrest. You pick it up, circle the coffee table and lower yourself onto the sofa. A thin rivulet of blood runs from the saturated Band-Aid on your forehead and seeps into your left eyebrow. Alexa returns downstairs without the will to argue with you, not even after she notices her phone in your hands. She doesn’t speak. She sits on the loveseat across from you, on the other side of the table. She waits as you read a string of flirtatious and sexually suggestive messages that she has exchanged with a man who is not her husband. There are messages as recent as last night. Your calves looked sexy today ;-), he writes, and her own response is: Just my calves? ϑ. 

Listen. To be honest, the two of you have been plastering Band-Aids over an axe wound for years. But, for a brief while, in the beginning, the mess you made had a pleasant air. There you were in line at the university bookstore, a new grad student, disheveled but unperturbed about the tasks ahead. Because it was uncharacteristically warm for a September afternoon in London you were in a Das EFX T-shirt and jeans. She was the stranger in front of you. The one who had managed to successfully pair black Converse high-top footwear with a peach-colored loose-fitting minidress. It was cinched at the waist with a racer back that revealed these fine-looking shoulder blades, if there ever was such a thing. She’d held up the line when it was her turn at the register, so you had stepped in and helped her differentiate between the twenty- and fifty-pence coins she held in her palm. She’d lingered by the counter until you were done and you remember the way she carefully folded the ten-pound note she had in her hand, like how you might’ve folded a fifty. “Our beer money,” she’d said. “It’ll be my thank you.” 

Your first guess that afternoon was that she was an undergrad. She appeared to carry all the flustered hallmarks of a first-year student. Hallmarks that just an hour or so later seemed to instantly fall away under the influence of a few rounds of drinks and the revelation that she was in fact a Ph.D. candidate from Washington, DC. She’d moved into your flat just as the first term was coming to an end. You’d waited until the end of second term, and the time off over the Easter break, to repaint the walls a bumblebee yellow. But by then the two of you had hit a groove, a steady stream of dates, gestures, and gift exchanges. There was a supersized Valentine’s Day card. A new copy of Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite CD to replace the one she’d riddled with scratches. A Rampant Rabbit vibrator, that you’d searched several West End stores for, as a gift for her birthday. And she’d given you those morning blow jobs, taken you on trips to sushi bars, and brought home boxes of microwavable Thai food from Sainsbury’s. But all that was nothing until the trip to the cinema, to see the third installment of Lord of the Rings, made it everything. She’d flinched at the stabbings, and the sight of Gollum, and at every crash the surround sound provided. She hadn’t talked about leaving the theater, though. She hadn’t mentioned anything about waiting for you outside. And as the credits rolled, you’d been caught with this feeling, a heady mix of pride at the commitment she’d shown to sit through it all, coupled with a sense of accomplishment and finale that can wash over you when you arrive at the end of a cinematic epic. The space for something new had arrived and that was what might’ve caused the words, as cheesy as they were, to ease from you without embarrassment. “I want to keep you safe from harm,” you’d said.   

She hadn’t heard you the first time around, but you’d felt like you’d already committed to it, that you had to repeat yourself, this time loud enough to climb over the movie’s score. She’d leaned in to listen the second time, the soft blue light from the cinema screen flickering off her dark skin. She’d whispered back with the faint smell of popcorn on her breath. “I want to liberate us from that possibility,” she’d said. 

You might’ve thought that this was the moment from which everything fell into place. But things didn’t fall. Sometimes they did. But most times they were dropped, thrown, pushed, pulled, and forced into place. Nothing wrong with that.  

The high winds rattle the windowpanes. The TV news ticker reads 5:21 a.m. The weather reporter, a young woman, takes several steps across a mound of snow. Eight to nine inches of it have fallen on the District overnight and meteorologists are predicting twenty to thirty inches before the blizzard moves on. There are no vehicles on the road, Metro service has been halted, and the salt trucks have turned the last of their reserves over to the curbs. “The safest place this weekend is inside,” the reporter says, but for you the weather is a side act. You had wanted to hear the news, and details of any road accidents, of hit-and-runs and of any casualties as a result. You use the remote to switch the TV off. No, you are not safe inside. You feel just as smothered as any of the street hydrants and boundary hedges.

You don’t immediately turn to face Alexa when you hear her stir. By the time you do so she is sitting up, leaning on the arm of the loveseat, her legs tucked in beneath her. Even from where you sit you can see the storm brewing beneath her quivering lips. Her dark brown eyes sweep the room before they return to you. She points toward the knife on the coffee table. Her lips twitch as she struggles to muzzle her scorn. 

 You cross the room, pick up the knife, and carry it to the galley kitchen. You toss it into the simplehuman trashcan and wipe away the blood that falls from your forehead and lands on its pedal. You find other traces of his blood about the place—like on the corner of the West Elm Mid-Century Modern table, and the door on the Jenn-Air refrigerator that dispenses ice in oblong-shaped pieces. Alexa’s mother had picked out and paid for most of the furniture within the house. But there is a blender, somewhere, discovered at a yard sale during an early neighborhood reconnaissance, that is yours. It is weathered and scratched and struggles to liquefy ice cream but it is your way of planting a scuffmark on a well-polished shoe. You used to hate everything else about your new home before you learned how to swallow it all. Now you feel as though you’ve swallowed too much. The communal areas have been colonized, aflood with brand names. Alexa’s signature is everywhere too. Half-empty water bottles on the side tables. Copper-colored candle wax on the floorboards. Incense ash on the kitchen counter.

You return to the living area and the sofa across from Alexa. You recall a time, back in London, back in the studio flat, during sex, when she’d once told you that she would forgive you if you ever cheated on her. You’d dismissed it then. It was all brand new and your sex was box fresh. But since there was now This Other Man, this person—an unused tool to chip away at what the two of you had already blunted—you wonder if her words back then were a skewed sense of romance or remorse. 

You don’t know what you know anymore. Her mother had visited the previous Saturday. You’d been called down to the dining area to help look over paint samples for the basement. You had excused yourself, quietly believing the six months you’d spent in Washington, DC, had been long enough for you to learn that, on this side of the Atlantic, the final decisions were never yours. You’d told them you needed to focus on class lesson plans for the week ahead. J. D. Salinger had died. You’d thought it would be fitting to hold class in tribute to him. You used Alexa’s laptop, the only computer in the house, and you were on page two of the search results in Salinger’s name before she came up the stairs and wrestled it from you. She’d insisted on signing out of her e-mail before returning it to you. But it was no good to you at that point. You’d used her laptop plenty of times in the past without issue. Her behavior had been a distraction. Why would it be any different now? Infidelity might’ve been one of very few things that had not been an issue between the two of you over the years, or at least that’s what you thought. There were ex-boyfriends she would reach out to once in a while but she’d been semi-open about it and gave her reasons. She had online spiritual conversations with a divination priest she’d met in Nigeria, she’d produced artwork for a musician she messed with during a one-month stay in Kenya, and there was a graphic designer who lived in the northwest of the city that she continued to work with professionally. You’d decided to leave the house that evening to get some air. That night, after Alexa had gone upstairs to bed, you’d made your way to the dining table with her laptop tucked under your arm. At first, you picked up where you had left your J. D. Salinger search results. You found a copy of A Perfect Day for Bananafish online but felt too distracted to do any more than that. You keyed “” into the address bar and stared, for what seemed like a good while, at Alexa’s e-mail address in the sign-in register. You made some obvious attempts at her password, “Joshua” and his year of birth, “Joshua” along with his birthdate, “Joshua” along with his middle name. You were about to start on variations of your mother-in-law’s name when you felt a little of your pride wilt within. You’d stopped then and closed the laptop. You poured yourself a bowl of cereal that night before you headed upstairs to bed. 

You couldn’t sleep; shit, you didn’t really even try that hard. You left the bedroom in the early hours of that Sunday morning and returned downstairs to the dining room and the laptop. This was when you discovered the bookmarks and the browsing history, the long series of Facebook page visits among the search history with links that took you to different photos of the same man. He was of Asian-looking descent, thick eyebrows, a semi-large nose, clean-shaven with coiffed hair. There were over forty headshots on his page and you had pictured Alexa skipping from photo to photo, scanning each one with renewed thrill. You stood up and fetched a notepad and pen from the kitchen. You were going to document as much of this shit as possible.

Sunday 24th January 6:08 p.m.—How to make love to an Aquarius man. Sunday 24th January 6:22 p.m.—Sexual astrology and compatibility with an Aquarius man. 

Thursday 28th January 11:09 p.m. was one of your least favorites—When it would be a good time to divorce a Green Card holder but ensure that they got their stay in the US?  

At some point you felt like you had read enough, you folded the note, dropped the paper into your pajama pocket, picked up the laptop, and called out for Alexa as you carried it up the stairs. 

“Did you hurt him?” Alexa asks. It’s a question that comes out of nothing, as though she’s just given up on the silence.  

“Him?” you reply, but then recall the blood on your coat and the way she had looked at you when you had first walked into the house. You’ve not been thinking about That Other Man for a little while now. You’ve been wondering instead when you might expect authorities to show up, questioning why you left the scene of an accident. You’ve been wondering instead if you did panic at the time, perhaps in a faint and restrained kind of way. Mostly though, you’ve been thinking of her, the Latina woman, and what might’ve come of her. How bad could it have been? 

You sigh because you had not been thinking about That Other Man but now, since she’d asked the question, you were. 

You dig into your pocket for the crumpled piece of paper that you have kept close to you throughout the week. You unfold it and read to her, for perhaps the third time in as many days, the notes you’d made on what you’d discovered on her computer.  

“Did I hurt him?” you say once you’ve finished reading. “Is that what you asked? Is that all you care about? To be honest, yeah,” you reply. “Just a little bit. But yeah.”

You ball up the note and throw it at Alexa. It hits her on the chest. She does not flinch. 

You can’t say exactly when it all began to taper but after six months of living together it felt like the air within the flat had grown stale. Going out together didn’t seem to feel much better to the two of you. The bacchanals, impromptu or otherwise—the dinners, movies, and even the gift exchanges—had begun to feel like retreads, poor imitations of acts that had the battered nostalgia of memories decades old. So by the summer’s end Alexa had begun to spend more time at the library, working on the core chapter to a thesis on African-American women within contemporary art, while you visited your older brother and nephew more often and spent more time at your mother’s flat. That’s where you were when she called to tell you her menstrual cycle was more than ten days late, that her nipples were tingling and she was eating a lot of oranges but it could all be due to stress. 

It was a sense of foreboding that drove the two of you into the bathroom that same night. Alexa had sat on the toilet. She’d stared at the pregnancy-kit window, and waited on a future to emerge from its thin blue hazy line. You’d lowered yourself onto the edge of the bath. You’d stared at the thick ring of soap scum on the bathtub walls, blurred and distorted, like a fog in the middle distance. You’d turned your attention to it; you just had to—you could never understand why she didn’t clean the bath after use. You had your back to her as you scrubbed away, everything behind you had become subsidiary—the secondary sound of her depositing the pregnancy test into the trash can, the substandard cymbal crash of the lid being slammed closed. You did not turn. You’d heard her waiting. Her deep breaths had hovered over you. You were never certain of the light, quickly retracted touch on your shoulder. Maybe it did or didn’t take place, but what the fuck could you have said or done to make it any better if you did turn? So you never turned. Not even when she lingered. Instead you sprayed some more shots of bathroom cleaner, scrubbed faster and applied more pressure and you did not stop cleaning until you heard the front door slam. 

The letter flap taps gently against the front door security gate. You sit up from where you lay in the sofa. Daylight breaks through the drawn curtains. You can hear the shower running upstairs. You touch the Band-Aid on your forehead. It is damp. You again think of the Latina woman behind the air bag and her slow groan. You are sure she will be okay. You get up and peer through the curtains. Nothing. You open the door just to be sure. Nothing, just wind. You head downstairs to clean the wound and apply a new bandage. The Latina woman returns, as though she intends to camp in the space between your habitual and significant thoughts. It’s the reflection of you in the mirror that trembles. Not you. You are sure the woman you struck is dead. You decide to search the internet for local news but instead find yourself standing in the bedroom gazing at Alexa’s laptop as it lays closed on her beside table. 

It is the only computer in your home. 

Because of the shower running in the bathroom beside the bedroom, you do not hear Joshua as he comes up behind you and stands in the bedroom’s open doorway. “Daddy, you okay?” he asks. You turn to face him. “What happened to your face?” 

“I was in an accident,” you reply as you usher him away from the bedroom and toward the stairs as though the computer might detonate, “but yeah,” you add, “I’m okay.” 

You take Joshua out into the yard to play in the thigh-high snow. It is the best you can offer him this weekend. The pain in your side slows you a little and you hack up some blood during your snow fight, but the boy seems none too bothered—at age nine he has begun to discover a fascination for gore. You were never sure that you would get the opportunity to be his father. Three months after Joshua’s birth, you had been mentally prepared for a separation—things had become so strained between you and Alexa. Yet there were things you chose not to see that day you sat in the bath, with the water growing cold, contemplating the fragile nature of co-parenting—of custody and visitation and financial support. That much was clear, but so was the rest of it—Alexa had entered the bathroom in one of the bright bubas she wore to bed, she had looked strained, weighed down. She had just gotten off the phone with her mother and it had taken her a while to put Joshua to sleep that night. She had sat down on the tub’s edge. There was no eye contact when she suggested that the two of you get married. 

When you return inside you let Joshua choose his own meal—a range of snacks, Twizzlers, chips, cookies, and juice that, for one day only, you are going to let pass with just a frown. You mop the stains the dirt and snow have made on the wood flooring and replace your Band-Aid again. You start on some laundry and tidy up a little and when you think the house looks decent enough you pick up the landline and dial.

“9-1-1, where is your emergency?” the dispatcher says. 

In the silence that follows you think about last Saturday, when you discovered Alexa’s browsing history, made a note of what you found, and walked the laptop up to the bedroom. You think of a nonchalant Alexa, how she’d casually sat up in the bed and admitted she had feelings for someone else. It felt like you were elsewhere at the time. Back in London. Back when Alexa was pregnant. Because you are sure you had injured something back then, pressed your prosaic concerns onto her at a time in her life where she felt there ought to have been poetry. Alexa had slept a great deal during her pregnancy, as though to shorten the days and weeks that lay ahead of her. Conversations between the two of you had sizzled before they simmered. You would get on her about stuff, from the mountain of tableware in the sink to the hard water left in the iron, and in the midst of one outburst, you’d screamed—I don’t want you to be the mother of my child. You’d known immediately that it was a fucked-up thing to say. Yet your apology was wingless, honest but lacking some truth—you were scared. You told yourself you would clean up your act but when the two of you brought Joshua home from the hospital your words were still there. Those words breathed. They breathed between the two of you, they ate with the two of you, shitted and slept with the two of you, and none of your help at bath time and with late-night feedings would help blunt their edge. You’d felt monstrous. She’d seemed to shrink in your presence. The two of you never played with the baby together. You barely shared the same rooms. 

“9-1-1, where is your emergency?” 

You’d wanted to know who This Other Man was. One of her students; a mature grad student. Older than you. Older than Alexa even. She’d made a point of adding that nothing had yet happened between them, but it was an ominous “yet” that ran into your ears and down your throat. 

“Yet”—as in not until you were out of the picture. 

“Hello? Is there anyone there?” 

You hang up. 

Your attempt to resurrect Salinger for your high schoolers had been a disaster. You had had to step out of the classroom for fresh air on more than one occasion, and one time you’d burst into tears as you stood in the recess of a basement emergency exit. By Thursday your concentration had taken a hit and your lessons were disjointed. That evening a student e-mailed you the poem “Invictus”; the subject line read: “Because you seem a little down this week.” 

Then there was yesterday. Friday. The school had taken steps to arrange an early dismissal for staff and students; many of the parents, some you hadn’t seen on campus before, came to collect their children, and fellow faculty left the building soon after. That morning’s conversations had revolved around the same thing, that DC was set to experience the region’s heaviest February snowfall in recorded history. You did not give a fuck. You were sleeping in the basement and you and Alexa weren’t talking. Home wasn’t worth rushing home to. So you had hidden in the ladies’ bathroom, mirror-boxing as the last custodian on duty did his rounds. You walked the empty hallways, and ventured to areas you hadn’t been before, like backstage behind the theater, inside the mosh pit, the athletic changing rooms, and the other side of the assistant principal’s chair. You rummaged around the administration office, on a scavenger hunt for precious commodities like Expo pens and hole punchers. You found the unit where the school stored items confiscated from students. There was a fifth of Smirnoff vodka in there that would do you just fine (though you did pause to question the nerve of the student who had thought it would be okay to bring that to school). You sat for an hour behind the assistant principal’s desk drinking and used his desktop to Google porn because you knew he had a computer that was free of all the school district’s firewalls. You had these plastic cups that you’d swiped from the water dispenser, and a Swiss Army knife that you also discovered among the items in the unit, and you kept using the knife to stab holes in the cups. You alternated between vodka and water, and took another bathroom trip, only this time you swayed as you stepped and used the knife to make all these stabbing motions toward your reflection in the mirror. And you had kept slurring these words to yourself over and over, as if you were reciting an ancient mantra: A bananafish is a bananafish until it finds itself some bananas. And then it’s a pig. 

When you returned to the assistant principal’s office you felt a little sobered up but not really. You looked for That Other Man’s Facebook profile among the list of Alexa’s friends and found his face again and that name. It wasn’t a common name, so you googled him and pretty early in the list of results you found his address published on his Amazon wish list. You’d twiddled the knife around for a little while after that. Then you tried your best to clean up before you made your way back to the classroom to get your things. 

Your mother is made of proverbs and aphorisms instead of flesh and blood. It takes you months, sometimes years, to take some meaning from them. You had once sat at her kitchen table overthinking how you might tell her that Alexa had been offered a job, a tenure-track position in the fine arts department at her former undergrad college, in Washington, DC. She was due to start in August and you would all be moving there within the year. “America?” Your mother had replied once you found the right words, and she had turned to you from where she stood at the cooker stirring ground rice into a paste. She’d twisted her face and continued in Yoruba. “Why, Muyiwa? What of all those natural disasters?” 

You thought nothing of it. You didn’t think of mudslides or earthquakes or tornadoes. You didn’t think she really did either. You saw veiled affection. Her way of telling you she’d miss her second-born child and grandson. But she left you with something to chew on as she turned back to the stove and mumbled, “The easiest way to ensure a tree is dead is to uproot it.” 

You awaken that Sunday morning to the sight of Joshua, still in his pajamas, fiddling with the PlayStation controller. The TV is on mute. You throw the quilt off your body and sit up in the futon. Your head wound has crusted over. Dried flakes of blood remain on the futon’s cushion. The basement is cold. “Aren’t you cold?” you ask. 

You head up to the bedroom. Alexa is not there but there is a lingering trace of the incense that she likes to burn. Her phone is on the nightstand and you decide to leave it there. You check Joshua’s bedroom and then the guest bedroom. You head downstairs, through the living area again, and to the kitchen before returning to the basement. 

Through the egress window you can see her Highlander encased in snow. The neighbor, Mr. James, is out in his anorak and ski mask shoveling snow from the path in his yard, which means soon you’ll have to do the same to yours. You check the basement bathroom and in the dark passageway there is a band of light beneath the door. You’ll leave her alone. You understand the need for space. But then ten minutes becomes twenty, thirty, and when she runs close to having been in the bathroom for an hour, you knock on the door and ask if she’s okay. “Fine,” she calls out, “I’m fine.” You tell her she’s been in there for a while and when she doesn’t respond you tell her you need to use the bathroom. You say that Joshua is using the one upstairs when she asks.   

She opens the door. She is in a new dress, a black, open-back, figure-hugging number. There are her shoulders. You recall how you once felt about them. Now it feels like you are holding onto her shoulders just for the sake of it. “It’s all yours,” she says. You’re not sure what to do that will prevent you from standing there looking foolish. You step into the bathroom and close the door behind you. The new makeup she’s been trying is circled around the sink. The box to the new perfume you smell sits in the bathroom cart. Flowerbomb by Viktor & Rolf.  You stand in front of the mirror and slowly peel the Band-Aid from your forehead. You inspect the dark wound, the coagulated blood and the raised swollen parts of the skin around it. You toss the used Band-Aid in the trash can, pull the bottle of multi-surface cleaner from beneath the sink, and set about cleaning the traces of foundation powder from the enamel’s rim. 

The woman who had answered That Other Man’s door was Asian. 

 She was small and diminutive, but in a cascading kind of way. Her hair, shoulder-length and unadventurous, was too big for her head, her head too big for her eyes, and so on. You had swayed and shivered on her porch and leaned on a beam for support. The Friday evening snow flittered behind you beyond the porch. A projected thirty-plus inches—as a Londoner, you didn’t quite understand the magnitude of that. You asked if her husband was home. You took a small pleasure from her not correcting you with “brother,” “roommate,” or even “boyfriend.” 

She left the door ajar with the chain on, and you appreciated the heat that emanated from inside. Then the door closed and the chain was released before it was fully swung open. The Other Man was standing there in a faded Chicago Bears T-shirt and eyeglasses that you had never seen him wear in any of the Facebook images. You referred to him by name. A name you had refused to mention aloud until then. And he’d barely said yes before you jabbed him in the face. He staggered back. The door crashed against the wall behind it. You had skipped back in the other direction and down the porch steps before you lost your footing and fell into the ankle-deep snow. The cold sobered you a little. You struggled to your feet. His wife had returned to the door and started to throw language at you that you might never have thought she’d be capable of if you had been left with just her sheepish first impression. “You fucking bastard. You little piece of shit.” 

You had cackled with laughter at how fierce she had turned; you swayed and staggered as you pulled the Swiss Army knife from your coat and held it out for them to see. “If you want my wife, you can have her!” you screamed, but you felt a little stupid because it wasn’t a warning, threat, or caution, and it kind of didn’t make any sense alongside the knife gesture. 

“You fucking penis. I’m going to call the fucking police,” the wife said before slamming the door. You cackled some more at that, but still recognized you ought to get going. You trudged back to your car. Triumph felt wet and slippery. 

You cannot build a boat without first felling a tree. It was your mother who once said that. You sped away from That Other Man’s house with your tires sliding on the snow. You told yourself that you could just leave. Return to London. Save your dignity. Joshua could spend the summers with you. Maybe you don’t know what you would tell him now. But later, when he is older, you’ll talk to him about tsunamis, and how two people can be swept along so quickly without the force of any consistent emotion. 

You remember sliding on the ice that night and ending up on the other side of the road. You remember the oncoming light that approached your passenger’s side. The glare of high-beam headlights. 

But that’s about it, you must’ve blacked out after that point. 

You decide to give the entire bathroom a quick wipedown once you are done with the sink. You’re still thinking about the Latina woman as you finish up. You stare at the mirror again. Not at your reflection, but at the finger stains you missed in the top right-hand corner. You decide to leave them there. 

By Sunday evening things have cleared up enough for you to have visitors. Alexa happens to be at the window as they walk up the pathway. She turns to you and says, “What did you do, Muyiwa? The police are here. What did you do? How did you get all that blood on you?” The questions, to you, possess a sensory quality, like bright lights thrown on you after a long stint in the dark. “The police,” she repeats as the doorbell rings. You get up and head toward the kitchen. “Well, are you going to answer the door?” she asks. More bright light. She seems alive again after a weekend spent in silence. Another bell ring, just as Joshua scrambles up the stairs from the basement to see who their first visitor in days might be. “Downstairs. Now,” Alexa says and the boy U-turns at the force of her words just as you leave the kitchen. You head back across the living area toward the front door. You wrap the cord to the blender around the jug handle.

It could be the assault, you think. It could be because you fled the scene of an accident. You suspect you’re going to be charged with something anyhow. And then what? First offense. But you can’t rule out jail time. At the very least you believe you’ll eventually be deported once the American law system is ready to spit you out. 

You cradle the blender in one arm and open the door with the other. A blast of cold hits you and wind quickens the door swing. You don’t know when you’ll see London again, but it’s enough to know you will, and you know that when you do the city’s winters will have never felt as good.


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