The sun pursued its Olympian course into foreign parts, leaving me and Joshua and all our longitude to watch, if we would, the most tardy purple ribbons of solar pageantry flutter after their lord.
When this had ended, I inhaled to a more expansive rhythm. Nothing remained for me to watch and my eyes became tactile organs, flaring to the chill. I seemed to breathe not only air and lilac, cold and wet, but also darkness.
My head came to rest on the tall cedar bench. Joshua, after some rustling, pushed an old afghan behind my back.
With one hand I found his; with the other I gentled my barely pregnant belly, comforted that no one could see so unnecessary and so sentimental a gesture.
“Sunset and evening bell,” Joshua murmured.
I finished. “And after that the dark.”
Our literary ritual was also our credo: that we should live as we would die, gently, without undue fuss, unafraid of the dark and of other sorts of absences. Our house was an inherited cabin plastered by us against the wind. Our food, our sticks, our clothes, our wheels, were all grown, made, or purchased without debt. Neither of us would ever work overtime. We often kept our financial freedom by declining to care about something. We did not care about the distance to town or concern ourselves to prolong our far-off old age with medicine. We did not enjoy television, radio, or new clothes. We enjoyed unconcern.
But in the night a secret love was growing in me, promising that if I dared to live unafraid for myself and my love, I would yet live to suffer terror for the offspring of our bodies. The promise was as old as my childhood, as scorned as my mother’s decrepit fears, of cars, carnies, and clothes dryers, resonant as a bell-peal in that corner of my soul that awakened to motherhood.
I knew only one cure: wait. With waiting, fears are dispelled or dissolve into truth. With waiting I bestow on myself freedom to breathe, and to hold my husband’s hand, and to gain the sight of stars.