READING

From This Isn't What I Came To Say

An aberrant heavy cloud rests above my backyard. I am sitting on my porch wearing a sweater, reading, and watching the cloud. My girlfriend and I live in an unusually sunny neighborhood. She is inside the house cleaning. She makes up songs about her day, or the sky, or something she's noticed on our street. I can hear her contralto voice quaver through the screen door, off key.

The book I'm reading was from my first lover, Michelle. At the top of one page, she has written her name, and the date, then three dark arrows pointing down.

The line Michelle is pointing to says that it has not rained in Lima since 1940, but when I think about the statement it seems impossible. I read the line again, and yes, that is what the poet says. She must be making it up, but I think about the people waiting every day for the rain; they wait for the water to enliven everything, to make their world wet and green and soft.

***

The last time I saw Michelle, she was in the middle of the sidewalk outside our old apartment building, balancing on one leg and waving at me. I was already a block away, walking down the street away from her. I was walking briskly, happily, thinking about the unexpected November sun and feeling my body move down the street, the concrete under my tennis shoes, the pleasant air, made even more pleasant by the smell of renegade fall jasmine and ferns from our neighbor's garden. Michelle called my name and I turned, or I turned, sensing something, and then she called my name. There was a slight change in temperature, a shift in light; the air pressed against my forehead. The sun blew straight at me, and I had to squint through a yellowish haze. There was a moment of blindness, and then I created a frame of darkness all around me, as if I were looking through binoculars, and at the end of the scope was Michelle. She stood on one leg. She was waving.