I don’t like thunderstorms.
When one looms on the horizon, it’s growl piercing the sky as it drifts closer towards me, I make sure to hide away inside my trailer. I lock all doors, close all windows and rafters and shutter and all curtains.
It wasn’t always like this: I would sit outside with Carrie and watch the storm roll by, and listened to the pitter-patter of rain on the thin tin awning above us, and the wind would rip by and shake the trailer and creak the old wooden patio beneath us, and howled through the woods crowding the northern horizon in front of us. There was a serenity in storm, where we sat and just enjoyed one another’s company. Wrapped in the aroma of the wet loam like a perfume that mother earth war.
Carrie was the love of my life. From the moment I first saw her, I knew she was the one. Have you ever had that moment, when your rationality ceases, and all that is left is a primal force within you, driving you? When your heart leaps in your chest, and tells your mind, “This is the one I want to spend the rest of my life with?” That’s what happened when I first saw her, my freshman year of high school.
What was it about her? The flaxen hair, as golden as the wheat fields? Or her eyes as blue as the midday sky? Her voice as sweet as a swallow’s? I didn’t know. All I did know was that I had to have her, I had to be with her for the rest of my life, or I would be incomplete.
But my cowardice would be the best of me for most of my time in school. She was…a distant star, that I had no hopes of coming into contact with. The years went by, and soon our final one was upon us. I knew that if I didn’t suck up my fear and ask her, I would regret it for the rest of my life. So one late autumn morning, before the first bells had rung, and when fog still clung to the earth, I approached her on one of the rare occasions where she was alone and asked her to the winter ball.
I wasn’t expecting her to say yes, in fact I was anticipating the opposite, but it was something that I had to do: to get over her, or so I told myself. A definite no would have hurt, but I would be better for it, or so I told myself.
Her rosy lips curled upwards, and her milky skin reddened slightly.
“Let me think about it.” She said, “I’ll give you an answer after English.”
A few of her friends walked through the gate, and I hurried away. I caught her glancing back at me, waving as she got caught up talking with her friends. I spent the rest of that day dreading my decision, and dreading the coming of our shared English class at the end of the day. The day went by slowly, and, soon enough I was sitting at my desk in english, the teacher droning on and on about some subject I couldn’t care less about. Every so often I’d shoot a glance towards her, and sometimes I’d see her swivel her head around back to look at her papers.
The bell rang and I stayed in my seat, while everyone else filtered out, and collected myself. I was ready for that no, I told myself. A few more seconds, and I pushed myself off my seat and headed outside.
Carrie was waiting for me, outside.
“Yes.” She said as soon as she saw that I stepped out.
“Yes. I’ll go to the dance with you.”
The smile she gave still lives on in my memory to this day.
I had never been happier. Over the coming weeks we talked and bonded over things neither of us knew we had in common: television shows, music on the radio, bands, books and hobbies. We talked about our plans for the future: she wanted to be a teacher. She loved the color blue. She loved my eyes.
She wore a bright blue dress to the winter ball, that swept the floor with every step she took. She was like a flower, dancing in the wind that night. Her feet swept the floor, and they stole all of the attention that night. But that didn’t interest me: she was the only thing on my mind. Her bright blue eyes watching mine, as we spun to I Wanna Know What Love is, playing over the D.J.’s speaker. It was the happiest I had been in my life.
After the commotion died down, and the song ended we walked outside, her arm caught in the crook of mine, just in time for a thunderstorm to roll in from the woods.
“Hey, want to watch it?” She asked, tugging me by the arm towards the campus.
“What do you mean?”
“I dunno. I like watching them come by.”
“My dad and I used to watch them together.”
I shrugged. Why not? That was a good enough reason for me.I didn’t want that night to end any time soon.
People hurried by, into waiting cars or limos, while we hurried through the campus, looking for a place to watch the storm.
There was an overhanging covered cement bridge separating two elevated portions of the school, with enough protection from the sky to allow us to stay dry. We snuck up there, past the security guards scanning crevices of darkness for prowlers, or for horny teenagers who slipped away from the dance to do their business in the darkness of the school grounds.
We reached the center of the bridge just in time for the first flash of lightning. She watched it enthusiastically: a smile illuminated by the sudden brightness of the storm dancing across her face. She watched the storm, and I watched her. She was enthused as the sky roared to life, and the wind began to whip through the gaps of the steel support bars in front of us, sweeping past in a flurry of cold. I took the initiative again, and by the light of one of those lightning strikes, I took hold of her chin and brought her lips into mine. She seemed surprised at first, but leaned into it after a few seconds. Her lips tasted like strawberries.
The school year went by, with us never leaving one another’s side for very long. Every time there was a thunderstorm announced for the following day on the news, we’d find somewhere to watch it together, and share in each other’s company. I grew to love them as much as she had. We shared our first time in the back of a beat up toyota, while the storm covered the world around us.
We graduated together that year, and, with the next thunderstorm that summer, I went down on one knee and asked her to spend the rest of her life with me. She responded with a kiss.
My family was ecstatic, and my father bought us a used tin trailer for our first home, and allowed us to use his father’s land as our own, until we could afford our own place. We never did move out of that tin can — we grew to love it as much as we loved each other, and was hoping to spend the rest of our lives together there.
We got married three years after our first dance at the winter ball, to the date. And moved in together. I got a job at one of the farms in town, and she started classes at a local college, to start her process to get her teaching certificates.
As time went on, we replaced the tin can, with a larger trailer, with a tin awning, and yellow painted aluminum walls. My brothers, my father and a few of my coworkers built a wooden patio underneath the awning where we could sit outside, and pass the time watching the thunderstorms.
We continued watching them together as often as we could: when sickness racked through us both, we’d still go out and watched the storms roll past the woods, past the trailer, and past our three or four acres. We’d say nothing for hours on end, just holding each other’s hand. We’d kiss. We’d make love as the thunder roared over head.
It was one of those gray days, that promised another storm that I found myself at work. Early afternoon came, and a rumble of thunder started me. It had been clear just moments before, but now black clouds loomed on the horizon, moving ever closer.
“Ay, John!” Our crew leader called, “Go home.”
“You sure? We ain’t done yet.”
“Yeah.” He cast his eyes to the sky, watching the dark clouds grow closer, “Looks to be a bad ‘un.”
The sky growled in response.
“Best hurry, too. Don’t want to get caught out in this mess.”
I put the tools back in the barn, and hurried to the old beat up chevy I still drove. I was going to surprise her, I told myself. And we’d sit outside to watch this big one: make love. Be happy. There was a store on the way home, I got in a bought a bottle of wine, and when I got back to my car, the first whip of lightning shot down from the sky and struck in a field nearby: it’s thunder called after it. There would be a fire, if it weren’t for the sheets of rain that began to pour from the heavens to put it out.
Home wasn’t a very far drive from the store: a mile or so, and another quarter of a mile down the packed dirt drive that led to the trailer. I stopped right before I usually stop in front of it: there was a truck parked there already. One of them new, plastic ones, with California license plates. God no.
I hurried past, and made it to the door in time to hear their muted moans, and the creaking of my bed under their weight, at the window that looked out over the front of our property. She giggled, and my heart shattered, and my whole body burned, as if consumed by an inferno.
The truck door creaked open silently, and I rustled around in my glove box, pulled out the revolver I kept in to scare away the coyotes or feral dogs that sometimes wandered onto the property, or onto the farm lands and spun the chamber. With the heat of hell burning inside of me, I stuffed the gun inside my coat pocket and pushed open the door as loud as I could, and the creaking stopped.
I said nothing as I pushed the door open, the lock ripping off. She covered herself with my sheets.
“What the fuck, man.” The man underneath my wife said.
I pulled gun from my coat and fired a shot into the man’s head. His body went limp, and the remains of what was his face, splattered against the white sheets that covered the mattress, and stained her white skin.
Carried screamed. But not for long, as another round entered her as well. Her body went limp, and she fell on top of her lover. I stood there for ten minutes, looking at what I had just done my chest heaving.
I threw up on the ground then, and sprung into action, pulling the sheets off the mattress, and covering their bodies with it. I pulled the bloodstained sheets across the floor and, with the strength gained from pulling up bales of wheat, pulled them into the bed of my truck and drove deep into the nearby woods after I got a shovel from the tool shed. The storm was like none other, raging above. Lightning struck every minute, thunder roared every second, and the rain came down in sheets. I spent the next few hours digging two shallow graves underneath a large oak tree. The rain and mud clung to my body, soaking me to the bone. But I continued. God, what had I done? I vomited again into the hole.
I buried her there, along with her lover, naked, wrapped in those linen sheets. I drank the weeks away after that, told my family she had found another man and moved to California and left me. No questions were asked, and I was able to clean the blood from the walls and floors of my home, and hide his truck away deep in the underbrush of the forests. I got away with it.
The next thunderstorm came, and I sat outside, a bottle of whiskey my only companion now. I watched as the dark gray clouds rolled in, and then watched as the first lightnings flashed across the sky….when something caught my eye.
In the distance there, at the line of the woods, I saw it: a black silhouette of a woman draped in a linen sheet. Another flash of lightning and she was a bit closer. Another. Closer.
I dropped the bottle of whiskey and shattered it on the wooden surface of the patio, the alcohol disappearing into the gaps, and hurried inside. The storm roared and I chanced a glance whenever I could. And sure enough, every time the lightning flashed, there was a silhouette at the treeline. Getting closer, and closer with bright flash. With every rumble of thunder.
That was five years ago, and ain’t no matter where I went: what part of the country I would go, if I were on the road or not, I’d see her there in the lightning flashes, getting closer and closer. Closer and closer. I began to see signs of those once vivid blue eyes, burning like coal. I began to see traces of her yellow hair wherever I went. Closer. Closer. Hate burning in those cerulean orbs.
The last time, I was close enough to kiss her. Closer. Closer. To smell the mud dripping from her matted hair. Closer. Closer. And to feel the coolness radiating from her body. Closer. Closer.
A thousand miles away, a different continent even. Oceans away from my sins, and still still, she follows. The weatherman said that there would be a thunderstorm coming tonight, and I swore I felt her breath rolling down my neck like ice.
I don’t like thunderstorms.