Haibun Today

A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Editor
Volume 4, Number 4, December 2010

Rich Youmans
North Falmouth, Massachusetts, USA


The Light

I see the light—there, she whispered. They were sitting upright in their bed, pressed against each other, under a skylight of spring stars: Ursa Major, the Big Dipper, Polaris. Her normally curly hair lay matted to her forehead, and a purple nightgown clung to her sweat-soaked body; tomorrow they would find it had dyed her skin lavender. The skylight angled outward, and night sounds filtered through the screen. There, she said again, pointing. He followed her finger to the bedroom corner, and his stomach collapsed. In the mottled dark he saw only vague outlines slowly emerging: the overstuffed armchair, his pants and polo shirt on the chair’s back, the afghan she had made for him on their first anniversary. But no light. On his nightstand, a half-empty glass of orange juice stood, far below the stars.

between this world and beyond    insect songs

She clutched his t-shirt, pressed her head into his chest. Hold me, hold me, hold me, she chanted. Her body trembled for a few seconds, then resumed its ragged rise and lapse. He reached for the glass of orange juice and brought it to her lips. She drank, and he returned the empty glass to the nightstand. So simple. I see the light. She had never said that before, not in all those times he had poured her orange juice or given her insulin injections or calmed her through clammy, shuddering reactions. He thought of the first time he prepared a needle for her, drawing in the insulin: four Lente, two regular. He had tapped the syringe furiously, desperate to make sure there were no bubbles that would rush to her brain. He had swabbed her toughened arm with alcohol, and when the needle entered her skin he gasped. She had laughed, told him that he was a worrywart, a ninny, a love. I see the light. He wanted to call 911, to speed her to the emergency room. But every time he moved, she let out a sharp cry and clutched him: Hold me, just hold me.

far-off sirens    the blood that pulses through us

Finally, the orange juice did its work: She grew still, and her breathing steadied, grew less loud, less ragged. He still felt each breath, though, moving the hairs on his chest. He closed his eyes and focused on that slight tickle. He counted each movement, and began to time his own breaths with hers. This is what his world had become: a tangle of limbs, a tickle of hairs, a patch of stars too far away. He looked at the corner, at the vague shadows. Her breathing held steady, and his didn’t waver. You worrywart, you ninny. He felt the tickle again on his chest. You love. For now, it was enough. He closed his eyes, put his cheek against her forehead. He smelled the damp of her hair: soap and apricots and the coming summer. He stared at the stars. He waited for dawn, its first faint glow. And he held her. He held her.

oranges in morning sun    behind the rind the light


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