Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Thunder shake.

I’m laying in bed, and the window is open. The blinds shudder and a strong breeze is telling me a storm’s heading my way. No sleep for me tonight, so I’ll just remember...

I am seven years old, curled up in his chair, and the windows are open. Deja vu. The humidity is so thick, my nightgown sticks to my legs and my hair curls at the ends. The curtains my momma bought, the yellow ones that lasted years longer than my parents’ marriage, they’re waving, and my dad is telling me a storm’s blowing in. He props open the screen door and heads out to the porch. It’s gonna be a bad one, he tells me, as he leans out from the safety of the awning and stares up at a dark sky.

I know he won’t listen, even if I beg. He loves these storms. I try anyway, pleading with him to come back in. Daddy, please, I shout.

I beg because I know. I know God will strike him dead with lightning or throw a tree down and crush him or send a tornado to sweep him away from me forever. He will stand there, admiring this storm and it will kill him and I will be a half-orphan. I am seven and I know this and I will die, too, if he does. I am sure.

The wind picks up and the lightning arrives. He tells me to come look. You’re crazy, I shout back, and I am terrified to go outside, but I am more terrified to sit inside listening while God kills my dad.

So I run bare-footed out onto the porch and together we sit on the top step. We watch until, finally, I see it.

The white flash that comes out of nowhere from above and turns the sky purple. The world around me lights up, and then we count, my dad and I. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, crash. The thunder drowns out my scream and shakes my world.

And then it’s over and my dad starts to laugh. There are tears in my eyes, but I'm smiling and in my head, I thank God because the storm is still eight counts away and for the moment, my dad is alive and laughing and he hugs me and I know I am safe.

A few more flashes of lightning, a few more thunder shakes, and the rain comes. Let’s get on inside, he says. And as the rain pelts the window screens, I listen to my dad tell stories of his childhood, stories I’ve heard countless times, stories that always ease my nerves a little, especially during a storm.

I wake up and the world is already dry and sunny, and my dad is frying bacon and he hollers to come get it while it's hot. He is very much alive and I thank God again.

Fifteen years later, the yellow curtains are long gone and so is he.

I’m laying in bed, and the window is open. The storm is moving in, and I’m still not used to a thunder shake.

But there’s that moment, just before the thunder comes, when the breeze is blowing and the humidity is thick enough to curl my hair. The lightning flashes and I count. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, and I remember him laughing. Deja vu.

And I thank God. The storm is still eight counts away, and for a moment, my dad is still here and laughing. As long as I can remember him, I know he will be here.

I am sure.

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