The Broken Line, 51: Voices in the Rain

(Missed the last chapter? Go to 50: Fertility Fetish)

JOHN STARES OUT the window. “What the hell?”

Maybe it isn’t just me. Maybe John hears it, too—the illusion of voices in the rain.

“What is that doing there?”

I strain to see through the misty, shifting blur. “I can’t see anything.”

John reaches out and picks something up off the windowsill, then opens his hand to show me a pale blue pill with a lightening bolt imprinted into it.

“I … I don’t know. I’m sure I took it this morning.”

“You’re positive?” John’s voice, disapproving and paternal. I felt the splitting sensation again—two Lacys, two Johns.

“Yes,” I say uncertainly. “You made blueberry muffins. I had a glass of milk, and—”

“That was yesterday.”

“It was?”

“Today we had French toast. Or rather, I did. You never ate yours.”

I grab the blue tablet from John’s hand and gulp it down.

“You should never miss a dose of any prescribed medication. It’s very dangerous.”

“I know,” I moan. “Dr. Rolfe said the anti-depressant is helping me step down my anti-psychotic medications without a relapse.”

“How could you let this happen?” John glares and I flash onto an image of his face behind coke-bottom glasses—the John of my delusion, still lurking under the surface of domestic normalcy. I look away.

“At least now I know why I’m in a crap mood. I’m going upstairs to lie down.”

“Are you sure that’s a good idea? Maybe we should be together.”

“I need to rest, and you’re trying to finish your article. I’ll call you if I feel worse.”

“I don’t know.” John’s hands tighten around my hips.

Resisting the urge to yank away, I put my hands on his. “I’m very tired.”

John’s eyes search my face. For a minute, I think he’s going to pull me closer, clamp his arms around my shoulders, crush me. But he kisses my forehead and lets me go.

“As you wish, Darling.”

Relieved, I slip out of the kitchen.

 

MY DISHRAG GRAY bedroom feels less like a refuge than a prison, so I continue down the hall to the second bedroom. The pale green walls and big window overlooking Stuart Avenue comfort me, as does the quirky art and worn, vintage furniture. John has neatly folded the linens and blanket he uses to make his bed.

I lie down on the couch. It smells faintly of incense and reminds me of listening to the Violent Femmes with Branson. In the memory, though, this room is downstairs.

My head jerks up. That couldn’t be. Unless … I knew Branson before I was married.

Of course. He wasn’t just a fling—he was an old boyfriend. Now that I know that John and I were desperate for a child, so many things make sense: why I’d sought out Branson, and why John had forgiven me. He must see himself as partly to blame.

Don’t trust him, the voices murmur in the rain.

I pull the blanket over me and stretch out on the couch. I click off the lamp and stare up at the ceiling in the half-light. The voices in the rain go on, whispering warnings and urging me to run. I don’t try to fight them. I don’t need to—the little blue pill will take care of everything.

 

KITTY AND I sit at the table in a prison visiting room. She wears a red evening gown. I wear a lumpy gray uniform. A red china teapot and matching cups, decorated with white roses, sit on a stone table between us.

“This belonged to my grandmother,” Kitty says. The cups, chipped and cracked, look like birds’ nests. It seems unlikely they can hold liquid, but she continues to pour. “Now it belongs to you.”

“I don’t want it.”

“I know.” She pushes my teacup closer. “That’s why I tried to kill it.”

Inside the teacup a pile of centipedes—all with human faces¾scramble over each other, trying to escape the boiling liquid. Some faces pale, others olive, coffee or ebony. Ancestors. All scream the same thing, Run, run, run, run, run.

 

I WAKE, MOANING. John stands over me, reaching out his arms.

“Don’t touch me!”

John freezes, then drops his hands. “Lacy, you’re dreaming.”

I rub my face. “It’s not working.”

“What’s not?” John snaps on the lamp.

“The medicine.”

John glances at his watch. “It’s only been thirty minutes. Do you want me to call George?”

I huddle under the blanket, shivering. “Who?”

“Dr. Rolfe?”

“Oh.” I sit up, fully awake, listening. No rain, no voices.

“I’m feeling better. I’m going to get some tea…” the memory of the nightmare pricks me, “I mean, cocoa.”

“I’ll bring it.” John lays his hand on my leg. Heat spreads through my body like the first sip of a strong drink.

“You don’t need to,” I say, but I’m already sinking back against the cushions.

“Just relax until you feel a hundred percent.” He smiles at me. I stare, dazzled again.

As I wait, I notice that everything glows slightly, as if lit from within. Me, too: silver and liquid inside. Relaxed, open-armed, floating. Is this normal? Maybe I’ve been sick for so long, I’ve forgotten what happiness feels like.

Happiness. What a concept.

Nothing to fear, as long as I keep to my medication schedule. In fact, curled up under blanket waiting for my handsome husband to bring me cocoa, I feel downright lucky.

If not for John, I would have ended up in a mental hospital—or worse. Without someone who knew enough to realize that the drug abuse had triggered mental illness, I might have ended up wandering the streets, paranoia growing until I became violent like my mother. I feel a surge of sympathy. Kitty—the woman with the teacup full of fear.

 

THE NEXT MORNING, I call Dr. Rolfe at his conference. In part, so I can confess that I heard voices in the rain, but mostly because I miss him. We’ve been meeting every other day for almost a month, and his absence has left an uncomfortable gap in my already too-quiet schedule.

“It’s highly improbable that taking your antidepressant a few hours late was the cause,” Dr. Rolfe says. I can hear the babble of a crowded room in the background.

“Then what?”

“Possibly it was your subconscious trying to nudge you into remembering your medication. Possibly it was simply an aural effect of the rain, like seeing shapes in clouds.”

“That’s what I thought!”

“There you go.”

“What if I’m having another psychotic break?” I know the thought should make me nervous, but right now I’m more interested in the light streaming in the kitchen window, hitting the copper pans and exploding into a cascade of gold and white, like the foam on a waterfall.

“You know your symptoms by now, Lacy. Do you think you are?”

“No,” I admit. “I feel good.”

“Then don’t worry. Stress can set you back more quickly than anything.”

 

DETERMINED NEVER TO forget my medication again, I set the timer on the oven to go off every day at 9:00 a.m., and the alarm clock by my bed for 9:00 p.m. Just in case.

John’s working at his desk in the living room, so I curl up on the sofa and pour over our wedding album. I hope that it will elicit memories, and the emotions that go along with them. But I come up blank.

Next, I flip through some old Richmond Living magazines. Even though they’re full of pictures of people John knows by name—friends and associates, he says—they spark nothing. While I’m looking at restaurant reviews, I hit on the idea of visiting some of our favorite places in town.

“Favorite places?” John looks up from his laptop with a distracted air.

“You know, places we liked to go together. Restaurants, museums, parks, anything.”

“I see.” He frowns, still typing away. “Yes, good idea. I’ll call Richard and Helen. They’ve been asking about you.”

“I wouldn’t know Richard and Helen from Adam and Eve. I don’t want to see anyone until more memories come back.”

John stretches, and then joins me on the couch. “We’ll go to Chatworth’s.” He nuzzles my neck, inhaling deeply. “You smell incredible.”

His breath against my neck sends a shockwave down my spine and straight to my crotch. I close my eyes and try to relax. John runs his fingers up and down my arms. But, as he put his lips on my neck, Branson’s face fills the screen of my mind.

My eyes snap open. “I better decide what to wear. This is a big night. Our first date!”

Disappointment flashes across John’s face, but, as I retreat to the doorway, his hungry look fades. I can turn him on and off, just by proximity. I don’t mean to toy with him, but I feel myself being pushed and pulled by alternating currents that wish I could control.

“Is it dressy?” I ask before I head up the stairs.

“Whatever you like, darling.” John shifts back to the desk and opens his computer. “I’ll make reservations.”

Tonight, for the first time in weeks—maybe months—I’m going out in public. I have a flash of misgiving—what if I embarrass myself? I decide to take my medication a little early, before we leave. The mist colored pill with the lightening bolt—my talisman.

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