Pres­sure Change

Geist - - Predicted Deluge - EVE­LYN LAU

pres­sure change

When some­one sends a mes­sage that he’s dead, I shut down the com­puter and go into the liv­ing room, but it’s on the news. So I hide in the bath­room a long time, as if need­ing time to com­pose my­self, but the prob­lem is

I can’t pee. It’s a pe­cu­liar symp­tom of stress, a ner­vous tic like a twitch­ing eye­lid or a clenched jaw— the blad­der seizes up, and that’s that.

I sit on the toi­let, look­ing at the speck­led floor, let the news an­chor’s voice stac­cato the space beyond the locked door.

Then another per­son re­lays the news, and another, plumb­ing emo­tion—grief or poorly con­cealed de­light? A sleep­less night, a yel­low Val­ium. No tears. The com­po­sure that eluded me those des­per­ate years has fi­nally sur­faced, along with the other muted bless­ings of mid­dle age.

That long stain he left on my early life im­per­ma­nent af­ter all. He had cho­sen to die

at noon on one of the last days of sum­mer, be­fore the pre­dicted del­uge. It ar­rived as heav­i­ness in the air, a mass of hu­mid­ity a pres­sure change that sent me to bed af­ter lunch with a mi­graine. Then the spat­ter of rain on the deck, rain close to hail with its loud con­tempt, like hot spit hawked onto the side­walk. Pain,

Dickinson wrote, has an el­e­ment of blank— but so does its ab­sence, so how to tell the dif­fer­ence?


The grey ob­scures the blue. Last year’s drought-dam­aged trees, half-drowned. The con­ver­sa­tion, when it’s not about weather, or real es­tate, is

Are you writ­ing? No one’s writ­ing. Ev­ery­one’s in a funk, wait­ing for words. We sit and stare at screens, sharpen pen­cils, self-med­i­cate. The lucky ones

go on re­treats, eat lo­cal and or­ganic, pay a guru to teach them still­ness for a week. Some­where there’s a stash, a cache of words, if we wait. If we lis­ten

and med­i­tate. Or try the re­verse— grab a cof­fee, catch a movie, pre­tend nor­malcy. Maybe that’ll jar some­thing loose. Maybe the muse doesn’t like

to be courted, doesn’t want the red car­pet laid out for its ar­rival. Prefers to drop in unan­nounced when we’re in the shower or asleep. Yes, we’re aware of the lim­ited

time left, th­ese dwin­dling days a blur of cloud and rain. We’re wait­ing for the blaze of July, its brief and pre­cious light. All the tour buses

are full, their up­per decks un­der canopy, un­der sky. Tourists hud­dled in pon­chos, faces hid­den by cell­phones. The first day of the Au­gust heat wave, we’ll com­plain.


At first, the floor­ing guy at Home De­pot flirted with you, cocky in his or­ange apron.

By the umpteenth visit he was curt and clipped, cast­ing his gaze over your shoul­der

at the next cus­tomer. The prob­lem was, you couldn’t com­mit. For two years

you criss­crossed the Cam­bie Street bridge to pace the floor­ing aisle,

head swiv­el­ling left and right— lam­i­nate, en­gi­neered hard­wood, vinyl.

You clicked through spin­ners, fin­gered quar­ter rounds and tran­si­tion pieces,

poked spongy squares of un­der­lay. This was the dilemma of choice—

sweet sugar maple, cin­na­mon gleam of cher­ry­wood, but­tery slats of bam­boo.

In the end, you went grey— a white­washed oak, scraped and sanded,

a sil­ver fox. This floor was as­pi­ra­tional, floated in from a glossy mag­a­zine

where ev­ery­one wore Ralph Lauren and lived on Martha’s Vine­yard.

Love it or hate it, it would be yours for life.

pa­cific inn, san diego

Am­trak passes in the night, a rum­ble on the wrong side of the tracks. The home­less in San Diego have been roasted by the sun

into psy­chosis, pon­chos caked desert-brown, faces spiked like cacti. Af­ter­noons, you nest in the lob­bies of lux­ury ho­tels,

pre­tend you be­long among white or­chids and golden chan­de­liers. Avail your­self of free In­ter­net in the busi­ness cen­tre,

avoid the doors marked Pri­vate Bank­ing. The pa­per tow­els in the gran­ite bath­room seem spun from silk and linen,

the finest vel­lum on which to pen your po­ems. By eco­nomic mea­sures, you’ve failed at ev­ery­thing. Is this what’s called fall­ing

out of the mid­dle class? Now the dol­lar is be­low seventy-five cents, and at Whole Foods you can’t af­ford to eat the rain­bow.

You pay with a clutch of coupons, or­der tap wa­ter from the dwin­dling re­source. Shame is a spend­ing spree, a waste of en­ergy.

A store owner gives you a too-ripe per­sim­mon and you carry it through the streets of Lit­tle Italy like a beat­ing heart

cupped in your palm. Thirty years ago, you were a home­less teenager, and now you re­mem­ber how to live on noth­ing.

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