She is maybe running a fever.
She is maybe running a fever, and the spaces within her skull are filled with some thick insistent ugliness. Pain traces the hollowed bones of her face, presses against the roots of her teeth, expands within her eardrums, swells in the corners of her eyes so that tears spill unbidden across the warmth of her cheeks as she stares up into the night. Her limbs are heavy and sodden, and her stomach roils in the darkness. She shivers.
She is definitely running a fever.
Throwing the thin blanket aside, she tumbles out of bed, taking no care at all not to disturb him, but he continues sleeping soundly. In the bathroom, she rummages through the medicine cabinet, finds some Tylenol and some Sudafed, swallows them dry. Belatedly remembering her uneasy stomach, she runs the tap and scoops a few soothing palmfuls of water to her lips.
She stands in the darkness of the bathroom.
A headache blooms as she stands there, a bloody Rorschached flower against the insides of her eyes.
Dizziness and nausea are not far behind, and she kneels resignedly before the toilet to purge her stomach of the rejected pills. She can taste the bitterness of the hoped-for cure against the backdrop of bile, and tears spill with the vomit. The headache is ferocious now, ripping at her will with knived fingers.
She crouches to vomit again, and although there is nothing left to purge, her muscles continue to work to empty her body of . . . everything but pain.
Shivering uncontrollably now, but unwilling to swallow more pills, she makes her way to the other bathroom, the only bathroom in this house with a tub. She turns on a dim light and squints against the pierce of darkness. Hot water, as hot as she can stand it . . . she will heat her body and her head into somnolent submission. With shaking hands, she leans to turn on the water, gritting her teeth against the pain as her head dips.
She pauses, does not run the water, her attention caught by an unexpected triangular darkness. There is a very large grey moth resting in the bottom of the tub, perfectly still and untroubled by her presence. With careless fingers, she reaches to scoop him up and out of the tub, thinking that if she felt better, she would walk to offer this insect snack to either the frogs or the turtle her daughters keep as pets. Instead, she scoops, intending to toss the moth over her shoulder, not caring where he flies to next.
Her fingertips make contact with the moth, and there is a sensation of sinking into the moth, a feeling that her fingers will disappear into its soft flesh. Instead of the expected dusty folded stiffness of wings, her fingers meet soft contained liquid warmth, a warmth which yields and threatens to both spill and envelop her. She recoils in horror, flinging the moth back down into the tub, where it takes a few sleepy steps, rearranges its wings, and settles once again against the bottom of the tub.
She sinks to the floor beside the bathtub, bringing her fingers to her face, filled with revulsion and wonder all at once. Brushing her fingers against her cheek, she tries to locate the memory the moth’s body has summoned. Failing, she turns to reach once more for the moth, tipping it into her hand and then back out again onto her raised knee; the moth is sleepy and does not appear to be aware of its new perch. With a single finger, she presses past its wings and runs along its body . . . soft, warm, dry, vulnerable, yielding.
She sighs and relaxes into recognition.
The flesh of her newborn daughters.
The pudgy yielding flesh of her newborn daughters, into which her fingers sank and disappeared
She sinks now into the memory as she sinks sideways to the floor.
The moth flutters from her knee and alights on the bathmat just in front of her face.
A small dark triangular ghost of memoried flesh . . .
Flesh of her flesh.
She lies curled on the bathroom floor as the moth does a tiny circular shuddering dance of celebratory reunion in the space before her eyes.
She runs her fingers along her own body and feels the bodies that once were in her own softness.
She cries with joy and gratitude.
In her imagination, she dances with the moth.
She shivers violently.