Storm Surge: So Now I Am a Separate Weather System

by Laurinda Lind
read the suite from the beginning

 2. So Now I Am a Separate Weather System

It takes me a month to untangle myself apart and then put myself together again.

Pretty damn good. It has taken my ex-boyfriend two years to pull me apart in the first place.

The day I meet David at his camp to claim my things, I start feeling my power seeping back. I think both of us forgot I had any.

I am remembering that I used to like waking up here to the river air, which smelled metallic because it came in through a rusted old screen with wads of Kleenex stuck in the holes to keep mosquitoes out. A double bed isn’t really big enough for David and one other person, but he used to sleep from corner to opposite corner, and if I hung my feet off the side, I could fit in there, too.

In the bedroom we shared, I start pulling things out of my side of the dresser drawers. A few changes of clothes, a bathing suit for if the neighbors were up from Pennsylvania with their binoculars. Really, nothing I couldn’t live without. Stones I saved from under the dock. They had been spectacular in the sun. Now they look dull. Again, metaphor.

I haven’t brought anything to carry stuff out in, but of course David has thought of that, handing me a handful of plastic supermarket shopping bags through the curtain-door. He also brings me a framed photo I had snapped of my favorite cedar, out on Speakeasy Island; I forgot the picture had hung near the porch. I almost refuse it, but realize David won’t want it, either. He finds other things I had bought—a small mirror for the bathroom, a garlic press, a soup ladle, a plant-identification book. He is patrolling around the cabin looking for more things. A throw rug. A frigging hammer.

“All right, all right,” I say, pretty fast, “that’s got it, I don’t even need most of this.”

“It’s yours,” he says in that infuriatingly neutral voice.

“Well. Then. Thanks.” Even I can hear I sound a little sarcastic. I head toward the door to get the hell out of there and get my new life in gear, but he says, “Wait, Dena.”

It is so hard to turn around. He’s pointing out through the porch door, toward the river. I look through the screen, where David’s aluminum single-hulled boat is sagging against the dock.

“You and I bought that motor together,” he reminds me.

I am turning away again. “Oh, man, keep it. What am I going to do with it?”

“I’ll pay you for your half.”

“Screw that. We don’t even know if it runs anymore.” We haven’t gotten along for so long that neither of us has been out in that boat for a year. Even the guy who opens the cottage up for David just stuck the motor on the boat transom without testing it, after he put the dock in.

He follows me out of the cabin. “Let’s go try to start it.”

That’s the last thing I want to do, hang around on the dock while David mansplains the motor to me. But I just want to get this over with. So I don’t answer with my long sigh. I am close to being home free this evening, with David’s ex-cat Claude and a beer and maybe my best friend Mack, if his honey, Steve, will trust me with him for a few hours.

I know every bend of the path to the dock, and I’m picturing the turtles, snakes, frogs, and muskrats I’ve seen on it. Today there’s only a red squirrel giving us the evil eye. I sit down on the dock to watch David climb to the rear seat of the boat.

“It should already have gas and oil,” he says. “Wally put them in.” He fools with the choke and starts hauling on the starter cord. Nothing. He yanks over and over again. I have always wondered how David can keep up something like this, for an hour or more. He has never given up on a lawn mower, for example. It gives me a creepy shiver. David will not take no for an answer. Except from me, and that was only because he wanted out, too.

After a long time I start to unkink my legs and get ready to say I’m leaving. And that’s when the motor makes a sound I didn’t think it had in it—a gasping and grinding that say it remembers it’s a motor. It skips and sputters, but David imposes his will on it the way he does on everything, and it keeps rumbling.

There’s something to be said for being stubborn, but I’m more than stubborn. I’m simply done. Back in the city I have Claude and Matt, so I stand up.

In what feels like an act of liberation, I turn to David my long-underappreciated backside.

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