And then

And then

The night she turned 40, she stopped speaking. Suddenly. Unplanned. The night unexpectantly there. Waiting.

The night she turned. Not the morning filled with mid-life babies tugging jean hems and black-and-tan puppies gnawing faded pink slippers. Not mid-day with CNN jab-jab-jabbering in the background as she dusted pollen from newly painted porch furniture. Not the afternoon with her husband outside sautéing tilapia, the acquaintances raising high their Sam Adams to toast her. Not then.

Not even in early evening, congratulations settling into a buzz the height of the hedge, insects still flicks in the less-than-bright light from a fading spring sun. The lure of flesh and feasting not yet on the horizon, but the knowledge there.

(As you read this, turn around three times and clap your hands. Were you there? Were you laughing, your voice tangling in the apple buds? May is cheery for the blind and non-asthmatic, an open door of aroma, age swollen into a bloom, years swishing high in the twigs. Hard to breathe anything but sound, the air stuffed with snaps and rustles, ticks and trills. On top of this, human voices, that continuous crescendo.)

Then the guests gone, their over-the-hill jokes packed up in SUVs, puppies yapping at tire spins. Other lean bodies clattering away on bikes. The closest neighbors clicking the back gate shut, waving, discussing not-quietly enough, how it went, how she looked.

After that, naturally, the moon was swinging up over the fence, its squinty smile ambiguous. The world continued. Of course, there was the tucking-into-bed hugs with arms smaller than she remembered. There was the love-making, sweet and salty.

Not then either. Does it matter the moment? After the day. Suddenly. Unplanned. Waiting. And then she began to write.

© 2014 by the University of Nebraska Press. “And Then” by Marjorie Maddox is reprinted by permission of the author from Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 37, no. 2 and will appear in her forthcoming short story collection What She Was Saying (Fomite Press, March 1, 2017).