Part I: Day

Section 1

01 Last Tuesday the flies descended upon us, nipping at the sweat that seeped from our arms and necks.

02 It was a bad omen, the flies. It told us that the rains were coming sooner than usual.

03 The corn hadn't even made yet, and now the fertile dust that floated from tassel to tassel, mating plant to plant, would dampen and do no good for the crop.

04 For so long we've been waiting to suck the fresh, sweet flesh of new kernels. Now, we'd be forced to subsist on the meal from last year's corn whose taste has already grown stale.

 
Section 2

05 Theo gets sulky just before the rains come.

06 Three days ago he left for the city.
There, he claims, the fury of the insects and the weight of the humidity do not torment him.
He sits on sheltered porches of cafés—fans rattling overhead—swilling beer after beer until he's so numbed by the noise and the alcohol that the itching of the bites he endured at home ceases to bother him.

07 Me. Ha!

08 Me, he leaves to the fields and flies and my own fallow heart, which grows more empty and dangerous each day because no feelings are left to dust it with tenderness.

 
Section 3

09 But I have grown bolder this time that Theo's been gone.

10 Before when he'd desert me for his precious city, his freedom, his beer-soaked porches, I'd been careful not to let him know of my own feats of liberation.

11 Alexander's innocence distracts me, and the fact that he can't hear and he can't speak makes our liaison seem, well, all the more discrete. For my generosity, he is grateful, and he caters to me like the faithful servant that he is.

12 But never would I mistake our passion for love or his kindness for tenderness.

13 No. We simply rub body against body in the stark damp sheets of my bed. But whereas before I would take caution not to show any affection for Alexander in front of the other workers, now I lavish attention on him, keeping him close to me and my chores. And in the past I would worry if any evidence of my activities would be discovered; now, I flaunt wine bottles we empty, lining them up one by one along the window ledge.

14 Theo would have to be blind not to notice what I've done this time while he was away.

15 But that's his problem and my curse: He wouldn't notice. Not in the least would he see what I have been up to.

16 The bottles could be stacked end to end, on every windowsill in the entire house and he would not see them—would not understand what I do when he deserts me, what I have been doing every day these past few days while he's been gone.

17 Ruthless and rough he is to all of our men, getting himself all worked up over a poorly dug fence hole or a cow badly delivered of her calf, frothing like beer foam at any man who speaks impudently to him.

18 But for me, he has nothing.

19 Some people say I'm lucky to be a wife to a man who never beats her. But I say a greater pain comes from not being touched at all.

20 This is my problem and his curse.

21 So I twirl Alexander's newly forming mustache and tease the curl out of his hair and spend these days slapping flies and pushing through the cornfields with him, rubbing tassel against tassel, trying to get the corn to come before the rains wash us all away.

 
Part II: Night
 
Section 4

22 The men in the worker's quarters didn't seem to care when they saw Alexander following me into the house this evening.

23 At dusk they gathered on their broken-down stoops, fanning themselves and singing some of the songs of their fathers. The melodies they made wafted over the melon patch that separates them and us, and entered into my bedroom while Alexander and I made the sweat of our bodies flow like rivers and the flies drown in the tears of my cries.

24 We drifted along for hours on the dampness, buoyed by the men's serenade and Alexander's lingering youth. Not even Theo's heavy step or his bellowing at my name or his long pained moan brought us outside of our dank bed of dreams.

Section 5

25 When I did finally feel Theo near, it was his fist against my cheek. And I did what any woman would have done under the circumstance—I pushed away from Alexander and claimed my side of the bed alone to meet Theo's flesh to my own, letting him assault me with his fury. And I began to laugh.

26 With each blow I howled hysterically, screaming insults at him, taunting him like I always do about his unmanliness.

27 His bulk gorged with beer and bragging could not suck anymore out of me than the tiny bit of blood that oozed from my lip. What blood did gush was my own woman's blood that flowed month after month, year after year, for these twenty-three years with no break, with no child to show for all the pain and fluid­­the very proof that Theo was no man, was no husband, but a soldered off old bull good only for pulling the plow and teasing the cows to distraction.

Section 6

28 So I laid there laughing and laughing, until I took pity on Theo and kicked him in the groin. When he doubled over and moaned once again, I scrambled out of bed and fled toward the fields.

29 Sweat and blood followed me into the corn, and I brushed past the rows and rows of fruitless stalks, feeling almost at once the patter of rain upon my head and shoulders.

30 I laid down between the rows of the growing mud and wept for Theo. I wept for the shallow bed of dust and vegetation we had called our home. But most of all, I wept because I bled the blood of a fallow field.

 

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