TRYING TO CATCH A COLD
 
 
Late at night, while her family slept, Myra tiptoed out of the bedroom she shared with her sister, prowled down the hallway, through the living room and out the sliding glass door to the patio. There, beneath an ochre moon, amid hills of slumbering geraniums and clumps of poisonous oleander leaves, Myra turned on the hose. As if blessing herself, she sprinkled water in a trickle until her hair hung like seaweed, her nightgown heavy as fog. She lay down on the cement and waited for her body to catch cold.

Deep yellow daylight streamed through the shutters in Myra's room when she woke, and she could tell it was afternoon. "How do you feel?" her mom asked.

When Myra said nothing, her mom tried again, "Honey, you've been asleep for almost two days."

No answer.

"We found your wet nightie in the washer."

No answer.

"Honey, what happened?"

Silent and stubborn, Myra crimped shut her eyes and imagined oleander leaves in her mouth, the poison bitter and cruel.

Her mom sighed. "At least your fever is down."

Myra rolled over. She had learned that catching a cold was not like catching lizards or butterflies, things to be studied and released. A cold would not go away at will. Because she felt so ill, nothing much mattered to her. Was this nihilism, she wondered? It did not matter that she missed the exam in government class, for which she was unprepared. There would be a make-up test. Nor did it matter that she missed an announcement by her ogress of a gym teacher that from now on, students would have to take full showers instead of spit baths, something Myra was loathe to do since she considered herself fat, and ugly. Any exposure terrified her. She would hide, or claim she was on her period, dissemble illness, lie, and otherwise avoid showing her body, soft and white as sandwich bread.

At the moment, Myra focused on the lazy flow of motes that swirled in the band of light above her head. She saw the same thing when she closed her eyes, imprinted in the blood of her eyelids. Next time, she decided, she would wait for the morning glories.


© 2001 Ma'lena Walley

Ma'lena Walley lives with her partner-in-life of twenty-one years in Spokane, Wash. She has an MFA in creative writing from Eastern Washington
University, and is working on a collection of short stories and a novella. Her story, "Triptych and Coda," is published in the Harrington Lesbian Fiction Quarterly, Volume 2, Issue 1.

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