And so this farmhouse. Not the worst place to weather a pandemic-storm as well as watch the old fashioned-spring-thunder type dinging up the apple tree below this bedroom window. I cannot tell what is real anymore, though, one example being that through the silky blur I think I see the first hint of pink that’ll become flowers in that apple tree, like a color before-a-color, the promise of a color, but it’s also possible I am imagining it. I cannot tell if I’m in love with my girlfriend here, sleeping in the bed beside me, or if that too is something that will not bloom. I cannot tell if this sore throat is actual or pandemic-induced mindfuckery. I just cannot quite see anything. Which means I cannot gauge the basic intelligence of looking forward to the promise of pink flowers, which will lead to bees, which will lead to apples, which will lead to a horse eating an apple come August because I am still alive and so is the horse and so is the planet—is that future-looking a good idea or no?
No one knows anymore about the progression of things.
And aren’t we all especially interested in the strange nature of time? I keep thinking: Time seems like one of those run-on sentences that an English teacher makes you break up in order to find meaning. Because the longest wild and magical March ever experienced by the humans of Planet Earth has just ended. The most graphed month has just ended. It’s April and we’re all wondering what’s next and so I turn and glance at my girlfriend’s form under blanket and I hope she is not some figment. I need something to be real. A cascade of red hair and I’m not sure even where her face is in all that. My waterfall. I’m over the waterfall, I told her, and when she asked me to explain, I just shrugged because I have been waiting for this all my life. It’s too early to say the words, but fuck-for-sure, those radio love songs make sense. What a time for love, but it’s true that real living is going on regardless of viruses, just like thunderstorms still rock the sky.
We got to Colorado just in time. To this ranchhouse just in time. And so, right here, in this pandemic, well, my life is finally happening. Which means that I am infected with that other sort of virus, the good kind, and any sickness I feel is the pressurized yearning lusty sort. And jesus, maybe even wonder.
I go back to staring at the rain falling straight down on the beginning of spring. And also my reflection staring back at me which I find somehow surprising because I finally—so much later than other dudes—look like a man. Filled out and bulked up and serious thick stubble and it happened only in the last six months. That is a strange, much-awaited sensation too. A jawline that has a clear angle but my brain is just fog. Fog and more fog.
I suppose the answer during such a storm is to hang on what we know to be true. For example, in the distance are the red stone foothills and blue peaks beyond and somewhere up there, I can guarantee for a fact that a bear is choosing now to come out of hibernation. She’ll have a yearling, and they’ll start with the aspen catkins and grasses, waking their stomachs up, stretching in the new sun. That is real.
Closer in, there are the cows out in the pasture with white faces huddled underneath mothers, just calved, because calving season also continues regardless of viruses. Always they look like that, surprised to be on earth at all, legs braced, eyes blinking. I wonder if this pandemic makes us all look like baby calves, just born, looking around this new world, pondering something like, what-the-hell-nonsense-is-this?
So we reach out to our waterfalls. Because we still need things like love and apples. What a new world indeed. It will never quite be the same. We all know this to be true right as we’re going through it. No wonder we are all standing at windows, looking out at thunderstorms of sorts, feeling surprised. We’re all just hoping that, as per usual, those pink flowers will actually bloom.
Flash Fiction by Laura Pritchett
Laura Pritchett is the author of five novels, two nonfiction books, and editor of three anthologies, and her work has been the recipient of the PEN USA Award, the Milkweed National Fiction Prize, the WILLA, the High Plains Book Award, and others. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Sun, Salon, Orion, High Country News, The Normal School, The Pinch, The Cincinnati Review, and many others. When not writing or directing the MFA in Nature Writing at Western Colorado University, she is busy cloudgazing and learning guitar. www.laurapritchett.com. Her next novel is currently under consideration at Counterpoint Press, her publisher.