Bodies Without Rest
by Katharyn M. Privett
Francis paid the babysitter a ten and a five and stood on the porch until she couldn’t see the girl’s taillights anymore. When the Louisiana fog finally sucked the red glow from the road, Francis stood there for a second, biting one nude nail. Just one night for me, she said to the road, and spit the nail into the heavy air as if it had argued with her. Almost tripping back over the threshold of the open door, Francis caught herself on a side table, kicked off her knock-off Ferragamo pumps, and sprinted in bare feet to her bedroom. Just has to be one left, she said to herself, rummaging through the bedside drawer and finding the small plastic square with the word TROJAN just as Sam flicked on the hall light and asked “Mommy?” Man. Just one night, she thought as she shoved the condom into the back of her skirt band and stomped back into the hall.
“Where were you, Mommy.”
“Sammy. Get back into bed, right now, okay? and tomorrow night you
can sleep with me, I promise.”
When he started to cry it took everything to keep her hands off of him, to stop the words in her head, just hurry hurry go to sleep for godssakes, so instead Francis bit her lip hard and walked the five-year-old child fast back to the bed. Five minutes later, she skid into the bathroom, reapplied her lipstick, squeezed out a wet wash cloth and wiped herself, pulled her skirt back down hoping it would air dry in time, and tried to remember his last name. Mc something. Trent Mc something, with really good hair who said her name like syrup. Fraansis.
When the headlights of his car lit up the living room, Francis closed her son’s door. Tomorrow night, she thought as she smoothed her Lycra top and turned off the porch light so that Mrs. Ballantine next door wouldn’t have any fat to chew. Francis closed her eyes and tried to fight the beer buzz that had felt good until about ten minutes ago. Tomorrow night and then we can get Sam’s favorite ice cream, Breyers Mint Chocolate Chip, and eat it outside on the porch and maybe just call it dinner. Sam. And just as the man knocked on the screen door something inside of her turned over to cry. Something small and forgotten like a child’s doll in a dirt yard. Francis pushed it away and opened the door.
The next morning was a Saturday. Two days left before the grind of the bank window and control top pantyhose and the smiles of strangers through dirty glass. The weekend sound of a television buzz, Sammy laughing. Francis lay still for a while, resisting the late morning sun that spread like butter across her comforter, warming her thighs. She opened her eyes and said his name. McAllister. You have to sleep with them to remember the simplest things, she thought, as she threw the comforter back and headed for the sound of Sponge Bob Square Pants in the den. A dull throb over her eyes, dry mouth from too much beer, Francis found her way to the kitchen, drawing blinds as she went. McAllister had left the back door ajar, leaving the screen to bang gently against its frame, keeping time with the pulse of her headache. Francis let it bang.
Some time after her third cup of coffee Francis found her way to the shower. Letting the water hit her hard in the face, she cried there without knowing why and thought of a young man with brown hair who had taught her to love the intricacy of science. Books strew across fresh cut grass somewhere on a campus courtyard in Lafayette, before Sammy and electric bills and her first gray hair. When the water heater finally gave way to cold, Francis turned off the shower and sat on the toilet seat, her hair wet against her back, holding the towel to her face, smelling Downy and yesterday’s sun from the line in the backyard. And there, buried against Martha Stewart’s new moss green, Francis remembered a teenage girl who wore sandals even in the winter and laughed out loud at the movies and always knew the actor’s real name. Before everything started to go so fast. A day in the rain when she had run just to see the water splash the air, her mascara in little rivers down her face, kissing him against a lightpost just as it came on and knowing that it didn’t matter if he saw her face like that. Running in the rain. Francis sat there listening to the faucet drip until her hair began to dry and Sammy knocked on the door to go pee.
That night they had mint-chocolate-chip ice cream, but ate hotdogs first, and Sammy fell asleep on the sofa before the movie was over. When the phone finally rang, Francis didn’t answer it. It was nicer to just be still, she thought. Francis lugged Sammy to bed and left his door open and found a Corona that Trent Mcsomething had left in the fridge. She drank it without lime on the porch steps and watched the fog roll in and thought about Florida. And her mother. And the two-bedroom brick her mother had kept after her father died just in case she had ever needed the rent money. Florida. Sammy would love that. Alligators and beaches, you could actually see every constellation when the wind from the ocean cleared the sky. Francis looked up and saw nothing but shifting clouds smothering the moon, only a muted blue-white suggestion of what it could be. The air was beginning to cool, marsh air was funny like that, couldn’t make up its mind. Made her hair all wiry. Bayou air, the locals called it. You get used to breathing it, they say. Francis watched her breath hang in the dark for a moment, then dumped the beer behind the hedges and went to bed without brushing her teeth. The dark of the room took her like a drug, leaving the last thought hanging in her head deserted, undecided: To be still in order to move again. Bodies, rest and motion . . . whose theory was that . . .
And sometime between sleep and waking, in the thick fog of dreams, Francis took the hand of a young girl and ran on sand that burned her toes and faded into a sea of ice. They ran despite the sting of the wind . . . they ran because of it. Francis slept through it all, and for once the sound of laughter that woke her was her own. It was Sunday.
Katharyn M. Privett is finishing her doctorate at Auburn University in Alabama in Feminist Studies and American Literature. She currently holds a position at Auburn University as an English instructor, and has taught there for six years. Katharyn has three children, ranging from age nine to twenty, and writes short stories that represent the unique experiences of the single mother. Contact Katharyn.