THE WIND RISES, an ear-piercing cacophony of whistling sound. I clap my hands over my ears and try to shut it out. In its torturous wail, a shrieking voice weaves through the malevolent tempest and it rises and ebbs, now loud, now hushed. It seems to reach through the safety of my walls while fingers of icy cold grab at me.
I fight hard for a time. My hands flap and I push against them. Finally overcome, beaten back and sapped of what little power I had, I stop resisting and the horrific penalty of wretchedness and melancholy washes over me.
“Mom, where are you?”
My voice, barely contained in the panic I feel, cries out for her. Some part of me knows she is dead, but I want her with such a wild need to be next to me, to be with me, to hold me, to cradle my head in her lap and sing to me that with my eyes tight closed I conjure her image and make it flesh.
I see her. I reach out to touch her. My hand moves slowly toward her garment.
Don’t be afraid.
She is near; she is here. All will be well. Another inch and I can grasp the edge of her sleeve and pull her to me but at the touch electric shock tingles up my arm! No, please…no.
Like a wisp, the apparition dissolves. Ethereal blackness wells up and surrounds my pregnant instant. I won’t be permitted. Refusing my anguished moment, it closes the veil.
“Mom!” I shriek, “Come back Mom. Don’t go away again.”
In some small compartment of my brain a distant clock begins to tick. I know that sound. With dread I realize that I must relive the horror of our final separation from that terrible, tragic, long ago event. Tears leak from my eyes. With the metronomic ticking my nightmare begins to recycle.
A little whisper in my mind…why… how? It tears at me. I must have…no you didn’t, truly…I must not… How could it be? My brain edges me closer to the abyss. I am being physically rendered.
I don’t understand. Why can’t Mom come to me? Does she blame me? Should I be blamed? The whirlpool’s eddy suddenly deepens and I am pulled into it, devoured by it. As I am sucked in, I approach the long ago when I lost her. I would relive it again. Please…no!
This has played out before. I know this. How many times? I don’t know. Calendars with the years imprinted at their tops flash by in an unbroken chain. Cast into the center of my dream I sense the past blow through me and the future dim, lost in some great nebulous immensity. Enclosed in the bubble of my nexus I wring my hands. The world around my bubble brightens. My detached part watches woodenly and helplessly, as my battered soul enters the maelstrom in real-time.
Mom and I are driving through Alabama on the Interstate. I say I’m hungry and could we stop to eat? She looks at me and smiles at her twelve year old son. Her smile projects the loving mother, companion, and protector rolled into one and it makes me feel giddy with my own love for her.
“Sure, Henry. I’ll get off at the next exit and we’ll find a place.”
The sign for an exit shows up a few minutes later and Mom takes the ramp. At the end a road goes both ways, but there are no signs.
“Which way, Henry?”
It’s like a game. “Uh, left.”
We see no traffic so she turns and we drive for a while. The good road gives out after a few hundred feet. Now we’re on an old, rutted, one lane blacktop road with trees on every side and I glance at them and they seem to reach for our car. As they begin to overhang the road, daylight fades and I don’t like how they make me feel.
“Maybe not this road, Mom,” I say.
“We’ll go a bit further and then turn around, Henry. No place here.”
We continue. In a couple of minutes we see a bridge. It looks okay from a distance, but as we get close we can see it has old planks across it and it’s ramshackle. The land drops off precipitously. Even close to the bridge we can’t see water below. It unsettles me further.
Mom looks around for a place to turn but here there are no shoulders. She could either back the car a half mile to a wider part or try crossing the bridge.
“That bridge needs some help. I’ll check it out first, Mom.”
I smile my assurance and climb out. I walk to the bridge and look down. Fifty feet below water rushes over rocks that create little falls and rapids and farther down the river turns and disappears around a heavily treed bend. Strangely, though water sparkles below, the noise of the stream pouring over its rocky bed sounds like a cold wind.
I examine the bridge and planking and look at our VW Bug. It doesn’t weigh much. I think it will get across all right. Mom’s a good driver and I don’t worry. I continue to the other side. Immediately beyond the far bridge support I see a large flat area that will serve as a turnaround. Relieved, I call to her.
“Mom, there’s a place to turn around over here. C’mon over. I’ll wait here.”
She waves briefly and drives onto the bridge. Halfway across I hear the sharp report of a plank cracking. Mom panics and stops. Now frightened, I watch the VW sink a few inches.
“Mom, back up quick!”
I watch her put the car in reverse and try to back, but she can’t because the cracked plank settles more. I see what’s happening and I panic.
“Mom, get out and run!”
I watch as she reaches for the door handle and in that same moment the plank breaks and the bridge shudders. Another follows. The bridge shudders again, violently. Then calamity! The back of the Volkswagen drops into a massive hole that opens up beneath the little car and swallows it.
I see it like in slow motion. Dumbfounded, I watch the back of the car go through the hole and hear a terrified scream from my sweet mother. “Heennnrrryyy!”
I stand alone, my mouth open and I could be screaming too, but I don’t know and I can’t move and I’m numb. Mom’s gone. She’s there one second and in the next second she’s gone. Gone forever.
I scream and scream and that’s when the wind begins.
The place where I live has soft walls and a tiny window crisscrossed in embedded chicken wire set head high in a strong door and I shiver and cry every time I hear the clock begin to tick because I know the forever wind will begin to blow through my shattered brain again.
And that sad, little, impotent detached piece of me knows I will hear it…forever.