Hurricane season was a time
for deck & patio parties,
& swimming & drowning in alcohol—
if the waves did not get to them first.
It was a time of bluish-grey skies
lit up with lightning
that was like stretch marks.
It was a time of wind-chimes clanging—
a persistent, discordant percussion
of wood & metal & seashells—
as if each chime was trying to warn us
all at once,
the notes showering my hair like raindrops.
It was a time of preparation
& I wondered if my life thus far
of not preparing
but of being Daddy David’s little girl
Joy had eluded me
since Brad had entered the waters
that had claimed him—
the waters Satan had dominion over,
according to the Mormons.
Everything was according to them now.
I prayed the rain would cleanse me from the guilt
that I had been sleeping as he been dying.
His body had washed ashore a few days later,
going out of the world as it had come in.
I was at peace,
for even in my dreams,
I knew they were dreams,
yet my dreams were where he lived,
for every time I went to sleep,
I was farther from that moment he went in,
& there was a part of me who feared to dream
of the night we met,
for it would be the last time I would dream of him.
How I wanted to sleep forever,
for forever upon awakening,
there would be those first few seconds
I would think Brad was still alive.
His hands were beautiful—
the hands of a pianist—
these hands that had held mine
when we had ice-skated together at the rink,
like some falling in love scene in Love Story,
except ours did not lead to a love scene.
His hands had prepared many meals
for our little family—
meals that had nourished,
His hands had rubbed aloe vera on my back
the time we had stayed all day at the beach,
& I’d gotten sunburned,
turning my freckles into flakes of fool’s gold.
But no matter what his hands were doing,
whether they joined me to him,
touched what I put in my mouth,
or caressed me in places few touched me,
I had always felt his love for me in them.
Mother was curled up
with a cashmere throw on the sofa,
working on a crossword puzzle;
David was in the chair,
reading a red, leather-bound book
by some author only academics read;
Caitlin was on the floor on her belly,
flipping through a magazine
while snacking on a bowl of snow peas.
It was The Saturday Evening Post tableau
of the pampered lady of the house,
the professional head of the household,
& the teeny-bopper who was all popcorn & bubblegum.
Candles were lit all around,
& the chandelier was on dim,
softening the edges of the scene
into something like out of a storybook
of what families were like
in post-WWII white America.
Yet, the scene didn’t look like a family exactly
but rather, three separate people, coexisting,
playing their role for the unseen artist.
That was when I realized that my absence,
solidified us as a family.
Logline for Because of Mindy Wiley: An Irish-Catholic girl coming of age in the Deep South during the New Millennium finds her family splintered when two Mormon missionaries come to her door, their presence and promise unearthing long-buried family secrets, which lead to her excommunication and exile.