Tuesday, October 9, 2012

On Bitterness

An aqueduct runs through the trees behind the house. A few years ago, county workers landscaped the aqueduct's banks, and it's now re-populated, at long last, by ducks and drakes. During these hot October nights I keep the bedroom window open to hear their chatter. Listening to them, they become extensions of my own yearning—or I become an extension of theirs.

I'm used to sleeping near water. The house in Costa Rica, where I discovered unhappiness, also had a waterway behind it, bordered along its edges by trash and towering Poro trees, heavy with orange blossoms. In the evening, the sky above the creek's trees swarmed with bats. Sometimes I'd sit in our little backyard drinking a beer, watching the bats feed. The backyard was surrounded by high fences topped with razor wire and the upturned edges of broken bottles. In the middle of the yard there was a small concrete manhole cover. It permitted access to the home's drainage system, which carried sink water to the creek.

For many months we had no trouble with the drains. But one evening, after hours of torrential rain, water from the creek surged up through the pipes and lifted the manhole cover off its setting. Within minutes the backyard was submerged. Floodwaters came across the patio. I put towels against the back door, but they proved useless: the creek, roaring through the trees behind the house, was now pouring through the kitchen. Soon the house was flooded. The boys occupied the kitchen counter, where they could watch the flood without, I hoped, being injured. I opened the front door and attempted to direct the water from the back door to the front door. If I could get it out the door, I thought, it would roll down the driveway, into the street.

After a while the rain stopped, and soon the flooding stopped, and by nightfall I'd swept most of the water, which stunk of sewage, out of the house. The two older boys helped clean the mud off the floors.

The bases of my bookshelves, which were made of cheap particle board, had absorbed water, and over time they rotted. But I'd managed to save the music speakers and the throw rugs. So we still had music when we wanted it, and a place to dance. But music and dancing was rare during those months; we'd had our share of it during the early years of our marriage, in Utah. Maybe the Costa Rican tropics—torrential sunlight, torrential rain—overwhelmed us, to such a degree that we became unrecognizable to ourselves, and, as a consequence, to each other.


This summer, one of my dearest friends, who lives in Boise, let me tell him about a more recent flood. He's been through a few of his own; after a long weekend he gave me a broad-chested hug and said, "Be patient, Eric. Most of all, with yourself."

Maybe I'll manage to take his advice. Tonight, the October breeze is unseasonably warm, and I've got the window open. The ducks have resumed their noisy yearning. Soon, November rain will bring new floods. They're counting on it. So am I.

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