Tonight / by Christina Rosalie

Today I feel the earth has tilted on its axis farther from the sun. The air tonight is cold, and the earliest of the maples are vermillion on the hillside. Monarch butterflies have been everywhere in the past few days. They fly in their delicate aimless way from flower to stem along the roadside, and I wince as one hits my bike tire. It’s beautiful wings falter, but it’s no use stopping. It is not like a bird, whose body in shock can be revived with the shelter of warm hands.

In the flats below our house the mountain rises up from the wide field of grass like an elephant on bended knee, purple in the late afternoon sun. We make a fire after dinner, and sit in the quiet of early evening listening to the last of the crickets and the crackle of burning wood. The first frosts will be here in a week, and then the nights grow silent. The fire licks logs, and quickly turns the wood to pale ash. A snake, curled in a flat crevice of rock awakens with the heat, and glides from its hiding place, tonguing the smoky air. Above us, the moon is exactly half full, tangled in the leaves of a maple tree, and across the field our cat, a streak of orange and white, pounces on a mole.

When the sky turns from cerulean to indigo, we pour water on the fire and go indoors. In place of smoke, steam rises up. Tomorrow we go back. Back to the place where havoc happened and everything that mattered most was encapsulated in each pure second of staying alive. Tomorrow we go back to where we were before tragedy scraped across the surface of our souls. Back to where we were standing before the gun shots and the breaking glass: near the sink cutting paper. The new geranium in the bright sunlight on the windowsill had already dropped its first petals on the floor.

Yesterday I went with others to see the colleague I had been standing with who was injured. Just out of the hospital, her face was radiant with smiles. In place of guilt, she offered up forgiveness, easy and immediate, despite the fact that we all heard her cries but couldn’t come. Didn’t. Because we placed our own lives first. Self preservation lurching up in our throats, a part of the hardwired code being human, followed immediately by the bitter taste of regret. Seeing her was good. It gave me room to breathe again, room in my heart to stop replaying every broken moment, and to move instead towards preparation. And seeing her also made me think of this again: forgiveness is an act of love.

Night fills the bowl of day. The window becomes a mirror.