Account For What You Have
First, blanch the peaches. Run them under cold water to peel their skin away. Feel the flesh underneath. This is the last thing your mother taught you— get your house in order. The heat is urgent and unforgiving, but soon you will be far from here.
The storm will hit the coasts, both east and west. The house you are in is on a cliff on a curve of ocean. It will not last the night. The house you are going to is small and without windows, for there is nothing there to see. It won’t take long to get to the Property, acres of land so flat they make you feel desperate and unmoored like you could wander into the grass one day and never be found.
Buying the land was Hannah’s idea.
Maybe one day we’ll look back on these as the dark days of our early adulthood, she had written to you in a letter when she was traveling aimlessly around the country, winding her way around and down. You were twenty years old and could feel someone else’s heartbeat pump through your body. You didn’t mean to get pregnant, didn’t mean to stay pregnant, but you had already stopped making active decisions, already started letting things happen to you. You were a motherless daughter with an avocado inside you, blooming into a daughter of your own. You knew, by then, that those were the last days you had.
When Hannah called to tell you about the land she found in the middle of the country, you knew you would say yes. She was the first person you had spoken to in weeks and her voice over the phone was far away, but she spoke evenly and clearly and you thought of that exhibit you and she had gone to as children, the one where you stuck your hand into a box and felt something spiky or squishy, something completely foreign to your closed eyes and reaching fingers, only to open the box and find it was something familiar, something you had known all along.
Holy fuck, she said, when she saw you. She laughed a wild laugh and buried you in her arms and did not let go, and you knew then that you were bringing your baby into a world you could manage.
You spent the next two weeks sleeping in a tent, carrying water from a well in buckets, watching Hannah haul wood and build your home.
I can help, you told her. I’m not that pregnant.
Any pregnant is that pregnant, she said.
How did you learn to build a house?
How did you learn to make a baby?
She laid down next to you, head to your head, and you braided your hair into one long strand.
What if I can’t do this? You asked. It was the first time you voiced that fear.
You can, she said. You will. She did not look at you. You don’t really have a choice.
And then she was born, your avocado that swelled into a melon and pushed out into the world as a tiny wailing creature, and you knew just what to do. Nurse her when she was hungry, listen to her lungs pull in air. These things were no longer hard. They were choices you no longer needed to make.
You wake up one morning and the spiders have spread their tangled webs across the earth. Their silken husks cover every branch of forest, as though they built their homes as they were fleeing. This is how you know the storm is here. It is a tectonic shift, it is bigger than you thought it would be. It will do more than flood the coasts, it will split the Earth apart and fill it back up with water. Your knees buckle and you are on the floor, thinking, Oh, I didn’t know bodies could do that. You are gasping for air, you are choking on nothing, and then you hear the baby cry out in her crib. The only thing you can do is go to her, kiss her along her fragile spine, and say, listen to your body, listen to what it is telling you. You did not expect the world you shared with her to be like this.
You drive for hours, the baby asleep in the back. The mason jars clink with every turn you make, chimes that tell you there will be enough food for a few weeks, nothing more. The rain has started in sheets, the phones have already stopped working and you know Hannah will be waiting for you, her shadowy outline in the doorway. We can do this, you hear her saying to you, we can make this work. There is a dull buzz in your brain as you get closer to the Property, a frequency you cannot ignore.
Steam rises on the road that is filled not with cars but with people, spilling across both lanes. You wonder if they know something you do not if maybe you should not be in your car but among the swarm. You turn to face the baby. She is staring at you and you say, baby, I’m here. Darling, I’m right here. In months, these people will be nothing but bones pacing the empty earth. The houses you pass will decay down to their lonely frames. How many times can you truly start over? There is one turn left to make, but you don’t stop, you don’t even consider stopping. You do not say goodbye to Hannah, if only because you don’t know how.
Keep going into the darkness. Head towards the coast, already crumbling. Do not slow down, do not look behind you to the land fading fast. Do not calm the baby as she is crying. Do not lift your foot until you are over the canyon. Close your eyes and do not look down.
Alexandra Blogier is a writer living in Boston, Massachusetts, and along the edge of Cape Cod. She is the author of the YA novel The Last Girl on Earth.
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