Enhanced Fujita for Tornado Alley Widows by Elizabeth Breazeale
When our husbands come home we dress in blacks and greys because they tell us we look beautiful, colored like wall clouds and downbursts. They palm our cheekbones and finger our spines in ways they will not when we wear yellows, azures, topazes, colors of jewels in museums where we take our children without them, stand for hours in the dark tornado simulator, wrenched with winds we have felt before.
They view us with Doppler eyes, already moving away. Their skin is powdered with rain scents and pocks of dirt that cloud the house.
They tell us we are the same, cup our sides and track their hands down our outlines; they told us the first time they saw us naked how our bodies were like funnels, sweeping them away. We nestle their words like the tiny wrist bones of our children when they were newborn, the last time our husbands understood the weight of them. To these men the world is weightless, pounding velocity.
We keep the house half-lit because, once, they told us being inside a supercell feels like the world is ending, like the dark is trickling down.
We try to put ourselves in terms they understand. The taste of billowing air. The downdraft before the storm that swells, black and pupiled on a radar. We speak of ourselves only in terminologies for the destructions of others.
Their voices are vacuums, swelling through tombs of roars. We hear their stories, we watch their videos, we ask questions at the correct intervals and put our children to bed and come back and find we were not missed. We pause under the lintel of our bedrooms and they fill our lungs and pop our ears with their pressure and we almost weep with it, how beautiful they are in confined spaces, when they are given shapes by our world.
We try to fathom their convections, to make known our own. Clear our bodies of clothes, sweep them across the room in puddles. Our fingers untwining, dissipating, bodies a fractus. We flow our fingers over our hips, our cheekbones, feel debris clouded under our hands. We search ourselves for a hint of tornadogenesis, the dams and peaks of our stomachs. But the air is still, stagnant.
They fall asleep with the weather channel on and we shuck the fuzz from their hair and wonder if it is our fault, if when they would ask, do you want me to come home? after we told them about the science projects or dentist bills or meltdowns over hotdogs, if we should have ignored their voices slipping into a vacuum, told them yes, we missed them, that we were washing dishes the other day and forgot the name of the first restaurant we went to together, or that we slipped ourselves under the sheets and did not remember the exact weight, the heft of their bow echo hands the first time they swept across our skin. How our thoughts have scattered across the landscapes after them, over other Tornado Alley towns, searched by men for scaling, for placement on the Enhanced Fujita.
This detritus, our tastes and touches and scents, the words we’d spoken, the syncing of our steps in parking lots, the finishing of benign sentences, our sweaty palms and pet peeves and drives away from the sun and the colors of our eyes and the emptiness of rooms when we are alone, these things, these specks in clouds, rippled and thrown and numbering too thick to count, we wonder if we are painting them with celestial colors when they are really shades of black and white.
They say they want to see tornadoes in fields, where there are only plants. But we have always feared they would wish for an EF5 shredding through a city, our city, over starry nights. They would see us destroyed before they would have nothing to chase.
We pick at these shards, melded in our flesh, see the ridges they leave along our skin, tornado tracks. Scars veined in shallow graves, the destruction spooled in photographs, bedsheets, wardrobes and jewelry chests, because the only concrete part of a tornado is what it tears away.
Elizabeth Breazeale is a second-year MFA candidate in fiction at Bowling Green State University. Her work has previously appeared in Gingerbread House Literary Magazine, The Poydras Review, and The Moon City Review.