I hear the dripping two days before Christmas, the soundtrack to strange and violent porn playing out on our living room wall. Numb with vicarious ruin, I watch grey water stains bloom like fresh bruises behind the paint, water like blood with nowhere else to go. I watch two coats of Ivory Lace blister, crack, and peel like a GHB sunburn. I watch this act of unwelcome penetration and squirm with the guilt of the rape fantasist, wondering if I’m witness to the bastard conception of dry rot.
Watching through virgin eyes, my daughter sees a kind of game. She delights in my mad scramble to rescue the gifts, keep them dry and intact. She smiles as I pack the deep reds and purples of last summer’s beach towels on and under the windowsills, trying to staunch the worst of the onslaught. The roof is broken, I tell her as calmly as I can pretend, and this doesn’t much concern her. We have years before she’ll worry about crumbling roofs, wetness where none should be, oceans escaping with the tides.
Days later, though, we hear the roofer’s footsteps in impossible places. This is intrusion, a subtle brutality, and new to her. I tell her that he’ll be taking the broken roof away and putting on a new one. For once she sounds uneasy: But what if he isn’t quick enough? What if it rains while the roof is gone? I feel something break inside; this is how it starts. I have no answer to give. Like any parent, I give her one anyway.
(first appeared in volume 2 of Constellations)