Water has made its way into every house. It has dripped and trickled and poured in. Down chimneys, through roofs and ceilings. Up from below the ground.
And, now, we wait. Tomorrow, settlement on another house, our fourth one. A white-washed brick cottage in the woods. Its basement already taking on water. Puddles. The pungent smell of stillness.
We will fix this, make it watertight.
And we will hope that the drop in temperatures these last two nights has not frozen and burst the pipes. The house empty now, the heat turned down. Or switched off. The couple divorcing, their lives in turmoil—no time, I’m sure, to worry about the house anymore. This abandoned wreck of their marriage.
We will rescue it, my husband and I.
Today, the men arrive to jackhammer the basement, to create a channel for rainwater when it seeps in. They cover their mouths with masks, the rest of their bodies coating fast in concrete dust. The house shakes; it coughs and heaves. We are saving it, after so many years of neglect.
Later, other men will climb ladders onto the roof, search for even the smallest gaps. They, too, know how easily water can make its way in.
I watch the forecast. Memorize it. Hourly. Daily. Seven-day. Rain again, a threat of snow. I forget to breathe. Blue tarps folded neatly, ready to unfurl.
I mistrust the hope of keeping anything out.
The first house of the marriage was too big. We bought it to accommodate our six newly mingled children. But all the feelings that follow divorce surfaced fast, and three of them never came.
The house stretched wide, with far too many ways in. Built into the slope of a hill, the earth all around it held onto every damp rainy day, stored moisture in its dark rooms, its floors and walls.
Mold spores collected in places we could not see. Pillbugs curled into corners. Slugs slipped in, and I learned to pour salt on their backs.
I was unhappy there.
The body is 60 percent water, hydrogen-bonded before breaking and putting itself back together.
The second house was four stories high. Too many steps. Ascending. Descending. We never stopped.
During the first storm, in the basement, ground water rose from below to meet rainwater rushing down the walls. We waded, knee-deep, watched as Christmas decorations and empty plastic bins floated around the room. We carried buckets up and down.
One of us joked about building a boat. Neither of us laughed.
The third house was too small, intended to be temporary, a stop along the way.
I stayed longer than I wanted to.
In this house, it was the chimneys, porous cement between the bricks. The rainwater dripped in at first then it flowed down over the exposed brick of the inside walls. It cascaded. It flooded the hardwood floors.
I constructed dams out of blankets and towels. It all soaked at some point, stopped absorbing. I knelt beside the sopping wet piles, started to cry.
Everything, weighed down.
If it’s true that water indeed has memory then each of these houses is part of me, collected and clustered with my own being, with the rains coming down and the flooded creeks running beside or beneath concrete foundations, with the rivers and oceans flowing far beyond.
More than 70 percent of Earth is covered in water.
Outside the fourth house of the marriage, the new house, men blow wet leaves into piles along the street. The trees bare now, branches ready to be dressed in snow. Winter waiting just long enough to let us move in.
Inside, painters coat the walls in Morning Sun, Solitude, Opaline and Snowfall. The rooms radiate warmth. Light slips in through the blinds. The old wood floors shine.
I spend most of the day in the basement, throwing away what has been left behind. The woman who lived here last has forgotten to take her wedding gown. Yards of white satin, net and lace, balled up in the middle of the dirty wet floor. A beautiful dress once—evidence now of what sometimes does not endure.
I carry it outside to the dumpster.
History recedes slowly.
Tomorrow, the movers will bring the furniture. They will fill the empty rooms, brush past freshly painted walls, step across new thresholds onto polished wood floors.
Forecast: Precipitation, heavy at times.
Kristina Moriconi is a poet and essayist. Her work has appeared most recently in Cobalt Review, Change Seven, Crab Creek Review, and Literary Mama. She earned her MFA from the Rainier Writing Workshop in Tacoma, Washington, and she lives and teaches now in the Philadelphia area. She is currently working on a collection of lyric essays.
Photo by Frank Dina