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Excerpt from “Reading the Wind”

I’ve fallen in love with a man who wants nothing to do with me. I am out of the habit of falling in love, so it is fitting that I have chosen this man, remote as he is. I have forgotten that when a man says he cannot correspond, that what is underneath is the lack of desire. Yet I persevere, hoping always that he will change his mind and find my waiting to be kind and charming. We are a corset without whalebones, a skirt without a petticoat. We lack foundation. But we are engaged.

My father saw to it on a twilit hillside when the war turned. News of it reached us, and, frightened as I was of the approaching soldiers, a calm came over me that father would protect us first, the property second. Thomas, his eyes on the rippling grass, his hands clutched behind him, consented to the marriage upon our returned from Belize. It has now been two months in this jungle, and father seems to have no intention of returning to our battered home. So I write to him, promising a visit I know will not occur, imploring him to visit our corner of jungle with the jaguars carrying off the livestock and the strangest chorus deep in the night waking us from even stranger dreams. He writes curt, short letters. “Business is going well. Mother is ill. This land is soaked with our brothers’ blood. Slavery is no more.”

It is exhausting, reading the wind for signs of love, seeking the loops of his handwriting for affection. Perhaps I am bored here, perhaps the chores and heat stifle me in to needing a separate life, a life in letters. When our children read them, they will pity me.

Frances Badgett