Wake Up by Joy Drees

The rain drizzles lightly, droplets like shiny aquaria eggs clinging to our arm-hairs. Sun light pierces through the cloud underbellies, sparking the sequined grass of the park before us. On the bench beside us: cut up pineapple in Tupperware.

You turn to me, arm stretching outward. “Look.”

I follow where you point to see a rainbow over the oak trees’ crisping autumn leaves. It’s full and arches all the way over with its transparent colors.

“You ever chase one?” you ask. “Just running and running to find the end, but the damn thing keeps moving?”

“I had once thought rainbows magical. I don’t anymore.” I reach for a chunk of pineapple. It bursts in my mouth, citrusy sweet.

“Why?” Your brows collapse down your nose. I haven’t seen this expression before and the rain on my skin becomes warm.

“Once I had a dream,” I say, “where a girl only had a birthday every time she saw a rainbow.”

I pause, look out into the misting rain before continuing, “Soon this girl realized she had less rainbows than other people had years. It was one of those dreams where I was like a god in the sky, an omnipresent person, watching this girl live her long, lonely, anticlimactic life. And then I woke up.”

“Except you never woke up.” Your eyes are large. Fingers touch me on the arm. “Have you seen more rainbows than your years?”

“Have I seen thirty rainbows?” I think back. I’ve seen double rainbows in Sacramento, seen a rainbow over the ocean in Big Sur, seen a rainbow above my childhood home, mother standing in front yard with her hair wrapped in orange bandana, shouting excitedly.

“No. Not thirty rainbows.” Looking out, the rainbow suddenly looks new, its colors, searing into more than thirty. I should have more than thirty rainbows.

The whole park becomes new, the autumn rust air new, the pineapple in my mouth new. Everything with you is new. The rain on my skin, my dream from nights ago. I feel as though I’m discovering I can swing by myself for the first time. It’s more than pumping the legs back and forth. It’s the whole body, torso, shoulders, arms, neck, until flying. Close eyes and fly, whole body.

You lean in close, face near, the smell of Old Spice and rain along with lingering pineapple, sweet and tropical, rushes to my nose. Lips touch, our lips, yours, mine. We are new.

But tonight I will go back to him. White picket fence safe, winter blanket warm, teacup cozy, morning shower predictable.

I pull away. “I can’t. Not yet.”

“It’s him?” you ask.

“I don’t know how to tell him. I don’t know what to say.”

“Tell the truth.”
That night he’s waiting in bed, the usual toothpaste smell, the fade of men’s body wash upon his skin. He’s reading on his Kindle, as he does every night before bed. We exchange the usual pleasantries, how was your day, fine and yours? Fine.

But the rain is under my skin, the pineapple on my breath, the rainbow in my eyes. I want to open up and float off the back and forth swing, into the air, whole body, new, re-born.

“What makes you feel alive?” I ask.

He puts the Kindle down in his lap, says, “You, of course.”

“Don’t say that. I knew you’d say that.”

“What do you want me to say?”

“Don’t say that either.”

He frowns, that frown I know so well, straight brows straighter. “I don’t know then.”

“God,” I stamp one foot, “Don’t you want to wake up? Aren’t you curious what’s new to discover?”

“Where’s this coming from?” His brows don’t waver.

I hesitate, think of you, how you said to tell the truth at the park this afternoon. “I’m seeing someone. I mean, we didn’t have sex, yet.”

He stares. Straight brows, straighter still. Mouth straightest. For once I wish he would react. Always so calm, so boring.

“We met at work,” I say, “I don’t know what to expect and I like it. I don’t know if I’m going to regret or succeed or what.”

I wait for a response. His straight spearing glare, pierces into me. I want to break the spear.

“I like him,” I say.

He’s quiet. Usually we will have an half-ass argument. Then he usually goes to bed, pulls the covers up, tucks them under his chin and pretends to sleep, while really trying his best to ignore me. In the morning we will talk, kiss, make up, have sex like we always have sex and I will run my hands down his firm gym work-out Monday, Wednesday, Friday body, same as when I met him and lusted after him and loved him, the newness of him, the mysteriousness of him. Now the sameness of him.

But he says nothing, his face not breaking.

“Tell me something I don’t know. Wake me up.” I smack my cheeks with my palms, feel numb in his gaze, in his familiar gaze, in the familiar room with the beige curtains, and white down comforter and flat screen TV mantled over the Cherrywood dresser.

I want the rain and the sun and rainbow and pineapple and you. New you. You with your hidden secrets and knowledge crouching beneath your core. Maybe you’re adopted, maybe you used to be fat, maybe you grew up on a pineapple farm and have a vast knowledge of fruit trees. You’ll laugh at my childhood stories, you’ll cry with me at the end of Cowboy Bebop, and you’ll agree to smear chocolate syrup and peanut butter all over my stomach and lick it off.

And I’ll discover your flaws too. Over time, I will learn how you won’t put the toilet seat down, or you like watching Duck Dynasty, or you’ll rather eat fast food than my cooking. Maybe you won’t care if I orgasm or not. You won’t find my knack for undressing in the middle of the living room endearing. And soon you’ll be opened all the way, skin flayed from back to front. I will read your heart and your stomach and your lungs and know. You won’t be new anymore. And I won’t feel new anymore.

He is still looking at me, straight brows, Kindle in lap, toothpaste smell. Tomorrow go to work, come home, eat dinner, sleep, repeat.

“You’re bored,” he finally says.

“I know that!” I shout, “Tell me what I don’t know.”

He pushes those worn Egyptian cotton sheets aside, and slowly walks around the bed, over to me. I expect him to say something, to stop, kiss me. But he walks past, naked, always naked in bed, fine package dangling, I’ve forgotten how to look at him in awe.

“Wait, where are you going?” I ask.

He doesn’t answer and I follow him out of the bedroom. He’s at the front door, still naked, car keys jingling in hand.

I watch. He opens the door, steps out into the chilly fall night. Exposed.

Rainbows, less than thirty rainbows. Chase it. Rain and sun.

The door stays open and I run out. The night hangs heavy, wet, I want to feel all of it. I start undressing in the front yard, the damp cold of the day’s rain in the air envelops me, raw on my skin. I leave my clothes there in the grass, crumpled and smelling lightly like almond lotion.

Both of us get in the car of spearmint gum and vacuumed seat. The leather sticks to my nudity. He starts the engine. My body shivers in anticipation, and earlier at the park comes to mind. Don’t think I forgot about you. I want to thank you, thank you for waking me up. I also want to say sorry, sorry I can’t be with you.

“Let’s go,” I say to him.


“Surprise me.”

He turns to look at me, and isn’t smiling. Yet there is a surliness in his face I don’t recognize. I feel the rain coming out of me, the sun coming out of me, spreading. Together he and I, in our bareness, peel out into the night, into the autumn, into the dark, where we know nothing.



J Saler Drees lives in San Diego, California where she works as a nanny and writes in her free time.