Speaking of electricity

Tuesday, 2 December 2003

Thanksgiving dinner. I can’t remember why it came up. I used to be the most talkative one at any family function, mine or yours. But I was quiet this Thanksgiving until I told the story of being on the Rio Grande Gorge bridge when it took a lightning bolt and how much it hurt. It felt like having a lead helmet full of pins slammed down on my head. And the flash of light, though I’m fairly sure it was behind me on the other side of the bridge.

Julie’s cousin Tom said, “You’re really lucky you didn’t get killed.”

And I had nothing I could reply. How do you explain to someone that you spent the years between 15 and 22 persistently and enthusiastically trying to be struck by lightning? Getting out immediately and as long as possible into every thundershower in varying states of undress. Hurling threats and vows of love into the sky—to be fought fairly or collected home forthright.

How do you explain that you’d already been on the bridge for 30 minutes watching the electricity build. Watching the glowing motes on the tips of the dry hair under your hat and the sparks crawl on your finger nails. Hearing the metal of your knife buzz as it threw blue-white sparks whenever it was raised above the bridge’s rail—650 feet over the Rio Grande—the only significant piece of metal on the plain for miles. Waiting for the evening of forces; the unwinding of the sky. Run now! Or stand, last. Knowing this was the final and only perfect chance to return to Her or prove stronger than Him.

You don’t explain.

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