about the fall

by Jason Downey

The beginning of the story is that one summer my left lung collapsed. I was twenty-three and probably didn't deserve that helicopter flight to Nebraska City, but as my boss that summer had liked to say about repairing roofs, "Y'all know laying tar ain't angel's work, until it is."

And I'd like to say it wasn't worth it—following the thunderheads 'round with the tar and tile that summer—but I'd bought Alexandra a few nice dresses, paid for new cupboards, helped with her Acura.

And of course, people like to talk about their "honest-work" until they see the chair-lifts or the pamphlets a veteran's widow will scatter over an armory-day parade each August until she finally quits town for Portland or someplace. But at the end here, I've only found a slight stitch in my breathing. "It's a process now in knowing things open up fully in their own time," said one pulmonary specialist I'd visited after my fall that June.

But eventually, Alexandra and I broke up before she moved to San Diego for a job in marketing. "I'm probably just about to head back to school anyway," I lied to her as we were leaving the restaurant. This was late September. There was a bit of rain falling, and she shuffled around in her purse for a compact umbrella we could huddle under.

It was a few years later when I finally heard from Alexandra again. She sent me a concerned text one afternoon (a thunderstorm and possible tornadoes were predicted to hit my town that evening). I began reading her message but never finished: I hope all is well, and if you see anything twisting down around you.... I just let the message drop-off. I walked outside into my yard; let that coming rain find me laying there.

Jason Downey currently lives in South Korea, where he teaches, travels, and writes.