Finger Tea

I look at him in exasperation. My eyes squint out my own form of Morse code stating, “You don’t have to check on me.” I attempt to form an

inconspicuous smile of innocence. I married this man a week after my college graduation. I was 21 years, seven weeks, and three days old. Now

approaching four decades of life, he has to check the temperature of the water for me on days when the weather is chilled on ice and bone-cracking

due to high humidity. These are bad days for me. This is only on bad days – this is a bad day.


He disappears into the living room as I start washing dishes, and my private indulgence calls.


Turn left, all the way left.


But my brain screams that the water is too hot.


The steam, a fog clouding the kitchen window and my will, enchants my paws closer. I quiet my mind and focus on the view from the window, easing

my way into the trance. Dried up walnut tree leaves swirl in a violent gust-leading dance through our backyard.


My brain





my nerves to wake up.


 Lovers in broken communication. No, that’s too endearing. In reality, my nerves texted “IDGAF” and ghosted the rest of my body.


Doesn’t matter. I smile because they won’t wake up. I don’t know why I smile. Maybe because the little control I have at this point is the foreknowledge that my body will not work like most. I know the oddity, the lapse, is mere seconds away.


I could let my fingers start by carefully tickling this stream, but I have no patience; my flirty hands grab at the unlimited scorching waterfall. I embrace the initial sting, wait for it to fade, and watch my hands turn from plum to sangria to a tart scarlet.


Fuck, I am shaking. I try to calm my digits, but it’s no use. I cup the water over and over and let it flow off the back of my hand and drip off my fingertips. Blood vessels plump and pulsing. The other hand hungry for a turn.


My family barely notices; I’m simply “washing dishes.” My arthritis and Raynaud’s syndrome enjoy short-term relief, but my broken nerves, synapses, and mind crackle out warning after dissipating warning. I’m not always like this; this is a bad day.


I look out the window at the drenched and porous walnut tree losing its weight. Its once robust branches sway as bare, gnarled appendages frantic for spring’s warmth.


The branches bounce.


I yearn for a crack in bark marrow.


The spell drowns me. My hearing clogs. Giddiness swells in my chest.


To take a shower right now! I bite my lip.


And, then it’s over.


The water has been turned off.


Where’s my water?!




Heaving and ferocious, I look up, wide-eyed, then focusing. My husband has shut the water off. My brain reboots to comprehend the fact that

someone has momentarily saved me.


Not betrayed me.

Not betrayed me.

Not betrayed me.

Not betrayed me.


Our eyes suspect each other but graciously avoid accusations.

Do I look away?

We break when he offers me a cup of tea and a spot by my daughter, wrapped up in a throw on the couch.

I listen to her explain her leaf art project. Her hands traced in yellow, red, and orange. I try to focus, but the shower and its draw push for room in

between us. This only happens on bad days, I promise.


I block it out and sharpen my attention on her first-grade interpretive art lesson.


Even if I escape my daughter’s adorable warbles and inflections for a trip to the bathroom, I know my husband’s arm will make an appearance

through the shower curtain later, making sure the temperature of my water is reasonable.


I’m slightly annoyed but also relieved.


I wrap buzzing fingers around my tea, encasing its warmth, and listen to my daughter as she moves on, showcasing a dull watercolor creature.


I have a secret, an odd desire. Mischief erupts into a smirk.


I absorb the sight of the sweet monster she’s painted and imagine plunging my fingers into this scalding beverage.


My personal tea bag of human tentacle, faint lavender scented lotion, and warped desperation.


I soften my smirk into a sincere beam, a thread keeping me here at this art show in the living room.


My eyes widen with focus.

My face kept solid.

My posture pulled taut.


I try so hard to stay here in this moment, but the deluge chokes. The wind whistles. Dried leaves chatter. And the deluge distorts what I want.


My husband joins me on the couch. His presence is both welcoming yet stifling. I know that he knows. He holds my free hand and I have to fight to swipe it back. This is affection, I remind myself. He doesn’t think I would really stick my fingers into hot tea … right?


I am 38 years, seven months, three weeks, and one day old. He plugs in the electric blanket. He reminds me he bought Hot Hands in bulk at the store.


I need him on the bad days.