“Burst” by Gordon Blitz

The flat Santa Fe skyline painted our drive from Albuquerque. The volcanic red pressed against the dark highway as we stare beyond the naked road. The windblown tumbleweeds give a spooky aura to the scenery. The natural moon light illuminates our trip. Mozart’s 41st Jupiter radiates through our car rental. An easy hour commute will take us to our Santa Fe two hundred year- old adobe second home. It’s time to sell the Acequia Madre Street dwelling. After twenty years of being landlords the Santa Fe rental market has dried up. The competition from larger second homes of celebrities is wreaking havoc.

Five years have zipped by since we visited New Mexico. Rossini’s “La Cenerentola “at the Santa Fe opera provided an excuse to enrapture us.  The partially covered Opera House welcomes the astrological planets and stars to enhance the brain cells gulping the music.

The St. Francis hotel accommodated an old-world charm. Liz, the hotel manager had been a permanent fixture for thirty years. She greeted us with “The honeymoon suite.” A private twinkle joke for us. The lowest priced room had no view. The concise space peppered with an antique furniture symbolized our romance. A compact ritualistic relationship. The centerpiece of the room was a print of Georgia O’Keefe’s “Jimson Weed” that stirred us to physical contact.

Our first meal took us to Café Pasqual less than a block from the St. Francis. Outside the restaurant, a line of locals and tourists is ensconced from opening to close. The Tex-mex egg dishes abundantly fill each plate warning the patrons that they can easily fast for the next eight hours. 

The spiritual drive awakens a scratchy talk.

“I’m thinking about why we stopped visiting Santa Fe?” I ask Eric.

“The air fare became outrageous. There were so many other states and countries that I wanted to take off my bucket list.”

“We had some of the best sex. It’s become so rote recently.”

“I don’t want to talk about it.” he pouts.

“Eric, come on. It’s been months.”

His eyes droop with “I just haven’t been in the mood. It takes so much out of me.”

“If you weren’t working ten-hour days.”

His frown prepared me for, “You are so rigid. No variety. How am I supposed to get excited? And you never shave on the weekend. Your stubble feels like sandpaper on my face.”

“But you won’t talk. What do you want to do?”

I nudge toward Eric. His right hand leaves the steering wheel and crawls towards me. The bristling hairs on my knuckles tingle. The silence vibrates through the Chevy Bolt car rental. Mozart’s symphony glides to a finale.

A month has passed since the last tenant returned their keys and departed. Larry and Harold were superior tenants. The carefree couple cared for the home like it was a prized possession. They cultivated charm. For the last ten years there wasn’t peep out of the lovebirds about plumbing issues, appliances, rain intrusions or any of the typical complaints that renters love to shower on their landlord.

Larry and Harold honored us with a home cooked dinner on our last visit. They were closet interior decorators. Each fabric, painting, rug, and fixture was an authentic antique. They could combine the antique delicacies with modern chic Indian pieces. It all worked. The meal was their joint effort. As their lightning limbs worked in unison to create stuffed chicken lathered with sauce, we were struck by their dance. I could hear a melody in the preparation. My cooking was always a solo effort. I knew Eric would make a simple recipe complicated. Their relationship was entering twenty years, falling short of our twenty-five. Their giggling coupled with stares without a blink, gave my jealousy genes a workout.           

            “Eric, before you go to the house can we walk around downtown. I’m stiff from the drive. I love the farolitos. Those little bags of candles and sand lit each night by hand. It’s the closet I get to appreciating Christmas. The nippy cold December weather gives me frostbite nightmares. Fifteen degrees is difficult for my thin bones to adjust to. The hush tones of the red bags distract me from the icy temperature.”

“Wow. You used to hate coming here. Now it’s a spiritual experience. Sure, we can make the detour.”

The stretch out of the car stirs my blood. The chill hits my nostrils as I suck in a deep breath. The sky is bombarded with twinkling stars. A canopy protecting us. I wish Eric would grab my hand. A trace of the last time we consummated. Days have turned to elongated months of staleness. A flash memory creates a vision. The afternoon in London six months ago. The downpour brought us back from the portrait gallery to the cradle of high tea in the West End Hotel lobby. With scones, cucumber sandwiches, and steam infused black tea we listened to a Vivaldi concerto. The white down comforter was thrown off the bed when we entered our tiny room. The ravishing culminated in a nap. I kept repeating “I could die and not have any regrets.”         

The meditation stops as Eric struggles to find the key to the condo. Finally, when we enter the abandoned living room the ghosts of Larry and Harold’s warm textured earthy furniture haunts us. The emptiness made us gasp. In the bathroom I tried to wash my hands.

“Eric, there’s no hot water.” I shouted.

“I wonder if the water heater was shut off.” Eric explains.

I follow him into the kitchen area. He opens up one of the cabinets and begins inspecting the water heater. It looks dead to me.

“Gordon, we need a match to relight the heater. Look around in the drawers.”

“Found something. Here try these.”

Eric tries the matches but there is no spark.

“These are dried out. Damn. I wonder if any of the neighbors are around to help.”

It’s part of a four-condo complex. I check another drawer and smile at the elongated fire place matches. The unopened box gives me hope they’ll work.

The sizzling sound of flame means we are on our way to hot water. A hot shower would be a magical dream to warm my bones. I go back to the bathroom to check the water.

As I turn the faucet, I hear a loud noise. An explosion of sound bombards my ears. The rumbling under my feet is earthquake terrifying. What is going on? A propulsive gurgling rumbles against the faucet. In a flash water bursts through the floor. I am standing in rushing water. The flash flood quickly works its way up my shins to my knees and I am swimming in frigid water.

“Help Help” I scream. Can Eric hear me with all this noise? What is going on? I try to wade through the water to find safety. As I move to the hall the walls around me start to seep water. Is the adobe is melting? I start coughing.  The water is saturating my pants. The ocean of water is filling up with some sort of plaster seeping out of the walls. Where is Eric? I’m having trouble breathing. I’m afraid to take a deep breath. Who knows what is in the soot?

I hear Eric’s faint voice, “Gordon, where are you? I’m stuck in the kitchen. The doorway collapsed. I’m trapped.”

Oh no. How are we going to get out of this? A few moments of calmness after hearing his sweet voice are starting to dissipate. Another gigantic explosion.  Oh God what is that sizzling sound. Is that an electrical spark? My god did the water expose an electrical wire. Am I going to be electrocuted? I’m way beyond a panic mode.

“I’m going to die What should I do? Help.” I shout a scream.

“The pipes must have burst. I need to shut off the water. I just don’t remember where the shut off valve is. Damn it.” Eric yells.

“I think I see a live wire. Shit what am I supposed to do? Do you have your cell phone Eric? Can’t we call someone?” I cry out.

“No, I left it in the car. Just stay calm. Don’t move and don’t touch the wire. Just give me a minute to figure this out.”

“I’m starting to feel numb in my feet. I’m in icy water. I can’t stop shivering.” I shriek.

“I just thought of something. Aren’t you near the back door? Can’t you escape that way?”

“There’s so much cloudy dust I can hardly see anything. And it’s hard to move in this water. I can’t believe your neighbors haven’t heard the racketing blasts.” I try to roar back.

I blindly move away from the loose wire into the hallway. I can’t remember where the back door. We haven’t been to Santa Fe for years. Not with the perfect tenants who never complained. There was never a need to visit.

A bright light illuminates the room. I start to squint. Is this a mirage or is there a rescue team?

The savior voice hollers, “Hold on guys. We’re trying to pry open the door and get you out.”

“Can you shut off the electricity? This wire is sparking. I’m scared.” I tearfully cry out.

I hear a combination of voices talking, “We’re looking for the water shut off. Better check the fuse box and take care of that. Stay away from the wire and then don’t move. We’ll get to you soon enough.”

I’ve never had a real panic attack. Now I know what that feels like. If my knees would stop clattering maybe I could breathe for a moment. I can’t even feel my feet anymore. The tingling went away and I’m left in a paralyzed state. Come on rescue team. Hurry up. I don’t even hear Eric anymore. What’s happened to him. Is he o.k.? Shit I’ve just been thinking about myself. Damn.

The backdoor opens and Eric glides in with another man. They put their arms around my shoulder and help me walk. I drag my feet through squishy water covering the remains of the wood floor. Their touch erases my frostbitten nerves. I’d like to dunk myself in a hot as hell jacuzzi and spend an hour in a sauna. I never want to feel cold again. When I embrace Eric, I evacuate this nightmare. I refuse to stop kissing. I’m never going to reframe from the loving tears. The rescue liberation storms through me. I’m released.

Gordon Blitz, author.

Gordon has published work in Wingless Dreamer (2020), Two Hawks Quarterly (2020), The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review, Issue #22 of Really Systems (2019), Fall 2019 Vitamin ZZZ, Free Verse Revolutions May 2020, Emeritus Chronicles (2020), and Senior Stories WEHO (2019). In March 2020, Gordon signed a contract with Running Wild Press to have his novella Shipped Out published. He’s a standup comic that has performed at The Ruby, TAO and The Blackbox Theater at the GLBT Village in Hollywood. His stories recorded at AKBAR in Hollywood are available on the Queer Slam podcast called “Just Gordon.” https://podcasts.apple.com/…/episode-21-just-…/id1446511726…
Check out his blog URL https://culturecritique.blog/