Because of You by Lisa Ferranti

According to your mother, you walk on water. Our first weekend trip to the lake with your family, and she says, “Just look at him.” So I look. You’re performing a seamless backstroke—hands cupped, torso glistening, and I lose my concentration, but I look for any hint of the water walking of which she speaks. Clearly, you’re an excellent swimmer, but walk on water? I should have known to take her words with a grain of salt. What should I expect from a woman who claims she was a virgin when you were born?

According to my mother, you’re the best boyfriend I’ve ever had. A keeper. She says this at our housewarming barbecue after we move in together. “Look at that,” Mom says, watching you and your dad flip burgers, skewer dogs, somehow showering the animals with tenderness as you flame broil them.

I can almost see the slide show in her head: my first boyfriend, skinny Jake from high school with tattoos of Middle Earth on his forearms; ripped Bruce from college, not a real druggie, just steroids that made him mean; real druggie Eddie post college, now in jail.

According to my dad, you’re handy with tools, a magician with lumber. A card-carrying Carpenter’s Union #107 member, pension and all. “You know,” Dad says when you go to Lowe’s to fetch more boards for the deck you’re helping him build, “if you have a family, you’ll want to think about that kind of thing.”

I ask you that night about the scars on your hands, which aren’t an indication to me of expert carpentry. I press the hard nodules in your palms, and you say those weren’t job-related injuries. “Just part of the whole salvation thing.”

I should have known better than to fall for you.

I thought huh, a nice boy. Might be a nice change, is what I thought.

You told me goodness will follow me all of my days, because of you, and I thought, maybe a little self-centered, but I can live with that. You told me I had the goodness, too, just like you. And I wanted to believe, I did, and I wanted the goodness, craved the light. But sometimes. Sometimes the dark calls to me still.

And, really, all of this is a little hard to swallow. You know that, right? I can’t be the first to question the coming back from the dead thing. You point to your scarred palms, cite miracles as examples. Like Eleanor from down the street. When I ran into her at Quick Mart last week, she recounted her near-death experience—how she can now miraculously play the piano, not just Chopsticks, but entire Brahms symphonies. How she’s booked at Carnegie damn Hall. She looked at me, said, Can you believe it?

And even though I was in her math class in high school and know she’s not the brightest bulb, I want to believe, really I do. I want to trust in things unseen. I long to drink the water you turn to wine, let its pulpy juice drip down my chin. I beg you to multiply the fish and feed me chunks of white flesh. Pretend I’m a piece of birchwood and whittle my bark, mold my bone. I tell you this in bed, and you say, “I already have.” I push your hands from my body, turn away.

I’ve never witnessed your rage, but I heard about the scene you made at the temple that one time. And I’m just saying, sometimes the fight is worth it for the making up, you know? I’m saying I want the bad with the good, the ying, the yang, all the sin in between.

When I tell you this, when I say I’m not sure I can keep up the goodness, the relentless kindness, that I think my love for you is dying, you smile. You lay your hand on my head, smooth my hair. You say you’ve breathed life into things more dead than us. Healed the sick. Made blind men see. Hell, even made the dead rise. Surely you can resurrect what we have. And I say, yes, Yes! Grab me, shake me. Show me the way, the truth, the life. Whisk me above the water. Roll me in green pastures. Let your kingdom come, for God’s sake. Please, please, make me a believer.

Lisa Ferranti holds a BA in English from The University of Akron and writes and works in marketing. Her fiction has been a Top 25 finalist in a Glimmer Train Family Matters contest, twice short-listed for the Bath Flash Fiction Award, a Reflex Fiction contest finalist (nominated for Best Small Fictions 2019), and highly commended in the 2018 Hemingway Shorts contest and National Flash Fiction Day 2018 micro-fiction competition. Her stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Literary Mama, BFFA Anthologies Two and Three, Hemingway Shorts, 2018 NFFD Ripenings Anthology, Reflex Fiction, Spelk Fiction, and Lost Balloon (Wigleaf Top 100 2019). She lives with her husband, son and daughter near Akron, Ohio.

Vintage photo of a woman playing an accordion on the beach
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