Batresh awakens on a winter night in St. Louis,1977
Batresh tossed fitfully. The narrow bed was hard, a foam mattress on plywood boards. Wintering trees in the nearby park reached white, bony fingers into the night sky grasping for warmth.
On the other side of the park lay a frost covered golf course and a Belle Époque Museum, an artifact left from the 1904 World’s Fair, exhibiting works from artists long dead.
Barren trees and gray grasses, a stark landscape, like the desert, a dried-up oasis, as if winter absorbed life-giving water, turning St. Louis into Deshret, the land of the dead. Turning fitfully, her arm fell, her hand coming to rest against the frigid tile floor.
Dreamily she saw her home, Sekhem, as in winter, the river turned to ice, palm trees frozen, silvered with frost, death claiming anything green. She walked on cold stones in the palace to the sleeping chamber.
A woman’s voice whispered, hoarse. An elderly woman, her shaved head wrapped with scarves, faced away from her, her breath turning to white fog in the dark night. It was familiar, a voice she’d heard as a child.
Opening her eyes, Batresh saw the woman leaning over her, semitransparent like a projection in the air, like breath in winter. The woman looked at her with wonder, not knowing where she stood, or who she was.
As Batresh awoke more fully, the image dissolved. She sat up not sure if she had been dreaming or if she had seen an apparition. She rubbed her cold hands together. The heat had gone off.
She clicked on the lamp and looked around the room, orange plastered walls, a large window, green linoleum. The woman was gone. It was 4:00 AM. She swung her legs out of bed, and sat up, shaking, unnerved by the dream, the apparition, and the cold.
Closing her eyes, she prayed to the Goddess. Glancing towards the window, facing south, barren trees reflected pale silver from clouds above. It was snowing. The parking lot was wet and shiny. She stood, turning and walked to the dresser. She opened her suitcase and slid back the panel, whispering, “Show me Denny.”
A display appeared above the panel and resolved into an image of a double bed in which a young woman and Denny slept. “This must be the woman he drove here with,” she thought to herself. Clothes were strewn on the floor. The street light cast sterile, pale light through slats in the blinds. She terminated the display and went back to bed. As she fell asleep, she wondered how the Tlalocs, being reptilian, could function in winter.
The next morning, she saw Sister Ahatu standing outside talking to a student. She walked to her. It was warmer, no trace of snow anywhere. Nevertheless, Sister Ahatu wore a thick winter coat. She nodded as Batresh approached.
“Miriam,” Sister Ahatu greeted her. “This is Maude, she is studying theology.”
Batresh nodded, “I am happy to meet you,” she responded. She turned to the old nun and asked, “I don’t see the station wagon. Is there another car I can take?”
“I’m sure Maude wouldn’t mind driving you,” the Sister responded, looking at the young woman.
“I would be happy to,” she responded cheerfully.
“I think I will look for an apartment. That may take all day,” Batresh said.
“Why don’t you stay here with us?” Sister Ahatu repeated her invitation. Then, looking at the young woman, she continued, “Maude likes it here, don’t you sweetie?”
Maude looked up as if she were going to roll her eyes, but then stopped herself. “Not a lot of action around here,” she stated flatly.
“Don’t be so cynical,” the nun scolded. “You are too young.”
Maude looked at Batresh with exaggerated weariness and offered, “The station wagon’s parked over there, if you want it.”
Batresh drew her brows together, trying to think.
Maude sighed and pointed to a green vehicle at the end of the parking lot. “Where are you from anyway?” she asked.
Batresh looked at Sister Ahatu with confusion.
The sister sighed and turned to Maude, “Go get the keys for her,” she ordered.