As a refuge, as a threat, as a place to live
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Memory is the enemy of wonder, which abides nowhere else but in the present. This is why, unless you are a child, wonder depends on forgetting — on a process, that is, of subtraction. Ordinarily we think of drug experiences as additive. It’s often said that drugs “distort” normal perceptions and augment the data of the senses (adding hallucinations, say), but it may be that the very opposite is true — that they work by subtracting some of the filters that consciousness normally interposes between us and the world.
Dr. C. doesn’t sit, as if he won’t be staying long, but he does have information for us. He says that 75 percent of women deliver within a week of membrane rupture. He says that if they induce labor now, and Olivia is alive, we will have complete say in her care and how much we want the doctors to do to keep her alive. But if I deliver a few days from now, my daughter will be twenty-four weeks, and the hospital’s ethics board will step in to limit our choices.
Our car climbs a hill, and as we descend, we see it: A dinosaur. A swaying beast, disappearing into the woods. There’s a car stopped on the other side of the road, its doors open. Did it stop to see the dinosaur? No. The dinosaur stopped the car. A woman stands in the road, waving her hands. We see two young girls in T-shirts and shorts but no shoes, standing together in sparkling shards of glass, screaming. Billy slams on the brakes.
You hang up the cellphone and think about how the surgeon cleared his throat again and again as he asked how you were, then said, “I have the best news of bad news,” and you think how you knew what he was going to say as soon as you heard his voice.
At Vicky’s invitation I accompanied her on a weeklong route. When I arrived with all my camera equipment, Vicky laughed. “Girl, I can’t believe how much you packed.” After loading the cab, Vicky made sure her cat Simba was curled safely on the bunk, and the three of us headed out.
She never talked to any of them — neither the rocks nor the creek, the roots nor the leaves, nor even the birds perching overhead. Words killed living things, fixed them forever as solid matter. Nothing was solid here, as long as she didn’t breathe a word.
Everyday tasks become difficult when one constantly worries about the suffering of little things. There are times when I can’t mow the lawn because there are too many grasshoppers dancing about.