A man with the right scruffed-up beard and breadth of chest swaggered into the S and M dungeon that was my place of business, and twenty minutes and one grand later had my chin — still soft with the downy fluff of teen-girl skin — held steady in one paw while the other one flew at my face so hard and fast that I ceased to exist as the same collection of matter I had been the previous instant.
When Sarah’s mother, Penny, got sick four years into our marriage, we decided to move back to Mississippi, considering it penance for the sins of our youth. We signed a lease on a house, a white one-story on the historical register with a wraparound porch and angels, stars, and the moon painted on the transom above the front door.
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A stink bug perches on the bristles of my toothbrush. I know more about ventilators than I should. This morning’s coﬀee tastes luxuriously of earth. As I run through the forest, pileated woodpeckers hammer and cackle from above. I’ve got an ache in the ball of my foot. Some things never give up. Nearly every surface in this house is covered in dust. It’s astounding how many people are dying at once. A wild turkey limps across the road. I don’t want to do the things I should. The streets are quiet except for the chirps of birds. The campus is silent. Students’ bicycles rest on flat tires. Squirrels are taking over the neighborhood. Matching cuts on my middle fingers throb, but only when I focus on them. Sidewalks aren’t wide enough. A little girl who had epilepsy, like my son, just died from probable complications of the coronavirus. The full moon works its gravity on seizures and tides. The morning sun shines in sideways, its light like opals. There’s a niggling tickle in the back of my throat. My wedding ring clinks like a wind chime against my mug. Steel-cut oats get stuck in my teeth. The chair I write from groans and squeaks. Pride gets in the way of apology. Reflections are everywhere and everything. I’m forgetting faces one by one.