Waiting tables, dyeing textiles, separating goats in heat
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I never told you this, because I was worried you would judge me too harshly, but the worms died. There, I said it. My loyal, silent kitchen-scrap eaters, my earthworms, all melted into a puddle of gore and oozing black death, right on our porch.
In three years, I thought, Lia’s chin would reach my crown. Or my crown would touch her chin? At some point the height order reverses itself, and then they leave you. Or you are overtaken by someone’s respiratory droplets in the produce section and you leave first.
He sits on the mattress on the floor and unties his sneakers carefully. He spreads his laces to the sides of his shoes, as if they deserved respect.
But then I accidentally bite into one of the sour, acrid parts of quarantine. It’s easy to forget, when you live four hundred miles away, that your mother’s temper can be sparked by something as benign as family movie night or a run-in with the Hertz rental-car dealership.
After this friend left, I excused myself to go to the bathroom, where I shut the door and fell to my knees, shaking and crying. I wished that my brother had been different. And I wished that I had been more forgiving and compassionate. I wished that everything between us had been different. I was on that floor for a while.
Watching my wife, I have finally found the key to the map. I understand why men have spent millennia constructing systems to strip the power from this body: Look how she pulls her spine up to the sky. Look how effortlessly she strings herself between the ordinary and the divine.
When I need to think, I clean. I sort and organize. I give away scores of possessions. In my mind I repeat the word away, away, away. I need clear, open space before I can even begin to understand the latest problem I’ve conjured for myself.
What happened next I shoveled into that dark ditch of my psyche, and then I covered it with heavy stones, and it wasn’t until more than twelve years had passed that I remembered what I’d made myself forget.
In a bus, bumping elbows with messy humanity, I create memories that will bolster me for life. Our lives, as the author of Job reminds us, are short and full of trouble. The best we can do is connect, share a smile over this gift of existence.
When I was young, I lived for what I thought of as “lyrical moments,” when the details of life were suddenly heightened and approached the transcendent. . . . Of course, if you live long enough, you start thinking more and more not about the lyrical but rather about time. . . . I am living to stay alive.