An email arrives from across the world describing a place I’ve been.
I don’t have anywhere I have to be. The skies are curling cold and light diminishing. Boxes of empty carbs vanish (again?) while the pulse of the situational comedy races. (Too fast, each laugh. Too fast, one to the next.) A window unit blasts lukewarm air as the cold seeps in through the walls. Into the couch with its chilled cushions, slumping against implacable cats, I am immobile. Something to do, my body requests. A reason, the mind moans. And I can’t find either today. I know the shoulds. Would that I would.
The next two lines appear to be weeping, fonts stretched like ice beneath a stale wiper blade marching up the screen between the unperverted serifs resisting reintegration:
Though I can see the bloody damage, I dare not whisper what has happened. I’ll be chastised, instructed. But how the cry wells and shapes itself inside in complexity and concentrated misery. It’s crafting narratives without my thinking, I realize, targeting in intention a virtual world of the coolest connections. The curious. The observers. In marketing terms, ‘the uncommitted shopper.’ (Yes, I’m talking about Facebook.) The heart is screaming about all nonsense. Denial. Humiliation. Gaining entropy.
Do I post this? Let the wall thaw and fall and gush? Become that one?
I begin a reply one-handed:
I know. This despondency. I know its names. (Brimming with impotence, hoping the period pauses behind these simplest sentences can arrest anxiety.) It sickens me, too. But…
But the dogs are barking, I realize. The squirrel is frozen. (I don’t think that car is going anywhere.) The earth is doing what the earth will do and we’re banking on the brink of forfeit. Even those who cheered before have gone on. Had lives. Distanced. Together is too menacing. But sliced by days and dissected in hours, working backwards? Maybe even at a gym? If they remember you: a smile.
How would that feel? I ask. To be welcomed back. (Did I remember to urge them to patch themselves? That should have come first.)
How many reps per machine? Miles or minutes? Are you fucking joking? What about that equator noise, the rising and falling in a rush, consuming us all like a rash of driver ants? You’d think, just knowing about it, someone would value you enough to ask you over. To answer your email (like you’re doing for me now). My turn now. I’m asking you. Have you slept? Is there anyone else in the house?
No. Besides the cats, we write in unison, each totally missing the other’s query as the rush of words, whorls, the rush of winds…
The ice retreats and blows around the world. It’s not like they told you. (As if they would have told you, you’re thinking. You both.)
Were it otherwise. Were that it were. Were that this world were intended.
We agree on that, settling in, knowing that one of us is sleeping against the sun. Both warmed, a bit, by the exchange.
The ice retreats and blows around the world. It’s not like they told you it would be. Would you have come here any other way?