Linda was the aunt of many nieces, nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews whom she loved as if they were her very own. And, she was anxiously awaiting the arrival of her first grandchild, her special angel, due in March 2009. She will be waiting for him with arms wide open.
“Today, in the hallway, a boy made me nervous with love. I do not know if I made him similarly nervous.
“For months the days had been short and cold. Hurrying, everyone tucked themselves into their jackets. Outside it had been as abandoned as the simple diagrams of perspective in my art textbooks. I was a hastily drawn two-dimensional figure on that flat emptyness divided into segments by a grid. But today was warm. I saw where the grass was. Where it had always been, because it hadn’t left. Bare shoulders, arms, and legs greeted me in congregation with one another. My heart, which had become cold like the weather outside, filled up again, or seemed ready to. The tenor of my life hadn’t changed, however, even if in that moment I thought it had.
“In the hallway I was waiting with one textbook pressed against my chest. I stood near the wall, by the garbage bins. The tutorial before mine ended. The boy came out. I recognised him. He made as if to pass me. There wasn’t any room. I was standing in the most inconvenient location. But instead of brushing past me without thinking, he looked at me. He looked me right in the eyes and saw me as I was, just standing there. We looked at each other like that, silently and not saying anything. He saw me for the first time. He recognized me. I could tell the way I looked back at him astonished him.
“‘Sorry,’ he said. A bit worried.
“‘It’s okay.’ I tried to re-assure him. He left.”
“I said I’ve seen the boy from the other day before. We’re in the same class together. I’ve seen him sitting in the rows around me. Now I watch him as he shuffles in and out, and of course nothing has really changed between us. And my body has already grown used to the warmer weather.”
The subway car was full. But I saw two little mice slip in at another doorway. I ran and managed to catch the train. There were so many of us in there. Someone in front of me had their hands on the doorcrack to steady themselves. I bumped into someone else behind me, but they didn’t notice because they were apologizing to someone else.
We have been waiting a long time for our new curtains. Without them our walls are transparent and our neighbours can look in on us whenever they want. Last night we got some, they were finally given to us, but they were the wrong ones. So Lisa decided to make some herself. And she did that.
The house we live in is not a perfect one. I told her, “I read a children’s story once where a house was made out of columns of fine text. It wasn’t just a house, it was a palace. That’s the kind of the home I can make for you.”
The houses are unusually high today, I thought,
As if they’d pulled up their skirts and raised their rafters,
Front yards naked and conspicuously empty, like the desert
At Cheops, razed to flatter their chubby ankles, and dwarf
Us. A face sticks in my tendrils, twitches
Like a scared rabbit. Lamps burn on the sides of cars, blur
My failing vision, swim like jelly fish
Or caught ghosts.
My eyes don’t feel right. Slowly I open them &
I close them, like an addict, like last
Night, when the police officer pointed white in my eyes
And asked me: “Is this a rooming house sir? Do you live
In a rooming house?” and I wondered whether I was in trouble
& ran up to get I.D., voice calling: “You said ‘we’, who
Lives there with you?” and I said “My wife.” Later laughing,
Blind again. “All I heard
One gunshot. I know how a gun sounds. It came
From over there, I think, but I can’t be sure. We heard it once
And, in silence: again, and again afterwards. We have too many windows
A racoon scared us, we turned the lights off, Lisa lay
On the floor. Below a police officer in the garden checked
The perimeter, while I pushed away a curtain
And watched him.
The crush of dead coming off the bus
brushed into pine trees and against
narrow openings in the rock. I squeezed myself
with them & assured my own speed. Knew
I’d beat them. And I did, ignoring everything.
Shoplifted self home, where I could finally crack
the vacuum seal and smell the fresh scent of death,
or open-ness, or whatever.
Footsteps crunched behind me, and I thought
“I’ll just slip into this house here, my house
up the front steps, and escape.” But it’s not my house
it’s our house, and it’s the one tenant
I hadn’t met. We introduced ourselves. She turned
To the front door and locked it. Fingers tight as bone
delicate as glass. She left.
I knew those fingers. I met them in a lake once
standing belly-deep in mud, that summer
I pretended I was alive. It was easy
shouting jokes from the back seat
or driving everyone home. In one of those moments
you can’t get back, we stood together
while everyone else did cricket calls, and she said
“Feel my heart, you can feel my heart
It wasn’t that I felt more loyalty to the others
shouting curses across the empty lake.
I just wanted to go home
and think about it.
I dived under the water and she
turned back to the front door, and locked it
with her fingers clicking like firing pins
leaving me where I was.