Mistakes in Seeing

This is a sampling of various writings that have occurred over the past 6 months or so.

I haven’t had much bandwidth for curating digital archives of self/world observation. Yet, I keep on with this practice of assembling words and making notes on the day, saving scraps of stories I might want to tell someday when I have more time for telling stories.

I’ve been running in the forest a lot lately, and making homemade pizza on Monday nights.

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Feb 3

to me

“I don’t care,” my mother stood in the wide entry to the living room, speaking in that tone that let me and my sister know that she wouldn’t let it go, “just hit pause or something. I need you to come out to the porch and see this!”

We were eating dinner on the couch, with our laps as a table, getting ready to watch an old episode of Malcolm in the Middle on Netflix, which was the only show my sister and I could halfway agree to watch together. Neither of us were wild about it, but the ‎family said more terrible things to each other than we did and when they fought with eachother it was funny. We liked it alright, I guess.

“C’mon, you’re going to miss it!” A person could almost feel the anxious urgency radiating out from my mother, who was staring us down in between furtive glances in the direction of the front door.

My sister ate a bite of potato. “I can see it from here, Mom.” She jerked her head toward the window a little, rolling her eyes. “I’m not getting up. I just sat down. I don’t care about how it looks. I’ve seen it before.”

My mom looked at me, “You’ve gotta come see this. It’s really important. It’s my very favorite sort of sunset light. It’s gold and grey!”

I didn’t have the heart to not care at all or to flat-out refuse like my little sister did. There was a part of me that loved that my mom could get so serious about a certain type of light in the late afternoon. I knew that not everybody noticed subtle things like light or clouds or the smell of rain about to fall.

My mom told me once that when we were driving down the hill over on Bartlett, a big wide sycamore leaf had fallen on the windshield and I had gotten so attached to it, had loved it so much so suddenly, that I screamed and screamed when it blew away, disappearing as quickly as it had come.

I put aside my plate and didn’t bother to hit pause, got up and followed my mom out to the porch, which was still damp from the heavy rain that had fallen for most all of the day. “This sort of light only happens after a rain. It’s something about the damp reflecting it all around.”

Her eyes were shining and she was right, the light was greyish gold and had a sort of glow to it‎. It wasn’t a bright light or the liquid rose-gold of late Summer and Fall. It was almost unnoticeable, but the late afternoon did look different, as though the air itself was suffused with the sun going down, the gold waves in the sky to the west behind us softly beaming against the grey still stacked up to the west, all the unseeable drops of water in the drenched winter air holding light, suspending it and reflecting it.

“This is my favorite sort light, this greyish gold.” My mother seemed happy that I had gotten up, that I had come to see the thing she wanted to show me. “There is also a grey pink that is amazing and happens sometimes. It’s like the inside of a shell, everywhere around you.”

I stood there and could see how quick the light was shifting into an unremarkable dull early dark. ‎A car drove by, tires hissing on the damp street.

“Thanks for coming out,” my mother looked around, a pause in her voice. “Now you know what my favorite sort of light is, so if – you know – anything terrible ever happens to me, you can see this sort of light and remember me.”

Then, she turned and went back inside.

I didn’t say anything about what she’d said, because I never ‎knew what to say when she’d mention things like that. My little sister, just a couple of years ago, used to burst into tears and howl, “Maaaaoooommmmy, no! I don’t want you to die!” My mother would hug her and pat her on the back, saying “It’s okay. It’s okay. You don’t need to worry about that…shhh, shhh, shhh…”

As soon as my sister had calmed down a little, sniffing her snot back up into her nose and the shakiness of her breathing edging back a little, my mother would remind her, “You know that I’m not ever really going to fully die, don’t you? Everybody’s body dies eventually, gets hurt or sick or just wears out, but the core of who a person is and what’s most important about them, that never really dies. You know that right? That even if something happened to my body, that I wouldn’t really be, like, gone gone?”

My sister would usually start crying again and I think my mother, even with her conviction that she’d never really die, understood that it really was just too awful to try to think about, a person whose walking and talking and strong arms held your world together just, you know, not being there anymore, their body not working anymore, being burnt up or under the ground and their voice not ever calling ‎your name again.

I don’t know if other people’s parents try to prepare their children for the possibility that death may come in some dreadful and possibly completely unexpected way. My sense is that other kids don’t have to hear this sort of thing from their parents on any given Tuesday evening in between homework and dinner. Maybe they have a few talks every now and then, after the funeral of an elderly aunt, or the death of a pet. I don’t know what other people say to the their kids about dying. I guess some people might talk some about Heaven or something. My mother didn’t believe in Heaven, as far as pearly gates and up-in-the-clouds and angels and all that. I think that by the time we were in middle school she believed in God, but she didn’t talk much about God with us and she never made us go to church.

I think that what my mother most believed in was ghosts and wind and how the air can feel electric right before a storm and how electricity makes our hearts beat and forms the little signals and codes of us thinking and feeling. She had it all worked out, how she was going to be able to stay alive forever, how she’d never ever die.

I was there the afternoon that she figured it out, but I was too little to remember much of anything other than bits of it. I don’t know if I remember parts of it, can picture parts of it, because I was there and I saw it or if it was because my mother had told me the story so many tim‎es.

Feb 4

to me

I can still see her hands as she told the last part, fluttering and waving out from the center of her chest, up into the air. “That was it! The bird died, but all its electricity went flying out of it, up into the air.” The way she told it made it feel full of sense, something simple and matter of fact. Did I come out to the front steps when she was holding that dying bird? The bird was one of the many victims of our big orange cat.

I don’t know why my mother decided to sit with that bird while it died. I guess she couldn’t think of anything else to do. To hear her tell it, she felt bad for the little bird and didn’t want to, you know, just leave it out in the yard, so close to dying as it was, its feathers all bloody and the skin of its neck so torn wide open.

Other times, I’d seen my mother put a dying bird, one that whose may have come about more slowly, over a day or two, into a paper bag and, grimacing, simply step solidly down on the small rise, leaning into gravity with all her weight. “No use in letting it suffer,” she’d say, and shrug as if there was not much of a choice in it at all.

I guess with that one bird, the one whose tiny death had made my mother think that she – and everything else alive – might could live forever, it was so close to dying that my mother just figured she ought to sit out there on the steps to hold it as it went. She was kind, sure, but as I got a little older, I began to understand that she was also curious and that if she could stand it at all, she wouldn’t get in the way of nature. I did see her, once, take a long time to gently untangle a lightning bug from a clot of spider web. It was alive and bleating out its dull light there in the web, all bound up for some spiders meal in the corner at the landing of the stairs, and my mother couldn’t stand to not notice, to just let the spider go ahead with its meal. She knew that it wasn’t fair to love lightning bugs more than spiders, and that if she helped the lightning bug she’d be hurting the spider, but she still untangled the lightning bug, gently pulling the spider silk off of the insects spindly legs.

Once, down on the beach during our yearly vacation, my mother had made me ‎stop my walking and watch as seagulls pulled rank over one another fighting for a dead mullet crusted in sand. There was one young bird, whose feathers were all ratty in a juvenile molt, that stood off to the edge shifting its weight back and forth on nervous legs. It was easy to see that the bird was hungry, but it wouldn’t even go near that fish until the bigger, older gulls had cleared out a little, momentarily arcing back up into the air. As soon as the young gull moved toward the fish to stab away some small morsel, the bigger birds would dive-bomb back to the fish, sending the young seagull flapping and staggering back to its place at the edge of the tide-damp sand. My mother made us stop and watch this go on for a full 20 minutes, and when I said that I wished that I could chase off the big birds and give the whole fish to that straggly looking young gull, my mom did that shrug she’d do, and said that the big gulls used to be smaller and that the world sure could be a tough place to live in.

So, in general, my mother wasn’t the sentimental or overwrought sort. She was fairly matter of fact about life and death, which is why – I think – she talked with us about the possibility that she might unexpectedly die somehow.

Sent: Wednesday, February 3, 2016 8:57 PM

To: Me

Subject:

Feb 5

to me

She found the bird on the porch, laying in the space between the threshold of the door and the top of the steps leading down into the yard. ‎It looked already dead, and she felt a brief flash of sad frustration toward the fat orange cat. She knew though that he was just doing what cats do, that she ought to get him a bell for his collar or keep him inside to whine at the door and piss in the corners.

“Damn cat,” she muttered, going back inside to get a paper towel. She didn’t tell the kids that the cat had killed another bird, the dissonance of beloved pets with bad habits was not something she wanted them to have to feel that Saturday morning in the early Spring. She walked back through the main hall, passing by the living room with the paper towel wadded up in her hand. “What are you doing?” Her daughter had glanced up from the old Berenstain Bears episode she was watching. Cartoon bears voices talking about kites filled up the pause left after the question.

“Nothing, just going outside.” The woman didn’t feel badly about lying by omission and, really, it was nothing, just a dead bird, a little brown sparrow left on the porch. She knew as soon as she touched it that it was still alive, it was barely trembling with the slightest breath, but it had that sort of tension to it and its eyes weren’t dull, flat dead eyes, they were bright frightened bird eyes.

She didn’t know what to do. Usually if she found a dead bird or a dead lizard or a dead mouse, any small dead thing, killed by the cat, she just flung it into the hedges that ran alongside the house. She couldn’t stand to put dead things, even small dead things, into the garbage can out in the driveway. Usually she had no time for burying, for sentimentality.

Sent: Thursday, February 4, 2016 6:19 AM

Subject: Re:

Feb 6

When she picked the bird up she could feel its dull warmth through the paper towel and her hands took on a tenderness. Still not knowing what she might do with the dying bird, she walked down to sit on the bottom step, her knees pulled up toward her chest, cradling the broken sparrow and studying it intently. The bird was too wounded to struggle. Should she put it out of its misery?

The woman did not see any fear in the bird’s black-bead eyes and she wondered if there might be some space, some twilight, between being alive and being dead where a creature doesn’t know or care that it is dying, a calm, stunned grace. She ran the edge of her finger over the smooth feathers that covered the bird’s thin shell of skull like a cap. She was and is always surprised by that sort of softness and didn’t understand how something that existed outside, out of doors, in rain and wind and trees and dirt, dust from the road gathering in the air, could have such a softness. The bird’s neck was torn open, shredded, and the skin sagged raggedly at the edge of the wound. It was the sort of wound that would never heal, could never heal.

The woman pulled the paper towel, starched and bleached and stiff, out from around the bird and held the small body with her bare hands. ‎She was beginning to understand that she intended to hold the bird until it died.

She heard movement in the house, footsteps coming out to the porch.

“What’re you doing?” ‎Her son called down the stairs, came down a ‎few steps, the slightest edge of accusation in his voice, as if she might be up to something.

“The cat got another bird.”

“Oh!,” the boy sounded dismayed. “Do you have it? Will it be okay?” He was on the step behind her now, leaning over and peering down into her hands.

“He looks scared.”

The woman didn’t say anything, and the boy sat down beside her. “What’s you sister doing?” The woman broke her staring at the bird to glance at the boy.

“Watching Berenstain Bears.” The boy paused, “We shouldn’t tell her. She’d probably be upset.”

A car drove by, heavy bass shuddering up the slope of the yard.

Sent: Friday, February 5, 2016 6:32 AM

Subject: Re:

Feb 7

“What are you going to do with it? Is it alive?”

“It’s still alive, but it’ll probably die soon. I’m gonna just sit here, I guess, and hold it.”

“Can I hold it?”

The woman gently passed the bird over into ‎her son’s hands, which were held out cupped. He didn’t fold his hands around the bird, but kept them very still, so that the bird was less held than laying there. The boy seemed nervous, tense, to be holding the bird.

“Pepper hurt it? We should get him a bell.”

The boy turned at his waist, with his whole torso, moving his stiff arms and platform-hands back toward her, “Can you take this? It’s kinda sad. I don’t want to hold it anymore.”

The woman wordlessly scooped up the little dying bird, and re-settled her hip‎s on the cool concrete steps. “I’ll come back in a little while, after the bird dies.”

“Are we going to bury it?”

“I don’t know, probably not…maybe?” The woman was ready for the boy to go back upstairs. She stared at the bird, and felt its almost imperceptible heartbeat, a fluttering so faint it could almost be imagined.

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Feb 2

to me

_______ scuffed through the dry dirt just this side of the chain link, pacing back and forth, back and forth, like the bobcat that they keep over at the Nature Park. That old saggy belly bobcat has been there for as long as the place has been open, about eight years, and for eight years it has paced back and forth, back and forth, cutting a little rut-ditch into the ground, pausing only occasionally to spray a wildly quivering stream of urine onto a fence post in the far corner of its cage while glaring at whomever might be watching it.

_______ had seen the bobcat on three separate field trips, one in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade, and all three times he’d stood there and watched it for as long as he could,  mesmerized by the almost mechanical precision of its walking – back and forth, back and forth, the way the cat’s belly swung just a little and its ears were pressed back onto its head. He had to be practically pulled away from the bobcat habitat, the rest of the class already moving down the boardwalk and his teacher saying, “C’mon, c’mon…you don’t want to miss the vultures, do you?”

_______ was pacing back and forth in his yard just like that bobcat and he knew it. His mama had told him that after he caused that scene outside of church that‎ morning that he couldn’t dare leave the yard or do anything that would even hint at being fun. So, he was just pacing out over by the fence and he could feel his mama watching him from the kitchen window, the one right next to the door of the trailer.

She was fixing to rap her knuckles on the window from the inside and holler at him to come inside. He didn’t know how he knew this, but he did. He could feel it in the hairs on the back of his neck, and deep inside his ears, straining to hear a sound that hadn’t been made yet.

The cold-brittle glass in its aluminum frame popped like gunshots when she banged on it. Bap, bap, bap, bap, bapa!” _______ willed himself not to flinch at the sharpness of the air cracking around him and there was no way he’d be looking over his shoulder where he just knew his mama was leaning her face into the glass and the reflection of the early afternoon sun and the pines across the road would make it so that his mama would only have just a part of her face, a sunlit cheek, a blotch of shadowed eye, the black moving empty of her hollering mouth.

“_______, you quit that marching back and forth and get your butt up into this house right now!”

Bap, bap, bapa, bap!

He kept pacing, looking away from mama, out across the roads and into the pines, where the ground was grey-shaded and sun-dappled all over red needles and the trees stood like bored sentinels, waiting and waiting. ‎He could wait, too. He could be patient like that.

“_______! Look at me when I’m talking to you!” Bap! Bap, bap! “You need to get in here and get into your room!”

She still hadn’t come outside and _______ doubted if she would. She didn’t want to fight, didn’t want to holler. She just wanted him to listen and he’d just started to figure that if he didn’t listen she’d give up pretty quick. His mama didn’t handled upset well at all. Didn’t take much of anything to get her slamming the door to the bedroom to smoke Camel lights and call her sister.

There was a muffled clatter from the kitchen and the sounds of walking, the clap of a quick-closed door‎.

The air got real quick and _______ watched as the trees across the road swayed a little in their tall top branches, some wind he couldn’t feel, like the air from his mama slamming her door had shimmied out across the road and picked up some oomph running up the pine trunks. The sun was high and bright in the sky and the slick-needled pines looked to be shining.

The dog from down the hill barked in a brief blast of distant sound. Over on the highway, there was the pressure whine of a big truck driving too fast.

He didn’t know when, exactly, he stopped caring if she was mad at him.

Feb 3

to me

______  didn’t much wonder why the boy was walking those lines in his mama’s yard, like some sort of penned up dog. Wasn’t anything else for a boy to do in a fenced in yard on a Sunday afternoon. She didn’t see anything in the way of a ball or a bicycle or some kind of toy in the yard catty-corner down the road from her lot. She reckoned he could play with a stick or something if he took it upon himself to do so, maybe draw something in the dirt.

There weren’t any trees in the yard, and not too many anywheres around the park. Big tree, even a big limb, can crush a trailer easy. So there were a couple scraggly crape myrtles by the road where folks turned into the park, but that was about it. Boy couldn’t even find a stick to play with if wanted to,  _______ thought to herself, looking out the little rectangle window in her front door. She didn’t remember what she looked out the window for to begin with, mighta been a dog barking or something. She had gotten distracted by that boy walking back and forth like he was doing. She snapped to when she heard people laughing at something on the t.v. and slow turned to go back to sitting in her chair like she ‎had been. Wasn’t nothing she could do ’bout a boy walking in his yard like a dog, better that he be doing that than be out setting fires like those ______ boys used to do.

The whole park was surrounded by pines, but there wasn’t anything anyone could do about that; that land the park backed up to belonged to the ______, just like the land that the park sat on used to.

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Feb 20

to me

More and more lately, she’d find herself standing‎ like she was stuck, a pause, a glitch, and the feeling was that of being lost in thought, checked out, head in the clouds, but there were no thoughts that she was Especially lost in, she was just stuck, glitched in the movements and actions that would carry her through her day.

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Feb 23

to me

Learning to live in the real world, the woman reckons with the role that pareidolia plays in her experience of God.

Feb 23

to me

The room is dim, with only one window on the south-facing wall. Her great-grandmother’s lamp, with a cracked marble base and yellowing-shade, is on and the warm light makes the day feel later than it is, early evening, not mid-afternoon. She can smell the tang of her father’s breath. He is leaning over her shoulder, looking at the computer screen. She is aware that she is hunching her shoulders over, curving in on herself, as if she is trying to get away without moving.

His voice is flat and skeptical, “Alright then, show us the 3’s. Show us where you saw them.” She understood that he did not believe her, that he thought she was crazy. The smell of her own sweat rose around her, sharp and fear-wild. She kept her voice calm. “Okay, hold on, let me find a good one.” She clicked through images, her index finger sounding certain on the mouse, like she know what she was doing, where she was going. Outside, a cicada whirred its high long moaning, stretched out the moments and reminded her of being a kid down by the river, back when the air had sung all summer and her family still looked her in the eye.

“Okay,” she pointed at the screen, “do you see this? Do you see how there is a triangle there, like it is pressed into the surface? How did that happen? What could make that happen?”

Her questions were ragged at the edges, raw with her own uncertainty. She understood that people thought she was crazy, but she did not understand – at least not then – that people could not actually see what she saw. She could point out the shapes, and people might say, as her father was saying now, “Yes, I see that.” However, seeing and believing are very different things and these images that had ripped the world at the seams in her mind meant absolutely nothing to other people. She tried to find the picture with the near-perfect 3. In her wishing that this soft sort of interrogation would end – her father in her room and his voice almost smiling at how foolish and misled she is for believing what she thinks she believes – she can’t see a damn thing.

All the images look the same. She sees them as her father must see them, as nothing more than clouds.

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Mar 20

to me

“You’re going to tell someone about this, aren’t you?” The woman had paused in her speaking to me about her son to ask this question and her thin eyebrows were arched with surprise. “You’re going to tell someone about this, and then you’ll have a new friend.”

I was caught off guard by her knowing, because I wasn’t entirely sure myself. When she asked me this, however, it became clear that – yes – I did intend to tell someone about our conversation, at least parts of it. We were sitting on a low brick wall outside of one the new banks downtown, shoulder to shoulder. Between the wall and the flat grey walls of the building, a small clutter of boxwoods were cut into lumpy ball shapes. The little bushes seemed as though they were being held back by the wall, contained.

I paused before answering the woman’s question, because I felt a little sheepish, like I’d been caught in something.

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Mar 20

to me

When the ball hit the branches of the tree, a thousand petals fell into the wind.

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Mar 23

 

to me

I run down Phifer St. and think about writing some statement about how I quit smoking and started running.

It might be titled, “At Which Point I Began to Run.”

Sitting on the front steps, I am aware of this stunned feeling that has crept into my chest over the last day or so. It has a weight and a presence, this feeling. There is something of substance to it, as if it is a thing that is separate from me, something that has quietly slipped into the cavity of my chest where it then spread out into the very fibers of my skin and bones, my nerves and blood – cluttering, dulling, and generally choking me into this stunned silence.

I think I am homesick.

 

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Mar 28

to me

______ stared down the aisle between the rows of seats, looking at the shoeless feet sprawled into the walkway, the elbows and limp wads of blanket hanging off of armrests. Her neck was cramped and crooked, twisted so that her head could almost rest on her own shoulder. There was no way she was going to be able to sleep, so she just stared down the plane’s aisle with a sort of blank, motionless feeling around her mouth and eyes, hurdling through the air.  Between her ribs, there was a surprising shakiness, something quivering above her stomach. Pulling in a shuddering breath, she felt her eyes fill.

Apr 23

to me

The young people left on a Friday, gone for three weeks. They weren’t ‎children anymore, so she called them young people. She didn’t call them her “kids” because the term didn’t seem to expect much of them, made them babyish. They weren’t hers, though she’d given birth to them. They were their own.

May 5

to me

Lately, if she writes anything at all, she writes about remembering something – some partial scene or scrap of day resurfaced from whatever dusty crenellation the memory had settled in. Sometimes she simply notes objects, fills a page with untethered associations, only enough spelled out in phrase to help her to feel confident that, if she ever needs or wants to, she will be able to remember – for example – the man who gave her lupine seeds, dropping them loose into her hand on some morning that she has otherwise forgotten.

She wrapped the seeds into a torn off corner of paper, pushed them into her bag and then almost immediately forgot about them. ‎ It bothers her to admit that she isn’t sure whether or not she ever planted the seeds, and that she cannot really tell whether or not the plant with teardrop leaves, though the leaves are longer than tears, more like rain – that sprung up beside the stairs out back is lupine from a seed she may have planted or just some weed that has no connection to the man who died last fall, the one who gave her seeds she forgot about.

She cannot remember if the feeling of finding the seeds in the bottom of her bag is real. They were free and resting in the crease of seam, just a few of them, a silky twist of worn torn paper floating amongst the pennies and nickels. It’s possible that she fished out the seeds – smooth and brown as a Western horses haunches – and pushed them into the soil near the stairs, as much to ease the guilt of being a person who would neglect to plant seeds, a person who would leave the potential for purple-blue blooms to dry out lifeless in the bottom of a bag…she planted them as much to avoid being that person, that negligent and joyless person to whom nothing was sacred or beautiful, not even the promise of seeds placed in her palm by a man with hazel-brown eyes, a single speck of solid gold in his left eye, near the iris…planted the seed as much to avoid the possibility that she may not care about anything, after all, as to wait patiently and happily for the spray of teardrop leaflets, the spires of rainbow bonnets.

May 16

to me

I have been listening to the radio again, have been for months. Really, it was only a couple of weeks that I drove to work in silence, back in the winter. Spring is near gone now, only a month left ’til Summer and the mountains are thoroughly green again.

This morning, I heard a song I’d never heard before. The tune caught my attention, a dance-y little synth beat.  Before a single word was sung I imagined myself sharing the song w/ my ex-coworker ’cause for sure he’s never heard it and it was a fun little bit of music pushing into my morning as I drove past the tilled fields and dewy grasses.

I felt happy and wide open for a split second, until I heard the lyrics…and there was not a doubt in my mind that the song meant something to me, choked me with all that it meant to me.

May 18

to me

She sat on the couch and erased voicemails, all but 2 from an eight-year old that her daughter had met at the park. The girl would not stop calling, in spite of the fact that her daughter didn’t ever much call her back. Faith hadn’t ‎realized that her voicemail was full, had figured that ______ probably left a message of some sort. She tried not to let herself really feel how much she wanted to hear him speak, and blithely hit the 7 key on her phone – erasing messages. When the mailbox was cleared out, she tried to call back the number that she figured was him calling.

It was the hospital’s main number, a scratchy dim recorded voice, pleasantly female, asking her to enter the extension of the person she was contacting. Faith hung up and scrolled through her call log, trying to find the social worker’s direct line. Down on the street, a car drove by with the stereo turned up loud.

Today, she’d seen two people looking up as they walked.

The first was the short and sullenly cool man who worked the counter at the coffee shop. He was taking out the trash and was looking straight up at the sky. As she opened the door of the coffee shop, Faith her the man sneeze a sneeze that seemed too loud for his stature and careful expressionless face.

She wished she could’ve seen the man sneeze up close, seen him lose his composure a little.

May 24

to me

It’s this sort of thing that she wonders if she ought to just keep secret. Three times she had tried to take a picture of the note she’d found from S. the night before, and all three times the image showed up on her phone’s little screen perfectly upside down. After the first inverted image, she checked to make sure she was holding the phone right-side up and then fumbled with knowing whether or not the phone usually took pictures ‎in the reverse of real-life. A dog in a field with the grass as the sky. A family on its head. She took another picture and the words that S. had written and tucked into the book titled Reflections still saved upside down. She did not have the sort of phone that shifted an image to right-side-up in endless adjustment to the way the phone was held, so when she flipped the phone over, the picture was corrected, the letters all facing the right direction. She took a picture of the front door, the sky a pale blue and the trees all black and green-gold in the sun-setting light. The door was perfectly upright, and the earth was below the clouds.

She had just come home from walking toward the middle school, and had taken a few pictures of the sweep of shining white and grey glittering vapors that were arcing across the sky, remembering some early-evening that she and S. had stopped to watch the sun go down at the park and had spotted an entire coastal landscape in the sky above the mountains, a sunset scene in a sunset, a curve of cliffs hugging a scrim of clouds that might have been an ocean.

Hearing his voice lately made her remember these sort of things. She’d walked halfway up to the school earlier that night, thinking about the night they’d first seen the flashes in the sky, sitting on the aluminum bleachers in the dark, wondering why the sky was flashing like that.

For a long time – a year, two years, more? – ‎she’d hardly been able to remember the person she had been. She had, of course, simply been herself, but she had developed some distance from…

(as she is writing, she notices that she’s gotten distracted…)

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Jun 2 (7 days ago)

to me

in which demons become simply elemental fear and what is experienced as godly is simply love and wonder?

Jun 8 (1 day ago)

to me

When I imagined myself writing to you, I pictured myself sitting on the porch, drinking coffee with a clipboard on my lap, handwriting.

I thought that maybe I’d start off in the morning, give myself a segment of time – say, from 10 ’til 11, or something like that – to be in touch with you. Not having a lot of stories bursting out of me lately – which isn’t to say that I haven’t experienced or created stories, just that they, these stories, aren’t exactly bursting out of me.

They, the stories, are settling quietly into the lines of my face, taking up perch in my irises, tucking themselves away in that chamber behind my windpipe, the space that used to collapse and explode under the weight of the ghosthand, made it hard to breathe.

Do you remember how that used to happen, those nights that something ‎tore out of me and all I could do was gasp while the world spun and Bangladesh made new shoes for my children as death began to win in the oceans?

God, you were a friend and a comfort to me.

In any event, I thought I’d write to you this morning, sitting in the sun, at peace with all the ghosts and shadows that flash at the corners of my eyes.

(I can’t help but to think that they – these shapes and shadows, flashes in the corner of my eye – are time travelers, because you are my friend. ‎ Yet I know it is just as likely that they are just tricks of perception, confused synapses, mistakes in seeing.

I like it when I can believe that they are time travelers, even for a moment, because then I can believe that maybe there is some way they – the believed-in time travelers – could help you…or could help me…or save the world or something.)

Starting off, maybe I’d just tell you about the day – you know, describe the weather, the shade of blue that the sky might be, maybe wax poetic about cerulean and/or azure, go on and on about the light reflected on the leaves of acacia, the spinning arms of maple in the wind, the brother bluejays in the hedge-trees never fighting over all the Montmorency cherries they could care ‎to eat because this year there are so many cherries on the two trees I planted years before I met you that all the birds could eat all the cherries they want and many will still fall to the ground and rot into the earth, sour and red.

Did I ever tell you about the peach tree that died? I’m sure I did. Its trunk was girdled with a fungus all the sudden, thick black goop that choked the tree to death. The man who was my husband had gotten that tree for me, and it died the same year that our marriage died – all the sudden, like I said. ‎The peaches it had born never really fully ripened, had fallen as hard green-furred knots of failed fruit. Two years after the tree had died, a single scraggly peach tree sprouted in its place…then another and another…and they have continued to sprout, all the old seeds from dead fruit.

Most of the saplings die, which is okay with me, but one has grown to be 15 feet tall and each spring blooms bright pink and each summer drops the little fists of would-be peaches into the yard.

One thought on “Mistakes in Seeing

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