Garden City, 2.D.2, 1100 words

The whispers needn’t travel far. The landscape is empty. “It’s quiet.” “My daughter died. I was wedging pillows behind a headboard to reach an unplugged lamp. Or, making a bed. Or peeling a dam of soaked towels from a bathroom door sill. Seeing through some sheer curtains, the day was cloudy. In the wide open space of loss I keep moving and never encountering anything, not a rise, a dale. I want to recall, or isolate, what I was doing at that moment, or second. If I knew how to correlate her death, the work could reclaim what I lost, or an aspect of it. If the square edges of that lost moment, that lost one, are walled in, even if I couldn’t tile them each day together or each moment digested or scrubbed clean beneath the next of the same, it could radiate like an icon, as if I had been able to return to her body and take a plait of hair, or run my fingers across it, peel away a patch pocket from her robe, or smell my fingertips after running a pinch along the terry, skewing from its border within each repeat of the ritual to admit a stria of rosy light like perhaps the sun stopped in rising behind a mountain.” “You want to control the loss?” “I don’t want to have lost anything.” “How are you sure she is dead?” “I stared at the bed. Wet towels snaked through it reeking from sopping up spoiled fluids. I cried, just once, and hugged and kissed the soiled towels. Globs of snot and lotion massaged into the size of eggs broke open. I stopped crying and stripped the bed and contemplated the print on the mattress. It was bliss. The odor of burnt dust on a heating element tingled. I made the bed tight. I knew it was that moment. I never found my way back to her.” “Listen. O my lost one, your eyes appear in the patterns of fabric and carpet, take some still-warm tea into a steaming bath, about you are flowers, the aroma of cooking food, let in the lamplight, smell the fragrance, hear distant music. So be it. KXI! This is as it should be. I am as I should be. All becomes emptiness. From that emptiness appears a small furnished room. From a bloodstain in the fabric you return to form. You are perfect, as familiar as in life. May the consciousness of the deceased be brought here. You who have gone beyond this life, please listen to me. In order for us to be liberated from suffering you must sit firmly. Attract your mind to the materials that surround you. May your consciousness be brought to and stabilized in their form. This is as it should be. I am as I should be. All becomes emptiness. From that empty state appears a vessel of precious materials: natural fabrics soft to the touch, sweet, faint singing, plates of food to chew, lick, and suck, mugs of tea and the burning odor of coffee smoke, peaceful, slow sounds. KXI! This syllable is the opening of a door. From here, on the uniformly curving path, is an identical open door. Behind it is a small furnished room. Remember our names, so you may be born in the same effigy as in life, to the same gesture, each day.” Connie’s nude orthopedic shoes catch lost light from the doubted chandelier. “Even though you’re still, your hair standing all in one direction makes it seem like you are moving. It’s odd that we die.” “I consider a particular motel in Salina to itself be a cause of death. It is toward the end of State Street where buildings turn their backs on plains and grass to keep from being overtaken. Some sit on blocks. The manager’s counter has glass over it though he is never visible. Bright glare gauzes over it even in day. Passing by my head ached between the eyebrows like a finger pointed out from in the dark. Each time I passed the motel, in different processes that indexed my daily life, the air and sky, the thick atmosphere that keeps us from taking each nick, flake, and drip like strung beads rattling behind us, fell away and I would be haunted by the uncanny details of its normalcy. It was more complete, as if made of glass and visible all at once. The windows are opaque. Teal and old white panels clatch into volumes. Dust pussies tumble in isolated clarity from the vents. Paint flakes fall like snow. Each beadlet of steam from exhaust pipes hangs alone. It appears to almost cave in upon itself but is held up by men inside, lurking crews leaning in shallow closets sharpening spikes or pointing bludgeons in the dark. It draws me, at points in each day, like the urge to submit to sleep earlier and earlier. I can recall both the place with me standing out by the road and also see what is about to be seen by this man standing out by the road. However, what I see did not happen. This man walking across the court, his transverse shadow darkening up to the eave line. When a shadow falls from my casting, especially if it moves, I find it exceedingly difficult to unite the components it has drawn apart. They don’t drift away from one another but appear to misalign. The threads pulled out of sill or cornice cleaved, or between word on paper and pen in hand, stitch not into their adjacent counterparts, nor even into mismatched aspects, but weave into the shadow as if streaming down into a rift. Oddly, I see the parking court and arcade united and resolute. I know I am seeing the form of a recollection I am yet to be ahead of. It is not a premonition but a misalignment of this one physical place in the encrusted relic of my life. I believe if we sit still long enough, if no one sees us, if we leave no further trace, if we do not choose, if we are deposited like a seated statue in a room with heavy curtains, not imprisoned, because imprisonment is contingent on the choice to remain living, not having chosen, so far down from the final impulse, the final stimulus of expectation, we can give ourselves to death while alive. If familiarity and stasis are enough to prolong our chosen lives they are enough to draw forward our inescapable demise.” “I can’t say the words.” “You cannot.”

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