Monday, September 08, 2014

Little fictions

How can I tell you what I feel if telling you changes how you'll feel about me?

I was sitting on a bench next to you. We watched little kids throwing bread crumbs into water two inches deep. Tiny imperceptible waves bit at the crumbs and vanished away more quickly. Little clouds of dust and algae followed races under water. Speeding through shallows, short life and memory, flashes of something but never the real things seen, ripples across the surface. Is that enough to know they are there?

It's not enough to know they were. It's never enough.

"You never see the kids get the bread back, do you?"

She laughed lightly, then said  "What?"

"The bread. The kids don't fish it back out of the water."

"They don't have to. Look."

"No, I mean, yes, but what if?"

She sat there. She thought for a moment, but I can't ever tell from the outside, so I used to think she was just sitting there the whole time, unthinking.

"I mean, what if they don't eat the bread?"

"Right, right, I got that. I was just thinking."

"Okay, but the point is, the kids don't go in the water."

"It's not that deep."

"But it is wet, and kids don't like wet."

"Are you kidding? Kids are like dogs. They'll eat shit if we don't tell them no."

"Disgusting! Outrageous! See, I knew there was a reason I didn't like dogs or kids."

Not true. I never understood that one. I mean, when it comes down to it, the kids I like and the dogs I like are about the same sort of person. Curious, soft, engaged, not pushy, not slobbery, not begging, perfect little straight men for my afternoon one act skits.

"You don't think they'll get the bread?"

"No. Bread is unimportant to a kid. They'll eat it, no doubt. No doubt. I'm just saying, once it gets wet, pond scum wet, they won't want to touch it. Most kids. Most kids won't want to touch it."

So we watched the kids. We watched the living nothings steal away crumbs into nothing.

You were there, you remember? Do you remember? I was just about to tell her how much I wanted kids, really, because inside me all the joy a kid who loved me could bring seemed like just the right kind of joy to make a man want to live on, forever. Just about, when the moment passed away, because you caught up to me and reminded me of something else.

She started to rub her leg just above her knee and then started pressing fingers into its skeletal outside. I watched her fingers turn white and red with the presses and releases, watched her skirt flutter softly against motion and intention, watched how she healed herself with that touch. I felt indecent and vulnerable, to be there watching such casual intimacy with the whole world. She one time walked around our trailer naked in the middle of the day; she often screamed out her pleasures in the middle of the night. Afternoons, though, were both the best times and embarrassing times, but she was worth feeling shameful in front of fellow trailer park rejects. She wasn't really obnoxious or aggressive or transgressive about how free she was with her body. She was just so accustomed to being scorned and humiliated, it wasn't any longer about confidence or stoicism. Maybe it had something to do with growing up surrounded by biblically limited folks and lots of her books to choose from.

Little flecks of bench paint on my hands, more a feeling of them than seeing them. The hygiene fixation kicks in whenever my hands feel messy, and this isn't just metaphorical. I rubbed my hands against my legs, and left the palms on my knees. This meant I had to lean forward. This meant I felt like getting up. This meant I had to leave this moment. This meant I have to leave her, there, on the bench, or somehow compel her to get up with me, ruining a moment I'd rather hold onto for much longer. Why can't I just let my hands stay messy? What am I trying to tell myself by thinking paint is poisonous, flecks worst of all, since they pass through the skin's defenses and enter your blood stream and avoid metabolic pathways and end up corrupting your genes in just the right way to turn off some vital protein synthesis protecting me from an ordinary cancer killing everyone who sits on benches? What does it say about me that I didn't actually think any of this, but felt it all emotionally, as habits, as instincts, as fears?

We sat there in silence.

I was surprised when one kid did get in the water, but maybe I was right. The kid was going for one of the nothing fish, invisible little fingertips of God stealing away bread the kids declared unfit for anyone else but fish. He never caught one, but he squealed enough to prove beyond any adult's doubt he meant to play in the mud.

So, maybe I was right. They'll play in mud, but won't play with muddy bread.

Or, maybe I was wrong. If a kid is willing to play in mud, isn't it likely he'll pick up soggy, moggy bread? Girl or boy, don't they all here and there just want to play with whatever we say not to?

I'd ask you, but you're not paying attention anymore to anything, except the clouds. The little clouds in the water reflecting the clouds in the sky. Dispersal and currents, suspended and moving, infolding, outlining, falling away, encircling, wisping.

The same laws of chaos at work, in the water, on the bench, in the minds, in the kids, in the scene, in the story, in the sky, in the world, in that realm between me writing this and you working it out together, for me.

I am nothing without her. But what I am without you, that's darker yet.

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