All That Keeps Us




“She was twelve when she left and her room was all horses. It probably still is. Multicolored horses all stenciled by hand. A Navajo horse blanket was draped over the back of a small rocking chair that she had outgrown but still used for dolls or stuffed animals. My parents never changed a thing about it. Sometimes they spoke about turning it into a gym or a sewing room but they never made any real plans and when my mother got sick it was never spoken of again. The night after my father’s funeral I fell asleep on the couch and when I woke up they were all upstairs laughing. The three of them. Together. I went up the stairs slowly, like a child getting out of bed to ask for a glass of water. When I got to the top of the landing they had just set down at the table for dinner and an empty seat marked my absence. But instead of going to join them I went back downstairs to Abby’s room. I wanted to be sure that she was home for good. To be sure the pale green bear with one good eye was back on the bed where it belonged. That all that she had taken with her when she left was returned. It wasnt. When I opened the door the horses were all gone and they had been replaced with creatures from dreams. The wings and the limbs all mixed up. Too many eyes and too many tails and most of them with only one nostril. All mouthless. How would they eat? I ran back down the hall and dove onto the couch and when I woke up the house was silent.”



“Another one of the illusionary aspects of the world humming in the cortices of the individuals bodies within it is the ever simplifying idea of control. The widespread notion that we are able to control ourselves in relation to the larger spectrum of existence. The line of thinking that seems to permeate the culture is that while we are unable to control those things outside of our immediate jurisdiction, we do have control over our reactions to those things as they come to have an effect upon us. This of course goes against the very idea of fate that so many want to believe in and when they attempt to reconcile this view with the way the world truly is they run aground in the shallow waters of reason. When the minds that dedicate their lives to the study of the human enterprise come to some small understanding of what appears to be going on, there is inevitably some other mind or group of minds with an idea or ideas that contradicts the first idea and so the debate is passed on for generations with no more awareness of the nature of things than those who have come before or those who will come after. The processes that determine our actions are constantly fluctuating and commingling with a potentiality of innumerable consequences that makes the comprehension of the system in which we operate impenetrable. Our perception of the world is unable to occupy the same space as its true nature. It is the same lens with which we view death and its beginning. Such unimaginability will always force us to recognize the limits of our sovereignty. If we are not humbled by the events of our lifetime then death will sweep those events away and humble us all the same. The disparity of our imaginings of death and its realities can not be overstated. We have no way of storing up for its winter. No shelter to build that will not be buried in the waters of its flood. If there is a blessing to be found in existence then look no further. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son and no other gift will ever compare. We do not appreciate death for what it means to us. In the valley of its shadow we carry on with our days and our nights and all the time it waits for us on the horizon like the horizon waits for the sun in the west. The measures that we enact in our regimens to counterbalance its weight are all for nothing and though we have no control over what we have come to deem our fate we spend the entirety of our lifetimes waging war against its inevitability. The lack of control unsettles us and we fear the unmasking of our true powerlessness. At no other juncture is our vanity ever really tested save for this one final obstacle. Here we meet the enemy and surrender.”



“Whatever power made this world what it is left no trace of its intentions unless you count love but then even love is a shallow possessor of all the word should mean. The thing I am talking about I cant really talk about. Its like trying to write down the words that God might have used when he spoke the world into being. Maybe breath is the best way to say what I mean. The way a puppies breath feels against your face, or a lovers. Just the feeling of the movement of the air on your skin lets you know that there is something more than the skin and bones of the creature living inside of it. A resonation. You cant even get the same feeling by looking into their eyes. If their eyes had been put out by some great misfortune you could still feel their breath hot and alive on your skin.

I could feel his breath on the back of my neck as he came around behind me and put his hands on my shoulders. He leaned in close and told me that all he wanted was the package. That’s what he called it. The package. Whatever the hell that meant. I leaned forward, trying to get his hands off of my back. I didnt want him touching me and I told him the next time he did I would kill him. He laughed but I meant it and I’d never felt that way not even once before in my whole life. I had the feeling that I could strangle him with my bare hands and drain the breath right out of him and watch it float away on the wind. I’d been in plenty of situations before where I was in a position of weakness. I’d been taken advantage of and left behind to sort out what it all meant. But even with all of the cruel things I’d had men do to me or seen men do to others I had never wanted any of them to suffer for their sins. Well I wanted this bastard to suffer. And when he came around to the front of the chair where I was sitting I looked into his eyes and knew that he would. It was like watching the coming attractions before a movie. I couldnt see the whole story but I knew how it would end.”



“I took out a book and began to read. It was a book that Melinda had bought but never got around to starting. I was left to finish the work of her life. Her books. The raising of her son. The searching out of her daughter. Things that had been ours once. But more and more the pieces of our former life had begun to feel less like mine and more like a crumpled sheet of paper with an old to do list on it that someone had meant to throw away. Maybe if Abby came home the three of us could be a family. I doubted she would but what if she did. My kids were the only real connection to Melinda and I needed them back. I needed her close. Daniel had started to drift away as soon as we came home from his mother’s funeral. He asked if he could skip dinner and I said yes. After that the only time we ate together was at La Maria. He wasnt angry, just busy. Life has a way of filling in the emptyspaces. Like a cup that can be filled with any number of smaller objects until all of the available space is used up. First rocks and then sand and then water. Our days become like that if we are not careful. We must guard against the march of the trivial. For in the end we become like Atlas and spend the meager hours of a lifetime holding up the weight of all that we have ushered in and set upon it.”