They have come, early, to a river without a bridge. Scuttle down the sides the papers fly from their pockets in the race to a cool water. The banks are muddy but one of them has swam here before, come through the woods. That one says he would take him to a small fort on an island deep in the woods where did he know? there’s a river. He didn’t know and the creek’s ravine is satisfying and secret.
He has come here in a dream though that is a mistake, it happening before so it is a memory but so fuzzed as to make the friend this or that one perhaps not him or him and the creek is a river is a small lake never big and always hidden in thickets or groves and always a wood deep and delicious in the size of memory (though the road was not far).
A certain memory then, of objects that substantiate his movements, these memories this nostalgia incorporates into this doing of this exact moment. It is this drumsong and this leather engraving on a belt, this hat and this ravine.
After his divorce, he moves to Ohio, a small town. Now it is late August in a mild summer. September will begin soon, so will the cool season and boys come to the field, play soccer while the light remains.
The lake. Several days will pass there. In his bag, several sheets of paper. Each day in late summer in dead calm but in evening sun, he folds a boat. Blank pages all, each a letter. The drum marches distantly.
The accord set for whatever peace from battle. He imagines brightly clothed soldiers, a nineteenth century war, thick and stiff clothing. Fields of battle shift and the paper boats can be let go in swift if not precise formation. Ringing the football field, the band’s march. Time passes.
Say this: was there some moment past in a rose bush he as a small child small enough to travel in and under this bush and meet with a boy, this among secrets.
Now, sitting at the lake, he thinks about what he has done. One month before school begins where he has been hired as a teacher. He has moved to a house. His savings are ample, there is a smelly part of town. He rents an entire house there.
He remembers also someone older on a celebratory day on a hill poke holes in a tin can and place blue hot coals inside, whirling it round on a string and whooping whooping circled by light. He once played in a ravine. Someone once gave him a hat; he speaks this language and knows these words in another and these in another and he writes with this one so he knows at least that that he hears himself repeating tin can poked with holes tin can poked with holes tin can tin can tincan tincan tincan tincan tincan almost gone tincantincantincantincan almost gone but turning away from it, eyes closed to feel the wind off the lake, he finds laughing that there it is ready to bite again, tin can.
So he, beside the lake, with a preoccupation, admittedly boyish, of paper boats. He recognizes that he is purposely creating drama and its accompanying landscape to relieve. The picture wakes him to the relevant fact. He has recreated, no—re-envisioned, heroically—a child playing alone. As the thought finishes, the theater lights fade and he is again beside the lake.
* * * * * * *
He feels a panic as he thinks about his new job. As he eases out of it. She would have approved. A productive waiting she would have called it.
His wife. The words beat twice, are the snares of the marching band. Da dum, da dum, da dum.
She sent him letters, their envelopes containing blank pages. He has been thinking about her.
And the other? Which one was it. Oh yes the dear friend. Who came and we sang, what did we sing. Was it that one. Oh yes it was him. Oh yes the dear friend. When we sang. Which one. And the song. Which.
It must have been his birthday. You had arranged a party for he was your friend and it was his birthday. But they left the crowd because you and he could set up a rosebush, large and filling out the street with a strong flush of alcohol and there was the sun, not set, and a spring day and there was talk. So with thoughts, you think, there is not this man or that but him once. Even now you can summon the warm face, the blood thick in the face from the drinking, your forehead and his meet and a shout throated and released. The stone walls and bricks of the street clear and empty, a chamber for his voice for his cry of life. Oh deep sound. Put your hand to your face, his forehead once there, so it is, you confess, not this, that, but this, and that is memory, fear living there.
There is the event of them in several habits of conversation. At his house or his house, at the restaurant, at the bar. And the memory arises of those (that) occasions (occasion): Communion Communication Fraternity. The words sway in his mind and as he forces the remembering, he thinks those Historian words, smoothing fact into theory. When it was the two of them, sitting, discrete.
* * * * * * *
School begins but he is not there, asleep in front of the class, a voice settling on the shelves and heads, an addition to the room’s dust and light. A friend whom he saw in the past. For a while, daily.
* * * * * * *
He is the greedy horse starving between two bags of oats, choosing between paradoxes, mind faltering to know if one empty the other wise. In his brain, the friend and his wife, standing equally on two opposing lobes, asking of him.
After school he walks past the lake to his home. There is a letter in the mailbox, another letter from his wife so she is still there, she has found him and is living somewhere new again, so he takes the time to reply, thinking maybe then he can rise from his chair.
It is only an accident, however, and the chair fits just as well. He knows the sadness of the unraveling, which not bitter, after all, begun some years ago, but still the unraveling shows like the dust on the mirror shelf. What to do with it, too gone for repair though repair was cheap in every purchase save the doing.
* * * * * * *
The children ask him questions, it is difficult for him to respond. Somehow the unlawed, the criminals of Chester A. Garfield Public High school, acted with mercy in the classroom of what everyone knew, adult and child alike, to be an imitation.
Criminals of a type, flush they both had been in the face, when they found the briar patch, a thorny young creature and not thick but thick enough for the hiding of them, had arisen in a lot they had never seen. Examining it, they went under, the other leading, tearing at the ground with their fingers hoping to get to the center. It was there that they did and hid their criminal acts: he had taken a bottle of his father’s whisky there, so their drinking partnership was early established, and he had brought cheese and bread.
They started early on a Saturday and were sick by ten in the morning. They dug holes in the earth for their vomit, and were scared of dying and whipping both so sat there eating the cheese sandwiches. Their minds were soft and liquid, the branches netted the sky above them, he thought he wouldn’t mind the dying and someday he might bring a girl here and do the same and perhaps that was what love was and sobering by evening went home to a scolding, of course, triumphant.
Was it him, truly, had they traveled away together, to the city together, or was it a semblance of him that he had later met in the city and put the two together as they served the same purpose. This man or that woman, accidents and coincidence were the substance of his memories so what could those words possibly mean? That his dreams had objects which he juggled and slapping these objects into his palm and hurling them without caution into the air, and he sat in his chair studying at a distance the picture of this violent juggler and watched the violence below nonetheless spring into perfect arcs of motion above, listless sitting watching.
And when he had gone away to another city, finally to another language and another country, how he had met his wife. And she was a coincidence also, yet he thought that their combat fit his ideas of marriage. They had stood at a museum in St. Petersburg and shivered and they had both turned, he from an old way that he had forgotten, and she in some—wonderful he had thought at the time—auguring of his action and each pantomimed the other so that they both turned and plugged a nostril with a finger and voided mucus onto the snow. He stood facing her and behind them both, two snot blobs in the snow.
In San Francisco, he is in a hotel bed with his wife. He thinks that he is hungry as they had traveled the whole day to get here and only had one cup of coffee, too excited or busy to have eaten. Well, the truth was that circumstances had mismanaged his stomach. They had gotten up, had the cup of coffee and there met the man who was going to Las Vegas, half the way, right that moment. So off they went and the same happened in Las Vegas so now here they were, she tired and happy, he anxious and hungry and happy.
Preparing for bed, a partial light from the street lamp. The window open, the room is filled with a coolness. His clothes are not twisted and his sheets are straight. He is wearing cotton sweat pants and a t-shirt and his mind is blank.
* * * * * * *
He has returned. An evening in fall he searches through a wood and finds a river, now with a bridge. He carefully walks down the embankment, making sure nothing in his pockets comes unburied and stands at the creek.
He felt conscious of taking the time after his divorce, the sadness, picking that up like a roll of dough and stretching it. He knew he did so with a penitent’s selfishness, the infirm pleasure that came after the heart broke, reviewing the breaking.
Then after a while, it wasn’t even the breaking, but the sound of the action that he followed out, rode upon to seek other similarities.
* * * * * * *
Going to sleep he notices the lamp light of this room is almost the exact color of this other lamp light in this other room, and he sickens with sadness and desire to go to this other room with this other light. In his dreams he goes there to find it is the same room and wishes to wake to regain the former but it is by then day and the night light and wall, so inconsistent their ellipse of movement and so precise his memory of color, never repeat.