Thursday, March 20, 2008

On Not Walking; On Water

I'm running and I see this kid, nine or maybe ten, black t-shirt and greasy hair, paddling like a dog through his yard. Here I am, red-faced and sweaty, guzzling will in order to propel myself forward into a future in which I am, if not healthy, wealthy, and wise, at least exercised; and here he is, swimming.

One of us is being rude, but I can't tell who.

Everything's flooded. It's rained for three days, and there's water in the basement, in the old library, flung in sheets of black ice across the street. People are having accidents and coming down hard on their elbows and losing, according to the radio, "irreplaceable" family mementos. The word snags me like a branch hidden in the flow of talk: sure, I want to ask, you lost the pictures, but what were they doing for you anyway?

I run until I've burned up all my will, until the stink of scorched will streams behind me in colorless drifts. I sputter and stop. For the rest of the day I will read nothing of consequence, locomote in no cardinal direction, choose no righteous path. I will manage dinner, drink tea, maybe stare at the wall. It will be time for bed and I will go willingly, not kicking and screaming like I would have at seven, like I should at twenty-seven because this day, this particular Thursday, is dead.

Meanwhile, the boy wades out into the water. There is more than a foot of it, draped like a cold, grey coverlet over the lawn. The sky is the kind of white to which trees are violently opposed. The boy chooses his route, aiming for the middle of the makeshift lake; once there, he proceeds to lower himself, inch by inch, into a squat. A car splashes by. The boy leans forward until first his hands, then his elbows, last his shoulders disappear from view. He pushes off with his feet and moves like that, like a water moccasin or some lost piece of our amphibious past, all the way across the lake to where I'm already gone.

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