The number of houses in between my house -or not properly my house, but the house from which I bent curfew, left for college, married, etc.- and the house of Alfred Charles Kinsey, noted sex researcher, is six.
To get there, amble up a damp and creviced slant of sidewalk. Duck under the maples and the prideful oaks, past the white house, past the red house that recently sold, past the day lilies and the lawn care sign and the lilac branch that guillotines, sweetly, your throat.
It's not the nearness that cuts. It's the distance.
By which I mean: I wish time moved more slowly and with less precision; I wish it were off its game.
Double back, because I've missed the house of the girl who captained my state champion high school spell bowl team, spell bowl ranking not as important as sports in the eyes of my fellow prisoners of taxpayer-funded education, not one fifth as important, not one twentieth -but nevertheless possessed of a certain satisfying rhythm, an in/out thrust by which words entered your brain and then exited, whole, impressing themselves only insofar as their letters were pleasurably ordered or, occasionally, chafed-
but there's a suicide in there. We've forgotten, but here he is, stitching his consonants to his vowels like a sweatshop granny, riding beside us on the bus. We stop at KFC for too-late lunch; he gets biscuits, no chicken. He's only a freshman. He's someone's little brother. We ask him what flowers we remind him of. He says peony, cat tail-
Kinsey, it is rumored, loved flowers. Loved to look at them but also to lure them, to tease them out of the muck and sweat and the bang-bang-bang of the hoe against the earth. The earth doing what it was supposed to be doing, all of us doing what we are supposed to be doing-
Except we do more. After the state championship -cheap medals, no glory- we drive home. It's seventy miles south and east, the hills opening up, the sky folding shut. We are quiet on the bus. We disembark. We graduate. We fuck. We blink. None of us gardens. One of us dies. Our captain builds canoes, counsels students at Kinsey's alma mater, administrates arts programs, collides with an SUV.
Her parents fly her back, put her in a nursing home south of town. They return to their house, the blue one that's the last house before you reach mine, the one I'd stop in front of if it weren't almost dark, almost home.