When I drop the dead crow in the compost bin it folds like a puppet with no hand. It feels auspicious, dead birds, and I’m glad I’m not getting on a plane today, laying low.
We enter the roundabout swiftly, that don’t-F-with-me way you do in roundabouts when you pretend you don’t see anyone.
And I am on the trail with the dog again thinking about the other loners I’ve known, the men who go funny as they age, or revert more to themselves, the funny men they are. How they take on a black hole quality where the sucking gets stronger, the closer you get.
The guy in Germany near my mom’s, French, who keeps the unwanted flowers from his true love, some 20 years ago, gathering dust right there by the TV, the rabbit ear antennae, still drawing a signal on him, some reminder he won’t let go. And though there is fire and clouds in his eyes, there’s a soul there too, an injured dog’s eyes.
I meet the same guy coming down off the trail and he stops me, wants my input on the word Nigger: is baiting me but I won’t back down, I’m a writer I say and he asks what is it you write then, Writer? and I say memoir, which quiets him.
He has stories too, hundreds of them, and his eyes sharpen on mine, they flicker like he’s trying to see inside me, pull me in.
He says back then you see, kids could do whatever they wanted. He was in the subway in New York city just playing around, watching this man’s brown hands moving behind a window, making change, and the man gestured for him to come, to stand inside the booth before rush hour so he doesn’t get run over, and so each day he’d go back to be with the man until one time, the man gave him an envelope to give to his parents and the envelope was a written invitation for him and his parents to join the black man’s family for dinner in the black part of town called Bronx or something which I said wonderful and he said it’s not wonderful, my parents weren’t racists like that we just went and had dinner, no big deal. There’s nothing wrong with the word Nigger despite my politically correct response, he says, it’s just a word.
I ask him if he writes his stories down and he says he doesn’t, he can’t think like that — he had polio as a kid and couldn’t write properly with that side of his body, they made fun of him when he tried to write on the chalkboard, called him a dunderhead.
And there’s a part of your brain that is the real you, the part of your brain that keeps the stories of your life. And how much is that part of your brain really you when you don’t have anyone who will listen to it, what happens then?
There’s a kind of inwardness that becomes toxic over time. You keep looking inside expecting something more.