Clouds spun out in pillowy strands, like cotton candy. The frozen leaves on the rhododendrons collapsed in on themselves like umbrellas. They had a copy of The Corrections in the lending library on the dead end street so I nabbed it, and when I got to the lake I sat on the book on a rock watching a crow; the sound of its dung slapped the ice, and it flew off.
They’re getting bullish about the ice on the lake and some, gathered on the docks dangling off the edges, testing it with their feet. Three boys using their skateboards like hammers beating it, trying to get it to break, but the ice just stares back cross-armed, not blinking.
Remembering last Friday coming off the trail with Ginger, back to the car collapsing my poles, thinking about my job, they haven’t formed a complete impression of me yet so I could be anyone/anything: I’m like that myth of the clay Golem from way back, a formless clump of matter waiting for someone to give me a command, to breathe new life into me.
When I got ready to look for a job at the end of the summer I started by getting new clothes and shoes, thinking that would refresh my look: but I gravitated to the same style I had in my last job and stopped, and thought I needed something new.
Before, when we lived in Europe and spent last winter in the UK, I’d take whatever I wore that day and just leave it in a pile by the bed, get up the next morning and reassemble it, the same procedure in reverse, starting with the socks.
In that myth of the Golem, they thought you could make a creature out of dust or mud and then by summoning the divine, you could animate the thing by writing a note and putting it in its mouth, or through a slot in the forehead.
I thought about my job and what I’d do to keep it. And I realized I was walking the same way an old friend of mine used to in college, who died young and was troubled, and like me, wanted to write.
We traded books and tapes and spent nights on the golf course by the university dreaming, trying to figure it all out, so close, and so far away.
And I realized at the lake, all the dumb things I used to do just to make my life more interesting, to give me more to write about. I tethered my life to writing and when I didn’t write, I questioned how much I really mattered. I thought the most interesting parts of life were around the edges, and didn’t realize how much more there was in the middle.
My friend Peel walked with his head at a slant, like he was thinking about something, or slept badly on his neck. He looked like someone had stepped on him, like a bug partly broken, that’s how he looked every day.
And as I remembered Peel, getting into my car, thinking how I’d always wanted to bring him back to life in a story, I wondered if I’d breathed some part of him into me, his memory—and if I was that same, formless clump waiting for someone to put a note in my mouth, to bring back life to me, too.