Here Once, Forever Gone. Now And Forever Here.
“To feel at home in a place, you have to have some prospect of staying there.”
It was the two old brothers who started the unraveling. One eighty-one and the other eighty-three. Too old to be restless so it had to be something else. Something wilder. They made it from corn and sugar in the woods for the longest. Now they made it in a shiny room for what would probably be not long enough. There was a clear version and an amber one. They poured for me the amber while an old boar on the wall watched over us all. If I listened with some intent, I could hear it in their voices as clear as the glass sliding across the bar to me.
It whispered and I drank.
“It is strange the way your mind withdraws from a place it knows you are going to leave.”
Another favor asked. What used to be devotion supported by roots was now just cold motions. Another favor granted. It didn’t matter the specifics for it had been a long undoing with layers that stacked and pressed us thin. We should have been wiser and saw it for what it was instead of believing what it could become. But that was our sin and not theirs, although they certainly had plenty to account for. So slowly at first. Then an abrupt jolt.
It roared and I sent my simple response while letting this be the last time that I would bite my tongue.
“I was no sooner convinced that I was going to leave that I became eager to be gone.”
We took all the dry rocks from the edges at first as the line started to rise out of the water and into the air. Little piles of rubble, each smaller than the one before. Then we pulled up from below and worked on in this way until the sun began to fade and the air cooled. It wasn’t far from home but it was far enough that it felt special. And so we submerged our bodies in the freeze, held our breath, and counted.
It called and I knew it’s voice like my own.
“Staying and thinking of going, for one thing, made me sad.”
She was a month younger than her and ours was a month younger than theirs and he wasn’t old old but he was more than a month older than me. They were fine people. Some of the finest. While they may have had the means to have much and the mind to put the much to good use, you got the feeling that they didn’t care too much. This much I was sure. Without pretense, they had opened their home and their family and given us friendship and wisdom and encouragement and that was what we needed when we needed it.
It filled us with the bittersweet and yet we rambled on down the road..
“I know better by now than to try and predict what is to come.”
I have cleaned tables, made cole slaw, fried catfish, cleaned cars with tooth brushes, rewound movies, folded clothes, coached college softball, preached my loudest, answered phones, made copies, stitched books, played bumper pool, tied myself up, talked to famous authors, wrote stories, sold computers, bought computers, drawn things, run lights, mixed sound, made videos, built sites, opened space, made friends and made enemies. I am thirty-four. I do not fucking know what is next.
It danced in my ear and I knew the song and I let my foot tap along with it.
“Some of the changes in my life were imposed, and some where chosen – if by “chosen” I may mean that I chose what I seemed already to have been chosen by, desire having obscured the alternatives.”
It was her. She came to me at my lowest and when I least expected it but she came right on in and made herself mine nonetheless. And I am awfully glad she did. She could be stubborn at times but was always smart and always pushing. She likes to think things through and run them over and over in her mind until she settles in on it. Then sometimes she would react and run out on down a line in a hurry and it is all I can do to keep up and ask enough questions to slow it down enough to make me feel better about it all. But it was her. As undoubtedly as anything I have ever known, it was her. Forever and always and specifically for all eternity.
It whispered and I breathed it in.
“Here once, forever gone. Now and forever here.”
It whispered and I drank.
* All the bold things are lines from Jayber Crow as Jayber prepares to pick up and move down the river.