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Too Far From Town

I see her sleep with her head on the table. I see the thoughts in her head that move her lips. I see the heaviness of her eyes as they do not open. I see the plain behind her, thoughts reaching out to the hinterland where the wheat is ten foot high. I see the animals, wild and tame, that visit the waterhole where we ate our lunch. And between the blades of grass I see the ants carry away the crumbs we dropped.

I see her walking towards me in the morning sun. I see the pattern of her dress and the place where the thread's undone. I see her ask me, Do you want some? Are you brave? as she hands me the bottle with the lemonade. I see her reach with her arm and describe the scenery, the down of her hair sloping where the river left it; I see her finger describe an arc across the horizon, pointing as if she knew where the land was that we'd left. She laughs, and says, "There are the tatters. Those are the dreams we left behind." And sitting down on a rock, she taps it like solid, as if it was her that owned, and said, "And these are the dreams we have now."

You like me, don't you? You just haven't said as much yet. You keep it secret so the world don't know. You keep it locked up in that treasure chest you call a heart where those girly things live, the ones you kept alive like your chinchilla, the ones you showed me. You remind me of something that happened as a boy, some building that arose from out the day when my faith was forming, my faith in things, I mean, that they possibly existed. You remind me of the laughter that we had as we came into town from the country and the shops were quainter then, like full of darkness and the floors were made of wood. In fact, everything was made of wood, including the people who served us in the shops were made of wood, but mostly you could only tell it in their throats, the way they laughed. That's it, their throats were made of wood but the rest of them was flesh, like the rest of us, except they had eyes like rings which glinted when they shone and spoke when they rested. Sometimes you stopped and wondered what they said.

I think it's time we should move on, being adults and all. I think you should tell me what you're thinking and how your life could be better if we lived by the sea and drove down every day to understand the fauna. I think we could spend some time together roving the sea-shore talking about the days you knew in your short life and long nights. I think you could tell me about Saskatchewan and Manitoba and how many industries you passed while driving west. And maybe I could kiss your lips like a girl for the first time, except it wouldn't be the first time, it would be the last until the next. And maybe you could see the imprint the world has made on me and the way I changed the world to find you. Because all of these materials are plastic and need redemption before they shine; don't think for a minute they exist without you, like the scientists say. Don't think there can be a shore without a magician's wand that calls it into being or that the self I knew and crumbled by the waterside was rebuilt from sand. I mean, what was the point of all their experiences if they came to nothing? That was the question that they never asked when they lived in the period allotted to them. That's the look they never returned in the snaps they took and kept for looking back, the young men and women flowing out and settling down, becoming solid, then turning into rock.

Some of them kept moving. They planned how to separate from each other as their opportunities developed and learnt the meaning of friendship from the distant planets who hug their allotted paths and rarely vary unless it's to kiss an aberration in the Kuiper belt. We were some of the ones who kept moving, tied to our bodies like a rising tide, feeling the drag anchor of the years questioning our thoughts, recurring like the passage of the moon, saying, Soon you will be thirty, soon you will be forty, and soon you will be gone. It was precisely then that I started to notice you. But you were with him on those days and he was with you, in a kind of way, his kind of way; it was a way of leaning back from you when you touched his body, as if the infection of your love would reach his heart and rot it; it was the way he patted you instead of caressing, like you would your favourite car that surprisingly got you to your destination one last time. In those days I was just the watcher, the interloper with no name, I saw what happened and registered the signs. I made notes of your smiles as they went from him to me and registered their modulation on the gauge of my tongue and how your hand went out to touch me and then withdrew, I saw the world through you, the energy it required to make you shine when the days around you were so ordinary—how you stayed fourteen while made from stardust.

So I sat and waited for the envelope of your affection to groan and burst, like words would tumble down the stairs for children, or we could be alone together in a place where our histories would coalesce and merge, you saying, "Look at this starfish colour!" and I would answer, "Let's leave the future far behind us and think ahead again to a time in the middle when there's brief rests for sport. Imagine that, if none of these conversations had started to rattle and we never knew the seasons turned us over like leaves against the hedgerow when it's autumn come. Imagine if we'd found it out together and now didn't have to explain." Then, after all the noodling, we gave up our bodies to each other, embarrassed at first at their meatiness, the carnal signs, but we greet the tenderness as a signal of affection preceding lust, of how uncertain we are of anything apart from spasm, because it happens after a while and throws off time with intensity, how it bathes us in a careless light when we hear each other's bodies flow like a river, back again where we all begun.

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