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loss

ANDREW  BURTON/THE  NEW  YORK  TIMES/REDUX

The Will of the Water

The bayous fill, and the water runs into the streets; the streets fill, and the water fills the highways and the underpasses. The water swallows cars and trucks and entire families of people. It swallows fathers and mothers and babies. The water turns the highway into an ocean; the white peaks of waves crest and crash against the sides of buildings. People wade out of their houses, through the water, toward one another and dry land. They climb to the second floor, and then the third; they scramble to their roofs and wave white T-shirts or towels toward the rescue they believe will come. Cages like open coffins descend from helicopters, and people climb into them, one at a time or as an inseparable group. A mother clings to her children as they ascend from the water toward safety. She never lets them go.

My husband and I watch the rescues on the news. There aren’t enough helicopters for everyone who needs saving, aren’t enough high-water vehicles, or boats, or flashlights, or meals, or warm beds. We watch the water rising in our own neighborhood, filling the streets up to our ankles, our knees, up to our waists. We are trapped here, on the little island of our address. We occupy ourselves and the children in the ways we can: we eat, we drink, we play board games and curl together in the bed. My husband and I take turns going outside to check the water, watch it rise. When we wake on the fourth day of rain, it is still rising.

Ars Poetica

In the evenings, we watched Jeopardy
Wore surgical masks once she got sick.
Before that my mother sent me to the store
for cigarettes all the time. Pack of Salem Lights.

Belief

I’d come into the room & try to write
a different ending on those anonymous walls. 
There was less time all the time
until time changed. You know what I mean. 

Photo by Rachel Eliza Griffiths

[Untitled]

There is no title. There is no title. The body is content. The body is window.
The body is container, curtain, chair, grid. Do you see? Bones & shoulders, a spine

Illustration by Michelle Thompson

My Father’s Toe

My father recently lost a toe. The second one on his right foot, lopped off in an outpatient procedure, quick and painless. Such a funny thing to lose, everybody thought—my mother, sisters, brother, the grandkids all finding much levity in the situation. They call him “Nine-toed Joe” now, and for his birthday his granddaughters gave him customized white tube socks, the ghoulish gap of his little amputation rendered with a red Sharpie. My father found the gift hilarious, and wore the socks proudly with his new sandals right through to Halloween. I laughed, too, pretending not to find it disturbing and macabre. His toes had become grotesque with old age, as toes do when you approach eighty, after decades of punishing footwear: Army boots, oxfords, wingtips, Chuck Taylor Converse All Stars on the basketball court, running shoes in which my father pounded the pavement, training for marathons he never ran. Now he’s barely able to get any shoes onto his feet in order to make it to church.

Illustration by Nicole Rifkin

Merge

Thundering down, a cataract from a high plateau, raising billows of dust, manes, tails, whinnies rippling like banners, a glamorous species, captive yes, but not entirely subdued, they—oh, no, a fellow in that ridiculous getup pops up from behind a rock and pulls out a—bink! That’s enough, goodbye stupid old show, time for a cup of tea. Pulls out—bang, bang, bang. Yes, sensible Cordis decides, not a drink, time for a nice cup of tea.

The dog, a parting so-called gift from unfortunate Mrs. Munderson, peers at the blank screen, baffled, then paws at Cordis. Moppet is not glamorous, except in the most trivial sense; Moppet is cute. What does Moppet want? A treat? A tickle? A furlough?

Illustration by Anna Schuleit Haber

The Pardner

It has been a year and five days since Mayowa lost her daughter—lost, because she cannot say the other word: suicide. 

Trout

Two years after her mother’s death, Jane’s boyfriend asked her to marry him, and nine months later, they moved across the country to start their new life. Jane was twenty-nine, ready to step away from Phoenix after a hard few years. Ryan had taken a job at a recording studio in Tennessee, and he pointed out that the public schools there were as bad as the ones in Arizona, so she could easily fail teaching fourth graders in either place. Her father was a kind, if distant, ichthyologist, and he seemed to think the move was maybe not ideal, but maybe not a bad idea. Jane was excited to start over. She’d been adopted when she was six, and she thought of six as the beginning of her real childhood. As they drove out of town, she decided twenty-nine was the beginning of her real adult life.

Losing

After your father gets lost for the third time,
      you get angry because he won’t answer his phone.
Part of me wants him to stay lost. God, what has stolen my generosity? 

Illustration by Chloe Scheffe

Amsterdam

In Amsterdam I lived with a man who was always sad. His younger brother had died in a car crash when my lover was sixteen. Though it had been thirteen years since the accident, he carried the loss as if it were an heirloom. He had brought the loss from Copenhagen, where he was raised, to London, where we met. And now in Amsterdam, I felt it in our flat, its foggy chill. I watched him while he was sleeping and saw the sadness flutter behind his eyelids. Sometimes when he woke, he was on the brink of tears. His name was Örjan, and I began to think of the umlaut over the O as a mark of sorrow: It hovered like a shadow. 

The first time I invited Örjan into my bed was right after he told me about his brother. I pulled the story out, unraveling him line by line, until he began to shudder and weep and I had to wrap my body around his. I liked his sadness, the way it made his silences seem full. When he tied on his running shoes and set out for a jog, I knew he had demons to outrun. When he stared, unblinking, into his coffee, I was sure he was thinking that if his brother were still alive, he would now be twenty-seven, the same age as me. 

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