Then as Now

When it all falls away (pretense, fantasy). When we run out of words. When he is just a hunched figure in cotton underwear standing at the sliding door talking to the dog. When we are rumbling bellies and sore feet. When the teasing from hungry lips gives way to dishes and air leaking from tires.
 
Then. Only then. Not even now. Not yet.
 
Here is what is then: He looks up at the path, nothing but bare trunk and brown leaf, and sees a single white light hovering there. He stops and stoops, gazing. A tiny spaceship dips, indecisive, at the skin of our alien planet. This one light arcs sideways now, streaking there all wrong across the early winter path.
 
Mesmerized. Our breath, caught like mothwings. Light on a strand of spider thread plunges into some impossible distance then reappears an inch from our noses.
 
This is what he sees. Then as now.
 
I trust this. He finds filament hidden among knob and stone. He plucks the string and calls up the first note. The chord, an atonal twisting of this day, this everyday day, into its converse.
 
This will be then. On our most trodden route, I am lost in what he finds.
 
Now, he asks why we are busier. Are we busier? This second asking, the shift in emphasis. What is truth? Not only what do we make of it, but what do we choose it to be made of?
 
Summer came. I bought a home. He coached and then didn’t. We lost one weekend then another. We are more purple. Less driven. More painted. Less rested. Better fed. Steadier. Scruffier. Here.
 
We lay together far too late into nights, those fleeting nights forever becoming mornings.
 
The dog panted when the rain began. I thought the roof had opened and the sky had found us at last. No. It was just ice on the skylight. The clouds tumbled in when we weren’t looking. They shed their weight.
 
Winter edges closer.
 
In the window of the train is the reflection of the opposite window and then the reflection of this window in the bus kiosk wall. This I see now.
 
This commute like every other. Unlike anything ever. He does not ride with me except he does.
 
I think of the woman in the prairie who fell asleep on a winter night and rose three times, restless in the pitch black. She lay awake for hours until finally giving up the fight. She tried to step outside. The door would not budge. Snow piled in drifts to the roof had trapped her. Digging up through a window, she found the sun was setting on the following afternoon, which was, in fact, the day now behind her.
 
We are so frightened when we hear of those who fall alone and lay dying, hours into days with no one coming. I wonder how terrible this would be. To finally, finally know yourself as you are: solitary, and maybe not a you at all. To suffer there with your absent god, the songs your mother sang, the terror, the surrender. All of it, your own and not yours at all, because you are not yours. Not really. The illusion finally bends. In the polished glass, a reflection of self and the door opposite. The glow you thought was distant and sacred is simply spider floss. A trick of light. So very near.
 
Blood and lung. Salt and water. It is all just evolution’s clever twist, the story arc in the leather-bound volume you’ve become. You never owned it. It is on loan. When the reaper arrives, he is not a hooded wraith or a thief after all. Just a librarian with an overdue slip and an open hand. Then the cover closes on your meager pages, your handful of lines. Threads slip loose as they always do. Some maybe even still drifting from the spine.
 
When we are bent to bones. If he stays and maybe even otherwise. This is then: He catches those filaments between fingers fine and silvered. No knots. No binding them to or into. He holds the strands up before me just long enough then blows them to sky like lashes. Like a wish.
 

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