I stand by the car with my hand on the door. Streetlights and porch lights dot the neighborhood like little halos of indifference. Lazy, robotic mules on a rope, blinking in circles of white and yellow light. I look at the lights while the voices file into the car. First the Noisy Voice with his pointy nose and black hat; his little cape flapping about as he bounces on the rear dash, jabbering and carrying on so that anyone who can’t tune him out is agitated and elevated by a barrage of purple sound. Smothering Voice climbs into the middle…
There is the one friend who loses herself in the men she dates. And another friend who never dates. There is one in a round body with lumpy sides. An excessive appetitive and lots of wine. Loud, red, purple, and gross. One with black body hair and a bold face. Then another more pretty, but vain and well-built, with thick yellow armpit hair that hangs to her sides. The charming one with green eyes. The childless mother, bitter and sad. The angry friend. The friend with trauma. The secrets. The brave friend with square shoulders (who you wish you were…
The birds come to my yard to eat. They come in Winter for red berries, pull invertebrates from the ground in Spring.
In Autumn, they eat ripe seeds of grass.
In Summer, they eat fruit: grapes, apples, pears, plums.
I live in an old orchard.
In my neighbor’s yard, a persimmon and fig tree. On the hill, a pecan, and almond. Behind the garage, an old walnut.
The birds come, generation after generation, both fancy and plain. The titmouse, the woodpecker, the yellow sapsucker.
A black phoebe sits on the chain-link fence. A flock of juncos pecks the ground.
A flyaway ember as small as a gnat aims for my jacket. It lands on my arm. I seal the wound with duct tape.
After the fire diminishes in intensity and most of the brush has been consumed, we have less to do.
My mother takes my daughter for a walk. I rake the edges of the pile and stoke the coals. “Yes,” I think, “I am good at this.”
Finally, there is nothing left to do. I lay on the ground and wait.
I look up at the sky. I feel the earth.
It has been a long time…
I awoke, as I always did, laying on my back in the sand.
It’s really more of a coming to than an awakening. Disappearing still makes me queasy. I wonder if this will go away. Sometimes I come to with a slight headache.
I feel the dense sand of the desert beneath me while I wait for my eyes to adjust. It is dusk, almost dark.
I first discovered I could disappear when the children were young.
Once I realized I could do it, I wanted to improve.
I practiced in the shower.
I would let the water run down…
Tonight, like every night, is cold. The men huddle around the fire in jackets and jeans. Tight wool caps hug their heads.
Tall pines encircle them, as rigid and alert as totem poles, with bushy black branches that narrow into windows to reveal a thousand white stars. Behind them it is dark, but above them the sky is a gentle shade of dark blue.
The men watch the fire, heads and eyes drawn downward by its warmth and primordial ballet. …