It is another night, just like the night before, and just like tomorrow night will be. When it comes. When it came; summer sticking in the air, and night hanging on the edges of light turning red. Deep and still and waiting. While we rock back and forth on the porch waiting for darkness to come. Slowly. Back and forth, back and forth, as softly as we can.
“The land is dry,” he said to me. Quiet and empty, with space in his voice between the words.
“Yes,” I replied slowly. As we rocked some more. My father and I. “It is.”
I wanted to walk down by the river where the air is cool and the evening flies move in slow circles above the water. To cup it in my hands and bring it back.
So I do.
Stand up heavy against the hard wood porch and walk to the woods where the small streams feed to the river. And kneel down to cup my hands. A tiny brook and looking up against the stones where a boy is sitting reading a book. He doesn’t look up, as I sit down and look at him.
His hair is a blackish color of sorts, probably dyed. And it grows longish towards his ears. He sweeps it casually across his face, an unplanned look of sorts and reading a book on the cosmos. Its cover is pink and blue and orange and starts to look purple in the evening light. I watch him read, letting the water run over my hands, and after a page he puts it down, a furrowed look upon on his face and picks up a different one on Latin verbs. He has a stack of books at his elbow; ten books high and I look at the covers curiously; something about Trotsky, bike repair, poetry from Iran, The Souls of Black Folk, and essays on global warming at the top. He never makes it more than a page on any of them, because as soon as he starts on one he looks at five others he could be reading and wiping the beads of sweat from his brow mumbles, “No time, no time, no time.”
“Why is there no time?” I ask him. He looks up, startled and rubs the bridge of his nose with his hand, right between his eyes.
He pauses before answering, looking at the books by his elbow and then back up at me. “It’s just that there’s all the information out there in the world, expanding in all directions like the universe and I can’t stop thinking about my indefinite definiteness.”
“Oh.” I reply, flicking the water with my fingers, then cupping it in my hand.
He rubs his nose again and looks back down at his books. He pulls one out from the bottom of his stacks; Wildflowers of North America, sighs and starts to read as I settle down across the stream to watch the flies and enjoy his company for a while.
We sit there longer, as the night grows darker, and my knees grow tired of crossing and my fingers grow cold in the water. “I have to go,” He says, standing up and looking at me from across the stream, “I’ve got to get more books.”
“Why?” I ask, watching him stack them, ten books high.
“I don’t know. Because everything matters,” He replies. His hair in his face, his hands on his books, and his back to the stream as he hurries to walk away.
“OK,” I call after him. “Goodnight,” I reply, as I cup my hands one more time, pulling up water to throw on the land. And watch it slip through my fingers as I walk.
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Portland Fiction Project
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