‘It’s in your blood.’
I let a moment of silence develop into discomfort. Staring down at the recruitment agent from atop the zamboni, I can almost see, in my reflection in her pale blue eyes, the pages of an old storybook her parents used to read to her. The round-cheeked Eskimo, face framed by parka mane, eyes crinkled into crescent moons by a delighted smile as he raises his modest catch from a hole in the sheet. My great grandparents left Nunavut around the year 2100, when the ice disappeared.
‘It’s in your blood.’
She had sleep for dinner. Sometimes for breakfast and lunch, too. Her older son would often wake her, screaming. Rediscovering her empty stomach, Agnes would wipe crumbs of dreams from her eyes and hold him through his fits. He was thirty-five years old, and she was approaching seventy. The younger son, who lived in the living room with his daughter, would leave early in the mornings and take his bike with him on the subway ride downtown where he zipped food from place to place. Agnes walked the older one to therapy sometimes, granddaughter in tow, even when it was blisteringly hot because she saved bus tokens that way. If he had another fit, she could splurge on transit. Sometimes she argued with the bus drivers, but they rarely got on for free.
I watch you Suzanne, in ways—with such depth—you will never know. Standing here, toes bare and soles blackened by the highway side with our thumbs pointing to the sun, I watch you. Inches away is your hair and its subtle mixture of ash and lilac sails into my nose. Step back Suzanne. Let your hips melt with mine as we watch the oncoming afternoon motorcade. Let your muted yellow poncho—which never ceases to render you angelic—scratch my skin. Gain an extra inch by standing upon my feet and add to our hope of hailing down a passerby; if you do, I’ll lace my hand within the pocket of your bellbottom jeans, holding you close. I’ll wait with you at this highway side until we reach our destination. I’ll wait; and sail and hold you close and feel your poncho scratch me; even if a thousand stars die before we make it. Suzanne, I watch you in ways, with such depth, I’ve never known before.
Have you seen the lions on the library ceiling? They’re pawing at the edges of ontology, where flowers bow like gentlemen with Sinatra-style fedora hats. Everyone is lithe, lither than pigeons bopping on the curb and squirrels scrambling at a crumb of bread, and yet the lions lie in stubborn stone. Nothing to do but dance.
They were trying the traffic-light system again this year. The plan was to expedite the selection process; make it easier to get a hundred-and-fifty college kids to Japan. The folders were laid out across three plastic tables they’d carried up from the cafeteria. The YES folders were green and occupied three stacks. The NO folders were red. There were too many of them for proper piles, so they were simply dumped, en masse, in bins. Maybe she was right, he thought, and they should have just kept it digital, not bothered printing it all out. The process hadn’t really worked last year either and that year they had only needed a hundred interns. This year they would have one-fifty. Maybe one-fifty-five even.
You die on a bright and sunny Tuesday near the start of November. The crisp autumn air has a sweet taste to it, and
it rattles out in warm puffs until you breathe no more. (It looks like you’re really trying, but air is for the living,
after all, and ghosts have no lungs with which to pull it in.)
And then you’re getting up, looking at the body that’s turning pale and waxy at your feet, and you must be wondering: what now? Everyone wonders what now before long. Fortunately for you, you’ve been murdered (imagine that– fortunately! Oh, I do crack me up) and so you have a natural first step: figure out whodunit, and then find a way to communicate that to those of us with bodies and larynxes.