I am seven. We are driving in the car. I am watching out the window in the back and there is a dog in the road. Hindquarters spreading across the pavement. Half run over, half run down, still alive. Front paws scrabbling at the asphalt because they remember the last thing they were doing. They were running across the highway. The dog's front half is still trying to run away, but he is pinned to the pavement by pain and tire.
My father stops the car. My mother rustles under her seat and hands him a Safeway bag. She offers to go instead of him. He says,
Says that he will do it and gets out of the car. My mother, she stays with me. Reaches back behind her and puts a hand on my knee.
I should have gone with my father. I should have stroked that dog's head through the bag and told him he was a good old dog.
I am certain my father did these things but you know how it is between kids and dogs. You know how it is.
The moon is ragged. I am ragged. My father is ragged. The moon, my father, me. We three. And the 'do not resuscitate' that was my mother. There is no one to put us out of our misery, my father and me.
When his knees give out I find I cannot move to keep him from falling. I find I cannot move at all. In the molecular rearrangement Grief makes inside me, my heart transmutes to glass. My father's knees are bound to the floor. He is twisting in on himself like a fetus or a long-term coma patient. It comes to me, horribly that we are both remembering being inside her. That we are winking out under the weight of the Unspoken.
"I should have gone with you when you killed the dog," I say.
But I know I have said the wrong thing, because the glass in my chest gives out with a popping noise. And then there is just the sound of fruit pulling from the rind inside me.
* * * * *
Once Upon A Time, in a land called Far Away...
There was a girl. She grew into a woman when no one was looking. One day her father came to read her a bedtime story and she was gone. She was a girl whom no one noticed, who grew into a woman, who in turn, fled the tower. Pulled like a moth to the moon, out the window she poured herself. A woman pouring out of the sliver, tower window and into the arms of the night. Her name was Emma. In the kitchens they say,
"Emma done run off with the night."
She took nothing but the heart on her sleeve. Emma, in the lap of darkness, bent at the waist to fix her boots and stockings. Emma in the lap of darkness because Santa didn't bring her all she wanted him to.
Emma, a whisper in the ear of The Night,
"and i want i want and and i"
* * * * *
She sees inside the dark of the human heart. This makes Love a language full of words she understands, but does not know the sound of. She cries to stay at the ocean. Claims the city is killing her. She says the lit windows of the night time skyline look like teeth. She is waiting for the buildings to consume her.
She was born an adult and now only wants to be a child. She has come between the moon and the tide, so now the moon pulls her instead. She is always just herself in the hope that no one will notice her. In the city parks and avenues The Grims pursue her. Like repo men, coming to arrest her soul.
She runs in the tracks of beach dogs who chase sticks into the ocean as if there will never be another stick. Another ocean. She watches the seawater unzip the sand from beneath her sneakers and does not understand why she cannot simply swim away.
Two great rocks rise from the water like supplicating hands. Embracing nothing in a prayer for what used to bridge the gap between them. She wonders how long they will have to pray before God hears them. The rocks are worn by the water. There is less of them than there used to be, but they are still praying for what used to be.
The tide ropes the sky's reflection to the sand. The wet is thin as paper. When she looks down, she is standing on the sky in red sneakers. Night grabs sunset by the tail, and pulls. She finds a black rock. She finds a sand dollar, not too broken. All the doves inside flown back into the ocean.
Heaven, like water, seeks its own level.
She runs towards him, back up the beach. She runs towards him as if content to do so forever. From up the beach he watches. She is fragile as a window pane. Behind her, the ocean mouths her footprints from the shore. He understands that she is feeling safe and therefore behaving like a child. In his mind, this is the way she will be when he sets her free. When he lays her down with a celebration.