from the novel Affair
I remember walking through a decrepit city. I am not alone. I do not remember who I am with, adult or child. Wife or child. Both, but only one. Both in one person, a conflation, an amalgamation, an imagination. My wife when she is younger than she is now, but older than a child, the child one of mine, no younger than now. Which child? All of them. The child then is more boy than girl, three-fourths boy mathematically speaking, which is a careless way to speak in this instance. I will not figure out the ratio when combined with my wife, who is a woman, and how many girls and boys does it take to make one woman? For it is not that this other is a proportional combination of them, but the other is all of them at once, each of them individually with their individual traits and distinct beauties. They, the other, walk beside me and hold my right hand or just my right middle finger, the one with the dent inside the outermost knuckle. My left hand is free. There is a ring and no ring on the ring finger; this is before and after I am married; I continually feel the feeling of my finger entering the ring while the remainder of my finger exits.
We are walking to the park the grocery the bank the library the post office. It is spring, and that and the other holding my hand is enough for the moment.
We see decrepit people. We do not know what to do with them. We do nothing with them. We don’t need them. We have each other. We have walking. We have a task. We are not yet decrepit.
We are walking and the wind is blowing and the clouds are scudding and the sun is radiating and the birds are chirping and the flowers blooming and the trees sapping and the city decrepiting and the leaves leafing and all that.
We arrive where we’re going. We play on the swings, on the teeter-totter, on the jungle gym. We deposit and withdraw money. We buy cabbage and return books. We buy discounted bruised overripe bananas and check out new free old books and accidentally smear banana on them because we accidentally smear banana on our hands when we purposefully eat the overripe bananas on a park bench overlooking a goose-laden lake. With money we withdraw, we post mail within which are checks drawing on our invisible account. The mailman gives us a knowing smile because he knows us. This is what we do. We kiss on a park bench overlooking a swan-laden lake. We do not smell like overripe bananas because we have not eaten overripe bananas because you do not kiss after eating overripe bananas.
We leave where we’re going. We’re going nowhere, but we’re going. We play leapfrog, we play hopscotch, we play baseball with a stick and a stone, we play peek-a-boo, we play twenty questions, we play having sex on the grass at the park under a skirt with no one noticing, or no one caring, or no one saying anything, we play feeling good, experiencing experiences, sensing happy, living life, we play in a bubble of our own creation, we play with each other, we play with words we play with, we play.
* * *
We play practical jokes. We plastic wrap the toilet seat; we dip your fingers in warm water while you sleep. We shove a roll of toilet paper in the toilet and mix laxatives in your brownies. We tip the porta-potty; we build an outhouse with no hole in the seat. We hypnotize you to sleep, we squirt shaving cream on your hand and tickle your nose while you sleep, we write on you while you sleep, we put ourselves in your hand and tickle you nose while you sleep and we wrap ourselves in your hand and tickle your nose while you sleep and we squeeze ourselves in your hand and tickle your nose while you sleep and we slather ourselves in shaving cream and slide ourselves into your hand and tickle your nose while you sleep and still you sleep. We shave your head and take off your pants and shave you there and pray for you and pee in a glass and pray for you to wake up so we can tell you it’s apple juice.
We play impractical jokes. We play cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians, dragons and knights, superheroes and villains, serpents and saviors, virtues and sins, mr. presidents and first ladies, infidels and fidels, monsters and men, good guys and bad guys. We play outside and inside. We play outside jokes and inside jokes. Exploding cigars, banana peels, anvils falling from the sky, greased door handles, locked doors, dead fish, dirty underwear piles, finishing the toilet paper and not replacing it, using each other’s towel, using each other’s deodorant, using each other’s toothbrush, using each other’s sexual organ, using each other, fertilizing, bearing young, forgetting young.
We play with bite. We play with our overbite. Our children bite. They scream. We throw them in the air. They scream. We catch them. They scream. We play where’s the baby, there’s the baby.
We replay. Which gets old. We get old. We rearrange the furniture. We get bored. We get boring. We buy a table. We climb a mountain. We go to Scotland. We play golf. We wish we learned how to play guitar, piano, violin, tuba, oboe, saxophone, harmonica. We wish we learned how to play anything beautiful. We play golf. We stop playing. We play with other people. They are the same people. We stop playing. We play at being sailors. We stop playing. We don’t remember when we stopped holding hands. We always remember where we are. We aren’t playing.