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.
* * *
What if the second steps are the same as the first? What if the second steps are our steps preceding us? There are two of us. What if both steps are ours preceding us? What of Palo? Are we the same? Are we? It doesn’t matter. It’s irrelevant. Do they look the same? They? The steps. The second looks smaller. Do we look the same? It’s getting harder to see. He could be shrinking. You’re suggesting they’re both his steps, he’s just smaller the second time through. Soon he’ll be impossible to see. I don’t see him now. Find him. You find him. We find him. Now? No, we are finding him. We are? We are trying. Why? We have no choice. Really? That’s what it feels like. Why? Maybe because that’s our function, that’s why we exist. You’re saying if we choose the other, the not trying, the not finding, we cease to exist. In not so many words.
* * *
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.
* * *
And what of the other? The other is what we’ve been discussing. Oh, well then, what of the other other? Isn’t that the original? Are there only two? Could you be more precise with your language? As in more specific? As in saying something that actually says something. I am. Oh, I didn’t know. Getting more specific in the actuality of what I am saying is precisely what I am doing, if you please. I’m sorry. What I’m specifically saying, if you’ll listen with some goddam precision, is the actualization of your original undefined, unrealized present participle. Which one is that? The trying, but it doesn’t matter, I am giving up, if I have to explain everything, I am giving up. I understand, completely and utterly. Listen, my question is, what if we find him? What if indeed? Do we too then cease to exist? Too, as in also? Precisely. You are depressing. We have already established that we cease to exist if the other, as we now have if the other other. Hypothesized, not established, I quibble with your wordchoice. Which means either the cessation or the realization of our current present continuing action ceases us. You’re talking about the trying, the searching, the finding. I’m talking about dying. Well, you don’t paint a pretty picture amigo, but listen to this, I am going to lay a nice treat on your plate if you just keep walking and following me following these steps. I’m in front. I’m in front. We can’t both be right. Which way are we going? Why? Therein lies the answer. This way. This way. Just don’t stop walking or we cease to exist. We exist now and so even when we stop existing we will have existed forever and no one can ever take that away from us. Is that enough? Irrelevant, that’s all there is. Is that what you were going to say? I said it. I mean is that the end? Don’t stop walking. That was the treat as you called it, laid on my plate, a treat like I’m a dog, on my plate like it’s sustenance or something sweet to get me through the afternoon. Yes, that’s it. Because what they take from us is us. Who is they? What is taken from us is us. Us us us, what about Palo? What about him? Where is he? Don’t get depressed, we’ll find him. Just hold the line. What line? The straight one, or else you’ll walk in a circle. How do I walk in a straight line? A straight line is defined by connecting two points by a straight line. What happens when I arrive at the second point? It becomes your first point and you find another second point. What if the new second point is not in line with the original first point? Well that is just what’s bound to happen, you walk in a short straight line but not in a longer straight line, and as you continue to do this in short straight segments you describe a curve, and as the curve becomes longer and your straight segments become smaller in relation to the curvature of the curve, well, you begin to have something to do with calculus and the definition of an integral of a function.
That was the space where you say something. Where are you? I … I don’t know how to go on alone. Have you left me and why? I know I am wordy, but is that a good enough reason to abandon me here alone in the woods? Where are you? I won’t try to argue with you to come back but I want you to come back. I won’t speak of calculus anymore. Or of circles and lines, others have said it and better. Perhaps you left me for them. I won’t argue. I want you to come back for me, not for the value of my argument. Where are you? What does one do while alone? One talks to oneself. Which should help me find out something about my nature. I am alone I am alone I am alone. Where are you? Are you listening? Are you hiding? I am no good at finding. Don’t leave me. And don’t forget there is Palo to think of. Think of me and think of Palo. I see Palo. I see.
* * *
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.
* * *
We find Palo. We are finding Palo. We are in Palo. Suddenly we do not cease to exist. We are more properly slowly subsumed, consumed, quickly absorbed, ingested, immediately masticated, digested, promptly sublimated in due course to say the least, by him. We are not alone and never will be.
We are in Palo. We are Palo. We are not we. Not we are Palo. Both and neither are right and not right. There is only Palo.
I am Palo. Which means nothing. It is possible you were the raccoon, but now you are Palo. It is possible you were the raccoon’s consciousness lagging behind the raccoon, desperate to catch up, following the raccoon and my tracks. It is possible and not true and an inadequate explanation, inadequate being part of the definition of explanation, and I do not care. You are Palo, the raccoon is Palo, we are Palo, I am Palo. I ate the raccoon. I think. Yes, I did. He is not here. I am here, in a way, unfortunately. First I kicked it under the chin with my right boot, which dazed it. Second I smashed its head between two rocks I clapped like cymbals though the noise it made was more a thud. Third I ate the raccoon. Between second and third I pretended a stone was a knife and gutted and skinned the raccoon. Third I ate the raccoon. Fourth I made a breechclout from the raccoon by turning the raccoon skin upside down and keeping the fur side out and tying the left foreleg and hind leg together over my right hip and the right foreleg and hind leg together over my left hip. In this way the mashed raccoon head hangs upside down mouth agape below my bellybutton to hide my pubic region and the striped raccoon tail dangles down from my backside. Between third and fourth I vomited some. It was not the raccoon’s fault. I was sick of seeing and feeling myself. I decided to make the breechclout. Fourth I made the breechclout. Fifth I wish I had water or time or smoke or a better stone or the inclination to properly scrape and wash and cure the hide but before considering this I crushed the raccoon’s head between stones because some infernal clock told me the raccoon was slowing me down and I did not have time and it was time to continue going it alone or perhaps it is not an infernal clock if it objectively informs me I have a long way yet to go and limited resources and a hatsack of stones and I have to use the bathroom and I have no paper but leaves and I do have stones but I will not sit on this hollow stump and think of stools. I will go home to my wife and all my children whom I scarcely remember and I cannot remember and I cannot think of them because to think of them is to think of me, to remember them is to remember me and I cannot think of me. No becauses. No explanation. No expression. Because I will split and split and split, a maul to a round, a stone to a skull, a bacteria in a wound, a bacteria in a gut, an atom in a star, an atom in a star does the opposite of split but it is still the same thing, I would forever split the distance between here and home and never arrive home. I let myself go. All my energy goes into notthinking, into silencing the inner monologue, into quieting my voice, into not being me, so I can be. Why be? Shh. I don’t know. Shh. Remember Reb and all the children. Shh. Forget them. Shh. Don’t forget them. Shh. But do not think of them. Shh. Do not think of them. Shh. Just go to them. Shh. Am I what I have done? Shh. Whose words are these? Shh. Just go to them. Shh. Whatever I am. Shh. No I. Shh. To be with them. Shh. The rest of the energy goes into walking.