[media-credit name=”Martina K Photography” align=”alignnone” width=”640″][/media-credit]
from the novel Affair
She must be wondering what I am doing in the bathroom. As am I. She is not alone. She is not alone in wondering. I always am, usually. I am always wondering what I am doing. Is not everybody? I mean wondering what they are doing? Everybody does not give a shit what I am doing, which is why I am alone in wondering it. Does she? He? They?
All my sticks are on the counter. I laid them there. Since I am the only one in the bathroom. It is a smart pile. The stick pile makes me feel like I am in the woods, which I am, except I am in a cabin first, and a bathroom before that. A cabin made of logs, which are big sticks. I make a little cabin of my sticks on the counter, complete with a stick roof to shed God’s tears, even though God does not cry, and even though a roof of sticks would not shed water. I peek in the cabin through a crack. No one is there.
I consider sticking a spare stick in my eye, but decide against it. Besides being in my eye it would feel good, but it would be rash. I have not done anything yet.
Antoinette. Her name is Antoinette I decide. I figure out. I remember.
My wife. I cannot think of her. Her name will come to me later too, unbidden. When I want it least and need it most, or the other way around, or there might be no difference. I will at least say that I do not not love her. Not loving her is not why I am here. Not loving her is not what I am doing.
I stick a stick in my mouth. I gnaw. The stick tastes like a stick. The stick would have rotted had I not collected it. It will still rot elsewhere, but it will not just rot. I swallow it. It might have been an accident, but it was not. In spite of the straightness of the stick – it would have fetched the highest price – and the clench in my stomach, the stick does nothing to straighten my stomach. Nor my rectitude. Nor does it fill even incrementally the empty gasp in my gut, if that is how the feeling is best described, or diminish the ever-increasing density of the already crushingly dense ball in my belly, if that is instead a better description.
I do not feel well. I cannot help wondering what all my children are doing right now, even though this has nothing to do with them.
She, Antoinette, raps lightly on the door. She says, Palo. My name is Palo. Or my nickname, I do not know which. Palo is what I am called. By others. I do not refer to myself in the third person. The doorknob turns. It is unlocked. I am conscious of the fact that not locking it was a subconscious decision I was unaware of to invite her entry into my bathroom hidey-hole. Also, there is no lock on the door. This being a oneroomcabinwithabathroom. Since an internal door in a one-room cabin is a self-negating impossibility.
The door opens and I am blinded. I cannot think about the past I cannot think about the future I can only think about the ever-present present. I cannot think. I am blind. I see Antoinette standing before me, naked but for hair in the abundant light entering through the ample windows, filtered through larch, larch, and more larch.