It goes like this:
My dog, same walk every day, and it just takes her. She breaks into a trot, she turns. Her wrinkles turn up in the semblance of a smile.
She remembers she is alive. This is nice, I think. I will use this. But I don’t.
muddle. muddle. muddle.
That night, I read about love. My brain creaks. My boss comes home happily in a Christmas sort of drunk. Driving home. Swampy blues on NPR (what?). Radio crackle. Nashville appears with its hazy cold lights.
I am alive.
The kind that makes me wish for someone in the passenger’s seat, who I can reach over to and squeeze their leg and say–
We are alive!
And they will put on sunglasses because it is now a bright summer day in January–
and it’ll have a cold tint of an indie movie with the eeriness of Blue Velvet…
And then I think of how to hold this feeling. And I think and think of it until I think my way out of it, and by five minutes later I am in my driveway and can’t remember what the feeling is or if I had it at all.
Remembering you are alive is not something you can think through. You lose it, even if you are pretending to do something else but secretly keeping the corner of your eye on it. The most playful sorts of characters know when they are being watched, no matter how many brown trench coats and floppy hats and 3AM corner diner booths I occupy.
I am just past the pool’s surface, but not yet consumed. I hold my breath. I dart from one end to the other. I fetch plastic rings of primary colors from the deep end’s thick blue.
I hear nothing. I examine the bottom of nine feet down. I look up. I am alive. I am eleven and I am alive.
I stay until my lungs give out.
The surface breaks it. I dive again, but it’s lost down there in a container of plastic and chemicals and a long diving board overseeing.
At twenty-five, I explain to my passenger friend my love of water, the bursting that can be made from just my feet touching it, as we drive down the long winding of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I recreate it, but it’s lost. I feel suddenly embarrassed.
If I walk to the pool it began in, I will find nine feet of gravel and concrete filled to the top, metal scraps and spare parts scattered across the surface. No one needed swimming pools, anymore. We need work.
I will go to court in one week to break apart what God or the devil had put together for three long years. I have traveled to the West and back, complete with sand dunes and kitschy roadside attractions and beaches and Wyoming skies.
Now, in a November backyard in Tennessee, I stand with a someone who will become, in a few months from now, my someone. We sang our songs. We greeted our friends. They listened. They wrapped in blankets.
This sort of alive does not get fabricated from photographs. It is not a put upon sort.
The fire is going out, and our gear is packed. But we wait. We watch our friends leave in twos. I turn to my future someone.
They are leaving. I say, They are going home to their homes where they will remove these heavy blankets quickly and jump into a bed of more heavy blankets. They may even skip brushing their teeth. And in the dark, there will be two sets of cold feet touching each other under the blankets.
We stood and watched them go through our own mouths’ steam.