34. Walking It Back

Caroline: what I can’t bear is your pain, your diminishment.

I walk the dog in despair. I take her out at night and throw

her ball repeatedly until she is exhausted. I search for you

in the dark, in my own dark, the inner dark where you are

permanently alive. Do you think you can wade into the lake

and disappear from my life, from anyone’s life, so easily?

From your own life? If you loved yourself as much as we love

you, we’d be happier. We wouldn’t have to carry your corpse

around in our hearts. Caroline is pacing the kitchen, waving

a soup spoon at David who is weeping on a chair. Kill yourself

if you want to devastate me. Go ahead. Wreak as much havoc

as the cancer has in your body. Leave us all behind like carrion

for the dogs to devour. It was just a poem, he says, You should not

have read it. One of those days I was feeling sorry for myself.

David standing in the water up to his knees as the sun sets,

he feels the cold against his legs, even in the tropics the water

is chilly at night fall, and he imagines continuing toward

the other shore, but someone is calling his name, screaming,

in fact, and he wants to turn back, he wants to start over.

Something large in the water brushes against him and he recalls

that there were once sharks here, fresh-water sharks, and

splashes noisily back toward the shore where a stranger

is building a fire who helps him off with his wet clothes

and wraps a blanket around him. He sits by the fire. The man

he begins to recognize gives him a cup of coffee and sits

beside him. He is afraid to look into this stranger’s face,

so like his own, the sinking jowls, the disappearing eyebrows,

the loveless eyes blinded by reflections.

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