Tuesday, August 19, 2003


It’s late, and I can’t sleep. Having one of those nights when the brain won’t stop spinning long enough for the eyes to close. Haunted by the past, the future, the roles of time and fate in our lives. I’m thinking about confusion and understanding, and the subtle web of balance in between.

The year I turned six, my little brother was born on my birthday, the same day that Mount Saint Helens blew her top up in Washington State. The year I turned sixteen, my grandfather died on my birthday, the same day I was spending in Orlando with the choral group from my high school. I handled the tech work (sound and lights and cues) for the group, who’d had a performance at Walt Disney World the day before. We’d spent a few hours in the hotel pool that night after dinner, and I got to see the girls, even the dancers, all wet and splashing unselfconsciously in bathing suits, which are almost better than underwear, and I happened to travel north to my grandfather’s funeral instead of driving south from Atlanta, if I’d been coming from home. But do the details make a difference? Does any of it mean anything?

My grandfather had retired from the U. S. Navy. Once, when I was young, he brought me a pair of wings like the Navy pilots wore, and with them I dreamt of the sky for many years. Then I turned sixteen, and I earned my wheels, and he earned his own pair of wings.

My mother’s water broke on our sofa in the middle of my birthday party, with all of my preschool friends gathered around for cake. A few hours later, my brother cried out loud for the very first time, while on the other side of the continent a million cubic feet of soot and ash rained down across the land like afterbirth, and the moment the chorus teacher Miss Lever knocked on the door of our hotel room, where Chris and Ricky and I had yet to go to sleep, somehow I knew. She came looking for me at seven fifteen in the morning, and I knew he was dead, because he’d already been sick for a long time then, and I held my forehead like an open Bible in both hands, and listened to the secret whisper of my blood against its veins, and I was a few seconds older.

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