Lately my unhappiness has become so pronounced, so finely articulated, that at times I can actually feel my inner gravity shift.
In the place where the body holds its balance, everything drops. I can feel the falling, like a sharp-clawed cat with its nails stuck in the window shade, slowly dragging down the darkness and shutting out the light.
You could play that sadness like a harp. Each string is anchored to my center; each pluck reverberates. My bones ache.
I cry while you’re sleeping. Single tears run solitary tracks down my cheeks, trickle past my ear, and then I can’t feel them anymore, as if there were some tactile blindspot somewhere past the earlobe. I wish I could sleep. I wish I could catch my breath. I wish I were not so weighted by things—nonsense acquisitions and possessions, things that pack into boxes and vans, things that must be mummified in newspaper and carefully drowned in styrofoam peanuts, things that don’t mean anything but fake the play of life around me so I don’t dizzy myself with loneliness: I’m too busy with my things.
Things like so many rocks filling the pockets of a housecoat, standing with legs frozen in a lazy river, waiting for water that will never rise.
So many people have children without realizing the enormous, almost impossible task they have undertaken.
Feeding, clothing, housing a child: these are the tasks you can enumerate and quantify; they can be held in dollars and closets and streets, concrete, actualized, undeniable. You either provide, or you don’t.
Somehow, that is the easiest part.
The intangible is so much more difficult. What does Love look like? Your child will learn at an early age; the knowledge will embed in viscera so tangled and intrinsic, veins must be snapped and bones broken should you wish to remove it. The slightest bruise of emotion drives down deep into the body, a rotten root.
These definitions inform reality, truth; like a magnifying glass, the world is sharpened through them—no matter if the lens is distorted.
How can people have children? The thought agonizes. A scraped knee is patched, and forgotten. But the look of lovelessness stretches inward infinitely, a repeating reflection. A wound that never heals and more so seeks out the weapon of its making to inflict the familiar sensation, like a tormented, unfulfilled ghost.
My father manufactured twist ties. Great sheets of steel wire rolled on a conveyor belt, were painted with hot plastic, cooled, then set, and finally sliced toothpick-thin lengthwise, then across. The ties were dumped into cardboard boxes and shipped out according to weight, not content, which always seemed unfair to me. That someone should receive less twist ties than someone else, and randomly, said so much about life.
We were put out of business by hand-held twist tie machines, which contained a spool of ties that passed through a cutter operated by a trigger. Ties could be made as long or short as necessary, and spools were inexpensive. We couldn’t convert the production of sheets into spools, and the equipment to refurbish the factory was too expensive. The business went under. Bread makers everywhere owned their own twist tie guns and effectively pulled the trigger on my father’s life’s work.
When I was very little he would gift me twist ties, and I would weave them into my hair and twist them under braids. They left light, ghost-white scratches in my palms as they passed from his hands to mine, their edges sharp and unyielding as they cross-hatched to form a multicolor bird’s nest in my cupped hands.
The factory fell into disarray at about the same speed as my father, and we finally sold it after he died.
I noticed the windows shortly after. New equipment was being moved in and I went to watch the last of my father’s legacy slowly trickle away. The eyes of the factory were composed of a series of large, square windows–four stories-worth of twelve windows that ran lengthwise across the face of the building. Within those sets were twenty-four smaller square windows, making each like the head of a fly. Post-depression era windows, they didn’t open and offered a fractured, distilled light inside the factory. You could almost play a very boring hopscotch game from the light offered by the lowest level of windows, if the time of day was right.
The old equipment was moved out and new equipment moved in, and with each day, a single small window inside a set of twenty-four was broken. Holes the size of a baseball appeared in each of the twenty four windows, and each hole was identical, as if the windows themselves had been pushed out of some window-breaking factory and set into the facade overnight. Months passed and the factory became something of an urban legend. The windows were an impossibility; that much was clear. No bored child could have reproduced the same hole in every window. Replacing a window only resulted in the new window being broken, and eventually the owners gave up on replacing them.
After three years, there were one thousand, one hundred and fifty-two broken windows on the front of the factory. The owners never opened. A thousand lonely eyes, their pupils sharpened to a singular, repeating point, looked out menacingly on our town.
©Douglas M Macllroy
In rolling heat, under a bleached bone sky, all you have is your horse. Guns quickly shed their bullets on dog soldiers, canteens run dry, but even a scrub should stick with you ’til the end.
They said he was a widowmaker, but I was ridin’ crowbait–I had no choice. His head was milk-dipped, a strong blaze runnin’ from ear to muzzle. A six-shooter snuffy, quick to slat his sails and leave me dusted. Not fit for ridin’.
I woke up to hot breath and a heavy hoof on my chest, hell-fired, coal-black eyes starin’ into me. Shoulda known better.