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When he was sick, he was lost. On the highway, on the island in the Atlantic, in the mountains and the forest; lost going south instead of east, lost on the way to the restaurant where my family was gathered drinking too much, laughing, laughing until it got so late. Did we give up and go back to the house? And why were we driving two cars when we moved east from Denver and stopped at his mother’s, his father dead for months? He was lost for hours in the dark streets of the small town where he grew up. His mother and I pressed against the window in the living room until I went out to find him and he was wandering the streets. I was with a friend, he said, an old friend. In all the old stories there is a cup of tea still warm on the table. A bowl of porridge half eaten. The remnants of crumbs under the bed, the memory of kisses and caresses packed away. The sound of the bellbird in the kowhai outside the kitchen window. One day we went to the ocean from the room perched above the courtyard. It was in the middle of a hurricane. Who does that? We were young, we’d lost our way in the dark the night before. The waves were almost splashing our feet in the parking lot. Water crashing out of bounds. All the little creeks across the marsh full of silver minnows swimming away from the sea, and wasn’t he swimming away too, even though it was our honeymoon? Soon he wouldn’t be there at all, but under the grass in Iowa, a shell from the hurricane folded into his hand.
Sharon White’s book Vanished Gardens: Finding Nature in Philadelphia won the AWP award in creative nonfiction. Boiling Lake (On Voyage), a collection of very short fiction, is her most recent work. She is also the author of two collections of poetry, Eve & Her Apple and Bone House, and a memoir, Field Notes, A Geography of Mourning. New work appears in The Rupture, DIAGRAM, Cloudbank, and Nowhere magazine.
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