Begin At The End

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Life often moved between two states, here and now, here or there, before and after. After a while it could either blur together or track on parallel lines with the only point of reference being one’s senses if they could be trusted. It was a matter of what you believe or better yet what you choose to believe. He believed it was Sunday simply because he had to as the kids crept tentatively into his bedroom early in the morning, still shaking off some sleep, recalling his promise to go to the park that morning. They reminded him of two sides of a coin: each side won. He believed it was Sunday with all his heart.

“Did you dream?” he asked.

“No,” said his younger son.

“I can’t remember,” said the older boy.

It was an autumnal spring day, another contradiction in a world of increasing contradictions, and he sat on a park bench waiting to be drenched in its synthesis, ever vigilant with donuts, coffee, juice boxes and a broad perspective of the playground in his vision to protect against any interlopers or ne’er do wells who entertained thoughts of corrupting the idyll of a weekend morning with his sons. He returned to his ongoing debate about which axiom held more gravitas in today’s complex ever changing world of domestic artifice – “It’s all about the journey, not the destination” or “It’s not where you start but where you finish” but something wouldn’t let him, something on a more self-referential level.

It was that some men were “ass men” or “breast men”, what they liked, what they wanted, what they didn’t have at home. He wondered, he was full of wonder at times, wonder and doubt wrestling for his thoughts, how many men realized they might not even want a woman who had no qualms being thought of like that? Or would they? Or did each care only if who they desired thought such thoughts?

– Hi honey I’m home.

How was work today?

Boss man whipped me like a rented mule.

Oh, baby, I’m sorry.

How’s my baby’s ass or legs or breasts?

Lonely baby, lonely for you baby… –

It really didn’t all come down to the journey or the destination but who you liked and who liked you. And then what you were willing to put up with in between and then, then ultimately what you were able to leave behind. Much like dreaming, it could seem so real though you had no choice what might appear and only waking up saved you, if you could wake up. Was walking out waking up? Subtracting the “l” from one word could make all the difference. Personally, he was a hand and eye man, looking first at the ring finger on the left hand then trying for eye contact; a nice body always helped too.

“Feels like fall has returned….” she began, “Doesn’t it?”

She wore gloves, sunglasses and a red wool coat against the morning chill.

“Or arrived early,” he countered realizing at once how his objective nature may appear contrary instead, “But it’s nice, it’s my favorite time of the year so it’s nice to go back in time.”

“Or forward,” she laughed

He began to question reality by testing a loose tooth in his mouth, a practice he had had just started. His teeth always told him the truth, sometimes disconcertingly. If they were cracking like porcelain in his mouth he would do his best to let the initial fear pass and then knew he was

only dreaming. But his #8 central incisor had loosened recently. It was the last victim of random violence from years ago yet to succumb to replacement, so he appreciated and respected its prescience, almost hated to see it go since it was a token of the Universe’s dispassionate violence that could visit us when least expected.  But it was no match for an overcooked onion ring. So, he tasted it with his tongue, pushing it back and forth painlessly but feeling it scrape against its neighbor and sucking down a vacuum that filled with hopeless entertainments of candied apples never to be tasted again. He knew it was living on borrowed time and his tender nudging only sped its inevitable demise but if it remained he knew what was happening was true and not just between his ears.

She was authentic. Perhaps the accessories, the glasses, gloves and coat made her even more transparent than her words but what could happen if they were removed and her physical self was revealed, what then? Could some cross-eyed hump-backed hag with twisted, age-spotted paws be lurking beneath the suburban mom apparel? And goddamn why hadn’t he seen her here before? They’d been coming here a good six months and while the cast itself seemed to change (though the names of the children never did: Jake, Madeline, Noah, Isabella) she said they always enjoyed the park on a Sunday morning after church even though it was a bit out of the way for her and the kids. Had she herself escaped from someone’s memory if only for a

brief respite from being locked inside a dead man’s dream? He made a glossal inquiry and there it was, his tooth: reality at the tip of his tongue.

“It’s so nice to see them play,” she said.

“If all life was a game…” he mused poking the ellipses into the air.

“Don’t I know it,” her daughter approached, “Yes sweetie I’ll be on the teeter totter in a sec, ok?”

“Growing up we called them see-saws and would play a game called “what will you give me?”. We’d keep the other kid up in the air until they could offer something worthwhile, a lifetime supply of bubble gum, to do all our homework, anything to let them come down and then it was our turn. And if we didn’t like the offer we’d drop the other kid flat on his a…behind,” he

remembered out loud.

“Oh, cute” she said not without sarcasm. “You can learn a lot by playing games”.

“Why does it stop?”

“It doesn’t, it only changes.”

“Let the beauty we love be what we do.”

“There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground,” she replied, and then went to play with her daughter.

Back in the car he looked in his rear-view mirror as he backed out of the playground parking lot and smiled, his tongue searching for the wiggle in his tooth.  Instead he saw his son seated in the back, his face downcast in thought.

“Dad?” his older son began, “If a priest is married to God and a God is a boy does that mean that

God is gay?”

“I don’t think of God as being all that gender-specific,” he mused evasively.

His son sniffled. Looking through the car window the boy saw morning’s autumn feint transforming into a legitimate spring day. He pushed a button to roll down his window then put his hand out gently, testing the rush of air, trying to catch some in his cupped hand.

“Dad, can we get some ice cream?” the older boy asked.

“Ice cream?” he asked, “At 10:30 in the morning?” he asked with insincere incredulity.

His younger son laughed, “Yeah!”

His older son laughed, “Yeah!”

“Sure thing, buddies.”

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