There’s the driveway. If you walk left, just where the rosebushes used to be, you’ll find the door.
Nothing is safe there now. The back of the house is pretty much caved in. Probably termites. At least that’s what I’d like to think. The family used to eat in the little room adjacent to the kitchen, the two of them with their three kids. I came back, but I’m not sure why. I don’t know. I don’t really know them anymore. I think their last name was Timis, or something like that.
I remember the youngest best. She almost smiled at me and before I knew what was happening, she was on the floor, gliding up the wall, crashing into ceilings and door jams, then falling across the girth of the whole house, slowly and consistently exhaling, turning what was left inside out. Her path was smooth like silk, her eyes wide, unable to absorb anything more. She left in a sharp, gradual manner. She never stopped fighting. I envied her departure. I had trouble with her name too. I kept calling her Julia, but I found out later her name was Rose, like the bushes that lined their driveway.
My face is bent toward the earth and my hands press against the deteriorating drywall. I try not to stumble through the remains of their left over house. “Don’t let me fall. God, you hear me? I must not disappear into what no one else wants.” I step over the boards and the yellow tape which has been oddly preserved like hair ribbons and ground into shards of dust and cobwebs. I’m surprised it was never removed. The back door is missing along with three quarters of the back wall. The home reminds me of my old man, sitting in his easy chair with half his head gone, blown into heaven before his body could follow. I still hear soldiers laughing on the levy.
As I approach the kitchen, that small afternoon sun floats like a bottle cap on a stream of cobalt air. I see it from the window of the side room, the room where Rose and her brothers, her mother and father ate their meals. They looked like a family. I remember their faces on the table, the boys with their left cheeks soaking into the linen table-cloth like three soldiers whose tour of duty ended as if they’d unexpectedly been knocked over like a line of dominoes, their parents’ frozen expressions leaning backward in their chairs like a pair of deuces.
Sergeant Oxford told me they used a kind of spatula to scoop the remains into body bags. The coroner had to invent something just for the occasion. I think he told me that to embarrass me, but I thought it rather ingenious. “Good idea,” I remember telling him. He hated me after that and insisted I remove the uniform and hand it over to him for safe keeping. They gave me off-white, cotton pajamas to wear.
The cobalt air is being absorbed into nightfall and the horizon is about to disappear. The little sun is almost a piece of a star. It sinks lower and lower in the sky. When the night blinks away the last tear of light, I hear everyone’s words, questions, gossip, stories and answers. I remember children’s voices as if they were now grown, grandparents as if they had never been born. Sergeant Oxford said this vision meant I was arrogant. He might be right, but I’ve seen so little of them, only a moving shadow that becomes the sky falling around a dead skull of a home and soon, not even that will be left. I miss the family. I’m on a journey and stopped by to repent.
Admittedly, I was afraid. At the time, there was a war and contrails looked like plowed land in the blue, cloud free sky. I feared the soldier next to me. I believed when I was first led away it would be the same as dying. So, I stayed in my mind, and then moved to the road. I journeyed. I walked a slow path, falling across the girth of the whole of heaven. Finally, I came by to see if the rosebushes were still alive. It’s that simple. It was as if I looked forever for them, climbing higher, letting my pockets fly open, parachuting down, useless and cruel. I wanted to fight for a worthy cause. I wanted something I’d found beautiful to remain hidden inside my clothes.
Now, the rosebushes have been made level with the earth, cut into dust particles that splash against a bottle cap sun, rolling like jagged bullets along the horizon. I see it encircled in darkness, a black smudge, a pinpoint of light becoming the middle of something that is never fully extinguished—it travels on, like a child’s voice devouring the sky and I no longer have a need to endure. It’s then the sky bends around what I’ve permitted to live, yet ultimately abandoned. All worthy things grow cold and, eventually, are unnecessary. When I talk with God I speak from within and my voice is self-important and lurid. I pray I will not vanish. It’s a soft reminder I am not alone. I am convinced this is the prayer for redemption.