I took a step toward her, but she turned from me and stomped back to her car. I watched her drive off. After a moment, I walked up the limestone steps and through the phantom oak-and-glass front doors of the house where I grew up. I paced the hall, entered the long rectangle of dining room, rested a hand on the carved cherrywood mantel, then passed into the kitchen. The house was so real around me that I could smell the musty linen in the cedar closet, the gas from the leaky burner on the stove, the sharp tang of geraniums that I had planted in clay pots. I lay down on the exact place where the living room couch had been pushed tight under the leaded-glass windows. I closed my eyes and it was all around me again. The stuffed bookshelves, the paneling, the soft slap of my mother’s cards on the table.

I could see from the house of my dark mind the alley, from the alley the street leading to the end of town, its farthest boundary the lucid silence of the dead. Between the graves my path, and along that path her back door, her face, her timeless bed, and the lost architecture of her bones. I turned over and made myself comfortable in the crush of wild burdock. A bee or two hummed in the drowsy air. The swarm had left the rubble and built their houses beneath the earth. They were busy in the graveyard right now, filling the skulls with white combs and the coffins with sweet black honey.


When we are young, the words are scattered all around us. As they are assembled by experience, so also are we, sentence by sentence, until the story takes shape.


There are ways of being abandoned even when your parents are right there.