Each eyelash severs me. One of them blinks and I am undone. I, whose mind leaps daily, o disciplined masochist, to the grief of parents who’ve lost children. I think of all those young eyes that will forever remain closed, never see their parents again, or be seen again, looked in the eye again by those who loved them.
My children live on. They stare at the world and at me sometimes. They blink. Their eyelids open and briefly meet. Alive, their lashes say to me. Alive.
On the trolley ride to work after I tell them good-bye my eyes gather one tear to hold it up like a shield. Unspoken love keeps it in place, furious about the hours we must spend apart, my children seated at school desks, my seat at an office desk high above the earth.
I want insensibly to have more than I do, to transform life into, I don’t know. Instead, of course, days transform me, years pass through me, changing my shape, but not my desires, not the sense that while things are fine, some are forever lost.
My children blink at school, growing, years passing through their bodies as well. My relatives on other parts of a great map blink at one another, until a message goes ‘round, and it’s time for another plane ride to another gathering, at another church, in clothes time has frayed and made a bit tighter, as if each family death has added something to me.
After work on some nights in the rowhome as my children sleep I hear songs through the wall next door. I’ve seen the band coming and going the past few months. None older than twenty-five. Someone’s blinking children have grown, moved away from them and found a safe place to sit at night, making music alone.
I listen to the broken lines of the tune they’re learning in pieces broken further by what I can and can’t hear through the wall. Who are you, child? I wonder. Who are you, child? the music echoes back to me, like a challenge, letting me remember who I once was, maybe someone happier, more capable. Maybe not. I blink. My shield falls. I conjure another and another. I blame the music, the wall, the tiredness, and feel better.
Between walls, between years, as time passes through us, I want to hold on and let go. To live is to want. To blink and sever those who love you achingly. To look over and see that someone you love is looking back. Still here. Alive. Alive.
Matthew Jakubowski’s short stories have appeared in 3:AM Magazine, gorse, The Brooklyn Rail, Corium, Berfrois, and Necessary Fiction, among others. He is a former editor for the translation journal Asymptote and has served as a fiction judge for the Best Translated Book Award. More about his work can be found on his litblog, truce. @matt_jakubowski