3. The Only Man

One day a man woke up to leaves heavy with water outside his window. Yesterday, the sun spotted the green ground and he laughed at the wrens in the bushes. But today, the water made the leaves heavy and the higher branches muttered at the sun.

Yesterday, encouragement, mulching, work, love, and walks to the top. Tomorrow, he’d feel a creaky stress in his chest, like an old sea urchin. But today felt like a wet rag, not even a nuisance or a discouragement, rather an indifference, a sandy decline onto a dry river. Following such would mean a dry tongue soon and light to dry the eyes into stone.

“Sometimes these things creep up on you,” a friend said. “Sometimes everything disappears.”

“I heard about a man once,” he went on, “who followed ten people through the woods and when he stepped out onto a place where the land opened up he found that he had come out of the woods alone.”

“That’s an image I can eat morning cereal with,” the man said.

“Sorry,” the friend said, leaving.

The man grabbed the wrist of a pickpocket. The pickpocket said, “It’s not safe to do that.”

The man ejaculated prisms. The woman said, “That was colorful. The colorwheel’s spinning in my vagina.”

He pulled the nozzle out of his tank on the way home. He opened a hand and spilled gas through his fingers and through his fingers until he felt the liquid bleed into his socks. Closed his eyes. He remembered the grainy touch of oil changes, engine blocks, watching the wind carry sand over the earth from the underside of cars, how each grain clicked.

“Hey, what the fuck?” the attendant said.

He left the windows down for weeks. “If heaven were real,” he told the priest, “someone having died would’ve leaked that news by now. It’s over. Nonsense. Would you just admit it already.”

“That’s not right,” the priest said. “Let me explain. Consider that, while the leaves may be heavy with water now, they’re heavy for everyone. Are you the only man with windows onto his garden. Are you the only man . . . ”

Later that night he returned and smashed a brick through the stained glass and waited for the police. He told them a young man had run into the woods, that way, and to hurry, and they did.

He ran the other way. He ran to the bus station. He ran to the airport. He walked through a dark patch of woods in the middle city and watched small shapes unwind and curl in the moonlight through the leaves. So dark in the corners, where he slept. When he woke up, he found that some trickster had tied his shoe laces together and cut off his thumbs.

The physiatrist chuckled. He said, “You smell like every patient I’ve ever endured. Please sit. You remind me of a story I once heard, about a man who entered the woods with a crowd of friends. They laughed and laughed and talked about the future, inviting it. Strange though that when he finally found the other side, warranting there is one, he noticed that he was all alone, and he couldn’t recount to anyone how any of it had happened.”

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