Like anything—the finch, the tortoise, the coreopsis—we pass on, and so then, what else but for today?
Let’s take this simple: a game of mancala with the boy when the girl of your heart naps in dreams. You move plastic animals back and forth in a circle on the wooden board—pink elephants, green zebras, red goats, purple lions. The boy takes a bite of apple he shook from the tree and says, The green, this is the livingly part, the part we live with. The red tint of the apple, he says, we leave that. You ask, Why and he shrugs. You think, for maybe when we are desperate, for when hunger is nothing more than a thin ache, for when we need a little color.
You look up the word livingly in the dictionary. You think there are many ways to understand what he’s made new in this speech. Livingly: a manner of living perhaps, livelihood, of being alive.
You take a walk along the shore of a lake in an afternoon hot with heat, then stand in the outdoor shower, the grass tickling at your shins, or heels, and the sky, you see, through the slats in the wood, is an empty blue, so empty and wide it makes you lonely. The dog licks the grass and the children run above you on the deck, your worry the size of a skyscraper—that the children will fall through the railings, trip, or the dog will push them and you will be in mid-shampoo as your daughter thuds to the ground and the beetles, they will take her first.
If they ask, you’ll run with the children, down the slope, and through the grass that has fallen over and cracked, bursting with too many spiders to stay alive, and there, you’ll laugh together, in the grass, too dead for anything but hay and clippings.
You’ll think, scraping your hand on the hull of grain all around you, that someday, your mother will die. And how will you know what it feels like to become death? Will it be as the morning is every day, like how confusing it is for you to be in the same bed at the same hour but with the call of the scrub jay the first thing you hear? Is it like that? Will you lift the shade of your bedroom window on the day after your mother’s death and still see the tree, the apple tree with its vast flowers and fruit still as beautiful as the day before?
Melissa Matthewson is an Assistant Essays Editor at The Rumpus and the Nonfiction Editor at Cargo Literary. She is currently finishing an MFA in creative nonfiction from the Vermont College of Fine Arts.