What Happens Next Never Happens

The moment before what I assume could have been my enlightenment, I sat on the edge of our bed, my feet squared with the seam of a dirty floorboard that had been painted over green and then black over that, again and again. The bedding was draped around my sleeping husband’s sinewy form like David’s painting of the Death of Marat with the crisp, pale linens and the dark paint, the shadowy valleys of his triceps brachii, that lolling exquisite head. I watched him over my shoulder, breathing deeply. He was a surely a thing of beauty, an artistically rendered object serving no other purpose in this story but to pivot me to that moment in time before my consciousness expanded toward an unsafe and unmanageable infinity. I could see before me an electrified net extending forever in all directions (but the sink was full of dishes that needed doing) and each seemingly disconnected bit of information I’d ever acquired rose like fish blown bubbles to the intersections within the grid (though I had to work in the morning), sending currents along pathways until the whole thing was lit up and everything was interconnected (still, I needed a shower. I needed to go get some food). I’d been reading a lot about the Sephirotic Tree in the main branch of the Multnomah County Library. Back then there was a cafe right in the building. Can you imagine? All the pastry crumbs drawing ants and roaches and mice to a space housing volumes and volumes of delicate paper bound up in spines full of book glue. It felt like a sacrilege. It felt like the handful of times I’d found myself in the church pews wearing pants just like a man. I’d always assumed if understanding ever did descend upon me it would look more like something that grew out of the earth, organic and rangy, not this disappointing neon geometry.

A week ago, I startled a large crow into dropping the baby bunny he’d rooted from its warren into a raspberry bramble near the train tracks and I knew my life would unravel a bit going forward. Not all at once, and not inelegantly perhaps, but like a skein of something fine I wanted to keep tidy. Something I intended to use at a later date and hoped to keep in order. I’d made an uneasy peace with these particular crows. We shared space occasionally and it had taken weeks to assure them they needn’t scatter noisily when I arrived, sounding alarums for their nesting kin. The moment before, I knew it was an affront. But the tiny creature was making a terrible, squealing din that sounded enough like a human baby and I thought her wild eyes had looked into mine. I sprang into action even as I understood it was the wrong thing to do. And then, the moment before was over. And now I’m anthropomorphizing again.

Every moment before is the same moment as the moment before my almost enlightenment, all those years ago when I turned my back toward what happens next. Every moment before, suspended in something sticky and endogenous. The moment before my bare toes depress the pedal on Mrs. Greer’s upright piano is the moment before my daughter sings a tune down the short hallway, the soft click of her tongue dropping from the roof of her mouth, that moment before her voice, which is finer than mine but with a coarse enough warp and weft. The moment before I left the field yesterday, where I’ve yet to save a rabbit and starve a crow, I palm a plump ball of hydrangeas and find its seemingly solid mass comprised of hundreds of fragile petals so remarkable, that a thing can be many and one. The way months ago there is still a moment before I open a letter that gently reminds me I may one day soon have a risky cluster of rogue cells igniting like a Fourth of July sparkler in the very space that, years ago, joy still multiplies at an exponential rate in the moment before a human. In the very space where, before that, an anticipated thing that doesn’t happen creates a permanent hunger in me that I mistake for a solid longing and never see that it is really a thousand particles of moments after that will not come to pass.

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