It came out of the blue again. Moments prior he’d been happily padding around the lawn in his felted slippers with a smile on his face. But suddenly he froze and, like a pillar of salt, went white. Soon, the ashen was tinged with blue—lavender really—at the tips of his trembling fingers and lips. When the seizure was over he fell into a deep, aqueous sleep.

A few hours before dawn I awoke to a far-off rushing sound pouring in through the open windows. At first I’d thought it was the drone of traffic, but no, too late for that. Wide awake and resting my eyes on the familiar silhouette of tangled pines outside the window, I searched for a star but found none.

Insomnia had me. Worries unraveled in my brain:

will he have another seizure will i hear it will he die might he choke at school will his reflux go away does it hurt will we find another nurse when can i travel see my mother will she remember me when will she die when will i die what will calvin and michael do if i die will my hair stop thinning will calvin stop pulling it out will he fall and hurt himself does his smashed finger still hurt will he break a tooth will my root canal go well why does she jump to conclusions i wonder if she’s happy will we get good neighbors will the poor tree live is my friend feeling better is she wracked with grief will i see her soon will i make the cutoff will they like my work will the book be published will michael’s work go smoothly will he get what he wants what does life have in store will i ever leave this house explore the world will these four walls be the last that i see?

Michael awoke and heard the rushing. “Do you hear the river?” he asked. And I did. I thought of all the rain we’d had, thought of the headwaters, of the massive cataract tumbling over the dam churning up the same waters that had, just last week, been placid enough to float on, close my eyes to. I thought of drowning in that deluge, then of hanging in the balance just under the crashing falls, safe from its pounding surf. I know how to do that, I thought, like diving into the glassy face of an oncoming wave as it crests and breaks overhead so as to avoid being pummeled and carried away and you float like a jellyfish in its bubbles and silt before coming up for air.

photo by Michael Kolster

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