My mother first told me she planned selling the house in the spring after my father died. I felt the scratch of the phone static had somehow crawled or jumped, maybe, up inside her throat. I, on my way to a conference in Phoenix, walking on the moving sidewalk toward my gate during a layover in DIA; “could you help me get everything in order?” came the static through her, then back through the static. Suspension of disbelief, then suspension of belief, then the collision and intermingling of the two as I came simultaneously to the floating sidewalk’s end, adjusting to the new ground beneath me, that it was moving backward almost.
Later, on the plane, a young woman, almost a girl, or a girl almost a woman, in pink sweatpants in the seat next to me, and a child in the seat next to her, child playing a colorful and loud game on the phone belonging to I assumed the pink sweatpants. I shut my own off fourteen minutes prior, but it began to swell like a wet dish sponge heavy in my pocket. Labyrinths was open in my lap, I having intended for a long time to revisit with some expectation of re-experiencing that familiar strange, strange for its content, assertions, banal tone, strange for the tone, the environment of Borges’ words around me. Rather, I heard Flora Purim, her voice, clearly, maybe clearer than when I’d originally read the story Uqbar on the floor of my apartment years (two dozen already?) ago. Is that right? Did I sit on the floor next to the record player before there was furniture? I worried I was misremembering it. Things, once disparate, joined, became contiguous. An example: i’d reduced young mother and child now to a singular unit; mother-child-thing. I lost my place on the page, and started over. At some point the morning paled into afternoon, out across the bare Tarmac, weather beating tribal rhythms, ancient, I thought, up against the aluminum and carbon fibre of the cabin and wings, respectively. How do they go about joining those materials, I thought to myself, series of catastrophic failures reeling off vaguely in an adjacent part of my brain. There was, I guess, some question of the weather and would it let up long enough to get up in the air, though the snow seemed to intensify as I thought about it. More Flora Purim. Tropical.
Shuttled off back down the way we came, down the jetway, like little material units. I followed sweatpants-and-child back toward the gate and terminal and taxicab with a voucher for the nearby hotel which smelled strongly of cotton lint which is just the smell of fabric softener. Adjacent the hotel were situated a seven eleven and an Applebee’s, arranged in what I imagined to be a positive feedback loop, real western oasis. The expansiveness beyond the oasis intensified the suffocating feeling of it. It occurred to me at the front desk, sterile and mildly opulent, that English lacks the word for the impressions of handwriting on following pages. Like a sort of palimpsest.
I found myself pocketing a rental car key, fingers like pencils colliding and making colliding noises in a coffee tin where you might keep pencils, all in the silent slowed-down downpour of colorless lint, then unpocketing my bifold, where in the bifold’s own pocket, I removed the house key which she’d sent me a few years prior. I understood the key an implicit suggestion to maybe bring the family out for a week, away from the city, all this which I’d not quite gotten around to yet, and resented her some for my own feeling of guilt over it. The key was her strategy, I thought, as if the tactile presence would make it happen. Even so, the key found itself in the bifold. And then I found it, there, in the bifold. Neither my mother nor my father lived in the house in the last three years of my fathers life, though I knew my mom would sneak away from the more convenient house nearer dads job, while my dad was on business trips, for the inconvenience of the old house.