“What do you want to take home with you?”

on

I try hard to focus on the job at hand.

“It’s not like I’m picking them up.”

“I want them in my bag.”

I’m not so sure, but I do as he asks and he takes them with him.

I start to wonder, when he has a moment, what he looks like under all those
bags and the pack he always wears around his leg. The little things that are
easily missed. The things we see every day, and then are only given the bare
facts about.

“And now I’ve got some to take home with me.”

“Let me go. You take them with you.”

“And what’s the point of that? Why is it so important to leave things
behind?”

I look over at him. “When people leave things behind, they have a reason.
They have something to say.”

I stare at him and he looks at me. “You know what they told me when I
bought a bike?”

I shake my head.

“Nothing. But after I came back it was like I heard what they had to say
and I could do nothing. I couldn’t just pack up and leave, you know?”

I shrug. “Maybe.”

“And then one day, it was like, I was in this really cool building with
other people and I saw a window that was broken. A really nice one.
I mean, not that expensive, but pretty. And I had no bike with me.”

“What?”

“No bike. Not with me. They had to call the police and they had to call
me, first. Then I had to get another one. Like I could afford to have it, but
I didn’t have it.”

“They didn’t tell you?”

“Because then I wouldn’t have done it. I would have said, yes, yes, yes.
I would have said I’m too slow to do it. I’m too slow to do anything.”
He was quiet a while, then he said, “I don’t think I ever stopped to think
any of that before.”

“So how did you know it was important?”

“I don’t. That’s all.”

I look down and then up. “I want to learn how to draw a face.”

I look over at him. “I want to learn too. Don’t stop. Don’t let me stop you.
Tell me if you have to do something, before you do it. If that’s okay.”
“But?”

“But–I want to know too.”

“Don’t you want to know how to do it?”

“Yes,” I say. “I mean no. I really want to do it. I really want to learn.”

“I wish I had one of those.”

“Do you?”

“Sometimes, when I’m at the store, I’ll see them and I’ll want one. But
then I get busy with something and I forget to bring them home and then I lose
the money.”

I nod.

“And then sometimes I think, why don’t I just do one? If it takes more
money, well, maybe I have enough at home.”

“You should buy one.”

I point to the bike. “I could buy you one. Couldn’t you sell it? Sell it
and give me the money?”
So we have a bike. But it’s only a bike. Not a bike that is ours. Not a
bike that will become ours.

We keep it until I can take it home and then both of our bikes are lost. The
way we lose everything is kind and gentle, like with that old woman who
doesn’t leave the house because she loves her house too much, like she couldn’t
leave it.

Then we lose the last of those old woman’s things. And she died.

We lose the last of our friends.

I lose my bike.

Me, I lose my bike.

Me, me, me.

Me, me, me.

We lose our first teacher and his wife, who lives in New York and never
travels north. His wife passed in the spring and his first teacher, a man,
his teacher, leaves us in September.

Lose the first teacher.

Lose that teacher’s husband.

Then we lose the first teacher and his wife’s husband and he dies in August.

Lose the first teacher and his wife and they die.

Lose the second teacher.

Lose the second teacher and his wife and he dies.

Lose the third teacher.

Lose the third teacher and his wife and he dies.

Lose the third teacher and his wife and she dies.

Lose the fourth teacher.

Lose the fourth teacher and her husband and he dies.

Lose the fourth teacher and her husband and he dies.

Lose the fourth teacher and her husband.

Lose the fourth teacher and his wife and he dies.

Lose the fifth teacher.

Lose the fifth teacher and his wife and he dies.

Lose the fifth teacher and his wife.

Lose the fifth teacher and her husband and he dies.

Lose the fifth teacher and his wife and she dies.

Lose the sixth teacher.

Lose the sixth teacher and his wife and he dies.

Lose the sixth teacher and his wife and she dies.

Lose the sixth teacher and his wife, not in an apartment building, with
the lights turned on to a low level, the wind blowing out of the north.
Lose the sixth teacher and his wife and she dies in an apartment building.
Lose the sixth teacher and his wife and she dies alone in an apartment.
Lose the first teacher and his wife and she dies in an apartment building.

We lose one teacher and then we lose everything. The bike, the first and
the third teachers, the second teacher. And then we lose our old teacher’s
husband. And he dies.

We lose our old teacher.

Lose the first teacher.

Lose the first teacher and his wife and he dies.

Lose the first teacher and his wife and she dies.

Lose the second teacher.

Lose our second teacher and his wife and she dies.

Lose the second teacher and his wife and she dies.

Lose the second teacher and his wife.

Lose the second teacher and his wife and he dies.

Then we lose our second teacher and his wife’s husband and he dies.

Then we lose the second teacher and his wife and he dies.

Lose the third teacher.

Lose our third teacher.

Lose our third teacher and his wife and she dies.

Lose the third teacher and his wife and she dies.

Lose the third teacher and his wife and she dies.

Lose the third teacher and his wife.

Lose the third teacher and his wife and she dies.

Lose the third teacher and his wife and she dies.

Lose the fourth teacher.

Lose our fourth teacher.

Lose our fourth teacher and his wife and he dies.

Lose the fourth teacher and his wife and she dies.

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