My friend’s mother talked on the phone for hours, pacing the kitchen, smoking cigarette after cigarette, pausing and frowning in dramatic caesuras, then replying in a burst of diatribe or praise. She’d hush us—vamoose, I’m talking—and then, after a brief apology, continue her stream of conversation. We had no idea there was no one on the other end of the line until one afternoon my friend picked up the receiver in his parents’ bedroom to interrupt her to say he was going over to my house—she’d closed all the kitchen doors for privacy—and realized she was the only one talking. She hadn’t heard him raise the receiver and just kept talking while we listened and laughed into our shirt sleeves, slapping five as though we’d just won some big prize. When we got back from my house an hour later she was still on the phone, talking away in that sing-song voice that was only partly hers, flirting her gossip with nothing at all.
Do you feel the deeper breaths moving through yourself, she asks me, do you know who those voices are, singing through your head; do you know yourself again and again, like a shard of glass that’s been smoothed and made precious by the sea? My memory is faulty, but my hopes are eternal, as the foxes that roam here might agree, setting out at dusk to dance and forage through our neighborhood while we’re inside eating dinner or watching TV. And when I say dance, I mean it: have you seen a gray fox jump for a robin or jay as it swoops over the grass, and catch it? The bird flutters for a while, but it’s pretty quickly dead. Now think of that little fox in the bushes feasting, the feathers and beak she leaves behind in the darkened grass. It’s yet another reason we humans need to sing.
In a suburb of your city, an old woman sits alone in her evening kitchen. It has been drizzling for days. The TV chatters; she pays it no attention. She is drinking whiskey, looking blankly at the air. Every so often she says something, the same phrase each time, but we are too distant to hear her. Darkness deepens the spaces between each drop as the rain starts falling with a purpose. The noise of the rain seems to rouse her. She gets up, wincing, and walks to the living room, where she stands in front of the large picture window. She puts her palm flat against the chilly glass and says something loudly, in a slurred voice, twice. She falls into an easy chair and starts to cry, as full dark falls across the living room, where a small reading lamp is turned low. The house makes its own noises around her in response. The dog stands by the doorway watching.
Soon she will get up and walk back to the kitchen.
She will sit at the table and sip her drink and then the melted ice. All she really wants now, to be honest, is to lie down on the kitchen floor, lights on, and sleep. Her little dog will lick her face and sit beside her, waiting patiently for morning, when she’ll let him out to pee. Now he just settles down beside her.
Pine needles hold drops of rain for hours after the day has cleared, and even after the grass below has dried. The raindrops glitter there; they attract thirsty insects. When the breeze blows, these drops fall, singing, to the ground. It’s a rare thing for anyone to notice, after all—anyone, that is, but those insects.