Birthday letter

For your birthday this year, you quit your job. You dropped the reins and let the leather lay flaccid on the grass. You spent a cold morning walking the old city, tears seeding your eyes like pearls. You didn’t respond when your body called out your name. You said: I mean, what for? I cannot look back and retrace my steps across the ocean. You cut those veins and let the footprints fill with blood.

You thought of everything you wanted to write but then, sitting at the keyboard after two months of swimming in a hole of darkness, you raised your hands to the uneven light and found them reduced to lumps of lunch meat. To restore their life would required sacrifice. You said: What do I have left to give? The amphora is already broken.

You spent hours in the red-colored badlands, squatting over artifacts of the distant past. You brushed the dust off their faces with a tenderness that felt pained, jagged, filthy. You scratched out messages with a scalpel. Where did you go? On the pieces of the amphora, a reply, long eroded into sand that shone in the air like scattered light. Once upon a time, there was something whole here, in this place where you hoard nothing but shards.

Magnolia petals on the asphalt, April 1994. For your birthday this year, promise that you will pack up your digger’s tools. Promise that you will cross the desert. Promise you will retreat to the forest, where the ruins of the old city are overgrown with moss, and where the insects have made homes in the hollowed-out traffic lights. There, it is possible to stand in the stream, the fish kissing your knees, their movements a map to a future not yet known to us, and feel clean in a new way, one that the water can neither give nor take away.

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