Inhale4 min read

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Our destination is mundane and so tranquil. Maybe that’s why we’ve stopped here; it’s the product of an uninspired journey. The air is still and the sun is waiting, and at a spot midway between a limb and the earth, a half–fallen leaf comes to a decision.

Nothing moves.

It’s at this instant that we know we’ve been found lacking. A quiet moment alone with ourselves tells us who we are. Perhaps it’s the whole point of the waiting. Neighbor eyes neighbor, each as helpless as the other. We deserve another chance, don’t we? The other guy thinks so too, but he can’t answer.

Cold silence, snowflake–perfect. We could hear our own hearts if they were still beating. Nothing moves.

And there’s a soft swelling, like an orchestra tuning, telling us that the Maestro draws near. We struggle to smile. It was just a hiccup in the universe—a little warning to set us on a better path. Skeptics scribble prayers with newfound humility.

The leaf drifts skyward and sticks to a twig.

People walk backwards. They siphon water from lawns and stitch the grass back in place. Children shove toys onto shelves while scolding mothers litter the living room floor.

Vehicles dare blind high–speed reverse, in a rush to return from someplace important. A collision untangles. They’re fine—not a scratch. A bottle flings itself at a passing teen. He catches it without looking, holds it high to his lips and fills it.

We meet a friend, unsay our words, and leave in surprise. That was the first time we’d met; we’ll never see her again.

Shock and amusement, disgust and regret. Every mote in existence hums and remembers. There were a million ways forward yet there’s only one back. It’s awkward not having choices, not that we need them.

Now the path is clear.

Food is forked from mouths, assembled on plates, separated and bagged, and returned to store shelves. The clerk pays us for our efforts; we pay our boss for the joy of the job. It all balances in a perfect cosmic order.

Early each morning, trucks haul produce back to the fields. Farmers fill the soil, mend stalks, unpluck vines. The bounty shrinks, blooms, winds tight, and is gone. The earth swallows down shoots.

Only order can come from chaos.

We feel fear and such shame. Every confrontation is revisited; every slur pulled back into us. We bite hateful words out of the air, swirl them about on our tongues as if tasting fine wine, and store each rare vintage in dark recesses. Artistic crudities, always a part of us—they’re proud to meet their makers.

Lost loved ones return. Diseases fade, whimper, and vanish. The new elders are as shocked as anyone else. We should feel joy at watching the infirmed find their feet, but we’re too busy pulling in words and hurrying backward. We ignore them, like always.

Not all miracles are meant to be blessings. We watch our children.

They forget our lessons and our words of love.

They walk, stumble, crawl.

They ignore our names, and then their own.

They wither and smooth, becoming more simplistic each day.

We shed tears at their birth.

They melt back into their mothers and now they’re back home.

The casino pays gamblers—they leave with full pockets. Lovers count the days until their first parting. The guilty return to the scene of the crime. Every abuse is revisited and we weep, knowing the liar can now speak the truth.

Books are unwritten. Songs are unplayed. Paintings swabbed clean. We tear down the buildings, scrape up the roads, dismantle whatever seems of good use. Our cities crumble from the outside in, spilling in to the core and winking away.

There are moments of pride. Pouring fish into the sea, re–raising the forests, sieving the air with tall plumes. There’s a sense contentment, but we know what awaits. Everyone knows their own past.

A flash and a city rises.

Armies meet on battlefields. Guns suck bullets from prone bodies. It’s a race to place the enemy back on his feet. We are his saviors. He charges back home to grow young and be innocent.

We seek out the natives in cramped prisons and send them back to their fathers’ lands. Their gratitude heals us as our contrition heals them. We retreat and everything is back as it was.

Ships return to distant ports, which explode into stacks of stone and hewn timber. The great men forget and unscribe their truths. We watch them toil back into obscurity.

The saints arise—beards white, grey, brown, gone. The whole world is waiting because they remember the rumors. The truth is unspoken.

Rome shrinks to a hillside. Society splinters. We pull apart monuments and hide their stones deep in the ground.

We skulk in loose tribes, but somehow remember. Our tiny minds still grasp a retreating destiny. We look up at the moon and know we were there in a distant tomorrow.

Farther and farther. The continents drift. Species rise up, and shrink back into nothing.

The world spins apart.

The sun bleeds into dust.

We tumble back, somehow still seeing, and knowing. We’re meant to, so that we can repent.

It inhales.

We’re deep in its lungs.

My children, I’m so sorry.

We dare not speak. Nothing is more wounding than a parent’s disappointment.

Even the divine can make mistakes.

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