To live long enough in this world means to learn to nestle the twins of grief and hope in your arms. I tuck the bottle of fertility medication next to the black dress I bought for my mother’s funeral. We plant a white pine in the yard, in view of the window of our empty nursery.
You’d donated most of your organs, so the body in your coffin was basically a scarecrow version of you. . . . Thank God they don’t do brain transplants, I thought. Anybody who’d gotten your brain would’ve woken up from surgery a total asshole. I heard you laughing at this. I could remember your laugh really well. It was a letdown that I could hear it only in my head.
These were strange and intoxicating expeditions. At the cliff-lined ends of forest-service roads or the edges of muddy cattle tanks, or in the cricket-loud groves where saguaros gave way to oaks, I would help stretch nets on moonless evenings. Bats fluttered into the thin weave and were trapped, toothy and screaming.
In the backseat on long car rides home from my grandmother’s house in southern Illinois, I cataloged light sources in the dark: gazing at flare towers burning above oil wells, watching the taillights of faster cars shrink to pinpoints, following the sweep of flood lamps up the domes of concrete grain silos.
My uncle finally kicked me out, and I was living in the twenty-four-hour Kroger on Fairhaven Avenue in Tustin, California, pilfering food and sleeping at the coffee bar. One day Mr. Muniz pushed a cart through the frozen-foods section where I was fanning myself, and he stopped. I’d gotten ugly, my face wasn’t right, and I could tell he was thinking, What the hell?