Breathe
 
 
In the final moments of his life, Amos Barber remembered.  He saw his father open the car door for his mother. Her neat, prim exit in a pink pillbox hat. She disappeared into the house inside a silvery eight-millimeter haze. He saw himself tucked away in the little blue room beside the television, and knew at last how that blankness had been the pre-curser to this bright heave, and death.
 
His mother had always been there.  A presence and a comfort, even to the last. She was forever baking  cookies. Even after he had learned to make them for himself,  even after he had found the way to the grocery store, walking two miles there and two miles back. After he would buy the butter and the brown sugar and the chocolate chips. After he would mix them in the silver bowl . His mother there beside him, baking all his favorites. and he would eat them until the sun came up and it was time to get dressed. Time for school.
 
His father would drive the same route as the school bus to drop him off . He would go in and sit down and be very quiet.  His father was not the bus driver but dropped him off  in the emptiness.  It had been so good in the little red schoolhouse. Where the kids were joyful ,bright and glad.
 
What could he do? Only relax and breathe. Like blowing out a birthday cake--the endless rows of flaming candles, the torrents of flame infecting the sky, smoke rushing through the vents and the brightly lit windows, stick figures falling from the orange and black sky. Because a birthday was as if beauty itself were burning, his motherÕs pink waist and Jackie O haircut. The blankness inside him, the confusion inside him. . . .
 
It was a lovely day anyway.The February sun aroused the great river. The windows on his house were a cathedral without a savior, their high arching panes filled with the shadows of his childhood friends. There was Tommy and Scoot and little scrawny Bob.  The frizzy blond hair he always kept in a pony tail. Or was that later—was that in high school? He thought it must have been because it was high school when the  hurricane came and they went out to the canal and saw the gouge in the canal bank, and heard the darkness howl and gurgle.
 
It was Joan that was love. She bent over and kissed him. He could see her leaving and coming back. He could see her destroying him. How he walked out of the room, the door, the house. And disappeared and did not come back. The house a plastic icon to the joy he had known. It had been beautiful. She had been beautiful. His melting had been beautiful. the sky had been beautiful.
 
And  work had been beautiful: A gray slate clock against a gray slate wall. The pettiness and the burden. The  times he had been murdered and then brought back. The sucking economies that loved  him as  he loved them. 
 
How long it takes for death! A lifetime it seemed---  half a day in the principalĂ•s office. The waiting like guilt and like discernment. He was wondering about that. He was looking down into the vortex where the silence opens inside the sky. He could see his mother there. Her pink pillbox hat. She was beautiful and she loved him, or was that someone else? Yes someone else. Exactly who was that. He stayed in the little room beside the television. He could hear the murmuring . He could feel the distance. From the roof he looked down on everything that had been, and it unfolded in a loop, again and again . He saw himself and his family and everyone else, endlessly repeating their actions inside silence. Until the silence closed over him and the form of things was like a river that would never end, and the whole of his life swept by without him  --work and love and family and their cries.