“For a long time, I was not aware that I lived on a narrow ledge on top of a very high wall. I thought, mistakenly, that I lived on an endless, flat canvas and that I was illustrating and adding color where I wanted, creating my own design. But a wind that began very far away, I don’t know when or where, was blowing toward me. Invisible and unprovoked. Pray, live well, or not. Sin. Whatever. It is indifferent. Nothing that I did or thought created it. The wind did not exist because of me. And one day it arrived where I was.
“From the time I was three months old until I was nearly fifteen, my father photographed me every afternoon at precisely three o’clock. When I was an infant, my cousin Karelia held me up for the camera. In later years, I walked on my own to my father’s portrait studio, tossed my cap onto the hat rack, shook hands with customers, and waited for my father. In school, I was known as a strange fellow, daydreaming and bookish, terrible at throwing balls, overly theatrical. But in my father’s studio, I was part of a grand scientific experiment.”
“Twenty-one days after my dad died, a bird perched on the railing of my balcony. It was brown. It stayed there for a long time. Hi Dad, I said. Thanks for checking up on me. I lay down on the couch and read some emails on my phone. When I looked up again, the bird was gone.”
“She was my mother but I called her Ruby, and I believed her hands were magic. She knew how to read cards and runes, how to find meanings in the shadows in photographs. Some people believed she could cast spells for anything from bringing a missing lover back to healing sickness, but I’d never seen the proof of any of that. The only thing I knew for sure was that my mother was afraid, partly of her own fortunes.”
“Alex wasn’t sure when the word revolution crept into their vocabulary. Garth used it, but he had always used it; the Russian Revolution was his career, though on his lips it never brought Bolsheviks sweeping across the dark Russian Steppes, the stutter of gunfire or splash of blood, but the dim, heavy thump of library volumes, scrape of chair legs, and squeak of the card catalogue drawer; it smelled not of death, but of dust and dissertation bond. In the fall they were still in Limestone. Ted had too many incompletes to graduate, and their room was stacked with books for unwritten papers. He was anxious to be done, though he had another three years of law school, if he went. He was no longer sure. He toyed with running for National Office, though he complained that Students for a Democratic Society lived in a world of acronyms that no one outside it could decipher. The next day it would be union organizing, the next divinity school and a ministry for social change, and the next law school again. Or maybe he would enlist and go to Vietnam.”
“On the day of Lincoln Lennox’s lynching, November 8, 2016, investigators came to look at the swing set where his mother found him at 2 a.m. Cord, at this time of year, was holding the first meetings to prepare to host the Eleventh Annual Soldier’s Joy Festival, the big community music festival held March 31st to April 6th in memory of two Iraq-occupation Army personnel who died together in the same drowning incident in Ephesus Swamp two days after they returned home from Iraq. Private First Class Edward “Eddie” Carter Lang, age twenty-eight. Specialist Aaeedah Willerton Clodd, age twenty-nine; everyone called her Eedie. They had been friends of Junior Stanley in the time before he had become what he called Proud Home Guard Boy. He and other members of the Proud Boys club and the Prayer Patriots club were the chief organizers of the weeklong Soldier’s Joy celebrations, their tribute to the two young heroes – “heroes” is the word we feel we should use and, with confused respect, should promote- who had been told the cause was just and had, like us, been convinced.”
“I’ll take the train in broad daylight, then walk to his house from the station. This way his neighbors and body-guards can see that I’m up to no evil purpose. I’ll walk slowly, even stop now and then and gaze up at the rooftops for pigeons, making an easy target of myself. I’ll don a smile, indicating that I’m unafraid and have come on pleasant matters, family matters. I’ll go bearing gifts. In one hand I hold a panettone, that fancy Italian bread filled with tiny fruits and raisins, and already I can see Johnny and his lady huddled in their kitchen flooded by the early sunshine, anxiously slicing off a few pieces, then toasting them lightly and buttering them. In my other hand I hold a naked mozzarella, pure white, still juicy and swollen from its recent baptism in water.”
“It is more commonplace in story than in life that loved ones are witness to dying words that carry meaning or forgiveness. So it was with me, for though I heard my mother’s words, they served only to confound and injure.
“I am like Ana,” she had said. “I have failed Juliana.”
But I knew no Juliana, nor an Ana who had disappointed. I knew only that my mother had left me and would not now explain. In my profession I interpret others’ words within boundaries prescribed by a a meticulous author. That world is less than real, but there is no dire consequence for turning down a wrong path of understanding.”
“Ichiro told me our son would be better off living with his sister and her husband in America; I was too weak to argue with him. My mother said I had lost my mind to give up my child. Her judgment was cruel, but I knew she was right.”