The Packing House

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Chapter 27 | Tongue in Groove

My mind has lingered over that kiss for so long—how my finger traced the side of her cheek before turning toward those cherry lips; the way the last two pieces of a puzzle fit exquisitely together. Sometimes with an audible sigh. Others, in that inaudible way tongue-and-groove pieces click together.

That’s why I know we were meant for more. It was there on the beach and in the darkness of the closet, tangible between us. But a kiss is just the first step. Every one that follows has been almost effortless.

As I sit on this never-ending bus ride, I know I’m past the point of no return. I can’t go back. I’ve got to take a chance, or I’ll regret not trying. I might lose everything, even our friendship, but I’m willing to face that if it happens. I don’t think it will.

Grasshoppers make daring leaps inside my chest. My hands tremble. I get out paper. I’ve got to try.

Maybe I’m crazy for running headlong at it, not knowing the outcome. After all, puzzle pieces can wear out over time. That’s not the point. The point is to go for it, because clarity comes in a moment, the same as certainty comes and goes. It can go. I know that. But what remains is worth the time it took to find how each piece fit together in the first place.

That’s how love is born.

Dear Amber,

Writing can be such a lonely experience. As I write, I am alone with just myself and my thoughts, although mostly I think of you. And me. And us. It’s funny because I’m sitting on a crowded bus, headed back to you.

We could be together. The way I imagine it to be. But that would be the future. When I write, it might be the present—in that moment—captured in words on the page. When I finally get to share it with you, time will have moved on, and it’s just my past, our past, or my imagined future I’ll share with you.

It’s not here. It won’t be when you read it. That’s not why I wanted to share it with you. Sure, writing can be a safe place from which to explore something from all sides, analyze it, pin it to the page. But I’ve decided something.

It’s a radical decision, so bear with me. I’m going to stop writing. I’m going to keep myself in the present (as your father suggested and even you suggested in your last letter), not the past or an imagined future. A present I hope to share with you in the now. Will you join me, as my girlfriend?


[From the journal of Joel Scrivener.]


Far away I hear the wind pressing nearer,

the corners of the house begin to buckle in, ashamed.

I climb inside the dusky words of a book unclaimed

for all the dim years past, becoming clearer.

On those dark pages no one writes what is missing

and I cannot wait for this grief to make sense.

The beaten child hunches over, tangled in the fence;

at length, his shadow distended by dark waters, fishing.

The windows have eyes facing ever inward,

staring down shadows at all these dark places.

Panes shudder, rattling in their frame cages

at the lost things: a boy I unearth from pinewood.

Unlidded, my eyes clamp shut, against murky depths

laid open, his stare long saddened by rejection.

The death I gave him refusing the question,

whose guilt I now bear like an old hermit, unkempt.

Underneath, floorboards groan, creak with the great weight

I gather around my body. A storm approaches, raging

along the horizon, tossing seagulls inland, waging

unwieldy fielded currents, worms strung on hooks like bait.

The boy brings bruises back into the house, deep wounds

surfaced by winds and new rain. He climbs into my lap

and holds me quietly for long moments, like a clap

of thunder rumbling up from darkened and muddy ground.

The light switches refuse to stay turned down.

They throw light all over the house, pressing darkness

down into the cellar like an uneasy calmness

numbing our bodies to sleep, or else be found,

knowing what we have become: the wizened hermit

and the boy undone, by a life lost in stasis,

the way we allow shame to create the basis

for the storm to rise, lifting the shadow into respite.

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