Inherent

The last time I saw you, we talked about the neighbors next door. Their son was my brothers’ playmate. With age and distance, they grew apart and his heart slipped. He died too young and his infant son unknowingly shares the same fate. The neighbors vacation in mourning, knowing they have no heir for their cabin and bunkhouse.

The dinner bell hasn’t sung in years and no one has tended to the graveyard of expired polliwogs and leeches at the foot of the driveway since the boys all left. But it will all be sold, to be demolished. But until then, nothing moves.

Remember when we were in their bunkhouse last summer? We were making the beds after the boys’ boys had spent the night, we didn’t have room in our cabin. One of them had pissed the sheets. You noticed an old alarm clock on the nightstand. You thought it was neat despite the time not matching your watch. The neighbor walked in to give a christian thank you for cleaning bedding, but rather he panicked at the time on the clock. It had changed despite having not seen an outlet since Kennedy. The boys’ boys had fumbled with the hours knob. The neighbor returned to his cabin and you returned to yours. I continued making the beds and before I left, I turned the knob back, to the time our neighbor wished it had been.

I was used to setting clocks back. I spent my life doing it in our own bedrooms.

I slept in the bed where your grandfather died and you etched your childhood teeth onto the bedpost. Palms from long ago Easters, tacked to the wall. I was used to setting clocks back. I spent my life doing it in our bathroom, looking for my toothbrush but finding my ancestors’ aspirin instead. I washed my face and dried it with a dead woman’s towel.

I was used to setting clocks to the time you wished it had been. I’ve worn their clothes on cold days, the sleeves still damp with their sweat. They have been gone for years, but I drink from their cups and eat with their spoons. I’ve gone to the garage to fetch a tool for you but the drills haven’t pressed since Vietnam.

And at night, the television airs reruns. I watch, sitting on the couch they bought from a department store that closed its doors three decades ago. I am used to setting clocks to the time you wished it was, I’ve gotten used to living in the time you wished it was. And I don’t know what time it really is, anymore. When you go, when you lay down, what time do I set the alarm clock on the nightstand to? Do I keep it where you set it all those years ago, or do I move the hours knob? 

May 2018