She came at a complex time—we all knew it, she did too. She made the trip all the way from Boston, had bundled it with her summer plans to go back home in the suburb outside of Milwaukee she grew up in. She took a hammer and busted a chunk of her summer just to come see me when my life was on the line, behind glass in jailhouse oranges. It was still within that time when the very real fear of apocalypse was entangled with the lofty dreams that I could still go home—that I would go home—that I could reinvent my dreams, be that someone else, still young but wise and triumphant. That maybe I could be with her, that it should happen and that it all would—even though it was becoming clearer that I was going away, I just didn’t know for how long.

Now she was here—the real person that drove with my mom over an hour from Minneapolis to the small jailhouse in the middle of the plainest town in Minnesota. I knew she was coming, but I could never be prepared. My hair and sparse beard that sprouts in odd patterns just couldn’t be right enough. We had been writing letters during the whole process, I had a friend go and find her. I couldn’t help but tell her about the Hennepin county jail with the green roof; old and rotten little corners that felt haunted. I told her about the nightmares I would have; waking up in sweats, realizing I was still there on a bunk, in a dorm that smelled like bologna and orange peels. It was a sober experience that humbled and reconstructed me. She sent me a picture of her in the red graduation gown and degree from the university she went to. It was the evidence of an obvious contrast in the directions the two of us had taken in our lives. It helped me craft a delusion that somehow even in my delinquency I could live vicariously through her light. The background had changed dramatically from when we used to drink whatever beer we could steal from our parents’ refrigerators, and sit in a cabin throwing abstract teenage philosophy in the air and let it float with all the smoke in the air.

I got her high once, she had to leave to go freak out in the bedroom of her parents’ cabin. The next day she looked at me like I had sold her on a bunk experience. Instead she would smoke the cigarettes she had packed away for the quiet, sophisticated moments on the swing by the lake, or on the porch of the lodge after the lights went out, underneath the electric bug zapper. She called them ‘grettes’—I teased her about how she manipulated the word so naturally, so cool and matter-of-factly, even though I came with an entire lexicon of word manipulations that I know she couldn’t help but think were a little silly sometimes. But she put up with me just like I would’ve put up with anything she brought up there with her. I might’ve playfully flirted with her about them, but there was always this genuine comfort I had around her—this relief I didn’t have to be the character I played in the hierarchy of the world I came from. I had lots of friends but even though my guys were my guys and the girls were my people, I didn’t really like all of them, some of them had been forced on me through alliances in grimy friendship-politics, compared to her who felt like someone I’d known for many lifetimes. I often wished I could have up and left with her, leaving all the politics and treachery behind me.

The first time I ever spoke to her, she and a bunch of the other kids that came out to the clusters of those cabins in Northern Wisconsin, at the same time every year were jumping off the float in the lake. I was trying to navigate an old peddle boat with a friend that came with my family from the city. The whole group swam up on the peddle boat we just couldn’t get to go real fast. She swam up with the rest of the young strangers much more comfortable in their environment, amused at pressing down on the new kids, asking all sorts of silly questions that we answered with the curtest aloofness. She asked us with the most genuine smile if we were “Straight Edge” kids, maybe because my friend had long bangs that came over his eyes. We told her “No!” despite not really knowing what being “Straight Edge” was; there was definitely nothing straight edge about us. But despite the question a magnificence was obvious about her, that made her that much different than the rest of the kids hanging on the edge of that paddle boat. We weren’t sure about some of those kids but we wanted to know her. And once we did know her, we started going there every year after that.

We would take these walks through the oddly present trailer park that adjoined to the resort. walk slow and listen to each other talk about all the stuff happening in our lives—all the people that had cycled in or out during the previous year. I used to get these weird butterfly flutters before we went each year, scared to death she wouldn’t receive me the way she had sent me off the previous year. She was good at keeping in touch, did her best to keep things constant and intact—at least for the first couple of years. I wasn’t so good at writing back though. I may have written back once, I always had a whole lot I wanted to say to her but I was so worried I would look stupid, sound less cool that I was trying to be. I was worried I wouldn’t sound like the rebellious and dangerous city kid I tried to appear to be.

We used to sit in the lodge, a little older than kids, a little to retarded to be grown, with the same songs on the jukebox every year. It played a catalog of cornball country I didn’t otherwise knew really existed; ‘There’s a Tear in my Beer’, or ‘Mr. Bojangles’ or anything by Garth Brooks or Alan Jackson. One year, ‘Achy Breaky Heart’ played over and over along with a cache of the commercial oldies meant to be apolitical, not meant to drive anybody crazy, but did anyway. Every once in a while ‘Stand by Me’ came on. “Don’t you like this song though?” “Yes—of course I do.” When it got cold at night she used to tuck her hands in the sleeves of her sweatshirt and folded her arms across her body to stay warm.

We didn’t know how long we had. It could be an hour, it could be twenty minutes—it all depended on how many people showed up to see their people. There were only four visiting booths, so there was always possibility for congestion. She came in with a smile; soft freckles and a light emanating from her eyes. She came in with a familiar summer sun in her hair I hadn’t actually seen for myself in so long. Most of my day I would be somewhere in the jail; playing cards or reading, windows frosted over, blocking the sun and everything else in the world. My body was taking up space, but I really wasn’t anywhere at all, I was transporting, getting ready for a cross-over in time and space that I didn’t yet understand—but here behind glass, locked in a box, squished between wails with the love of my life sitting across from me, I was trying to recompose myself. So much of my summer had centered on this visit. And she was the pretty face she had always been, the something beautiful we all want, we all envision for ourselves when we are growing up, sitting in front of all the ugly I had made out of my life.

Her smile changed fast. Only a few sentences in, after the basics; “You look good”, “Yeah you too”, “how are you?” “I’m making it” were through and she and I had to start saying to each other what she had come across an entire country to say. The tears started to come, the genuine heart-wrenching tears I only knew in the privacy of my pillow.

Tears on her face that meant to me everything to any degree I had ever fucked up. They meant that the game was over for me. It meant there might be a life waiting for me separate from a jail or a prison—even if it only were to exist in the alternate universe of hopefulness, in the places where the insane go to be themselves, to see and feel the things they do. They cried about who I used to be, that was rebellious but not so dangerous at all, that I was scrawny and kind once.

We tried to talk about the people in our lives—the ones we both knew and the ones the other only knew from the other’s letters over the past year, or from a phone call or an obscure conversation on the lodge porch years before any of this. One of her best friends came with her and was outside with my mom. My mother made this very same trip at least once, sometimes twice a week for all the weeks I had been here. She believed that’s what you did for people you love; you support them when they’re in turmoil. My mother and father both understood it—and the girl who was sitting across from me did too. I did, however, wonder what her friend waiting outside thought of this trip, the figure she never met that her best friend came to a jailhouse in the middle of nowhere to see.

I told her about my friends; the ones she had met the last year I had been to the cabin. Theirs was the one who had joined the marines, and my best friend who just up and moved to the east coast to get away from all the things that were happening—the explosion whose force was too great to keep him and his new family around. And I told her about all of the others who had figured out for themselves that the cause just wasn’t strong enough for them to care and went somewhere, or just stayed away.

I told her about what I was reading—Hermann Hesse and Jack Kerouac, Dostoevsky and Steinbeck, anything I could get my hands on I thought I was the shit, that I had become in 10 months the cliché of the convict that found himself in books during the grind of doing time. She had already read them all by the time I got to talking about them so she was amused by my sudden enlightenment. I told her I started reading the bible, and how I was mad at myself for ignoring it all those years. In the panic I had no idea what I was supposed to believe, I was just absorbing anecdotes and phrases as they flowed into my world. I used to show off when we were younger by puking out the small bits of Nietzsche I understood and free-styling off of the so much of him I didn’t understand. She told me in a letter a few months earlier that maybe I should’ve read Nietzsche after I read the bible—she was probably right. It was probably another example of outsmarting myself skipping a step to have what was on the other side, missing context while trying to nuance certain subtext. Before she left she would leave me a stack of books; Kafka, The Trial and of course The Metamorphosis; Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom, and Light in August with Joe Christmas. And she left me Farewell to Arms, there had to be the tragic love story snuck inconspicuously in the pile to be discovered.

She told me about her family; her parents’ irreconcilable differences, how she wouldn’t take sides. She told me about her sister in Germany—figuring things about her own life. And she told me about her grandma; the woman I had hardly ever seen, sitting in the cabin out on the point. How she was able to spend some time with the woman she called her idol—precious moments of reflection during her most recent trip back to the resort. They were reflections I could still appreciate—that came to me sometimes in confused rhythms and patterns obstructed behind two-inch thick glass and the click that recorded everything I tried to say to the people I loved on the phone.

She told me about how big some of the younger kids at the lodge were becoming; how the ones with “Little” as a prefix for their name weren’t so much anymore. She also told me about the girl we both knew from that itty-bitty town in Illinois that could be hard to pronounce after a few beers; the one who didn’t quite live in the same universe as we did the other 51 weeks of the year, but who genuinely had a big heart, and for the most part kept most of her particular small-town judgments to herself. She would sometimes, though, look at us funny when we drank beer or smoked cigarettes. She had come up to the lodge the year before pregnant, married to a guy in the army or the marines or one of the armed services. This year a divorce was imminent. She said that maybe she should have given her the birth control speech instead of the one she had given me the year I came up and was on the phone everyday waiting on pregnancy results from my girl back home. I sloshed a whole bag of quarters in the pay phone just to get the news that she wasn’t pregnant. Back then I never expected circumstances could make it where being a father might he impossible—it’s tough to make babies in jail.

We reflected on that for a moment then she told me out of the blue that my English teacher from high school was waiting outside. It was a huge surprise, which was more of an anticlimactic surprise than anything. Normally it would have generated a pleasant sort of excitement that this man who hadn’t had me in a class in six or seven years remembered me enough to drive the hour and a half to see how I was doing in the tumult I was in and drop off books for me. It would have garnered much more appreciation on any other day except on the one in which the woman, who had been a girl most of the time I had known her, that I loved, and compared every other girl I ever knew to, that I was fatally in love with, was here face to face with me from across the world, many realms and dimensions separating our realities. I needed every minute I could get with her when the pieces of matter that connected us were breaking into infinite smaller pieces; we had no idea where either of us could drift to. Neither of us knew what was going to happen; in her life, in my life, with us; who we would be in the overall contexts of our individual lives. Especially after years in a cage made me into what it would, or what kids and real-life success would make her. Or how either of us would transform when family dies, priorities change, and we all shuffle on down the line in each other’s worlds.

She asked me about the case but I knew my mom had already told her everything there was to know. I had been beaten emotionless from all the dimensions of fear and uncertainty, the life or death, the right now or forever. I was digesting it, numb from all the feelings. It was hard for me to dredge up the kind of feelings she may have been searching for. I didn’t know how to tell her what happened—just that it wasn’t supposed to be like this. I told her bad things just happen even when you expect such a different outcome. I told her how ready I had been to find some different directions, that I had just pushed it a little too long. I told her I never intended for it to happen, that it was never in my heart to let it happen. It just did.

We used to go on these ‘bear hunts’. All the kids who could still be out after dark would go out on the lone two-lane road leading to the resort, without flashlights or adult supervision, out past the scant light of the cabins or where the trailers couldn’t light the road. We would walk on asphalt in the unrecognizable black void—none of us knew what was out there, watching and waiting. Talking about the future and shucking our shrinking attachments to our lives as kids. She was more bound by them than I was, at least my dumb-ass thought so—but her vision for what she could be was much greater than I was even prepared to consider for myself. I had started playing with the fatalistic notion of dying young, shaking the things that were hard for me to grasp about getting older, having kids, paying bills—being not so cool—having to be what I was going to be instead of just talking something into reality.

There was always someone who would run up ahead and wait. It was an exercise in blind faith, trusting there wasn’t a crew of foraging bears cutting across the road or waiting in the brush along the side. After a few minutes people wouldn’t notice the missing person crouched down waiting for everyone else to catch up—and bang—he or she would jump up and startle the shit out of everyone. This happened for years, from group of kids to the next group of kids. By the time our run came most of the kids couldn’t be out that late anyways, except us. Sometimes there would be a few other kids, but mostly it was me, my friend and her—then eventually it was just the two of us and the allure of confronting a bear took a backseat to sitting at the kitchen table in one of the cabins. Or else we took walks to the dump and sat on large rocks, or a refused air conditioner—and she smoked those ‘grettes’, I smoked something else. She told me her favorite trees were willow trees, she loved willow trees. I didn’t know a person could have a favorite tree. I don’t think I was even sure exactly what a willow tree was then. I thought I knew everything else though. And she listened, nobody else was watching, judging how it sounded or if I was full of shit.

One year, a month after leaving the cabin, one of my guys got shot in the neck, dropped on a boulevard in front of some of the guys. He stopped breathing, his heart stopped beating and they told us all he was dead. But he came back to life. He was a little wobbly, but he could walk, a little spacey but not brain dead like they said he might be. Most everyone we knew spent a long night at HCMC; we had a chaplain try to conduct final prayers with us in an elevator, and we spent countless nights and afternoons watching him recover. It changed all of us. It especially changed my life. And when I came back to the cabin the next year I was different; I saw the world a little darker, and a little less merciful, She was different too though, her world got bigger, and she knew more people, had new experiences that made her perspective all that more interesting—the strictures that bound her to her youth were starting to break off. But out of nature, we gravitated back to each other, had new stories to tell, new people to be.

And that week, like so many of those vacations, insulated me from a relentless, unforgiving world outside of them. It was comfortable and essential, a good time to get away. At home I was starting to feel stuck; starting to worry about what the crew was doing, about how long it would be until the next inevitable fragmentation. Where would we all end up? It was something I had come to expect in the community, feelings changed and throats got cut—and truthfully, I had been one of the worst cut-throats of the bunch sometimes. And what would happen at school, the pattern of failure already in full-swing, what was waiting at the end? We had already been through these reformations so many times. At the cabin it didn’t really matter; it was mostly about being in love with this girl that read great books and listened to cool music, who had a perspective I’d never listened to before—gentle and well-intentioned, and meant for me, that I had too much pride to say how much I appreciated.

The people at the jail started ducking in every few minutes, sweating us to start winding down because there were a lot of people waiting and I still had my English teacher waiting for his turn, who I’m sure didn’t realize he might be stealing a half hour from the visit I’d waited to get my whole life—the “you meant something to me” visit—the “what you felt wasn’t imaginary” visit.

And the tears came from the gut again and overwhelmed her as she tried to say what she had meant to say—what she came from so far away to say. But the tears shocked even her, interrupted what was supposed to be her declaration—tears that no woman besides my mom had ever shed for me, genuinely shed out of love for me, even as wretched as I had become. They shocked me though especially, suffocated my cool. I had never seen them before. They embarrassed me a little and I didn’t have an adequate response to the emotion. I had scripted so much of what I wanted to say, things that had to be said—but I had no script for this. Even after the blunt hammer of sorrow and wicked consequence had busted me down and broken me open for what I was, I was still trying to play that cool, like her wet face didn’t affect me in the earth-shattering way as it actually had. The water and saline started gathering in my eyes too, but for one of those heavy reasons I couldn’t understand, after I had already cried so many life-changing tears into a pillow and broken down into the innumerable pieces I was only delicately holding back in place, but instead of sharing my tears with hers, and breaking back down into pieces, I start laughing. It was an insecure, unprepared laugh, embarrassed at seeing one of the strongest people in my life show her vulnerability in my presence, vulnerability for me—because of me, and I was too afraid to reciprocate. I was too afraid I might melt into a puddle and not be the person I wanted her to see. And after I got past all the prepared “See, I told you how dangerous all of this was—I told you how real my life was”, I was left simply with the fear to say I was scared; of going away forever, of getting old, dying, and of everything about the madness that was in front of me.

She was able to tell me she loved me. She told me I had taught her so much—that I meant so much to her—that I helped her become who she was. I should have let her help me become something other than what I was, learned more from her. I was crushed because I had lived as though there would always be enough time for things to happen. Now I was teetering on the world ending, and the beautiful correspondence we’d carried on over the turbulent months before, where she had been so honest and full of heart, had come to this moment. And I was still too scared to admit I wasn’t so cool and unaffected. But right at that moment, as tears gushed from her face and the reality of the moment, a visit that might not ever come again, where we were face to face at the precipice of our young lives and the most profound levels of uncertainty over all the dueling entities in our universe; freedom or a cage, sanity or madness, and life or death were laid out in between us—taking our cumulative inexperience and trying to make sense. Trying to offer hope to each other and say goodbye without actually saying it, or giving in to it, without admitting that was what we were doing. None of the ideas or proclamations either of us ever made on a bear hunt, or drinking a beer on the porch of the lodge ever added any insight to right now—in a physical separation between her, only a few steps from the sun glaring on cars in the parking lot in one direction, and me making the trek back deep inside myself where I had already been for so many months, in the other.

We sat for a couple of rough minutes, plenty to say, no words to fill the space, just still snap shots of the other to take with us where we went Vivid and lively enough for me to internally negotiate with while my high school English teacher talked to me about Gatsby and the irony of my tenth grade “how-to” project about robbing the nearby Burger King. I would take those shots back with me to a bunk I had only kind of made into a home, but still dim to the reality of my destiny. She would take her last glimpses with her on that return trip to Minneapolis, would soon be on an airplane and from the sky see the green roof of the Hennepin County jail; the building I had told her had haunted me for so many months. Then, they would go with her on her life-changing pilgrimage through Europe; London, France, Monaco, Barcelona, Italy, Austria, Germany (with her sister) the places too endless to encapsulate; when in the midst of exploration; the snapshot may get lost, obscured or re-figured in the chaos of her self-discovery.

I remember feeling sick, gagging on reality, the toxin of jail, looking in the mirror—seeing someone look back who was starting to understand the world that might exist had he seen himself as anything other than doomed for so many years. Even the earlier version of that person thought doom just meant crossing over, escaping. Now the doom had an actual physical result, it was something to dread—something absent the things we love—and full of the terrifying possibilities he had always done his best to avoid. A realization that nothing he ever put in was ever enough to hold him up in that water; heavy and violent, falling in sheets from the sky. People may hold me up for so long, but soon their strength just wasn’t enough to keep me from submersing. Walking out I couldn’t tell her I was in love with her, that I needed her to love me.

It was the love I could never admit out of my mouth existed, but had secretly always hoped for. She was the girl I wanted, that wanted me too. My obsession with tragedy always seemed such a profound thing that gave meaning to the melancholy I felt my whole life—until I got right up to it and realized the limits to those choices, the “no way out” end of the story hurts. The narrowing existential platform aches; it says that someone else is going to marry this girl, is going to have the huge party with all of his friends. Someone else is going to have the pretty babies that look up at them, that have no fathoming that this moment, this visit ever happened. That the tears flowed so gracefully, and bruised so easily. That they had ever come to their mother’s face over someone, or thing other than their dad. I guess it wouldn’t be tragic if it didn’t hurt so obviously.

She sent me a letter she had written a few hours after the visit. It was the letter I had always wanted her send me. She told me she would take me around the world with her, that all of the places we had talked about going, she’d take me with her in her heart. She said she’d see me in her dreams. She said she hoped I would be able to find some peace. She said it seemed like I was almost there, I probably wasn’t, I’m still not. She told me she was a better person for having known me; I knew she would have done alright without all of the bullshit I distributed in her direction. She told me how her emotions after the visit came in waves, like a surreal rush of feeling. I wanted to tell her that meant she was doing some of this time too—that realizations come and aren’t necessarily even rooted completely in any sort of reality. I had brought her into the cyclone with me, and I knew that was unfair—it was more bullshit she didn’t deserve.

By the time she came back from Europe; renewed and reborn, getting ready for life to start—I had been through a ringer. I was trying to figure out if I wanted to live like this or die; whether I had done enough with my life to make the statement I wanted to, or if any of it really mattered anyway. A gavel thundered and a number too great for me to hold onto exploded at me, blackened both of my eyes and swelled them shut in darkness, hiding the future from me. The number would be my burden- it would be my life- a rebirth into a world I didn’t know yet. I had been reincarnated so many times throughout the course of my life on earth and this would be the most profound thus far.

The next time I heard from her I was already in prison, switching in and out of a real-live cage, moving in the tide of human bodies, trying to figure out how I was going to adjust to all of the things I would never see or experience again. I was acclimating myself to the not-so subtle aesthetics of living in 100 year-old buildings, and being just another soul crushed under the force of a deteriorating penal system. She was in her own transition. She ended up back out in Boston, figuring out where she would live and where she would work. I was glad to hear her voice—I wanted it to be longer. She said: “I hope to hear from you soon.” And she gave me an address of a friend to send my next letter. I wrote a numb letter, telling her that she probably already knew from my morn about the thumping I got from the kitchen sink and about the crossover into the new world that was going to be my home, was going to superimpose itself over all the other places I’d been in the universe. I wrote with every intention that there would be a reprisal, that the decades the state wanted from me wouldn’t be decades and that I could be Lazarus—reemerging with my life from the cave on the other side of the light. I wrote with every sincerity that it wouldn’t be the last time she heard from me, that I would tell her more as more of my new life unfolded in front of me. I took the letter and sent it out, waiting on its response.

I always knew it would come, even for several years afterward. I thought, and then hoped I would come back from my prison job one afternoon out of the hundreds and then thousands of afternoons, and I would see it next to one of the letters from my grandma. That I would get something; something that spoke to the abruptness of her disappearance—but three years later it never came. Five years down the road she seemed just another figure off in the distance—and 10 years and it was like she never was, except for the purple scribbles on the letter she wrote the few hours after she left me in that county jail that sits in my footlocker next to Faulkner and Kundera, under the bunk in my cell.

At many different times during the stretch that became the “After Death” period of my life, I would daydream about things. It became a complex world where people become things within the bounds of my imagination. Trying to stay relevant, usually I would place myself at some prominent point, but the physical universe would always morph reality into something completely different than I imagined it. It was as though I were trying to wish things into becoming as I needed them to be. Regardless of how I reconstructed things in my mind, old girlfriends still ended up married, or with babies—or in strange relationships with people I couldn’t stand. I still had the grand constructions of a miraculous reentry, where the world wouldn’t have a choice but to recognize my success. I could come back stronger and better than I ever was, instead of just older and punch drunk from all of the years. It’s crazy to think how people who could have been so central to who you believed you were, become almost imaginary figures in the ethos become characters in a book you read once, that go away and never come back, are somewhere at the same time we are here—wherever here is. The things you have done before the rising water stops and saturates into the soil—working and affecting things out of sight.

Is the reflection worth anything? Just because I was the dopey somebody she had a crush on once; where youth made it all seem more severe a fire within her than it turned out to be? Even if she was the girl that for some strange reason wanted to know me, even after only giving her the parts of myself I wasn’t too scared to show her. I couldn’t possibly have expected her to stay, I just wanted her to. It just was amazing to me that she couldn’t smell the decay, the insufficient future like most of the other girls in my life had- she couldn’t smell the descent. And I got those butterflies because she’s that girl I was afraid would one day find out how out of sorts and ready to fail I was, that she’d get that great realization and move on. And then I see all the pretty girls on TV letting dirt-bags, filthier and more ragged in their approach to life than I ever was- getting them pregnant, bringing them to tears, and then moving on to another pretty girl just as shook as the last one.

I started to realize a long time ago it was probably never fair to call this person the love of my life, especially after all that time passed, but maybe it’s because it’s so damn hard to see things as anything but the same as when I left it—like the views of the city I’d seen growing up, from random angles on top of abandoned buildings, from the windows of houses I only ever looked through once, or horizons from hilltops that made colors move like I never saw again. I can remember the images, even rustle up feelings associated with them, but I have no idea where any of them are now, or if they even still exist. And of all the teenage crushes that grow up and dissipate into the air, why should this one mean anything other than it did? Probably because I went away, and no one took that place. Life went on for everybody but stayed the same for all of us that got our feet stuck in the concrete of these institutions.

But I still think about her, even as others have come through my life—I always have. I would wonder where she was now—who she married—what she became—what her kids looked like. Did she still go to the cabin? How would she act if she saw me again as the person I was now after being where I was all these years? I was told once about someone we grew up with who went away for a long time when we were young, that “He’s always gonna think the world and everyone in it is the same as when he left it.” I wonder if that’s how those out there feel about us. Maybe that’s why so many people out there don’t return letters or pick up the phone when I call. I wonder if some of those people would rather we just stay the same person, the same image as they remember, that way they can love or hate us, or stay as indifferent as they ever wanted to. At that last visit I remember her asking me if I remembered what her favorite tree was; I didn’t, I was too preoccupied with my own world, my own persona to remember. I was ashamed, of all the things I could remember; names, dates, times, and contexts—but I couldn’t remember something I’m sure she wholly intended for me to. Maybe if I had remembered she would have stuck around. Maybe if I hadn’t turned down that certain street, or gone out that particular night—maybe if I hadn’t quit that particular job, or maybe if I hadn’t protected my pride so much or had been tougher, and less afraid—maybe if I had just been braver things would have been better. And even if I had, there would always be something else I should have done, the do-over that would never be done over. Things happen all the time, and I catalog them as things she might’ve laughed at- songs I wondered if she would like—if by now they probably just reminded her of other people or experiences. In the darkness, I had run up ahead hastily to see what was there and came back to where she was waiting just to tell her there was just more darkness.