Losing Place

I read. A hole opens beside my head. I shut my finger in the book, which is old news, get on my knees, which ache from overuse or underuse or because that’s the nature of knees, and peer into the hole. In the hole is nothing. The hole is a hole. The time is late; my place is marked in a tired book. I want to be Rushdie, Salinger, Thoreau; the book has no ambition. The hole is a space to be filled. My finger is bloodless; my wife made me promise to never pull a David Foster Wallace. My family sleeps. Soon, my baby girl will scream. I won’t go to her because we both need shut-eye; the book makes me feel nothing. I withdraw my finger from the fold of its spine. The finger throbs. My son will wake crying; the book has no emotion. I don’t want to want to write. I don’t want to want to read. I don’t want to want to account for zeroes. I slide my finger, ballooned by blood, into the hole. The finger feels nothing. The hole is empty. I can’t make a living. I have nine fingers. My family is miserable when I don’t sleep; the book is unreadable.

I make overtime on my pained knees for perhaps half a minute. Forever. I do not deliberate. I stare like I did once at the deconstructed transmission of my not-yet wife spread over the table, at the wrenching crescent of my daughter’s translucent ear, at the new-cut teeth of my chortling son, at the tapered nape of a mountain’s crescendo, at the dilating iris of dusk. I am better now at getting what I want. I crawl into the hole. There is nothing there. I look back. God does not monument me into a salt pillar trinket; Hades does not foreclose on my wife; an eclipse does not pickax my sight. I look to where I had been, to where I read someone else’s story in my family room on a threadbare couch. There is nothing there. There is no there, only here, and there is nothing here. There is no couch, no book, no ink, no finger. There is no nobody, no mothers, no fathers, no sisters or brothers, no wives or husbands or sons or daughters. There is no sun, no wind, no rain. No stars and no space. No light and no dark. No knees. No eyes. No ears. No words for pain. No words. No me. •

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