He was gone for Thanksgiving, Christmas, even grandma’s funeral. In the morning, he would mutter that he needed a pop or had an errand, never named, on a holiday when all the storefronts were dim and all the ever-motile souls were wombed in their homes. You could barely grasp his wispy words.
On such occasions, he wouldn’t return until he knew the dip sat saran-wrapped in the fridge and the coat closet was empty. He would come back late with sand in his backpack. Sand from a Lake Michigan beach. In December. During a wind-slapped chill that would scald your deadened cheeks.
He never announced his return. Never apologized for his absence. Never explained himself at all. You never heard him slip to his room, where he would lay before the pale lambency of his laptop in the dark and mold and disorder.
You could enter the hush and the clutter of his cocoon, and ask where he went. He might say it was fine, if he said anything at all. He wouldn’t lift his eyes if he spoke. His eyes were recessed, wed to the carpet, gone. He was gone when he was there, so far gone.
Joseph S. Pete