A woman passed with red toe nails, and they reminded me of my sister. My sister was the person I got along with best. The relationship was like a chest rising up and down. Mozart said writing music was not easy for him. He studied other composers and worked hard on every score. One day my sister could not sit up, although she had been able to sit up the day before. The speed of her decline seemed miraculous, the way it had seemed miraculous for a body to work at all.
A rat ran out from under the bench where I was sitting and darted into the street. It was large and its tail was long and held aloft. In a flash it was gone, the wrong animal in the wrong place, but not to me. It was furtive by nature and maybe experience. I liked being surprised.
When my sister was dying, I loved her as I had always loved her, or more because she was facing the end of her life. I slipped back to being in the family, and there was nothing she could do to help me. Sadness is a museum of sadness. Happiness has no history.
My mother would reach out to my dog. The dog was always wanting to be petted. Usually my mother was afraid of dogs, and maybe she was afraid of this dog, but something in her rose up over her fear, and she petted the dog’s head. I was thirty and brought the dog to the city. We went to Central Park and played on the grass. The dog had a black head and a white body. I carried him in a canvas tote. “He’s so beautiful,” she said again and again, and I wondered if she was imagining a child of mine. “You’re the dog’s grandmother,” I said. She said, “I’m the grandmother of a dog.” A softness came into her eyes. I forgave her for loving my sister more.
One day in Washington Square Park, I came upon a troupe of acrobats performing on the paths. They were dirty and ragged and very beautiful in their feats of juggling and balance. What I liked especially was their indifference to the rest of us who watched with awe. You could see they were having sex with each other, falling into fits of jealousy, then joining the group for dinner. Their talent was larger than they were, and besides they were part of a family. You could see why we wait until almost there is no air.
I would meet the thin man in a Russian bar, where I did not understand the menu. One night he came a long way, and I let him twist. I don’t remember why I was pissed. Another night, the last night, I waited for him, imagining his sad eyes searching the dim light. Once night at the bar, I said, “My mother thought children came into the world like tiny cars with motors running and maps laid out.” He smiled softly and said, “I don’t see my mother much, anymore.” I thought I should be careful with him. He had the broad, Australian accent of former criminals. He was smaller and thinner than me, and I liked having sex with him. I don’t remember much more than our odd, thin sex and the last night, when he did not come. I kept looking at the door as people swept in like fish. When I realized he wasn’t coming, the air took on the bruised color of eggplant, glossy with muscle, and I did not leave.
Laurie Stone is author most recently of My Life as an Animal, Stories. She was a longtime writer for the Village Voice, theater critic for The Nation, and critic-at-large on Fresh Air. She won the Nona Balakian prize in excellence in criticism from the National Book Critics Circle and has published numerous stories in such publications as Evergreen Review, Fence, Open City, Anderbo, The Collagist, New Letters, TriQuarterly, Threepenny Review, and Creative Nonfiction. In 2005, she participated in “Novel: An Installation,” writing a book and living in a house designed by architects Salazar/Davis in the Flux Factory’s gallery space. She has frequently collaborated with composer Gordon Beeferman in text/music works. The world premier of their piece “You, the Weather, a Wolf” was presented in the 2016 season of the St. Urbans concerts. She is at work on The Love of Strangers, a collage of hybrid narratives. Her website is: lauriestonewriter.com.