By Robin Rhyner
He feels himself released. A smooth sweep of cells slipping swiftly through space. Spooning the horizon. A soft, slow song streaming out endlessly to trace the curve of the earth.
“Tracy.” He hears his name like the touch of fingers brushing the pulse of his wrist. Then gone.
“Tracy!” He hears her now. Her little-girl laughter follows him into the garden. She lands beside him like a kitten. They smile at the rows and boxes of plants. They lean down in the heat. Sun burns the back of their necks. His hands scoop away the rich, black earth to make tiny beds for the seeds and she sprinkles them like salt from a paper envelope. Small grains of grace. He brushes the soil over the seeds and tips the watering can to soak them. The galvanized metal is hot in his hand and the water seeping its way into the dirt is already warmed by an afternoon in the sun. Dirt cakes his fingers. He rinses them with the water and dries his hands on his jeans. In the next bed, he pulls strawberries off the plants for both of them. He watches the red juice dribble down her chin and reaches out to wipe it with his handkerchief. He listens to the mellow buzz of insects, the rustle of wind through the apple tree, a hummingbird’s wings.
“Tracy.” He hears his friends speak in sentences like strands of beaded bracelets sliding past each other at his wrists. He runs them through his fingers. Jewelry to take with him as he leaves. On a journey of the most gentle geometry. The joy of a world so round. So easy to slide off. His spine grows long and bends into the arc of a circle. He spreads out like water. Pain leaves him. And fear. He joins this rush of sweetness that flows past us all. Boundless. He feels his friends with him. He is not lost.
The delicate strings wrapped round his wrists break away. The beads of words spill off the strands and fall to the earth like seeds. They are whispers in the earth. Prayers to tether him to the ground.
They are earthlings. They stand beside his bed like wooden stakes. They tell stories made of twine to twist round his limbs. To tie him to themselves. They trace the outline of his hands with their fingers. They hold him to earth. They plant him in their hearts. Tracy.
He feels the return of time. The tempo of his heart. The track of sunlight across a day. He falls to his hands and knees, reaching out to the rich, black earth. There is the tangled, green garden hose on the ground next to him. The snap of breaking twigs under his feet. He scoops up a handful of soil and turns it over, letting some of it blow away in the breeze as it falls to earth.