the nature of the panic, 1

We know how this will end. How the heart will slow, then stop. 

I stand at the entrance to the park in darkness, the trees creating a black curtain and I pause for a moment, fearful of being alone. But the streetlamps just beyond the gate beckon and I see that there are paths near the roadside.

I enter. I walk deliberately. I look up at the moon, shrouded by clouds. I stay on the well-lit paths. I avoid the tunnels. I scan the ground for shadows approaching from behind.

The year we flew over Borneo. The smoke hanging motionless over the forest canopy, which from above resembled moss. He said: Imagine the fires, which sometimes burned for months. Imagine these fires and what they have left in their wake. 

What waking. What urgent dream draws us from one state to another. We stood agitated by the roadside, blackness behind us and before us, far below the bottom of a gorge, the fire was whipped up by the wind - racing, leaping, and already climbing the deep slopes.

Several times, we were forced to retrace long stretches in that bewildering terrain. Several times, we pressed forward only to discover we were where we had begun. 

In exhaustion, I lay my head down on his lap. He tugged at the shoulder of my jacket, which was torn there. He stroked my hair. He told me I was beautiful. He told me I was incapable of acting with restraint. 

I left the hotel in the early morning in the dark. I walked the wide avenue, quiet. A man was spraying the sidewalk with a heavy coil of garden hose. As I approached, he stepped aside so that I could pass. I walked gingerly across the wet pavement. 

Once he asked me why I was petty, so possessive, so like a child. I took his finger into my mouth and bit down on it gently until he pulled away. 

Ask yourself: What is the color of a jacaranda tree? And what of it now, engulfed in flames?

Coaxing the ground into submission by fire, by burning whatever will burn. The making of a fish-hook, manufacture of a tea cup, we march across the earth reducing all that stands to embers. 

Like our bodies and like our desires, all that we create has a heart that burns. Who is to say for how long? Who is to say with what heat? For now, for this moment, still alight through the long cold nights. 

For a time, there was another woman. I saw a photograph of her, taken from the distance. She was looking away. Was she wearing sunglasses? Was she shielding her eyes from the sun? Was she smiling? I can no longer remember. 

In front of a row of benches, I can see the outlines of children’s chalk drawings on the ground. Even in the dark, I can see that there are pinks and blues and yellows. I stand on this site where hours before, children played and squatted here to draw. While their fathers looked on. While their mothers held out their arms. 

If he asked me again, now after all these years, I would say: Perhaps it is different for orphans. Perhaps we are still waiting to be chosen. 

We will meet at the park, before the sun goes down. We will meet at the lighthouse in winter. We will meet by the roadside ten years from now, or more. Say anything you need to say. My only defense is silence. 

On the way back, I stop in a little grocer’s shop. I stand there, bewildered like I have arrived from another time. 

I see the shelves and aisles through a wash of color, like through a veil of jacaranda blossoms, from pale lilac to deepest purple. I hear the distant spray of water as it splashes on the pavement. I see his form as he disappears into the black curtain of trees. 

All those trees he planted, burning now. Burning. 

I suppose we have always known how this would end.