an excerpt from We Rose Up Slowly
THE phenomenon began with birds flying higher and things falling slower.
Your father, the chicken farmer, who used to limp with a jerk and slouch, found himself walking with greater ease and an improved smoothness.
Your mother had a goitre. Your mother had one stuck, like a bloated parrot, on her left shoulder. Well, people with goitres found their goitres growing. Goitres clamouring for attention, sprouting white hairs, veins protruding, wrinkles deepening, tissues and fluid swilling about, ballooning big, waiting to be popped. Once, suddenly, while watching TV, I stopped staring at the screen and I wandered over to you. Under the pretext of practising a Korean massage technique I pressed my hands about your body searching for any protuberances – any early indication of goitres. But the only odd texture felt was the silver surface of the locket floating around your neck.
I can remember birds flying higher and things falling slower.
I can remember the first time the phenomenon touched our lives. Of course we’d heard about it, and seen it on TV. But the first time we experienced it ourselves we were walking in the park. We’d just eaten lunch at a café near the lake. I had a steak sandwich with extra onions and you had a salad. We were walking to digest. We were walking, hand in hand, on an autumn day, in the park, carefree beneath an avenue of overhanging branches. We were discussing your mother and her problems with chickens. Then mid-conversation you stopped, and you clenched my hand tightly and said, “Look. Look at the leaves.” I looked. I saw. I said, “The leaves. The falling leaves. This is…just…too beautiful.”
We stood there gaping like stunned mullets and we turned around, and turned around and turned around again. We couldn’t believe our eyes. The leaves. The yellow-green leaves were falling… sure…as they do in autumn… falling to the ground, but they were falling as though playfully resisting the inevitable rendezvous with the earth. They were dropping too softly, floating down too slowly, as though taking their time, well aware they were being watched and enjoying the attention.
You said, “Is this a dream?”
And so I kissed you just to confirm we were not asleep. I said, “Perhaps it’s always been this way and we’ve never been in love enough to notice.”
Later, you said, “Of course it wasn’t a dream. When you kissed me, I smelt onions.”
© Math Paper Press
by Jon Gresham
from We Rose Up Slowly (2015)
published by Math Paper Press