Wednesday, May 13

what now?

my nephew, who is not quite two years old, repeats everything. this is pretty normal for a not quite two-year-old.

I accompanied this nephew and his family to California last month. whenever I finished tying his shoes for him or helping him eat his piece of sandwich, I would ask "what now?" to fill the emptiness of having finished, and he would parrot it back to me, his cute little voice mushing the question right out of it, leaving nothing but the sounds.

what now?

it's a good question.

I have several answers, shuffled like an old deck of flimsy playing cards in my hands. perhaps the four or six or jack of spades is missing. but there are enough options here to build a little house of cards. a nicer one than the one we built out of pink fake-sugar packets at the buffet place, while the nephew watched in tense and giddy anticipation of the inevitable collapse.

but every house of cards you build has that potential to collapse. everything changes. nothing is perfectly stable.

what's going to happen to us? what's going to happen? this is a different question than "what now?" it has nothing to do with "now." this is a future worry. it is overstepping its bounds, reaching backwards to poke at us where we are, pestering us about what we cannot see.

is there no way to know? is there no decisive method for pulling into today the shapes and shadows of tomorrow or next year?

a deck of cards. a crystal sphere. the lines across the palm of your hand. the shape of your skull. the superstitions of a thousand generations, faded so deep in the bright light of the present day. those don't really work, do they?

have I devised my own tarot, or my own code of tea leaves? am I putting together a book of horoscopes, pasted from small observations, instances of answered prayer or matching miracles? will I be able to tell, from rereading the past, what will happen to me next?

I might. or my splendid house of cards might topple, erasing all my theories, leaving me to start all over again.

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