Songs that can circle back on themselves. Loops that let me forget when they reset, that blend beginning, middle and end. That help me to lose time, or at least loosen its hold.
Get your belt, she said to him. Her mouth was as straight and tight as the arm she had reached out to point to where the belt was. Like he didn’t know his own closet.
He had more than one belt though. And this time she didn’t say “get the belt.” “Get your belt” left things a little open to interpretation. He wasn’t dumb enough to get the nylon or braided cotton ones. She’d either have him go back and get the belt, or he’d get the buckle. Not the church belt; it was stiff in the way kids’ dress clothes always are from not being used enough to be broken in. He had two broken-in leather belts. One was braided and the other was wider. He preferred the braided one. He told himself it couldn’t hurt as bad because the belt being intertwined had to take out some of the sting.
He handed the belt to his mom. He shoved it carefully at her with the restrained defiance of anyone who’s already in punishment but isn’t sure when that punishment will end.
Thank you, she said, clipping the words at their ends like that time she had asked him to get some papers out of the glove box to her car when the police had stopped them.
She handed the belt to the boy’s father, who had been seated at the kitchen table while she stood. He had taken few bites from his plate in the time since she had first found the boy, who had forgotten to lock the bathroom door and should have known he’d been in there too long. They didn’t look at each other in the exchange.
Come here, the man said, bending in his chair to eye level and motioning the boy to his lap. The boy marched over and bent over his knee to face away from his parents.
This hurts us more than it hurts you, the father said between times. The boy turned back to see his mother who was looking at his father through tears. I’m sorry, he heard her say after he stood up and his father had walked away, leaving the two of them there with her clutching the boy’s head against her belly.
There is the way I write for work.
There’s how I write for me.
Which is different_
He was one of the ones who woke before the sun returned. As he walked to his car, he thought he heard — were those waves? Or a large truck rushing along the side streets? He looked down to where the road ended into the dark expanse where the light left the sky. They were waves. He could hear the rhythm of their whoosh. As he looked down, he saw a runner. Not unusual for this time of day, especially here where every weekend was a 5k or triathlon. But this runner stood out for the hobbled gait. He got in his car and, while it warmed, wrote a text to his still sleeping girlfriend about the waves. After he put his phone, he looked up to drive off and saw the runner pass on the sidewalk to his left. He u-turned the car to turn left on the road behind him but remembered the runner and slowed in case he would cross. But he turned instead. But there was another runner on the opposite corner who did not turn and did not stop but crossed into the street as though unaware of the car that had it not stopped would have run over this runner. How lucky for this runner, he thought, that there were the waves and the other runner that he did not hit this runner. He wondered if this runner knew too.
Return or exchange?
Okay. What seems to be the matter?
Well, there’s just one part that’s broken. So I was hoping to exchange it but keep the rest.
Sir, you can’t do that.
We cannot exchange parts of lives.
He thought of them as resets, moments when his memory flickered. When driving he couldn’t recall whether he had remembered his phone despite the text message he had sent while waiting for the car to warm. At home he wondered whether he had left the oven on or was it today that he had cooked. Other times he thought of times he couldn’t remember and imagined them into memories, filling between the flashes, the strobe lights of a possible past.