Grief

One

He was reading about Wyoming. At the same time, a huge buttress of masonry coupled with a slab of reinforced concrete floated past. Occasionally, he looked up. Meanwhile, strings of cottonwood took up their tentative place in his mind. Snow feathered a birch tree. Mounds of snow dappled a hillside and collapsed into the level expanse of a meadow. He was reading about a woman who had lost her dog. She prowled through picturesque vistas on her search. She investigated the down-sweep of rugged gullies. Outside, the mangled environs of New York City shot past. The book had belonged to his wife, Marie, who had died almost nine weeks ago at age forty-four. Cancer.

From the hollow of Grand Central Station, he was headed north through a deteriorating urban landscape. He turned a page and saw the routine symmetry of white space and type marred in the margin by a pencil slash, a faint underscoring, a tracing of lead beneath a word. A tiny asterisk hung alongside, having been placed there by Marie, a kind of paw print of her sensibility. He could feel her puzzlement, her interest, and the eager action of her mind. English was her second language, and though she was fluent, she developed the habit of marking words whose meanings were not quite clear to her or, in other instances, charmed her. In the narrative, the woman was climbing a game trail, looking for her dog, while Thomas accompanied her, floating along with her, as he knew Marie must have done when the book was in her hands. Now I sniff and smell only dirt. He could see her there, on her hands and knees. He felt close to her and to Marie too, the three of them invested in the search, hoping for the best.

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