Faces Behind Him
J. B. Mulligan

They were always behind him, whichever way he looked, like the back part of the brain: the inscrutable father's smile and scowl; the mother's smile, more inscrutable, as if she should have been smiling at somebody other than him; a pinch-faced aunt; a scowling uncle; family, family, family, all third degree burns -- and warmth in the blood, and yet most of the time was drab, meals and a back-to-back nearness, a cross between confused lovers and duellists too busy to fight or make peace.  And don't start on siblings, that's a world beyond explanation.  

Late at night, as he ages, they drift away, like birds rising above the trees and dropping away into other lives.  Perhaps they prepare a place for him.  Perhaps they are sinking as the rope of him unwinds and strand after strand pops apart, and where they would live is vanishing.  His children look at him, and there's no way to warn them.  

First published:May, 2009
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