Nothing Makes You Feel Better
My mantra, even though things slip by me just like they do everyone else. But today, I notice the puffball - white, bigger than my own big, white head pushing its way up under the discarded bark. A soda can, both shiny and letter-faded. Sumac leaves making a bright red carpet. Poison ivy gracefully choking the cottonwoods. A slender maple, chunky with burls. I consider Mary Oliver and her poems. I only know the famous ones; still, I mourn her recent death. I feel connected as I walk.
But I’m not alone on the path anymore. A man walks towards me, a small-ish dog loose at his feet. I’m not afraid. I am bigger than him. Also, I have a mask hanging loose at my neck. I pull it up.
Those don’t work, he says pointing at my face. His dog bounds near my feet. I do not like overly friendly dogs. They remind me of my Midwestern childhood.
Fuck you, I say, smiling, although he can’t tell because of the mask. My brother died of the virus.
He looks in my eyes. He cannot see the rest of my face. Liar, he says. You’re all liars. I kick at the dog, but it has already danced away. Liar, he calls at my back, a one-word elegy for the brother I do not have.
Alone again among the trees that are only trees. I look down. My boots are shabby, split at the seams. No wonder water has crept in. Nothing makes you feel better than wearing out a pair of hiking shoes, I think, continuing down the path with the mask still cloaking my face like a prayer.