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"Just Not Right Away," short story excerpt

Wednesday 9/22/21

Certain forests are more desolate than other forests. That is the nature of desolation. A place may be at a similar remove as another place from other places. The type of growth may be comparable. The same canopy. An absence of visible animals in each setting. But the feeling can be entirely distinct. Which is also the nature of place. And experience. What one has been through. Wishes to get through. Tries to get through. Has decided will never be gotten through.

A man hikes a forest in which he has never seen another person. This is partially why he hikes it. Occupies the space for a period of time. Loses himself here, or tries to. He had a wife and a girl, and the wife took the girl to a pond near a different forest. Were the man in it, he’d see that it looks the same, but he also knows that it does. They had headed out for ice cream. They got the ice cream every Friday afternoon, no matter how the man’s wife was feeling. It could be quite hard for her. But the weekly ice cream meant much to the child, who looked forward to the treat, because she also had hard weeks.

Once, when the man was a lot younger—young enough that someone could say, “Why, you’re practically still a kid”—someone had told him that you couldn’t love another person without first loving yourself. And without actively loving yourself. As people do. They talk in advice. They act—and speak—as if the advice had never been said before. The man wondered if they somehow believed that.

His wife stopped in front of the pond, and she made the windows go up in the car. It wasn’t a hot day, but warm enough to have the windows down. On the drive she thought maybe the breeze would clear her head. If she was wrong in her thinking. But the breeze didn’t change anything about what she thought was best, would be easiest.

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