Joyland

New York |

Far Gone Conclusions

by Hilary Leichter

edited by Rebekah Bergman

On the last night of the revolution someone somewhere was making soup, and for them, the people who ate the soup, that was the end of the revolution. The end of the movie no one saw was not a happy ending, nor was it sad, it was more like a weak tea, it was more like a middle than an end, which is not spoiling anything in particular, but maybe it spoils everything in general, and since no one even went to see it, maybe the movie never ended at all. The actor that you like has a romantic moment in a field. Speaking of fields, do they still grow? Someday they won't but today they will.

In left field, during the extra inning, a field mouse scurried across the player's cleated foot with so much tenderness that he was alarmed, for it had been years since something delicate had happened to the player, and the mouse felt like the brush of fingertips over his brow, and he was emotional on the green grass, so one could say that his emotions came out of left field, and the sun crouched down under the artificial horizon of the stadium and that was the end of the game and also, as you'll recall, the end of the player's career.

There was a time when no one had a career and everyone was just trying on hats, hats with brims like ledges on windows that extended in all directions. There is a man in a hat who has just finished his breakfast sandwich, and the crusty conclusion of the sandwich filled him with regret for a type of jaunty, breakfast life he used to have but has no longer. He remembers a time when he tried to clean the gutters on his old house using a ladder too short to reach the roof. And though he saw the situation for what it was, he nevertheless climbed the short ladder and just kind of stood there looking at his street, because if there is a ladder it is meant to be climbed, and it is a certainty that someone will climb it no matter where the ladder ends, no matter if the ladder leads to anywhere good or anywhere at all.

There were trees, then the trees were diminished, then gone completely, the end of trees, and then indeed, to experience a tree you had to visit a tree museum, just as the singer-songwriter had predicted in her very popular tune. Then the museum lost funding because, in remote areas of the world, against all odds, trees were found once again. You could read about it or watch the documentary or go see for yourself. Eventually, the tree museum shut its doors, and for a while, it housed offices for various non-profit organizations that in turn fundraised to the limits of their causes, and the causes resolved themselves into extinction and stretched out a carpet for new causes. Then came the bulldozers, to plow the land afresh for new trees, and the president of the museum stayed, for he enjoyed the yeoman's work he found in the life that started where his old life ended.

The woman keeps a glass of water at the podium while she speaks, but she never drinks it. One could conclude that a long time ago she coughed or spat during a speech and the water wards off this far-gone but oft remembered embarrassment. Still, one cough does not predict another. One life does not predict another. One meal does not predict another. Just because you have something to say right now does not mean you always will. Each syllable is a small species we are saving from extinction. A long time ago, someone said we would go to the moon and then we did. We said we would walk on the moon and we did. We said we would blow up the moon and we did. Just because we say we'll do something does not mean we have to do it. We said we would build a new moon to commemorate the old moon, and we are still building. It is one of those projects we will never finish, like the famous church in Spain, like the poems we started writing in college, like the bookcase that requires assembly. For a time, I could see scaffolding in the night sky where the moon used to be. That was ages ago, and people still look up, but now for different reasons.

One more thing about the complacency of soup, which we eat every year to commemorate the revolution, even when we're not in the mood. Soup does not have a front side or an end side, and it seems there's always that tiny bit of sludge left over, unless you lick the bowl, unless you stick your face in the bowl, unless you stick your finger in and then lick your finger to get the last drop, and I have never been good at measuring volume, which is maybe the most correct unit of measure for time.

This was all back before I made my mind up about you. My world had already ended ten times over. The whole world had only ended once, and had since restarted. The rain came back, and cloudy weather, too. There was the return of lemons. We opened a door and found the universe right where we had left it. I was open to new ideas, and that's when we met. You reminded me of a person I used to know. This person who was not you once told me a theory about relationships. He said that when he made his mind up about someone, he would not change his mind, because people require that kind of consistency to keep on existing. His soul had a steadfast lividity that made sparrows migrate south and people migrate elsewhere and vultures circle overhead so of course I was in love.

But like I said, he was another person altogether. I was a moving target and you were an innocent bystander grabbing a cup of coffee nearby.

Someone once asked a great artist how she knew when a painting was finished, and she said something very articulate and bewildering, but no one wrote it down. The popular mystery writer who is prolific both in work and in other areas of life writes books that are bought in large blocks and mailed across the world. There is a girl who reads every single one of his books, and she can always predict the ending before the first half is done, and this is humorous, because the writer himself cannot predict his own plots, not until the final moment.

I remember the moment we became friends, because we were watching the news. A few countries decided to close up shop, just like that, including our own. A few stores lost their leases. A person on a bus lost his life. It was the same day as the last episode of a critically acclaimed television program you adored, the one where the characters slept with each other in every possible combination, and betrayed each other in every way the universe allows, even the redhead, even the sidekick, even the one actress who went on to star in movies, until all connections had been exhausted, until there were no new stories left to consider, until everyone had meant something to everyone, and as one reviewer said, each friendship was at once generalized and made infinite. It was the beginning of the times when you would put your feet up and offer me the last sip of your soda. We climb the short ladder. A long way back, all of our great-great-grandparents lived and then stopped living, and we still are somehow never sure of how things will turn out.