Once upon a time, my husband and I were lost.
He was on his back in our foyer with his feet flat to the floor, knees drawn up, and I was sitting on his stomach, using the knees as a seat-back. The carpet was filthy. I was lost, and concerned about him and the carpet. His eyes were empty.
I asked: “Where are you?”
He said: “I’m lost in the woods.”
I asked: “Where am I?”
He said: “I don’t know.”
He said: “Somewhere else.”
I asked: “What are you doing?”
He said: “Trying to make my way back to you.”
And I said: “And I am trying, too.”
I could picture us, as if from above in a slightly cartoonish forest. He was coming from the lower left diagonal, slashing his way through the bracken, and I was coming from a stone castle-tower in the upper right diagonal, pushing aside what I could. We would make our path to each other.
It is that way with everything.
When you are born, a very young baby, you push through the roughage by crying to be fed, changed, and put to bed. Eventually, you use more than your voice — you learn to speak, to say no, to push against the rules, take all the sprinkles out of the cabinet, and dump milk all over the dog.
You climb the tree you’ve been told you shouldn’t, fall out, and break your arm — or you stay in the crook of a branch all day, giggling to yourself because your parents think you’re somewhere else.
You wear the skirt your mother bought, but roll up the waistband when you get to school. You beg her for a double A instead of a training bra.
You meet boys, and sneak out of the house, call out of work, invent elaborate lies involving friends’ parents and phone calls to meet up with them and make out.
You go to college far away from home, and do drugs, and stay up all night, and lose your virginity, and skip class, and somehow eventually graduate, and you’ve been marking trail all along, but you haven’t known it until graduation day.
You’re aware of it every day afterward.
Instead of treading over grass that lies down gently for you, marking the places you have been, you pave a highway.
There is the smell of burning tar, and the skin burning on the back of your neck, while people peer over the orange plastic netting that is meant somehow to keep them out, and they ask about your job, and your girlfriend, and whether or not the bills have been paid, and as long as you keep answering them, the road does not get paved.
Listen to the jackhammers. They’re the noise of your work.
Feel the sweat drip over the reddened skin of your arms and chest and know that you’ve been moving forward. Progress has been made.
You aren’t there yet, but somehow down the straight line toward the horizon, something is making its way to you, to the middle of the road where you’ll meet, and the road will be paved, and the work will be done, and luckily there will be a bench alongside to sit and admire the things you have done.
These are our dreams, the dreams of my husband’s and mine, and everyone around us, as we sit, and we notice the dirt and stains on the carpet, just as bothered by the mess as by the not-knowing, unable to see that, at times, everyone’s eyes are filled with the emptiness of so much more to do.