There is a stage you reach, Deagle thinks, a time somewhere in early middle age, when your past ceases to be about yourself. Your connection to your former life is like a dream or delirium, and that person who you once were is merely a fond acquaintance, or a beloved character from a storybook. This is how memory becomes nostalgia. They are two very different things - the same way that a person is different from a photograph of a person.
Hesitantly, I touched the stump where my finger used to be. In my mind, something almost remembered itself, but the fumes of turpentine were making me a little lightheaded; whatever memory was on the verge of coughing itself up was gone even before it materialized. Out the window, I could see a squirrel was stumbling erratically around in circles underneath the old basketball net. Then I realized that it wasn't a squirrel; it was a brown paper bag.
Outside, the sleet had gotten thicker. You could hear it pebbling against the large glass windows, you could see it swirling wildly through the spotlights of street lamps. It was the kind of night when you might expect to see a skeleton flying through the air, its ragged black shroud flapping in the wind.
Beth had been a middle school science teacher and Joni was a librarian and they both had collections of weird stuff they had found. Bizarre, misspelled letters written by lovelorn eighth graders. Obscene Polaroids left in between the pages of library books. They used to call each other on the phone to share their latest discovery, and Critter had always remained a little off to the side, never feeling quite as sharp or ironic as they were. Critter was an electrician, primarily home repair, and so he didn't usually come across anything except bad wiring and faulty lighting fixtures.
The true terror Jonah thought the true mystery of life was not that we are all going to die but that we were all born that we were all once little babies like this unknowing and slowly reeling in the world gathering it loop by loop like a ball of string. The true terror was that we once didn't exist and then through no fault of our own we had to.
I've been talking to myself a lot lately. I don't know what that's about, but my mother was the same way. She hated to make small talk with other people, but get her into a conversation with herself and she was quite the raconteur. She would tell herself a joke and clap her hands together as she let out a laugh; she would murmur to the plants as she watered them, and offer encouragement to the food as she cooked it. Sometimes I would walk into a room and surprise her as she was regaling herself with some delightful story, and I remember how the sound would dry up in her mouth. She stood there, frozen in the headlights of my teenage scorn.