After work, Flynn and I walk the path that threads itself between the soccer fields behind the high school, empty enough and full of enough space that he doesn’t need a leash. So I’ll unglove a hand to the cold to unhook him, and he runs. He might sprint a wide circle in the grass or make a charge for the trees before stopping to make sure I’m still within sight. Farther along the path there is a park of low hills and prairieland where you can forgo the pavement and walk on earth—a place of absolute discovery for Flynn, who dashes into it, along it, following the land’s curves with all the grace of a hawk riding the wind. When he stops to plunge his nose into its hollows of dry, tawny grass, it’s as if he’s breathing in God from the dirt.

At night, Flynn sleeps on the floor next to the guest bed where I sleep. He curls or sprawls with a groan, and whatever time of night it is, I drape my hand over the side to scratch his cheek. In the morning he wakes up when I do, stretching his legs and blinking the sleep from his eyes. He leans against my legs and grumbles at the barks of neighbor dogs while I read a book and catch up on all the messages my friends in Seattle left as they tried to coordinate plans while I slept. “You guys want to hang out tomorrow evening? Work party or Mandalorian viewing or fish nuggies or cold neighborhood walk?” “I vote to add Korra to this activity list.” “I’m down.” “Are you going to Ben’s party on Saturday, too?” 

I video-called them before bed last night. They were all cozied up in Rachelle and Josiah’s living room, sipping on drinks and debating what Christmas movie to watch while Flynn laid against my leg. All of their faces and voices were startlingly familiar, animated on my screen in real-time, pulling me through space into a rhythm of life, our rhythm of laughter and knowing, so that I forgot for a brief moment where I was and who I would return to. “I’m glad you’re here, Will,” said David, “because Sarah and I have an announcement to make.” They said they were having a baby.

I remember when Sarah—the first time I ever saw her coy—told us about David four years ago, and how in a matter of months David and I were sharing a room together. We slept on an old bunkbed he and his brothers used to share. First at The Den, then at The Queen, our homes. Then Sarah’s brother Nathan moved in with us, and then David’s brother Matthew after that, and these faces, bodies, voices, rhythms were the sound and feel of my home. After work meant cheap meals in the kitchen, David’s voice booming songs from the bathroom, drinks under an orange sunset on that patio, long hugs after long days, looking at the stars from the middle of our street, and all our books, ideas, and conversation, large and lively. Sarah and David got married and moved in with each other, and our friends and I would come over to their place on Monday nights to read and drink hot cider. And now. It’s all still happening. Everything at once.

Flynn rolled onto his back as I scratched his chest. Everyone was leaning in and asking questions.

“I can’t tell you how happy that makes me,” I said.

“What?” said Sarah. “You’re cutting out.”

There’s a forest further along the path behind the high school that Flynn dives into headlong, jumping over branch and through bramble with a joy that lacks nothing. His fur whips in the wind, his eyes open, bright, and brown. He might disappear for a bit, leaving me alone to appreciate the scenery through my own eyes. I forgot the severity of the cold here, and how it affects senses like taste and sight. I can feel a blue sky on my eyes, taste it on my throat. Breath steams out and disappears into the veins of branches above. I’m never alone for too long before I hear the thumping of Flynn’s paws as he bursts back onto the pavement, cantering up to me with windy lungs to ensure I’m still there before returning to the forest’s intoxicating call. What a pleasure it must be for God to be a forest.

“I love you all. Enjoy the movie.”

It’s all happening now. Everything at once.

2 Comments

  1. Kyric Koning

    You mentioned this is a piece exploring anxiety, but I see a lot of peace here as well. There’s a lot around to unpack, but I think you have everything you need to get through.

    Reply
    • William Montei

      Thanks, Kyric. I think so, too.

      Reply

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