A.L. Gordon

Circles

I had not seen him, and his car had not left the driveway for at least a month. Somebody wheeled his trash to the curb. Random people would get the mail and drop it inside, stay briefly and leave. The visits increased as time passed, different people doing their brief chores. I’d sit on my couch, look out my picture window at his house and wonder at his disappearance. One day I saw what I’m sure were his parents moving some plants and things around the yard, preparing for winter. Days went on and people still showed up, but the frequency lessened. The trash no longer made it to the curb.

Weeks later, and now there are many people there. They have trucks and trailers. I watch as they carry furniture out. A washer and dryer get loaded onto the bed of a pickup. Someone rolls his motorcycle into the street.

*

The Canadian goose pacing around the store parking lot makes me sadder than it should. He paces around the body of what I presume is his mate. He is a vigilant guard. The two geese had been hanging around the lot the last couple times I shopped. One of them is dead now, I’m guessing hit by a car. It’s on the edge of the road, right before the turn into the parking lot. One wing is spread out to the side and the other is folded over its head, hiding the face. 

The dead goose’s mate won’t leave. Occasionally he sits next to the body, but mostly he does circles and I’m afraid he’ll stray too close to the road. Before I leave with my groceries I lean forward and rest my head against the steering wheel and let tears drip down onto my lap. Maybe it’s the way he paces back and forth that brings the tears, or maybe it’s when he sits so close and still. It reminds me of how our cat paced around my son Drew’s room after he died. The cat would pace for a while and sometimes hop onto the bed. He’d sit on the bed, knead at Drew’s blanket, but he’d never stay there long. 

I wonder how long the goose will mourn. For months the cat would go up to Drew’s room. I’d hear him meowing into the emptiness, hear him thump on the floor when he jumped off of Drew’s bed. The goose is a silent sentinel, but the cat pierced my heart with his mews as he walked his empty territory. Only moving to a different house stopped his mourning. The cat dealt with his pain alone, like the goose is, like we all have to. 

*

I wish I could say I knew my neighbor. I’ve only been his neighbor a little over a year. I’d wave to him and he to me but I never did get over to say hi, to introduce myself. I’m not great about doing things like that. Apparently neither was he. I watch a kid carry a box out and load it into an almost full car. Some adults push and prod a grill up onto a flat-bed trailer. Sometimes the people stop and chat, but mostly they stay about their business. I see the people who I think are his parents. I don’t see them carry much. But they pace, like the goose, like the cat. Like me. 

I paced a lot after Drew died—still do now and then. In the days after he died, when I wasn’t rushing past his bedroom trying not to look in, I’d stand outside his room, unable to enter. I’d pace a bit in the hallway before moving on. Eventually I was able to go in. I paced in there too, walked small aimless circles around his room. Once I was able to stop my uncomfortable movement, I was able to look through his things. One time I found a folder with some of his notebooks and school stuff. Inside were some photobooth photos of him with an old girlfriend, both of them smiling so big. Another time I found a notebook with some attempted rap lyrics. I never found a note, which was both a relief and a torture. 

*

They are almost done over there, moving my neighbor’s stuff. Someone drives off on his motorcycle. The deep noise of the Harley’s exhaust so loud then slowly fading. The truck and trailer pulls out. The garage door closes. One car is left. The person I think is his father walks around to the side door, tries the knob and seems satisfied when it doesn’t open. The person I think is his mother does the same to the front door. They circle the house in different directions and then meet out front by their car. The man puts his arm around the woman and she leans into him. She starts to walk up towards the house but I see him gesture. He probably says something I can’t hear. She stops and comes back and they get in the car.

I watch them leave.

*

They had to pack a house, I only had to pack a room. But even then, it was hard—hard having to pack his clothes, his books, the last plate he ate from before he died, a fossil we found together. His empty pack of cigarettes. Now these all sit in a box in my basement. Occasionally I go through them and feel him in the items he left behind.

I am circling him still. Feel circles in my body, see circles in my mind. I see him in my mind too—his arm like a wing stretched out beside him—and I silently guard his fallen body, while hoping I don’t stray too close to the road.

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A.L. Gordon is an emerging writer and high school English teacher in Central Wisconsin. His creative nonfiction has appeared in literary magazines including Ellipsis Zine, The Awakenings Review, and Please See Me.