The woods seem really far away today; probably because it’s winter and we have the windows of the Honda up tight as the radio moves through its songs and the kids are right here behind us, making a racket, and everything outside kind of seems like a movie of outside instead of the real thing.
My wife is reading me notes people mailed to us after they’d heard about our house fire just a few days ago. I’m trying to concentrate on what she’s saying, but, I’m drifting, man.
“I just wanted to say how sorry I am about your loss, but how happy I am that you are all okay,” she reads off a store-bought card. She uses her candied voice, to give this person’s well-wishes a little something extra.
“And look, a gift card from Target,” she adds, in her Monica voice.
I pull my one eyeball out of the barren cornfield we are blasting by. I’m trying to spot wild turkeys off along the wood line and I need to listen to what my wife is reading to me, but some part of me can’t connect with it yet. Some huge part of me wants to ease the Honda to the shoulder, open my side, and just walk off across the windy field, into the woods, and lay down on the snow dust and let wild turkeys peck my face off for at least a couple hours.
“Here’s one from Glinting Knife, South Dakota,” she says, switching to the voice. “I’ve been a fan of Monica’s blog for a few years and I am so sorry for what you guys are going through. I hope this little gift helps. You are in my prayers.”
“There’s another Target card,” she adds, as Monica. She sighs lightly. “I just can’t believe how cool people can be.” She pauses and I can tell she is touched. “Can you?”
I need to answer her, but I get distracted. I’m trying to spot game/ keep the rig from flipping on the loose gravel / listen to the sentiments of good strangers rolling off my wife’s tongue/ forget about the freaking fire for like nine straight seconds.
“Hey, are you even listening to me, dude?” she says. “Don’t you think it’s unreal that so many people, so many strangers have helped us so fast?”
I try and get my head around her question. She’s right, of course. I know that much. And for a second I try and focus on something so real/ immediate/ affirming as these notes she’s reading out to me this afternoon, these gift cards that are showing up. But it’s too early for me, I guess. I look in the rear-view and make faces at Violet back there. I sing some dumb song to Henry, try and get him to soothe out when he’s tired or crying.
“It’s very cool,” is all I can muster to her. So lame, I know I know.
I stare off at the winter woods. I feel jealous of the things that live out there in the frozen wild. I feel jealous of places where dancing around in a haze of all these mixed emotions will get your guts ripped out for stone-cold real, by a wolverine or a mountain cat. It seems easier than all these complicated ways of dragging it out that I’ve been inventing since the fire.