Joyland

Toronto |

Evening Meal, Streambed, Bicycle

by Gary Barwin

THE EVENING MEAL My father rolled up our house and walked into the forest. When he arrived at the world’s edge, he turned, pulled up the road, cracked it once like a whip, and folded it into his suitcase. Then he turned and folded up the night. “I’m going now,” he said, and left. I pointed to where our house once was, to where the road once was. I pointed to where there once was night. “We are inside a suitcase,” I said, “a vast suitcase surrounded by birds. The suitcase has neither up nor down, darkness nor night. The suitcase is neither going nor returning from a journey, and so contains neither sweaters, nor undergarments, nor time. Golden clasp light shines from every direction and so our shadows are made of light only; they cast themselves upon every surface. There is flight but no birds, song but no voice, and here in the endless day, we fold ourselves until we are but a single dimensionless point, neither matter nor energy, time nor sorrow, though inside our spaceless chests, we contain a tiny forest, a house, a road. We are a tiny family. We place our serviettes on our miniscule laps, some of us first wiping the corners of our mouths, and the evening meal begins.
STREAMBED A cloudless day in the cemetery where we have gone for the funeral of an aunt. Our five-year-old, named after his late grandfather, wanders about the headstones, dragging his fingers along the streambeds of carved-out letters. He stumbles upon his own name inscribed above a small bed of grass. He lies down, crosses his arms, closes his eyes, and waits. In time, he becomes old. The wind carves his features smooth as river rock. Someone lifts him and places him on his grandfather’s headstone. We no longer remember the town where he was born.
BICYCLE Somewhere in the world is the bicycle which I abandoned for a reason it did not understand then, and, leaning in the half-dark shed at the end of the garden, covered in cobwebs, still cannot quite fathom. Its small plaintive handlebars, slightly stooped, shrug resignedly, turned toward the bent-nail wall. Small wrinkles show the years of sadness felt by the forehead-sized seat, now twisted somewhat off-centre as it remembers the cheeks of my little apple-round boy bottom, the touch of my pale white hands. One day, we were chased by Lindsay Neville after escaping from his tree house; another, distracted by a shout, we rode full force into a hedge-covered wall. Together we rode into the wind and out of the neighbourhood after my grandfather’s funeral. Many times, we combed the twisting paths of the subdivision noting each tonal shift of street and crescent, of painted garage door and window trim, of cedar hedge, rock garden, and lamppost. One day, I leaned the bicycle against the side of the house and walked away. One day I’d become taller, older, and my father had promised me another.