Rough Friction

Moonlight has as many shades and shapes as a person’s moods. Watch it night after night as I do, high over the townhouse rooftops, and you’ll see. Tonight, an inelegant half circle, hazy along one edge, until a swath of cloud covers it until it is no more than the suggestion of a moon, one that, had I not seen it a moment earlier, before the clouds came drifting past, might have been only illusion or dream.

Today, I wanted someone to tell my secrets to. Listen, I would say, listen. But there was only the faint sound of geese, fleeting, the last trailing drone of a passing airplane, its light a blinking false star, this imagining of a moon, washed out light behind some clouds, and my small son, sleeping upstairs, his father, a ghost whose molecules no longer cohered, were no longer shaped as a body with ears and mouth and a heart that worked, pumping blood round and round through the latticework of veins.

Today, I wanted someone to tell all my truths to, maybe even a half one, to see if they’d learned my face well enough to nod knowingly when I said I didn’t love him anymore, if they too understood that love didn’t end with divorce, not even death, that it was possible to love a body that was no longer a body, that was no longer anything at all but some atoms stinging the air I was breathing, small sharp pockmarks of pain.

Susskind and Hrabovsky write in The Theoretical Minimum that frictional forces are not fundamental. They are only the consequence of a body interacting with a number of other tiny bodies—atoms and molecules—that are too small and numerous to keep track of. Yet friction is palpable, heavy, as heavy as the keeping of ash, fragments of the bodies of brother and husband I keep in small jars and boxes. As interminable as Sahara dust, I cannot keep track of them all, yet I cannot but keep counting their rough friction.  They cover me, like the clouds do that moon, so that if I am glimpsed, it is not as whole, maybe not even half, merely a suggestion of woman, upright, moving on.

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