That night I toss and turn on my new, obscenely comfortable mattress. My thoughts center on a girl's body falling through space, on a chute that opens a split second too late to slow her fall. Her body breaks on rocks and stone, the canopy drifting delicately down upon her. People crowd around, and when that shroud is pulled away, the face I see is Mabel's. My stomach hurts, a cramping I haven't felt since I first went cold turkey, four years ago.
I sleep on the floor.
It's a time of transition, when the eyes of summer close and autumn begins. The I Ching says my dominant Yin is Earth over Fire, which means "Injury to the Enlightened." Confucius advises, "It will be beneficial to be steadfast and break through distress."
Because she asked me to, I pack Erica's chute in preparation for Bridge Day. Then I explain that we can't see each other anymore.
She gets angry. "What? Are you serious? Just because I won't do what you tell me?"
That's meant to goad me, but in my mind I am a perfect Blue Triangle, and my heart is the steady, slow lapping of waves on an inner shore. "Because I don't want to be there when you die."
"What? When I—" She raises her arms. "Nobody's ever died at a Bridge Day."
"That's not true. 1983 and 1987."
Erica puts her hands on her hips and stares with mock disgust. "Whatever. I'm not going to be, like, some mad BASE jumper. I mean, look who's talking. What's your problem?"
My Triangle holds. I am three lines of perfect order, beating with a cool sapphire glow. "I can't handle losing you," and what I'm thinking is, I am so tired of everyone disappearing.
"So, okay, wait." She sits on the bed and makes a tiny box with her hands. "To keep from losing me, you're breaking up with me?"
I don't expect her to understand the logic. She calls me a coward. She says that I'm the one who's afraid. I turn to leave, and she says I'm like an addict: I can't deal with life so I insulate myself with habit and ideas. She says I'm a Frankenstein of Eastern philosophy. I don't turn around, because I can't think of anything else to say.
What can you say to someone you love who won't abide her own fear?
I take to driving past Green Grove during the day, spotting my father sitting at his window, where he watches tree limbs rustle with squirrels. I don't often think of her.
One day my father isn't at his window. I look, make a U-turn, and pass by again, but in his place I see only a bright pane of glass that reflects the sun. I know he must be in a different part of Green Grove at the moment, yet I stop to stare, and in that window's flat, radiant square I feel I'm seeing my father, perhaps for the first time, with utter clarity.
I get my old schedule back at work.
I stand at the window when 3:00 a.m. comes, tightening my harness. Through the glass the woods are still and mysterious, stretching boundlessly into darkness, while on the other side of the arch a city beats brightly, steaming and vibrating with implied movement. I raise the scarf over my nose and lower the blue glass of my NVGs, and the world becomes a hazy impression of emerald specters. Now I tell myself that I don't straddle the dreams of my culture but stand within them.