You say, I’m so glad it’s summer and I agree. You say, I hope we never grow tired of each
other, and I think this is an odd thing to say in the context of summer. I say, You think that I am
the crazy one, but really you are the one prone to fits of non sequitur. You disagree. You
believe your statement makes sense because you were thinking of summer as a long, hot
hallway, empty but for two people with nothing but themselves to please the other, and I counter
that, really, this is not a thought about summer, but a thought about life, or maybe marriage. We
have just left our car in the hot parking lot where, on NPR, a woman was interviewing the
director who had made a cartoon about talking foxes. She wanted to argue about logic. But all
of the foxes are dancing, she said once, twice, and I said it a third time and then a fourth, which
you thought sounded crazy but what I had wanted then was what you were about to do, which
was to lift the sentence from its moment like a lid from a jar and then to not look inside but to
open the next jar, and the next, and to go on down the line without eating anything.
—for my father
My father tried to teach me shade in the evening of his salesman’s day. This was my first failed
lesson: the apple, round in his hand falling flat on my page, my pencil unable to turn out the eye
of light unblinking at the core. Since then I have improved: if the apple declines, I eat it. There
is relief in both upshots.
Once split open, everything looks familiar on the inside: seeds tumble from a fruit’s center like
light sprung from windows at night, like an ex-lover’s notes in an old book’s margins. My father
hung his own sketches over our basement windows, sideways to make them fit. Even now that’s
how I see them: listing ships on crooked seas, farm scenes with silos on top and barns that
weight the bottoms, the foundation and walls of our home the fittest frame in reach.
Our basement was dark, but nothing in it faded. I knew to flip the switch and cock my head but
these days, when I visit, I think it would not have hurt me to learn to look at art sideways, in the
dark. I might have learned more perspective. Even now, I am always blindest to what is most
obvious, but this is a common condition. There are things I never learned to see, tools I cannot
take in hand because I know them too well.
If my father tried to teach me shade, if he took the apple at breakfast and remembered it from his
pocket after dinner, then he also taught me how to eat the apple. He showed me what to do with
Elizabeth Langemak lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.8