Autumn was the sound of drums. A swimming pool was a tin whistle and a cry of general alarm. A cheering crowd was an old man rolling slowly down the sidewalk in a mechanized wheelchair. The distant siren of a fire truck was the over-whisper of sprinklers swaying in twilit lawns as the lights of an ambulance swept again and again across the walls of the bedroom where a little boy cowered. An accordion was a silver balloon twisting in the bare branches of an elm tree. A toothbrush was the sound of breaking glass –every single time he took a toothbrush in his fingers he would hear glass breaking, followed by a shriek and then a dull thud.
And so on.
That was the way it was.
He had lived in sixteen different towns around America. He did not own a single photograph of anyone who was related to him by blood.
Arrows were the sound of crickets on dusky nights in late summer.
He loved buttermilk and sitting in public places watching strangers going about their lives. He needed to imagine that these people were happy, that they were not lonely or suffering.
Since he was a boy he had dreamt he was a rabbit sleeping under a bush. Perhaps this was the way his brain felt when he actually slept, which was seldom. He didn’t know, but there was nothing about it that disturbed him.
The first time his mother had taken him to the beach he had watched, fascinated, as an orange was rolled back and forth in the surf. Forever after the word ‘ocean’ called to his mind an orange and whenever he broke the skin of an orange or caught even a vague whiff of citrus he would hear the toss of sun-shattered waves and the frantic skree of seagulls, and then he would see a gravestone standing alone in a forlorn cemetery in Ohio and he would cry and remember. And what he would remember was everything, and he would have a feeling that he had had, on and off, his entire life. And that feeling he had once described thusly to the one person who had ever asked him what he was feeling: He felt as if he was being slowly eaten by America.