Did he even see me?
There were weeks when he was the only person I saw. Hard winters, we’d be together, isolated with only each others dull company. And the more I think upon it, the more I believe Jeremiah was ashamed of how he looked, and could not confront his pug face every morning. Those set-back eyes and brooding, gray eyebrows. What did he see when he saw himself, I wonder. The terror of being lost in the vastness of a flat world, those acres and acres of disappointment and resentment? It’s all he had, all he knew. He was no accountant or artist, not a shopkeeper or salesman. He was a farmer. He knew the soil and I think he grew indifferent to it. The land could be cruel, and that cruelty grew in him, no matter his mild supplication of hope each spring. A man could tend to it the best he could, but it was beyond his will and desire. What was the point of it, but empty, wasted years with a wife who moved from room to room to avoid the emptiness.
What did he see? The same thing I saw, but magnified? And how did he see me? A disappointment? Someone whom he could lay claim to and control? There was kindness there, in the beginning, but it curdled with isolation. We had nothing in common other than our wariness of each other; fear of the land, fear of a stretched horizon that bled brown into an infinite sky.
Excerpt from A Very Tall Summer – now available