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  • You are five years old, and your mother forgot to let you out of the station wagon. So you opened the door and let yourself out. She's already up the porch and into the house. But this isn't your house. It's your aunt and uncle's. It's spring, and you hear a distant lawn mower. You're not sure if you should follow her in. An older woman in a flowered dress emerges from the house next door. And doesn't notice you. She crosses in front of the flowerbeds, carrying a foil-covered casserole dish, and slips into the house. You don't move. It's not that you can't. Or maybe it is that you can't. You just stand there. You know something is happening. Something that everybody else already knows. Something that doesn't care whether or not you're ready for it.

    A cat emerges deliberately from the bushes in front of you. Not hunting. Not called for. Just coming home. He pauses, turns his head, and looks at you. He senses something. Not about you, but about where you're headed. His eyes blink slowly. His ear twitches away a fly. You want him to stop looking at you. To stop feeling whatever it is he's feeling about you.

    You don't know it now, but you'll recognize this same look on your wife's face just before she tells you she has a lump in her breast. It'll come back to you when your parent's tell you they’re splitting up. You'll see it again in the bathroom mirror when you finally admit that you never became the father you'd promised. You don't yet know this look. Not at five years old. And that's why you shove your small fists into your pockets, look down at your grass-stained tennis shoes, and follow the cat into the house.
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