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  • I meet a Norwegian on the bus
    who’s mother died of cancer when he was 23.
    He tells me he’s not the same person because of it
    and I want to tell him that his mother didn’t have to die
    to know that things change.
    Impermanence doesn’t make loss much easier,
    it’s the missing that doesn’t go away
    that stays long after one has come to terms
    with the fact that all animals must return to moist soil.
    But, like me, I bet he hates it when people tell him
    “it’s so unfair to lose a mother so young”
    as if something called justice exists in life.
    It always hurts when people say that,
    as if I’m some sort of alien, alone with her loss.
    Life is unfair, I want to say to them,
    have you not experienced it?

    We exchange pictures of our respective mothers over email.
    I stare at the pixels that make up a face.
    The picture I choose of my mother is one
    I’ve been carting around with me these last few weeks.
    She’s bright, beautiful surrounded by
    backpacks at a Mexican bus station.
    I can’t recognize her expression
    and it intrigues me,
    as if I can figure out the mystery of my mother after death,
    as if there is more of her that remains to be unearthed.
    If I create a puzzle for myself I will have to finish it.
    His picture is a close up, like a passport photo,
    and I fall in love with her beautiful blue eyes
    that are so much like his.
    She is bright too, her hair a foreign kind of blonde,
    The pictures sit there at the end of our emails
    that finds words for so many philosophical questions,
    (we don’t care about the answers.)
    In rereading them I can see past the edges of our words
    and into our pain.
    And suddenly I hate the fact that we exchanged photos
    and they just sit there reduced to pixels
    at the end of superfluous emails.

    Was it not so much more then that?
    Yes, but…
    finding words will always reduce it to something else.
    There is something that lies deep beneath,
    that might take years for us to excavate out of each other.
    But I think it happened once, a brief moment on the bus,
    when we would fall out of conversation
    and I would peer over and see he had disappeared.
    Lost somewhere in memory, or not memory exactly,
    but the void of emptiness that waits
    just past the edges of conscious thought.
    I have fallen in many times before, but it’s enlightening
    to recognize this on the face of another.
    Ah, he has left, vacated, checked out, for a little while.
    He is beautiful to me then, in his unwitting vulnerability.
    This is something emails will never be able to create.
    I don’t want to bring him out of it,
    so I turn my face back to the road,
    the long winding road that takes us up mountains and down again
    to meditation centers where we both won’t admit
    we are looking for something like peace.
    Until we meet again, he says,
    and gives me a huge 6’3 Norwegian bear hug,
    as if to try and squeeze away the empty space between us,
    the empty space that we both know isn't empty at all.
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