She stands on the porch, late.The same light she saw as a childpins the mountain ashto the grass scattered with berries.Behind her, the room she was born inand the one where she hid her bodyto protect, like a secretuntil she could get it safely away.
There were always too many lives in other rooms --the anxious man tied to a job for fifty yearstill the company paid him offwith a piece of the building mountedon a bronze plaque. He needed to drinkto see the joke. And the timid womanwho filled the house with her bright red heartasking for nothing except a life.
When they fought she would cowerin the shrinking corners with her four sisters,each one planning escape into the arms of someonethey would also have to abandon.Love is like that. It's the needyou run from and return toalways circling back to where you startedlike somebody lost.
The houses retreat behind doors and the racoonsbegin their scuttle across the tired lawns,stopping to drink from sprinklersspreading a thin rain against the drought.She remembers the street the child lived on --a snow-tunnel, its ten-foot drifts pocked with holesshe hid inside and watched --the street edged with the ditch that swelledto a sucking mouth in the springand took her down onceinto its belly.
Behind the doors other lives tauntedwith their order on loan from Eaton's,their sleek, stubborn brightnesscolluded in, like guilt.Mr. Goodman drank himself to death when the kids leftand Mrs. Adams finally cleaned herself into a cornerof the livingroom you couldn't enter with shoes.
Each family carries its load of ordinary pain.She's taken ten yearsto know this, standing on a porch thinkingof the slow decantation of livesand she can't put together its meaning.