In photographs, the Earth is still a circle. It’s a geometry we keep relearning, just at new velocities. We’re always at the open end of the radius. Asymptotes. The way any two numbers have infinite numbers between them, two numbers even further apart have the same amount of infinite numbers between them, ad infinitum. From here, looking down into a small image of the enormous place that holds me, the endless amount of space between us, any two points, I feel like being erased — erasure being among the best gifts of distance. One day, I’ll make a list of the other gifts, though for now my only other entry is return. As in, if I go far enough, the horizon will swallow this city; if I keep going, eventually the same horizon will be there to offer it back in pieces. However long this takes is how much older I’ll be when I get there. Maybe the only true time travel, this is a kind in which I get to see how everyone went on living in the same place without me, or didn’t. Especially the trees, which have always been adept at going on without us, often more so than with us, i.e. live oaks, which even now are reimagining their countless arms’ impossible trajectories. I’ll come to see the place I used to live, wonder if it can ever be what I remembered. Everywhere there will be buildings where buildings used to stand. Some will have become memorials to my favorite empty lots. I’ll always be arriving, which is what the present has always been, but slower. The thing is, I want this merely being here to mean something. For even stillness to be a performance, my being-here its own explanation. How all our silences — even this one, here, and this — are already filled with such breaking, a rusted leaf caught forever in its final moment on the branch. Looking back on it, I can’t decide if a moment is what we’re always leaving or what we’re constantly arriving at. How, if I go west in perfect one-hour intervals, I can live the same hour over and over in entirely different places. How, if I move in the same direction as the wind at the exact same speed, for a moment, everything feels perfectly still.
©2018 by Bryce Emley
An excerpt from his short story collection Smoke and Glass (Folded Word, 2018)
Bryce Emley’s poetry and prose can be found in The Atlantic, Narrative, Boston Review, Prairie Schooner, and Best American Experimental Writing, among others. He works in marketing at the University of New Mexico Press and is Poetry Editor of Raleigh Review.