We see ourselves in the places we once inhabited, all at once, every era ticking separately like forgotten watches placed in dusty junk drawers we used to scrounge around in for batteries, take a gamble whether a double-A was fresh or years old, half the house cut out like a dollhouse set for display, running wires humming their electrical warmth back when electrical anything was possible, and you can hear the world shuddering now, rattle-breath, mantle-heart thumping, and in some ways you’re happier now than you were back then, whatever era you want to point to, because there is a freeing in forgetting, and once you get past the terror then the end result can be the clean slate you always wanted, at least from your perspective, and we can go along the rusted-out swingset ruins now, gather rust in our gloved hands and introduce it into our paints, our clays, our polymer seals that we are now using, any of the methods at our disposal to put the world in our memories and our dreams into something more tactile, something that won’t all fade away with us, and we gathered in the middle of roads back then, collected our eyes and trained them on skies that would rise and fall like lungs collecting fluid, and we could not understand what we were seeing, even the older ones, and so we watched in that infant way, myopia on a grand scale, and it could’ve been our mothers’ faces set large in the air for all we knew, we didn’t know our place in the world back then, but we knew that not much more of this could go on until the floor would give out, and it would all buckle and break, and until that time we were there to maybe make the transition a little easier, and we found our old friends in that crowd all those years ago, confirmed that what we were seeing was really happening, remembered ice cream man days and melted SpongeBob and gumball eyes and commercials on television and wading out into pond water that left little muck on the undersides of our feet, slimy, and we’d use the grass coming out like a welcome mat before going into the home of our neighborhood, and I’m remembering these things now, all of them, like a siren, cutting through the insect chatter on those hot summer nights, back when we had nights, and we collected in that crowd and told all of our stories together, in unison, until our voices meant nothing but our stories told it all, and there was no time to wait because we were already forgetting ourselves, each other, our mothers, and the ones who started crying were consoled, and the ones who could not speak were consoled, and the ones who could not look were consoled, and the ones who consoled were consoled, and when it was all done and the lights came back on and we could hear radio audio piping out of some neighborhood car, and the voice that gave us the news, we didn’t need to hear what it said before we knew what this meant, we had thought of this end without thinking it, had dreamed our place in the world slipping away in lifetimes long and away before this one, and so we sat there, all of us, on the grass, in the waiting dew and looked out over the great nothing, over everything, until it was time for us all to go back home.
Nick Olson (he/they) is the author of the novels Here's Waldo and The Brother We Share and is the Editor-in-Chief of (mac)ro(mic). Originally from Chicagoland, he now lives in North Carolina. He’s been published in SmokeLong Quarterly, Hobart, Fiction Southeast, and other fine places. Find him online at nickolsonbooks.com or on Twitter @nickolsonbooks.