Audio: Read by the author.
Today I exercised my love on a mint-green bicycle.
For three miles, I was mother hen alert to wolves
as cars, cars as wolves, ushering small children
across passages. I watched them walk, still helmeted,
into a fenced yard. Every day I lose them.
I exercised my love on this bicycle, because it’s something
my father would have done, to exercise his love. Joy beat
through my body. Don’t stop believing, a car radio sang. But
all I do is stop believing.
In an overgrown yard someone
has pasted a piece of printer paper to a plastic chair.
On it, only: John 3:16.
Q: How much did God love this terrible world?
A: That he gave us his only son.
Today you exercised your love in a wrestling match with a cat
you shepherded to its death. A stupid frightened cat we loved.
Here was a morning. Here I was, crying with a slash through
my skin. Here you were, coming back home to struggle
that doomed cat away, battling your will with his will,
saying shh shh Ducky, Ducky, Ducky, Ducky, Duck. Today I saw
you exercise your love and I almost could not bear it.
Q: How do you know if by marriage, a person means marriage?
A: Perhaps what is meant by marriage is time-slice of a marriage.
Undetached marriage part.
But that’s no answer to the problem of comprehension,
no answer to the problem of time. Sometimes I wish God
would have loved the world less and kept his son. Perhaps
a palm tree is an exercise of God’s love. A cat is, no matter
how stupid. A child in her helmet saying This is nice. This
is the rainforest. I love this. Another child, who lifts her feet
off the pedals and goes.
Liz Harmer, a Canadian writer living in California, is the author of the novel The Amateurs (Knopf Canada). Her stories and essays have been published widely. In 2019, she was the runner-up for the Mitchell Prize.