It’s twilight, and you’re walking with a dog. Your dog. Perhaps the dog, the combination of all the dogs you’ve loved in your life: the golden retriever who destroyed your Barbie dolls when you were a child, the wild wire-haired terrier you adopted as soon as you graduated from college, the beagle you got after your divorce.
The dog runs free, loping ahead of you, returning without hesitation when you call. This is the kind of park that allows dogs to run free, making easy circles under the trees.
It’s twilight, and it’s one of the shoulder seasons, perhaps early fall or perhaps late spring. The air is warm, humid enough to feel soft. Somewhere there’s the scent of flowers. Somewhere there’s a hint of music.
There are other people in the park. You realize slowly, unmistakably, you know them all. There, walking towards you on the path, tall in a light blue jacket, is the boy you loved so desperately in college. There’s your grandmother, sitting on a park bench, holding a coffee cup with a lid and talking to your aunt. They wave. Your first boss from your first real job is here with his dog, bending to let it off the leash. There’s the playground from your elementary school, with the swinging wooden bridge, and under that bridge is your best friend, in those enormous, round glasses you always admired, the notebook under her arm filled with poetry. She’s gone now, like all the rest, drug overdose or some such stupidity, but here she is, in the twilight.
And there’s your brother, leaning against a tree.
Hey, you say, as if it were no big deal. Maybe it’s not. Maybe you meet here every twilight, to watch the dogs run under the leaves.
Hey, he says with a smile, crinkling the corners of his eyes.
Your house, you say, it turned out beautifully.
He doesn’t answer, so you continue.
I never got the chance to congratulate you. The construction. It was elegant.
He hung himself from the rafters in the living room. It was solidly built.
Thanks, he says. I didn’t finish it.
I know, you tell him.
You watch the dogs run.
There were no toilet paper holders, you tell him, and he laughs. It’s a beautiful sound, in that park, in the twilight.
Sorry about that, he says with a smile.
Don’t you think, you say, as if you’re just picking up the thread of a conversation you’ve been having your entire life. As if you’ve never stopped discussing this.
Don’t you think, you say, no matter what else it was, it was beautiful? Every bit of it, even the parts that hurt, weren’t they all just so beautiful?
He shrugs and adjusts his glasses. The glasses. Those were the hardest part, when you arrived at the house just after the paramedics and the police. Those neatly folded glasses on top of a neatly stacked pile of books about building houses. About architecture. About creation and order.
I don’t know, he says with a smile.
He was always smiling, your handsome brother.
Look at those dogs run, he says.
Author’s Note: This piece is dedicated to Craig Allen.