I read somewhere that in any one gallon of water, there's at least one molecule that was once in the body of Christopher Columbus. Or Hitler. Or Jesus. Or, I guess, your mama. I dunno, maybe I didn't read that, maybe I dreamt it, but either way, as I look down on the hundreds and thousands of gallons of water flowing under this bridge, I can't help but think that it seems pretty damn unlikely that any of those water molecules will be back this way any time soon.
-Kate, Highland County
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In my dream, I'm reading a letter from myself: "Was it an easy thing to do? Was what you gained worth what you lost?" It's like a form - a series of questions with boxes underneath to fill in my answers. "Is the upset that you caused loved ones something that keeps you up at night? Check box for 'yes' or 'no'".
Awake again, a faded photograph has fallen from my hand to the worn carpet. I pour another glass of tequila.
It's an uphill battle, isn't it? Finding a path around your mistakes, without ever admitting to any of them?
-Janet, Near Elkton
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I'm taking photographs of an Indiana cornfield, with a little shed nestled back against some woods.
I'm taking photographs of the way light surrenders to the inevitability of November.
I'm taking photographs of how, nine times out of ten, people get exactly what they expect.
I'm taking photographs of the time and place I want to be kissing someone's shoulder blade.
I'm taking photographs of the vast indignity of wanting all the wrong things.
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We all do it. We huff and we puff and we blow down house after house, car after car, town after town. We drive as fast as we can, up and down these nearly fotgotten, ancient two-lanes, paying next to no attention to the consequences of radial tires on cracked asphalt.
But even with my busy-girl blinders affixed firmly in place, there's this one thing that settles me. One thing that, when it appears on my horizon line, keeps me feeling like there just might be a course I'm following after all.
Yes, there's a kiss on these lips that I've come to love.
-Linda, Northampton County, Virginia
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You know, you can take your toe, and draw a line in the sand, and you can dare whoever you damn well please to step over it. You can be as strong, and as willful, and as smart, and as beautiful as anything that ever walked this December beach. But in spite of your best efforts, in spite of your skillful designs, and in spite of your better judgement, there's a salty ocean wave who never even notices as she wipes the best of your intentions out into that gray ocean.
-Monney, Virginia Beach
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So many clues.
Letters to the last occupant (1985) from a social service agency. Needing more information about the relationship. You can't adopt Tiffany unless you give them more information. They need a statement from her mother (who you seem to be living with). Or her father. Or various people. There are Tiffany's school notebooks, a handbook for parents of special education students. Forms, forms, and more forms. For lots of things. Tiffany's small mattress lies molding and soggy on the floor of a small room off the kitchen. Her toys are in the living room, her bike's out back.
Did the love you felt for Tiffany make a difference? To her? To you? What happened to all of you? Where did you go when you left here? Did things get better? Or worse? She'd be in her mid-twenties now. What's her life like? And how did the time she spent living here on this side of this North Carolina mountain change her?
It's all just more questions.
-Ellen, near Cherokee, North Carolina
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