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April 2015, vol 11 no 1

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Aron Rothstein


My cousin Jesse was a sometime childhood companion. I remember afternoons in his family's basement, playing an old arcade bowling game where you slid a puck at pins. We didn't really become close until university, where we overlapped for a year; I a freshman and he a grad student. I knew no one else that first semester; Jesse and I spent time together, bicycling around the North Carolina piedmont. He talked me into eating frog legs; he took me to my first porno film; I learned to drive a stick shift in his Vega.

As time went by I put my bicycle aside, but Jesse was committed. Some forty years after that last Carolina ride, Jesse visited during a solo trip down the Pacific coast, from the Canadian border to his home in LA. This year he started another ride, from San Diego to El Paso – documenting his trip with daily blog entries.

Then a message from his brother. Jesse was hit and killed; in Arizona; by a pickup.

gray dawn
a dismal walk, yet
the wild blackberries

Such a death. The loss different, more acute, because of its unexpectedness. I can't shake the contingencies of the thing. Could he have known on waking that this was the last day, these the last hours? Over and over, I see him at breakfast. One less or one more cup of coffee, an extra piece of toast, and the encounter becomes different; at a different place, a different time. Perhaps a different outcome.

niagara river
no change in the flow
right up to the edge