Fifteen years ago in a train station in Whitefish I met a woman, a drunk, whose husband was sleeping in his truck, a hole burning through his stomach. She was waiting for her baby brother home from working the fishing boats in Alaska who would, when he arrived, spin her off her feet like a small child her dark hair streaming — this woman with the loose-limbed drinker’s grace which to the uninitiated looks like nonchalance.
They used to come to me. The drunks and the crazy. The dead-eyed mutterers and the sharp tongued mothers –like the one who schooled me on sympathy and empathy in Seatac waiting for a delayed flight and wasn’t wrong.
How could she have known that we, the children of the drunks, the wayward wish to shed the empathy and live inside the distance— glancing at the late, wet snow in the dark, the small town neon bar signs wavering as the train is arriving late and see it from far off… not as you do when she tells you of the bus ride from Sacramento and her six year old’s white and ruffled dress and what was she thinking. What could she have been thinking to ever suppose it’d stay that way.