STORY PEOPLE by Brian Andreas

Are you a princess? I said & she said I'm much more than a princess but you don't have a name for it yet here on earth.

***

I like geography best, he said, because your mountains & rivers know the secret. Pay no attention to boundaries.

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She said she usually cried at least once each day not because she was sad, but because the world was so beautiful & life was so short.

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The first time her laughter unfurled its wings in the wind, we knew that the world would never be the same.

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For a long time she flew when she thought no one else was watching.

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She kept asking if the stories were true. I kept asking her if it mattered. We finally gave up. She was looking for a place to stand & I wanted a place to fly.

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When I die, she said, I'm coming back as a tree with deep roots & I'll wave my leaves at the children every morning on their way to school & whisper tree songs at night in their dreams. Trees with deep roots know about the things children need.

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There are things you do because they feel right & they make no sense & they may make no money & it may be the real reason we are here: to love each other & to eat each other's cooking & say it was good.

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You're the strangest person I ever met, she said & I said you too & we decided we'd know each other a long time.

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I've always liked the time before dawn because there's no one around to remind me who I'm supposed to be, so it's easier to remember who I am

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I'm not sure if he's gone, she said, but his body is & that's the part I'm getting used to.

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Most people she never tells about the tightrope because she doesn't want to listen to their helpful comments from the ground.

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If you hold on to the handle, she said, it's easier to maintain the illusion of control. But it's more fun if you just let the wind carry you.

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I sometimes wake in the early morning & listen to the soft breathing of my children & I think to myself, this is one thing I will never regret & I carry that quiet with me all day long.

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There are lives I can imagine without children but none of them have the same laughter & noise.

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I read once that the ancient Egyptians had fifty words for sand & the Eskimos had a hundred words for snow. I wish I had a thousand words for love, but all that comes to mind is the way you move against me while you sleep & there are no words for that.

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Most people don't know there are angels whose only job is to make sure you don't get too comfortable & fall asleep & miss your life.

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She laid on my chest & her breathing filled me almost to beyond what I could hold.

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I need you to come home soon, she said. I'm walking around like a woman who's let herself go.

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They came to sit & dangle their feet off the edge of the world & after awhile they forgot everything but the good & true things they would do someday.

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That was the day the ancient songs of blood & war spilled from a hole in the sky & there was a long moment as we listened & fell silent in our grief & then one by one, we stood tall & came together & began to sing of life & love & all that is good & true & I will never forget that day when the ancient songs died because there was no one in the world to sing them.

***

I have a friend who used to ride bareback in a circus. In one picture I've seen she is wearing blue sequins with her smile spread wide as her arms. One time I asked her was it hard to balance? No, she said, you always balance. Only sometimes, she added, you balance on your butt.

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Whenever she stood in line at the bank ,or while waiting for the bus, I noticed her feet. The right always in front & perpendicular to the left just so. Even after 2 children, she still dreamed of being a dancer.

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Of course I act like a barbarian, he said. They're the only ones who have any fun in this life.

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I have a friend who reads people's auras. He sees all sorts of colors like green & red & purple. He says anyone can do it. All it takes is forgetting everything you think you know & just looking. I've tried it & even though I haven't seen any colors yet, everyone I meet looks so beautiful when I stop knowing everything, that it's pretty hard to go back to the old way.

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He followed the sun & she followed the stars & in dreams they listened closely for the beginning of all things, for that was where they knew they'd find each other.

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I've always thought death was a lot like Christmas, he said. I can't wait to find out if being good the whole time was worth it.

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Can you prove any of the stuff you believe in? my son asked me & when I said that's not how belief works, he nodded & said that's what he thought but he was just checking to make sure he hadn't missed a key point.

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In those days,
we finally chose
to walk like giants
& hold the world
in arms grown strong with love
& there may be many things we forget
in the days to come,
but this will not be one of them.

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Everything changed the day he figured out there was exactly enough time for the important things in his life.

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We lay there & looked up at the night sky & she told me about stars called blue squares & red swirls & I told her I'd never heard of them. Of course not, she said, the really important stuff they never tell you. You have to imagine it on your own.

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He told me that the night his mother died, there were storms & far away he saw purple lightning & someone left the window open & the room filled with a swirl of butterflies & she slipped out quietly without anyone noticing & I'm sure the grief was softer because of that.

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Some days it's not worth the effort to pull myself together, she said, so I'm glad I get cable.

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Whenever I go on a trip, I think about all the homes I've had & I remember how little has changed about what comforts me.

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There came a moment in the middle of the song when he suddenly felt every heartbeat in the room & after that he never forgot he was part of something much bigger.

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I'm not sure if there's one right place I'm supposed to be, he said, but I know a couple of wrong places I'd give a second try in a heartbeat.

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I have too much to lose, she said, if I cross that line. Like what? I said. She could not think of anything that day so she said she'd get back to me. Since then I've been thinking what I would lose if I cross my line & I haven't come up with anything either. There's always another line somewhere.

***

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