"Metamorphic rocks are rocks which have been changed. Changes may be barely visible, or may be so great that it is impossible to determine what the original rock was."
- Rocks and Minerals, A Golden Nature Guide
I thumb through the old photographs, always a dumb decision. It takes mere minutes for the familiars, the ghosts all their pets to sidle up next to me, poke at me with their sharp instruments. I lay them out across the wooden floor, like an installation, glossy, matte, yellowing polaroid.
In this one, I am riding my first bike. It is pink and white, the training wheels are still smooth and clean. My outfit is ridiculous considering my chosen activity--the frilly, pouffy-skirted dresses I refused to take off for several months. I am pedaling diligently down our gravel and dirt driveway, and he is walking behind me, poised and ready to rescue me from gravity's whim. We are both browned by the sun, our skin exactly matching in shade and color.
This one was taken at a state park in southern Texas, though the name of it eludes me. We are hiking through deep woods, snaking through trails choked with growth, stomping over sturdy plank bridges laid across swampy sections of marshland. He carries his machete, as familiar to me as the rest of him, hacking vines and thorny braches, clearing the way for me to come through, unscathed.
Fast forward several years, where the documentation of events lessens considerably. Dig down to the newer photographs, the ones I hide from myself, only occasionally admitting to their existence.
A few snapshots, corners of our new homes, if you could call them that. I see him, the fracture lines that were always present splitting in earnest now, nothing to strap them together, to keep the structure sound. In this snapshot I am on the side of the world held together, barely, by willingness and forward-thinking. Visiting his side is an exercise in futility.
In this photo, he sits in his lopsided recliner, constantly smoking cigarettes. The room is completely closed and unbelievably stifling. The apartment is a strange mix of things: newly acquired trinkets, movies, pornography, beer, keychains, bottlecaps, cigarette packs, beef jerkey, empty picture frames. The kitchen table is covered in detritus from two different lives, there is no pride in the placement of anything. In my density of that moment I did not understand that bonds mean nothing, as tenuous as they actually are, and that all of that time was temporary, already fading to white-out.
There are no more photographs after that. Lives ended and yet, did not. The dissapearence of him is inexcusable, a perfect example of what neglect looks like. There are no explosions here, only the steady mining of the soul, the chipping away that is slow and first and then suddenly complete. You blink and it's done. There is a sensation of having been visited by a thief in the night; he has taken the jewels you stored in the freezer, inconspicuous in their brown paper bag. There is the discovery of wells that are indeed bottomless, the plink of the pebble is never heard.
The sediment, stone, the plates of your life shift. All settles and you are as layered and heavily clouded as marble. You are strong, you can be knocked around and take it, but when dropped from unimaginable heights you crack down the middle, then outward in a complete circle, then you splinter apart and fly around dementedly. Others have to shield their eyes.
I pack all the memories back in their box, in the past, in the dark, probably where they belong. The ghosts dissipate with one last angry cry, sucked back into whatever hellish vortex they crouch in when I'm not scratching open old wounds. And just as efficiently as I remember, I compartmentalize, I forget. Like all things learned throughout a life, it's an acquired skill.
"...finally the original rock is completely absorbed, and the resulting rock shows no traces at all of what it once was. In structure and composition, it is granite."