Volume 24, Number 3

On a Neighbor’s Foreclosure

Friend, you appeared in my dream tonight. Or I cut through your dream, en route to my own. The fence I hopped was chain link, topped with steel.

You waited for me on the dry lawn, grey smears on your forehead and cheeks. I saw the ashes and asked no questions. Your face was the whole story, a smudged picture on salvaged flesh.

The last time I saw you, I turned away from your table—a grimy relic, barely able to stand. The table was piled with food you had meant to save. Crackers still in their plastic sleeves, every kind of olive, speckled sausages, good cheese. Your face was pinned in stoic lines, an anger that had found its way home to stay. Eat, or hurt me further, you said.

But my throat filled with lost smells. The table is rotting, I thought, and recoiled from your need. I wanted out, away. From the dry breath of the curtains, more dust than cloth. From the look of your children’s shoes. From another gulp of forced cheer.

I didn’t stay to find out if you wrapped the food tight, or left it to spoil. I went home instead, to my own table. My fork rose and fell in the slick gleam of varnish while I watched the lights go out in your kitchen for the last time.

Tonight, in my dream, we stood on a lawn—no longer mine to trespass, nor yours to protect. The table in pieces between us.

—Sara Biggs Chaney