Zachary Bushnell

Entry 481

Zachary Bushnell

It was once common for our males to arrive at the dwelling of whichever female he might care to court carrying with him a boulder, often having brought it miles, to drop down before her on whatever ground her birth family might inhabit in a display of strength and adoration, suggesting with this action his capacity to provide her with care and protection, as well as a home – the boulder representative, it’s believed, of a primitive door, as in the adage: “Open the door, and the house will follow” (which makes less sense if one is stepping out; but who are we to gripe about our axioms). Many of our young men, setting out across the difficult terrain separating us from neighboring villages, were lost in the enactment of this ritual, crushed eventually by the great weights they strove to heave upon the earth before beloveds they only knew by tales of their beauty, breathed by the occasional traveler or tradesperson, not even being sure whether the phantastic objects of their admiration remained available, unapproached already by other such eager stone-toting suitors, or even existed at all.  Why, if word passed about the birth of a particularly lovely baby girl born to a woman known far and wide to be ravishing, of which I could scarcely count, boys would begin to scour the landscape in a fever, intending to depart with the most prized geological specimen our humble country could provide in the tenth year of her birth and expecting to plop it at her feet at dawn on her 16th birthday.  (For everywhere from here is far.  Though the countries have been found to be equidistant from each other, the cities are not, and the closer one comes to a neighbor the harder, inevitably, gets the going.) 

Many of our women have been won in this fashion, replaced upon the arm of some wooer or other, leaving our streets and pastures littered with the rubble of foreign lands – as the ritual bears no code for the removal of said devotional objects; indeed, its deposition is the only rule, for should a suitor be deemed worthy, his burden is meant to be replaced by the contestably burdensome condition of matrimony, which none ever deny, the suitors, having brought their weight so far and feeling, for the first time in what might be years, its lack upon their shoulders.  And those dismissed by their prospective partners are rarely wont to heft it again given how the initial venture went, and shuffle beneath the load of their new-borne rock of rejection, in which direction who knows.  Every so often we’ll catch sight or story of one of our reviled departed, our fools, whom love has used so harshly – it is rarely pleasant.  In most cases they’ll continue to try for a time, varying the stone: its size; its shape; its quality or aspect.  Some go so far as to use the stones left somewhere by previous suitors.  The law on this is gray, especially as in some wastes it’s uncertain whether a stone has come there by the hands of man, or glacier, or have always been there, waiting.  What is known is that should one be recognized it would mean shame forever, both for the author of its removal and for the village from whence he came, were it not our strict policy to disown him in such cases.

(As a matter of clarification: while we have been saying ‘He’, it is only by way of tradition.  There have always been stories of women performing the ritual, though in the beginning it was often in secret.  In later years it became more accepted, and even a great honor, for a man to be carried off by his devoted bride.)

But this is ancient history.  Over time the ritual has altered to suit advancements in technology and consciousness (though of the latter we hold there have been depressingly few).  People began to feel the original too crude and taxing, inhumane, an investment of too much time – somethingwhich, due to technological progress outstepping – or even on occasion running counter to – those of consciousness, began to be counted as if it were something finite, more-so even than trees or rocks, which are, in fact, mostly time.

Fragment 320

Zachary Bushnell

Again today the baby was there in the vestibule. It only takes one of these sorts of incidents to realize, wherever you live, it’s better to keep the doors locked—at least at night. The neighborhood’s really fine. Sure paranoias of masked armed intruders may enter through a window or the basement during a blackout, when the lightening’s blasting burdened coathangers into crazy animated silhouettes and thunder rocks Julia’s grandmother’s antique china tea-set and the glass-fronted cabinet it’s kept in with the mirrors on the back the old pre-sleep brainscreen every once and again, but that’s just horror movie stuff, and hardly credible, as we know at least by acquaintance most of the people who live around us, and robberies here are extremely rare, especially of the B&E variety, and never—not once that we’ve heard of—when anyone has ever been actually in their homes. Burglars watch for that kind of thing, I think. But this, I mean…it’s… Who would commit such an act of negligence—to orphan something so crudely? Maybe, right, it’s not unheard of?—you know you have this thing, but you don’t want it. But the least you could do then is make sure it’s going to be taken care of. To just leave it is—it’s…

It has soft skin, to look at it, and bright eyes. We don’t know whether it’s a boy or a girl. It hasn’t once cried. We called everyone whose we thought it could be, or who might know something about whose it was, but nobody claimed it, or knowledge re: it. Any number of them could be lying. What’s hard is where they left it. (Though “they” is an assumption, a desire for someone with whom to place the action of its leaving. Perhaps it would be better to say: ‘What’s hard is where it’s left.’ Could it have left itself?) See because if it were outside the vestibule, on the porch even, the situation would be different. We live in an apartment complex, Julia and I. We’ve lived here for three years, and have seen some tenants come and go in that time. Could it have been forgotten in some hasty eviction, some frenzied shadow-transition of keys and leases? They’re left on roof-racks in baskets all the time. But if it were outside this would be simpler, outside of the vestibule where it now is, and has been for several days. If it were outside this would be a community issue; would could call for a tenants’ meeting; perhaps someone would volunteer. Out there it’s Complex property.

Like, the board meets to approve who does the landscaping, for instance. And at these meetings opinions are voiced about the state of the landscape, based on which opinions a movement is carried either to retain the current service or find a new contractor. In the case of the latter, a panel would be assembled for that purpose. If this could be like that it would be easy.

We keep the inner door locked. The vestibule has two doors: one that connects it to the building’s exterior, and one connecting it to the apartment’s interior. Just this side of the inner door’s our living room. How this got started I’m not sure, but the basic premise is, anyone can enter the vestibule at any time from the outside. Should they feel crooked, they could conceivably relieve us of whatever effects are in there, but the haul would amount to little more than an old pair of running shoes, some sandals, umbrellas, maybe a winter coat: we wouldn’t be bereft. Never had it occurred to us that the space could be used to deposit something.

I’m a jogger, so every morning—five, five-thirty—I’m lacing up. It’s me who found it. Julia does pilates, so she has a morning routine she’ll go through generally while I’m out, and then when I get back we’ll both have breakfast. I wouldn’t touch it, no. And neither would Julia. Not that it’s a bird, I know, but it’s not ours, you know? Even elephants who’ve had humans touch or ride them are ostracized by the group. It doesn’t seem to have any papers with it. I looked around. It’s awkward. That first day, I mean, I didn’t go for my run, and Julia didn’t do her pilates; we just looked at it dumbfounded for a while and I said ‘I said we should keep the front door locked’ even though I hadn’t and that morning we started calling people. Since then I’ve jogged, which means I enter and exit the vestibule at least four times a day with that baby just lying there in the blanket that came with it (or it brought?), and at first I’d almost stumble over it or be shocked by it there in the early morning or late evening hazy sort of dark. At this point I can glide right on by. The only major difference from before is that I have to put my shoes on the other side of the room, or sometimes near the baby’s feet.

We’ve talked about keeping it ourselves, but neither of us is sure we want that kind of responsibility. I suppose we’re both getting somewhat used to its being there. It’s funny: It hasn’t made a peep.