The porch

Linda and I sit on the front porch on a late-summer evening, side by side on the old Voyager car seat that’s the most comfortable butt-nestler in the house, watching the sun go down. Invisible to all other houses in upstate Pennsylvania Sullivan County, we face west, tucked into the side of a wooded hill that rises quietly below and above to tell us all’s fine and decent.
The declining sun shines directly into our eyes, so we don straw hats, the brims canted low to filter the aggressive rays. The downslope of our trees and the upslope of a hill across the creek lie between us and the setting sun, which sheds a glory on the trees, on me, on life. It declines and incrementally disappears about 35 degrees above what would be the dead-ahead horizon. To the left (south), the hillside light withdraws slowly from the trees. It’s not a shimmer leaving, but a statement being sucked away, the sky reabsorbing what belongs to it and was lent for a few hours.
In its wake, the darkness nibbles up the hill with a sense of devourment. And I’m afraid. Not of anything. It’s a primal fear, laid against the unblemished glory of the dying sun. Sometimes I’m half falling asleep. When my eyes fly open, the slow darkening – the encroaching absence of light – has crept farther up the hillside. And I’m afraid. I nod off and waken. And I’m afraid. Not a big afraid, the little afraid that doesn’t require a reason.
In the city, the sunset often gouged me – my heart ripped out, the question of existence answered with a pitiful negative. Here, the afraid is a gentle sadness that holds the promise of tomorrow.
This evening, Leiao, our daughter Caitlin’s wondrous dog who lives with us, sits on a rock beside the porch, pretending we and the rest of the world do not exist (and why should we?). I talk to her regularly – josh, yordle, snicker and sing to her. Most often she pays no obvious attention, though I know she’s listening.
This evening, I say to her (as I often do), “Arf!” and a couple other stupid doggy things. She wiggles not an ear. Again I speak “Arf” – softer, more endearingly. She responds nowise. Then, in a conversational tone, I murmur, “Leiao, would you like to come up and spend some time with us?”
Without hesitation, she trots onto the porch and looks me in the eye. I’ve always known she was bright, but this is the first time I realize she can recognize syntax.
Between dogs and myself (sometimes a few yards, more often just a couple feet), I wonder what it means to be alive, especially at sunset.
Back inside, Linda asks me to stop getting blasted on foul, cheap whiskey sloshed into dying diet Pepsi. I toss the Pepsi. Much better.

  1. #1 by Florence A Suarez on October 10, 2020 - 8:52 pm

    Derek, I enjoyed your stories, especially your real life feelings and experiences. So cheers again!

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