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by court

When he’s alone, he licks the palm of his hand. He read that it improves immunity toward bacteria, aids the digestive system. Every morning, he feels closer to death. The day after his mother kills herself, he folds into Albert’s lap until he feels invisible, until his body is nothing but a compartment. Aren’t bodies just placeholders, cubby holes, empty hooks to hang a jacket? The thirty-three vertebrae, the heel’s tendons, the flex of a shoulder’s muscles. All but surfaces to reflect the basement sunlight. Pores and sinew and hair and grease. Ribcages and throats and optical illusions. Albert’s fingertips trace mandalas on the back of his neck. Is this art therapy? His namesake, Virgil, worked on the Aeneid for eleven years only to die before he could finish. He caught a fever while traveling to Greece and barely made it home in time to die. If I think about it too much, I’ll puke. Her skin was weak, too loose and flabby under the breadth of her chin, hanging sallow under her arms, the shadows and blotches and imperfections she covered with foundation and thrift store sheath dresses. More Bang For Her Buck. Something like that. Shut up. Not you, me. He felt his sweat crust along the pillowcase, his hair dank, the pillowcase soggy. He thought of cavities and infections, the decay of the human body. And then he thought of that other thing—Albert’s nails scummed in sand from twelve-hour shifts at an industrial sand plant, his armpits the taste of sourdough. The sodden lining of his tongue, the flick of a chapped laugh against his torso. The dingy television set in the background, a cycle of commercials. We know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two. How much did bodies hold onto? When he thought of his mother: in passport lines, in motel hallways, in temples. He swore her image followed him—not her body, not literally—but the idea of her haloed itself around his vision so everything he saw was distorted with her stink, the matted hair and the inflamed wrist bones, the entry wound in her right temple and the exit in her left. What were bodies if not rafts made of moldy wood strung together with rope, set afloat on rocky shores never to return from? Diseased and disused, waiting to reach something

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