In the hours you once knew, but not for some time, a brown paper bag dances down the street outside the house where you lived as a kid. Out of sight, but not out of mind, vines climb the crumbling walls, forcing their way in through the rotting window frames. They seek you out even though you’ve been gone for so long. The persistence of loss—it’s a force of nature in itself, like the clouds that bring the rain, or the pull of the moon on the oceans of blue that cradle you to sleep when you’re in one of your moods. Dead leaves stick to your socks as you tiptoe outside at night to smoke cigars wishing you had what it took to be the world’s greatest painter. Instead, you’re more likely to be the next Bundy; a terrible flirt skirting with the desire to snuff out beauty because beauty is dangerous and is what you’ll never be in possession of. There’s a wilting rose on the kitchen counter, and two glowing eyes in the shadows darting this way and that like the tail of a stalking cat. They belong to a face with a nose and mouth made out of plasticine, and a heart of glass that’s got more stains to it than a window in a thousand-year-old church. Place is littered with bullet holes, and the fingerprints of rapist and thieves, for no place is sacred nowadays, no place at all. The trees outside are no longer living. The grass is not grass but dried mud—dried mud showing a thousand footprints dating back to your childhood—and in the buildings nearby, the ghosts of our younger selves are sheltering from the rain after having spent so long trying to find a way back home. The paper bag, it’s brown like I said. Inside is a book, but the pages are stuck together. Yellowed. Mushy. Lines that once rhymed but are now nothing but mucky. If you put your lips to them, they taste the same as they did back in the days when life was for living. If you let your tongue linger if only for a while, it’ll take you back to those nights when the drops of rain moved to the beat of the music coming from the bar on the corner that started it all. The bar isn’t there anymore. Not in this life, anyhow.