To Paradise

He put his arms around Charles, and Charles leaned against him, and for a moment they were quiet. It was then that he had a sudden vision of the two of them many years later, in some undated time far into the future. Outside, the world had changed: The streets had been overgrown with weeds, and the cobblestones in the courtyard were shaggy with pampas grass, and the sky was a viscous green, and a creature with rubbery, webbed wings glided past them. A car puffed south down Fifth Avenue, hovering a few inches above the ground, hissing air as it went. The garage was a ruin, half decayed, its bricks soft and cakey, and in the middle of it, thrusting its way through the crumbling roof, grew a mango tree, just like the one that had grown in the front yard of the house where he had once lived with his father, its branches bulbous with fruit. If it wasn’t quite the end of things, then it was close—the fruit was too poisoned to eat; the car was windowless; the air shimmered with oily smoke; the creature had settled atop the building across the street, its talons gripping the parapet, its black eyes searching for something to swoop down upon and devour.

But inside, he and Charles were somehow the same as they were: still healthy, still there, still magically themselves. They were two people in love, and they were making themselves something to eat, and there was plenty of food, and as long as they stayed indoors, together, no harm would come to them. And to their right, at the far end of the kitchen, was a door, and if they opened that door and walked through it, they would find themselves in a replica of this house, except in that house would be Peter, alive and sarcastic and intimidating, and in the house to the right of his would be John and Timothy and Percy, and in the house to the right of theirs, Eden and Teddy, and on and on and on, an unbroken chain of houses, the people they loved resurrected and restored, an eternity of meals and conversations and arguments and forgivenesses. Together they’d walk through these houses, opening doors, greeting friends, closing doors behind them, until, at last, they’d come to what they some- how knew was the final door. And here they’d pause a moment, squeezing each other’s hands, before turning the knob and entering a kitchen just like their own, the same jade-green walls, the same gilt-edged china in the cupboards, the same framed etchings on the walls, the same soft linen dish towels hung on the same ash-carved pegs, but in which a mango tree was growing, its leaves brushing the ceiling.

And here, sitting on a chair and patiently waiting, would be his father, and when he saw David, he would spring to his feet, his face alight, crying with joy. “My Kawika,” he’d say, “you’ve come for me! You’ve finally come for me!” He wouldn’t hesitate, but would run toward him, while behind him, Charles stood and beamed, watching this final reunion, a father and son finding each other at last.”

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