by Jeff Oaks

That there could be nothing has saved me more than once. There could always be an end to suffering, which helped me suffer less. The day I first imagined negatively, that is, imagined an absence, came right after, I suspect, the Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny unravelled; there had been nothing to them. I was left with an unsettled matter: why had my parents lied? What other lies had they told me? God, Heaven, Hell collapsed all around me, just stories to cover up a lack. What if nothing were the truth? it was hard to believe any adult after that. I told my parents I didn’t want to go to church anymore. It’s also true that by then I’d seen several guinea pigs and hamsters I loved die. One day I was thinking about my mother dying and I started to cry. She would be lost forever, if there were nothing. I realized that her absence, even just the thought of it, held a power. She was different than Santa, than God. Who would I be without her? A nothing, a zero, only fear. Still, that fear was a gift that jerked me into life and quietly still keeps me going back to work. How could it be possible not to see or hear or feel the constant throb of all this life I walk or ride or drive through daily? I know that some people get stuck in it. It doesn’t save everyone. Once or twice I’ve gotten close enough to speak to nothing. No answer’s come yet. Even just breathing is something.