she couldn’t quite see herself in it. When they were done, I read the Shakespeare sonnet that begins “Fear no more the heat o’ the Sun,” partly because it was appropriate to the occasion and one of the most beautiful poems in the language, but also because I hoped it might hide from my loved ones the fact that I myself had nothing to say, that while part of me was here with them on this beloved shore, another part was wandering, as it had been for months, in a barren, uninhabited landscape not unlike the one in my dream. I realized I’d felt like this for a while. Though life had gone on since my mother’s death—Kate had gotten married, I’d finally published another book and gone on tour with it—some sort of internal-pause button had been pushed, allowing another part of me, one I’d specifically kept sequestered to deal with my mother, to fall silent. Since her death, Barbara and I had gone through all her things and settled her affairs, but we’d barely spoken of her.
In matters of affection, the rules of engagement at Empire High were detailed yet unambiguous, an extension of procedures established in junior high, a set of guidelines that couldn't have been clearer if they'd been posted on the schoolhouse door. If you were a girl and your heart inclined toward a particular boy, you had one of your girlfriends make inquiries from one of that boy's friends. Such contact represented the commencement of a series of complex negotiations, the opening rounds of which were handled by friends. Boy's friend A might report to Girl's friend B that the boy in question considered her a fox, or, if he felt particularly strongly, a major fox. Those experienced in these matters knew that it was wise to proceed cautiously, since too much ardor could delay things for weeks. The girl in question might be in negotiations with other parties, and no boy wanted to be on record as considering a girl a major fox only to discover that she considered him merely cool. Friends had to be instructed carefully about how much emotional currency they could spend, since rogue emotions led to inflation, lessening the value of everyone's feelings. Once a level of affection within the comfort zone of both parties was agreed upon, the principals could then meet for the exchange of mementos - rings, jackets, photos, key chains - to seal the deal, always assuming that seconds had properly represented the lovers to begin with.
And so began my final stage of my boyhood in Mohawk. Later, as an adult, I would return from time to time. As a visitor, though, never again as a true resident. But then I wouldn't be a true resident of any other place either, joining instead the great multitude of wandering Americans, so many of whom have a Mohawk in their past, the memory of which propels us we know not precisely where, so long as it's away. Return we do, but only to gain momentum for our next outward arc, each further than the last, until there is no elasticity left, nothing to draw us home.