Letter to Ward A

That added-on, crazy-quilt clash of a house might have been our stitched-together marriage: split shakes and logs for the ground floor and a second floor clapboard and plywood. The nights when you left upstairs and me, spiraling down two flights to the cellar, I’d try, but I couldn’t remember if you were worse at the other house. A wide hall pinched to a small door, three kinds of windows in one long wall, none of it foursquare or true, it must have helped odd-angle you. Worst of it was for me those nights when you played the house from that cellar: hot water, then cold, lights off and on, the steam heat hissing and whistling, and all of it in patterns and design, until sometimes I had to crouch in bed, half-afraid to half-understand. The meters with their needles, ducts, the pilot lights and the valves, all things half-magical to a wife anyway, even before the patterns began. But then, an hour or hours later, everything would go on at once, and you’d dull-foot your way upstairs, again a man of right-angle mind. You had to go to that place, I guess, especially after that last long night, when the lights blew out and I found you, mind-dark, with your hands in the fusebox, but I miss the music now—so intricate! and with such an unlikely instrument.

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