I have no ritual for this. The idea is that today is Good Friday and the world is well into its long march to Easter Sunday. I wonder about all of this waiting, why we repeat this each year when we know how it ends. Except this time, I don’t know the ending. I don’t understand why this weekend that leads off with a holiday-that’s-no-holiday is constructed this way. I am newly divorced, and our six-year-old twins are in Denver, celebrating with their father.
Arriving in my driveway, I feel as if I was supposed to do something, not treat this like an ordinary Friday, but a Good Friday. I come to this idea too late and with no plan, so when I see the familiar dark shape of my home, set back from the street and perched on a high lot, my heart sinks. A three-quarter moon splashes light on the beehive shapes of the four-wing saltbush, a yellow something that might count for a high desert flower. To the east, I recognize the slump of a somnolent mountain, and I chart that we are just past spring equinox. The moon has clocked a few degrees north of the center point of the eastern horizon.
I have my bearings, all right. I know the cast-iron black of the empty acre below and to the north is where a home used to be, burned to cinders in a fire, the sand now wiped clean as a griddle. No light falls on my neighbor’s land. It occupies the space next to me like a dead pixel.
I have been working to understand the oxymoron of Good Friday. How can it be good that Christ died? Sacrifices were made. It’s the opening line in the story of redemption. I get it that the event was necessary to set up the story. Christ was crucified. He died. He rose again. I understand we’ll be [End Page 89] happy come Sunday at sunrise, but right now we’re in the cold dark, like iris bulbs that can’t see the tick of the moon against the sky and don’t yet know spring is coming. That is, I am the one in the cold dark. Not the bulbs—they’re probably just fine. They have ways of knowing these things. I don’t. My children are somewhere else.
This setup doesn’t fit the family I know—the kind with a mother and a father and children held in an orbit of shared rituals and celebrations. I have the kind in which, when the father has the children, the mother is ejected out of the orbit. When it’s not my turn, my children have only peripheral contact with their mother—phone calls and the impersonal exchange of items between two houses. For ten days each month, I’m a satellite, a blinking light that moves over their dark sky. I don’t always know every minute if they are all right. This is unnatural for me—for any mother, I think. There is clamor when I have the twins; when I don’t, there is this silence. In this kind of family, children learn to be careful how much loyalty toward one parent they let leak out to the other. In this kind of family, children live on the razor’s edge between atonement and obliteration.
I stand at the peak of my driveway, looking down the slope covered in silver thickets of tumbleweeds, carelessly tossed crowns of thorns. A rabbit wrests free from beneath the brush, and I startle two steps back into a particularly sharp Russian thistle that’s relentlessly strangling a saltbush. All right, that yellow cluster is not really a flower anyhow. The high desert is full of these impostors. Barbs of the Russian thistle lash odd, unchartable constellations of red lines on my calves as I tumble down the uneven terrain, halfway to the vacant lot before I spin to a halt. Tumbleweeds grasp at me like they’ve been buried alive.
Good Friday doesn’t fit companionably...