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The older boy taught the younger girl how to tackle. She already knew. On the black rug, the one with large red flowers and a beige border, they wrestled. My back was turned; a mother knows when the pups are at play or have entered a competition in which she must intervene and exert her judgment.

For a long time, there was only friendship. The older boy, insistent and brilliant and angry and old, and the younger girl, sensitive, all-seeing but with oddly blurred vision – they are twins, really. The boy lived eighteen short months before the girl appeared in his life; there is no memory of his body without her body, his mother without the love, and the race for her love, that feeds both of them.

I was painting stone. Huge granite rocks. Punishingly, I pressed the brush on their surface: the rocks belong in a river, not in my house. But that is the residue of another era, and the stones on the wall, after I am done with my gleeful shading, will be just another palimpsest of taste and time, fashion and comfort. Still, with my husband gone, painting the rock felt like an attempt to pull myself further into this home, and close the door tighter against his ghost.

So I listened. The wrestling had turned into a small war. Whoever lasted the longest in pinning the other won – how on earth did they know the basic rules – and then the game was over. No.

“No,” said the younger girl with long legs that bend like a stork. “It never ends. It never ends.” Her voice was a plea and a challenge and a question and a request. In essence, she spoke a language both of her and beyond her, the language of space, of stars, of time, a universe of meaning in those three words, spoken to her brother, who agreed.

“Right,” he said. “It never ends.”

***This small vignette is dedicated to two people: the father of this boy and girl, who is no longer my husband but will always be their father. And to Sally Mann, whose son just died, and whose art truly never ends.***