The footage is easy to find. La Catredal de San Salvador, Oviedo, the south tower’s baroque spires dissolving, top-down, white sky flooding the void. The building vanished in less than a minute, leaving behind a trio of priests, robed, kneeling and sweating, frantically kissing their crosses as tourists took photos of nothing. “Dad’s church,” my son said on the phone. “Disappeared yesterday.” My husband had spent a year in Oviedo, when he was my son’s age, sketching the town’s cathedral, learning to paint, fucking the locals. We met at his welcome home party. His smile alarmed me, the cruel, affectionate jokes. He told this story—I forget the details—that captured the crowd, and as soon as he finished he placed his hand on my waist and slid it across the small of my back. We were married in less than a month.
If our son hadn’t mentioned the church I might not have noticed the vase. His mother’s. Her mother’s. Cerulean, gilded arabesques knotting the stem. He’d used it for still lifes. Vase with apples and peaches. Vase with crumbs and bananas. Vase with a watch that belonged to his father. He stacked the paintings face down in the garage—the studio, he asked me to call it. I call it the studio, now, out of tribute. I saw the vase every day as I walked to my car. One afternoon it was gone. Robbery? Unlikely. My life is too small for a thief.
And then Brutus, our tabby—my tabby—stopped coming home. He normally stayed out for days at a time, beheading bunnies, vomiting mice on the porch, but two weeks was reason to worry. I shook a plastic container of treats and waited. Nothing. I searched the backyard. His tail poked out of the door to the shed. I ran over, imagining Brutus, trapped and starving, scratching the floor with claws dulled flat. Behind the door lay more tail. No blood. No Brutus.
The pattern was simple. My husband, eternally greedy, was bringing the things that he loved into the afterlife. Brutus. He loved the cat but hated his tail, that “useless appendage” there to be tripped over, stepped on, there to make him feel guilty for hurting the cat. After Brutus I lost track of the sequence. Mugs disappeared (#1 Dad). The mimosa tree withered to grass. Deb Chillings, mother to a friend of our son, while walking her dog: poof! Part of me knew all along. I haven’t heard starlings sing for a month. What happened to the fog in the mountains? The purplish gum of the sunset? Is he to blame for my smile? Its absence?
Or my son. I was sitting with him outside a café downtown, discussing, of course, his father. Mid-conversation he glanced at his feet. “Something’s wrong,” he said. His pant legs rippled shinlessly in the breeze. The pain of seeing fear on the face of my son: indescribable. He gripped the table, confused, frightened. “What the hell’s going on?” he shouted. I hadn’t told him that I’d discovered a pattern. He believed the cathedral was an eerie coincidence. That Brutus was eaten by bears. His thighs and buttocks vanished, hips landing hard on the chair. I told him I loved him. His torso fizzled upward. He appeared to be sinking. “It’s okay,” I said. “Dad loves you.” But love is no consolation for a young man reduced to three fingers, a neck, and a beautiful head. I jumped out of my seat and leaned over to kiss him goodbye, but he disappeared faster than I could bend, at my age, and I kissed the seat of the chair.