To whom or what do we submit anyways? I find a bottle my wife had hidden. There is no shame in this. I imagine her sneaking into my daughter’s room to take a swig, those mornings the girls are screaming and punching each other. My oldest daughter has Asperger’s and can throw a fit that has no end. Though she has gotten better at controlling them as the years have passed. I talk to her about the anxiety, the roll of sound and voices that push her to thrash herself around the floor. I tell her I used to have it bad, so much they gave me tiny pills to help. I said it made the voices quiet and go further and further away. Then I tell her I learned how to push them away by myself. I told her they aren’t real. I told her only this is real, and I rubbed the top of her head. I told her the things we tell ourselves often aren’t real. I told her start to tell yourself some things good. She says, ok. She says she deserves a time out. She walks away and immediately begins to torment her sister, telling her she eats poop. But an hour later she freaks when she cannot finish a math problem and begins to howl, but only for a moment. And I think perhaps she is starting to listen, she is starting to realize this world is full enough of things to hurt us but the one who can hurt us the most is ourselves. Her mother says no when I ask her if she is drunk. The bottle I found in one of her hiding places is missing. She says she had to go to the store to buy snacks for the girls. She must go

somewhere to get what she needs.

I work with a man with a brain injury who suffers from anxiety. P is small and overweight and has wounds on his face from where he picks himself. The first time I saw him have an attack, I told him his laundry he had left in the laundry room I had folded but put into another man’s room. Both wear lots of camo. He rolled his eyes then let loose a litany of undirected profanities, motherfucking this and that, he was so angry. Later a staff told me this happened before, and his clothes had gotten mixed up. I wondered if P was picturing his clothes mixed up with the other mans. He did not think how his name was written on every tag. He was picturing not having any clothes. He was thinking too, how do they not know my clothes? He felt invisible. He walked outside away from me cursing and lit a cigarette. He had learned to walk away. The wave passed. Days later I sat with him on the smoking benches outside and told him, I am proud of you. We spoke of how he was angry at me. I said but you walked away, that is a good way to at first handle it. He said yes, I need to let that big wave in my head come crashing down, and he lifted both his hands high over his head then let them fall. Then I can become calm. He took a drag on his Newport, watched the cloud of smoke hang in the autumn air. But I was mad at you for a long time, he said. That will pass I said, that is the residual anger in your muscles. it can last long. The trick next is to learn how to walk away in your head, you are getting better. I want to get better he said, I don’t want to be that wacked out dude with my hoodie pulled over my face telling everyone to get the fuck away. He pulled his sweatshirt hood right around his head and scrunched his mouth and eyes up and crossed his arms. He looked like an angry injured elf, I start to laugh so hard I fell sideways on the bench. He paused and asked, why are you laughing. I said, that is funny, didn’t you know how funny you can be? He beamed, I didn’t know. I said, now that is something to work on. Let yourself be open like that. Your physical gestures are magnificent. He looked at me as if I was completely daft. Then said, my whole life I have always feared people laughing at me.

Who isn’t? There is nothing close to shame. But then we learn how absurd it all is anyways. My wife is doing a load of our youngest daughter’s laundry. She must be the most functional drunk on planet earth. She folds our daughter’s tiny shirts so perfect, each one lined exactly on the edges. She doesn’t hear me in the hall. I watch her stand and look at the piles of perfectly folded clothes. She doesn’t move, admiring her work. She works slow and precise. She told me once she is always scared of failing. Who of us doesn’t constantly fail? But the miraculous is all around.

Outside the light itself is failing, the grey sky of November. I submit this anecdote as evidence. The early dark is on its way. Our daughters are outside kicking leaves, when the oldest pushes the youngest down taunting her. She grabs her big sister’s legs and pulls her on top and they begin to roll and punch. They are both howling, rolling and wrestling, saying eat this leaf, eat this leaf like poop, shoving leaves into each other’s mouths, pushing each other’s faces into the cold dead grass, calling for help that never comes, I let them go, I let them fight and learn what a struggle love is, and then they are still, worn out exhausted, laying their arms out wide, side by side, staring up at the dark that settles over them like a blanket of blown leaves. And then they begin to rise, just barely off the ground. They hover there, like two oak leaves held for a moment by the rising wind.