We build them, don’t we? For shelter, or for the simple act of demarcation. You could step right over this, but now we both know it’s my yard. There are good colorful toys for wall-building: they click into place just so. There’s sloppy mortar too, bricks of all kinds or stones of all sizes puzzled together, make some of us very happy like here we are just like our ancestors with all that patience. Walls of dung, yes? Walls made of tires, of rice paper, of corrugated cardboard with exacto little window flaps. Tiny sand walls with fingerprints all the way around the moat. And of course, those framed first with twobyfours, yes, yes, sheetrock.

We build walls of dirty dishes sometimes, broken promises. The wall between this boy and this girl, they didn’t know. They just didn’t see each harsh word dripping and hardening over the last. All those flowers. Still.

And this one here between father and son. The things said, the things unsaid, over the years. And now, well, what can be done about it? The tide might come in. The father’s chest, at this age, might rise with one good breath. He might take the blade in his hand, extend the knife’s handle to his son, say, you carve this year. Later the father might say, I know a good place to get those shoes of yours shined. Or better yet, wait. That kit’s here somewhere. The soft brush with the wooden handle. Remember? When you were a boy I’d let you brush after I rubbed the polish in. That’s when I wore boots every day. Now these goddamn white walking shoes. I feel like a nurse. Yes, I remember, the son might say. Mom would get mad at you when my fingers were blackened. Oh, says the father, you can’t keep your hands clean polishing boots now, can you?

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