When she is young, the name “Mary” is very common. If Social Security records for the ranked popularity of baby names in any given year went back to the first century, “Mary” would be number one on the list for hundreds of years. Sometimes, when she is meeting a person for the first time, they ask her if she likes her name. Sure, she replies. It turns out they usually have an aunt or a great-aunt, a teacher or a boss, named Mary of whom they are not very fond.
In early May we are driving south from Phoenix on Interstate 10. The land in every direction is sparsely vegetated—saguaro cactus, organ pipe cholla, barrel cactus, and mesquite. Dust blows across this big sandbox. The sky is hazy. To the east, in the distance, are what appear to be massive heaps of dirt left over from some grand construction project gone wrong. But this is a trick of light.
After Graham stopped returning my texts, I started leaving little parts of myself all over the Internet. In his early twenties, especially, Graham left doorways to himself everywhere—not just the normal abandoned social portals of MySpace and Friendster, but also a blog with a cursor shaped like a hot pink mouth. When I clicked on an entry, the disembodied lips smacked. Sickened, I kept clicking as the computerized sucking noise pulled me into page after page of journal entries, photos, digital check-ins at bars where he’d time-stamped his arrival.
There is a man in India who is every morning attacked by crows. I heard this on the radio not long ago. This man, he once rescued a crow that had become disoriented in his garden. And since then when the man emerges from his house, crows descend from the trees nearby to swoop at him and to peck. The birds have been attacking him for three years.