Lawrence Raab Permanence I can't remember how old I was, but I used to stand in front of the bathroom mirror, trying to imagine what it would be like to be dead. I thought I'd have some sense of it if I looked far enough into my own eyes, as if my gaze, meeting itself, would make an absence, and exclude me. It was an experiment, like the time Michael Smith and I set a fire in his basement to prove something about chemistry. It was an idea: who I would or wouldn't be at the end of everything, what kind of permanence I could imagine. In seventh grade, Michael and I were just horsing around when I pushed him up against that window and we both fell through-- astonished, then afraid. Years later his father's heart attack could have hit any time, but the day it did they'd quarreled, and before michael walked out to keep his fury alive, or feel sorry for himself, he turned and yelled, I wish you were dead! We weren't in touch. They'd moved away. And I'd forgotten who told me the story, how ironic it was meant to sound, or how terrible. We could have burned down the house. We could have been killed going through that window. But each of us deserves, in a reasonable like, at least a dozen times when death doesn't take us. At the last minute the driver of the car coming toward us fights off sleep and stays in his lane. He makes it home, we make it home. Most days are like this. You yell at your father and later you say you didn't mean it. And he says, I know. You look into your own eyes in a mirror and that's all you can see. Until you notice the window behind you, sunlight on the leaves of the oak, and then the sky, and then the clouds passing through it.