Foregone conclusions. Perhaps the only one, or at least the first one, is the knowledge that they exist. And that each of us has a different time, place or way of learning about them. Some people do not come to that knowledge until the moment of their deaths.
Me, I learned about inevitability--about marching with fate-- one cool, damp, overcast Sunday afternoon. In those days, I always knew what day of the week it was because I was expected to. That's how it seemed, anyway: Someone would decide that I had to be in a certain place at a certain moment. Or I knew that it was Sunday because I saw people going to, and coming from, church and the store down the block was closed.
People walk differently when they're drawn by the impossibility of taking a different step from the ones they've been taking. They don't walk like people who are doing "what they have to do," such as when they're going to work or the dentist. On Sunday afternoon, at least on this block, there is only one repetition of fate: people going to have lunch, dinner or fights with those people they're bound to see: family members and in-laws, or their equivalents or proxies.
Really, they're not any different from the people who spend an overcast afternoon indoors because it rained in the morning. They're drawn by the momentum, the inertia of density, like amusement park rides that continue to run even when nobody's riding them. It was on such a Sunday afternoon that I learned some things couldn't be stopped or steered any more than the forces of life--or death--on this block.
I think there's always a moment--I'd've called it a decisive moment but for the fact that I don't believe in a humanoid god--when a person begins the desperate run from this block or takes the first steps in the march to death.
I was chopping onions (and, oddly, tears weren't running from my eyes--it must have been a very sweet onion) for the huge bowl of salad that would accompany the two big pans of lasagna mother was making even though none of her friends or neighbors was coming over that day. They decided they didn't want to go out in the rain, even after it stopped.
But we made that big Sunday dinner anyway, even though neither of us got hungrier on Sunday than on any other day of the week--or at least not hungrier enough that either of us noticed. There'd be leftovers for the rest of the week, at least. Not that I minded: I'd rather eat my favorite foods (and I've never eaten anything is more satisfying than that lasagna) days after they were made than something I like less even when it's fresh off the stove.
But leftovers weren't the reason why my mother went ahead and made that big dinner anyway: She'd've made a huge Sunday meal no matter what. She always had and, I realized that day, always would.
She always did. After I left this block, she'd always tell me what she was cooking whenever we talked. For a long time, I wondered whether she was trying to entice me into coming back event though she knew I wasn't coming.
She was going to make those meals, not matter what. Before I started helping her in the kitchen, and long after she knew I'd never be there again, she cooked. We'--or she--'d eat them, or whatever portion we could, whether or not we were hungry. That's what we and everybody else on this block did in the presence of a big Sunday meal.
Hunger is the reason to eat; the hunger of several people is the reason to cook a big meal. I realized that was how I'd live--it'd be my philosophy of life, if you will. Talk when there's someone to talk to, broadcast when you're trying to reach a lot of people. It's not a matter of what you're trying to say, or whether you have something say; it's all about saying to speaking to fill the void between you and whoever is there. Likewise, if you're really hungry, you'll eat just about anything to fill the pit in your stomach. Of course spinach and mineral water are better for you than hot dogs and soda, but you don't think about that when you're truly hungry: that is to say, when you're not thinking about the vitamins or other substances your body breaks down when...I was going to say, when you no longer experience hunger. But for all I know, there might be more of the same after death.
Mother cooked, no matter who was or wasn't there. Adam talked--to me, to anybody who'd sit still for a while--even though he didn't have anybody to talk to. They died on this block. So did Grap, the football player who attacked me at the end of my last day in school. He got into a fight with some guy who hadn't "stolen" his "girlfriend", didn't "look gay" and hadn't looked at Grap the wrong way; he fought because, well, he hadn't looked at Grap in the wrong way and couldn't be accused of provoking him.
Of course, on that gray mirror of an afternoon when I learned about fate, I couldn't yet know what propelled Adam to his death or what he'd share with anyone who'd died and would die on this block. I knew only that I wasn't going to die, at least not there or here. I couldn't. I didn't know why. I just knew I wouldn't. That knowledge terrified me as much as--possibly more than--knowing that I'd have to make a choice not to.
And--I didn't know how I knew this--I could never be a man, not even a very young one--on this block. Not a woman, either. So I wouldn't've been able to stay in the kitchen, with mother, for much longer.