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We are able to return to the lake house in Michigan in late summer after my colostomy bag is removed. I am grateful for life and having been made whole without restriction. I start running again and I never think about police work. I don't carry a wallet with a badge or identification. I don't carry money or a cell phone. Beth pays for everything and she handles all of my communications. I don't want to be reminded of Chicago. I don't carry a gun but I bring it to Michigan and lock it in the safe. Most days I don't wear shoes unless I am running. I have no cash and don't carry anything in my pockets. Before I was shot, I would stay up late one or two nights a week paying bills. I handled all the bills and the bank accounts. I pay no more bills and give no attention or concern to this anymore. It all falls to Beth now. The upending trauma of the shooting has freed me from the minor stresses that I don't have room for anymore.

Now I stay up late but not to pay bills. I run in the woods on paths that wind through the pine trees and under dark skies lit by the moon and fields of white stars. I don't wear a headlamp and instead run by the natural white glow from the sky. I start digging up small trees and then transplanting them in the yard around the house. I carry my brother's Marine Corps folding shovel with me and run into the forest every night after the rest of the family has fallen asleep, except my Mom, who even before this was an anxious late night prowler like me. She is often sitting at the table on the patio drinking tea and watching me in the moonlight as I plant another tree, water it with the hose and pat the dirt around it with my hands. The tree is something alive and it is something that will stand for years into the future. I am in need of knowing that I can change and control things, and it starts with the trees. I know the trees are not immortal but they seem less fragile than us now.

First appeared in Gravel Magazine, March 2019