The empathy children paid us a brief and winsome visit. They strode through the living room with hiccups in the air and ice rattling in a glass ear. They made themselves comfortable and patted one another with the exact heed of caretakers and little else. About the house they went and went and between their steps the minutes of the hour stretched thin like the skin of a balloon. They giggled out ambitions and odes and made reference to distant legions. They spoke of outside and the sky and how it would soon deflate and drift down covering the house. And so the empathy children cornered one of our oldest animals, waiting for its genius of survival to take shape before their eyes. Instead the lampshade grew brighter and the empathy children sighed and turned toward the curtain stains. They left their faces to fate and became unalike and episodic. They commented strictly on the pageantry of their youth and the parity of middle-age. Their understanding was rudiment and willful and spread into the even smells of that late afternoon, into its linens and licorice, into its sun-worn speculation and garden statues. So far from home, the empathy children grew hungry and searched our cabinets for clarity and peace of mind. “Let go,” said one child to another.
What became of the empathy children later that night? They gave in early to a mild sickness of origins, to something like vertigo from hindsight. They flung their arms ceiling-ward and at things proximate and unfeeling. Our house was fast completing itself as a tiny house of shivers, of ill-blown bubbles, its furniture wet with the pinks of their vomit and covered in the fine hair of their favorite dolls. The empathy children blurted out their regrets one by one, and followed up with a dazzling argument on the necessity of violence at certain altitudes, on the virtues of impatient mothers, and lastly with some feigned scrutiny of our friends and lovers, the names of which they mispronounced with a stubborn and gratuitous satisfaction.
Then one in hard yellows spoke as if she were an adult speaking around other adults and another in knotted grays nodded as if he were an adult nodding around other adults. And some of the empathy children came at us like fierce and broad-armed soldiers while some scattered about the house like pained birds. And they tore the medicine cabinet from the wall and with its sedatives made pigments, and with these pigments painted their faces the muted colors of that fate to which they left them. And they acted out the folly of man in one bold swoop and blew kisses in jest, and then said discreetly to themselves that to hate themselves they must first learn to hate those who hate. We shook our heads at the meanness in their eyes. And so they reached for their lavender sacks, slipped out their mats, and laid down their heads beside one another. They yawned in imperfect unison as if the world contained no music beyond this one unevenness.