Photo by Adarsh Kummur

I stand in a small room with a big book in my hands, an index of names and dates that came and went before I came, that I will join when I’m gone. I am searching for a name, hoping to find a dead man in these pages on whose shoulders I can stand. If he can hoist me high enough, I may be able to see the distant shore. If I squint hard enough, I may be able to make out the name of the village — the ghetto, let’s be honest; a gulag before there was a word for that particular horror — and the village’s name is what I need. That’s what the words on my telephone’s screen tell me, words tapped out by someone who shares a fraction of my blood, or so a computer tells us. An algorithm.

And, all through this, I can’t help but wonder if I am the kind of branch they would cut down as an aberration, these woodsman who begat and begat until they begat me. I wonder if they would rid the world of me, the kind of branch that reaches for the ground instead of toward the sky.

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