We are back in San Myshuno.
I do not think I would like these stores that remain in Windenburg. I prefer the sorts of stores that aren’t there anymore when you come back a few days later with questions about the cursed cutlery you purchased, and why all your loved ones are now zombies.
But there is no one around to answer your questions, and the musty old store with the piles of junk under dim lighting and the wizened shopkeeper with the creepy laugh has been replaced by a shiny new coffee house with skinny and damp baristas who set your tall mocha frappuccino on fire as they serve it to you, saying, “This is for your bad taste in glasses!” and you walk home with a heavy heart, knowing that you have to use the flaming coffee to dispose of your loved ones, who leer at you as you enter the front yard, saliva dripping from their lolling tongues as the smell of your brain reaches their nostrils.
But yeah, the Old Town Mercantile store sounds nice. I’ll check it out.
There is a festival happening in the plaza outside our apartment building tonight. Sarah was adamant about going. I think she feels restless, after Granite Falls.
I am also restless, and I am not sure which Seth I am.
No, I have not been to the meadows. I am not sure if it would help or not. I’ve found that reminders of what I cannot have make the pain worse.
I don’t know if I could dispatch Sarah if I bought cursed cutlery that turned her into a zombie. Perhaps I could just get her a muzzle so she couldn’t eat brains. Or would that starve her and be painful for her?
She is trying all the foods sold by the festival booths and asking the booth owners for recipes. I am wandering around the plaza. Listening to the buzzing of neon lights. Wondering what it would be like to be one of the festival lanterns, hanging in the evening air with my compatriots, knowing that I have a space where I fit and a purpose that I fill.
How did you become friends with Bjorn and Raj?
I don’t know how I experience time.
There are slices of memories that present themselves to me sometimes, and they feel very real and present. The taste of smoke, the shadow of fire on the wall of the lab, the sun in the corner of the birthday cake for my 10th birthday, a broken flashlight, a freshly painted white line along the side of a road. A yellowed newspaper article about a factory fire hanging on a wall painted industrial green. The chips and scuffs on the black and white tiled floor of a bathroom in my high school.
I don’t know if the images are of the past or if they are still happening. Perhaps there are other Seths stuck in those bits of time, experiencing them over and over, and I sometimes see through their eyes.
Sometimes I will wake up on the couch or at my desk or on the dock or out by the railroad tracks, and I don’t know how I got there or what I was doing. I don’t know where the time that I wasn’t there goes. Maybe one of the other Seths was seeing through my eyes and moving my body, and I was elsewhere. But where?
How many Jaspers do you think there are?
All right, I will tell you what freedom means to me, since you said you were interested.
I do like your meaning for it, by the way. It shows that you have whittled away some of your cardboard.
I am not sure how to begin.
Right now I am standing under a string of festival lanterns, looking up at their pink and yellow lights against the black sky, and I feel very….locked in. I’m not sure if that’s the best way to put it.
I am looking at the lanterns and at the stars beyond them and I am smelling the spices from the booths and I am listening to the chatter of the people in the plaza and I am feeling the cool air on my skin and I am picking out Sarah’s voice from the others and she is talking to a vendor about saffron and now someone is tuning a guitar, and I am inside this skin and I am myself and I can never be anything else.
This is a hard thing to find the words for, but I am trying.
There is meaning and notmeaning, and I always have too much of both.
Perhaps, when you are painting or talking to your friends in the park, you feel something similar to this. I do not know. I have not heard of anyone else experiencing this, but then I tend to not talk to other people.
It’s…it’s the pink and yellow buzzing shine of the lanterns pressing down through my skin and into my veins, where it swirls along with the notes of the guitar and Sarah’s voice and my blood and the blackness of the night sky and the air moving along my skin and the spices with their smells of a dentist’s office and old sour pools and the houses of grandmothers, and it’s making me far too real and it means far too much.
My skin is tingling and the toomuch is pushing on it and it hurts, and then when I can’t stand it anymore the pain twists and the pressure reverses and the toomuch becomes the notenough. The notenough collapses inward into a black hole that swallows all the lights and the guitar and the spices and the murmurs of strangers and then, finally, Sarah, and her voice goes silent.
I am still looking up at the festival lanterns, but now they are empty and flat and swinging in a breeze that I cannot feel.
The hell of it is that the notenough is just as beautiful and infinite and painful as the toomuch, and I cannot contain either one.
Freedom, to me, means an escape from this finite universe.
I am working on a door.
Damn it Jasper, I’m a scientist, not a writer.
You can ask this editor friend of yours if he knows anything about doors, though. The door I was working on before the fire was very complex, but I have learned that things may be much simpler than I suspected.
Also, you could ask him how many selves he thinks he has. I was about to say that you could ask him if he is a linear self, but I would think that being multiple selves would preclude linearity. I should not assume, though. So yes, ask him if he feels like a linear self, and also ask him how many selves he has, linear or not.
The 18th century movable press must have produced many bookdoors in its time. I hope your friend is cognizant of his responsibility, and that the books he produces with it are not the cardboard sort that tear away bits of the people who read them. People have so little of themselves already, you know.
I will pass along the compliment of Sarah’s ability to tell stories. If/when I tell her about writing letters to people. I should do that, probably. I think she would like the idea. Do you think she would? Or would she be upset?
I am looking at a train trestle, and I am wondering about the differences between bridges and doors. What do you think the differences are? Doors are sharp hot things and they slice off bits of who you are when you go through them. What are bridges, though? What happens when you go over a bridge?
You could also ask your editor friend what he would do if he were on a trestle, and it began to hum.
I’m glad you have an organ to play and that it makes you happy.
I don’t really listen to music.
Someone is still playing the guitar back at the festival. The sound of it does not appear to be binding me to anyone else.
In the toomuch there is no room for others. In the notenough there aren’t any others. Now, in the space in between, there is the moon and the city and the lights and the bridges and the faint notes of the guitar, and I think there may be space at least for Sarah. I don’t feel particularly bound to her though, at least not in the sense that I think you mean.
I don’t hear her voice anymore.
Does your self work the same way you say music works? Is it how I work? Perhaps all the different Seths are different notes, and if I could find the relation they have to each other then I would make sense to myself.
What relation do all the Jaspers have to each other?
I went back to the plaza. I found Sarah. I can hear her, now.
She’s not a zombie. Which is good. I like her voice. I like it when she talks. I don’t know how I would feel about her growling or hissing or moaning or death-rattling on about the deliciousness of brain flavored ice cream or whatever sort of sounds zombies make when they try to communicate.
She says, “Hey, where you’ve been?”
She says, “I got Thiago to give me his empanada recipe! I’ll make some for dinner tomorrow.”
She says, “You okay?”
I sit down next to her. I tell her, “Yeah, I’m fine.”
I ask her about the spices and the recipes, and she tells me about the saffron and the wasabi and the curry and all the different food stalls. She’s happy.
I think I feel happy too. Because she’s happy.
Is this what you mean, maybe?
I hear people cheering. I think an eating contest just ended.
Sarah turns to look. I look at her.
How do you know when you’re bound to someone else in the same time and space?
She turns back towards me, but her eyes are on the man playing the guitar.
She looks less tired than she did before the trip to Granite Falls. I wonder if she is the same Sarah that she was then, when she told me about the tiny elephants.
I am trying to figure out how many Sarahs there are. I feel like I should have some idea, but I don’t. I don’t know what doors she’s been through, what bits of herself she’s left behind.
I remember her face in the hospital, after the fire. It’s possible that she left a bit of herself there.
She notices me looking at her. She reaches out. Touches my hand with hers. She says, “You ready to go?”
I nod, and she gets up.
She says, “Hey, thanks for coming out here with me.”
I think about what you said. About connection and love and sharing the same time and space. I don’t think I’m very good at that sort of thing.
But I’m trying.
I tell her that I am looking forward to the empanadas.
She smiles. I don’t know if this is exactly what you meant, but I like it.
She hugs me, and I hug her back, and there’s the guitar and the spices and the lights and the night sky and my blood and her, the smell of her hair and the beating of her heart and the warmth of her skin, and I know now why you called it an afterglow moment.
It’s toomuch, and it hurts, and I know that soon the notenough will come, but not yet.