He told me he knew a great deal about a great deal of many things. That’s, like, exactly how he said it, and an hour later he came back up to me and whispered that he wanted to play my pussy like a violin.
―Jesus… A violin?
―Yeah. She laughed. ―I should’ve, like, I don’t know. Slapped him in the face in front of everybody. Except nobody would’ve heard what he said. How he said it was, like, he seemed really proud of himself.
―Were you drunk?
―We all were.
―A violin… Why a violin?
―I don’t know! She was laughing, so Cate felt like she had to laugh too and tried.
―A clarinet, like… I don’t know, never mind.
―He was so old, that was the weird thing. He was wearing a Vietnam baseball hat. You know how they have baseball hats like that. Cate nodded. ―And it was, like, right when we were all eating, like, and my grandma was at the head of the table crying. And he went over and comforted her, and then, like, he looked pretty tough.
―What did you do?
It was hard to tell what she was going to say because the laughter picked up so much again. ―I… He said my uncle had been really cool in the shit. He said, that man, Barry, he was unlike any other Jew I came across. He dropped out of college to enlist, he didn’t have to, and he was cool in the shit. Some people fucked up, but not Barry. I will miss that guy. He drove me to my hotel, and we… I let him come up and he ate me out so hard I’ve never come like that, seriously, like… It was insane.
Miriam was coughing. Cate watched her arms flail out in convulsion, then go back to her sides. ―Did you know your uncle well?
―Pretty well, yeah. He had, like, a pretty bad, like… We all knew he was going to die. It wasn’t a shock.
―Damn… Where were your parents when… Like, that guy.
―They were with my grandma at her house, and…
―Oh, hey. What’s up.
―Nothing of note. What’s good?
―Nothing really, I was just telling Cate about this G.I. I let fuck me in Columbus last weekend.
―What! You didn’t tell me that shit.
―This is Cate.
―Hi, she shook the hand he afforded.
―I’m Ryan, nice to make your acquaintance, Cate. Now who was this soldier, sister?
―Ryan and I went to high school together. He moved here, like, what, like two years ago?
―Like three years ago, now dish.
―Okay, okay. Well he was wearing this, like, you know how they have those baseball hats for wars, like how veterans wear those hats with their, I don’t know, infantry or whatever on it, what are those called?
―I think they’re just baseball hats.
―Well he had one, and, like…
Cate lifted her hand in valediction. There was a sensation of submersion, of actual resentment for the moment. Her thoughts kept ceasing mid-thought, mid-word, such that her only perception of time passing was a loose trust in its sovereignty. If she could hold onto the poise of not doing anything stupid, then it would respectively keep going until she could leave without offending anyone. She turned around and saw Miriam using her hands to explain something. Then, as she heard, ―I’m so sorry, but Billy just got into a bike accident and I need to get out of here, a knowing jealousy transpired. She’d always wondered how it would feel to lose someone anyway and how great it might be to have an excuse to sulk away months unquestioned at the death of a loved one. Surely her mother would not only be excusably painful, but also in a probably, deep real way. This would justify a lot of stuff for Cate.
Amanda was making sure, via theatrics, that Vanessa, and everyone else, knew how okay it was that she had to unexpectedly leave. That, like, a birthday could not even be considered to take anything but the back seat to this type of shit. She was the one who was sorry.
The thing about Amanda was that she did look awesome. So much so that Cate almost felt bad in the moment, that Vanessa wouldn’t have the opportunity to look at the hostess more that evening.
Cate bowed before the fridge and faced more beers than her eyes could estimate for her brain to count. She stood up straight and took inventory of the freezer. There was a bottle of vodka and an overflowing amount of ice in the ice maker. She put a handful in the glass in her other hand and covered it in liquor. She turned off the ice maker and stood before the open door. She turned it back on.
She stepped into a guy she didn’t recognize, whose name was Steve, and who thought, we could be together, girl. He thought, she is probably thinking that I suck or something, she is probably thinking that I am a rapist or something. What if consent, he thought, and pretended to be preoccupied with the fridge and heard her walking away. He held a Genesee. The sound of its releasing air generated a reflexive buoying effect, and he thought about maybe talking to the girl, going home with her, pictured their life together a few months down the line and how they’d come to argue, with her being the passive aggressive one. The party was pretty chill. He walked up to Jon, who was listening to someone say, ―So many people in college, like at least two, maybe three people, talked about how they had memorized Prufrock. Like as if that was supposed to make them seem good or something. And listen, like, I don’t know if I believed them at the time, but I definitely at this moment do not believe that a single one of them had actually memorized that entire fucking thing. Some idle chatter about people’s feelings re the work passed. ―But listen. Listen. But even if they did, even if they had, like, every single word or whatever exactly the same as the eight and half minute recording of him doing it recorded a hundred years ago. Even then. What? What should my reaction be? Some laughter. ―No, I really want to know. Should I not just immediately unequivocally think the worst of them for it? Is it not the very conceit that genocide comes from? There were four of them laughing, including the speaker.
This went on a while, and then it was just Jon and Steve alone, so they stood in silence for a few seconds surveying the room. ―Do you know a lot of people here?
―Yeah, most of these people were in my studio and stuff.
―Dave seems cool.
―What about Amanda?
―She's fucking crazy. Hah. Yeah.
―She is allowed to be crazy. God, she is fucking, like, really attractive.
―I know it.
―Does she get work?
―She’s doing something at The Brick right now. But she’s been in some independent film stuff. Nothing that amounted to much but I heard she was, like, talking to someone about getting some contract for some real movie. I don’t know. She’s not, like, particularly good, but…
―Like, right. Like who cares? I’m surprised she doesn’t have something more substantial going on. Man… What about her, he nodded to the girl he’d walked into. ―Do you know her?
―I know her name is Cate.
―Is she cool?
―She has a weird Facebook, like, posts really aggressive, weird statuses. I don’t know, sometimes she can be funny. But a lot of the time she’s just, like, I don’t know… Not unsettling, but you know.
―How’s stuff with you, man?
―It’s fine.
―Anything new with work?
―Not really… Hoping to land this role or whatever, but… I don’t know… Feel less, like, inspired to try or, like, care and stuff as I get older. I’m getting weary.
―I know what you mean.
―I feel, like, I mean I used to get really excited for a new project, to see a script and try to audition and feel the character and make it work and, like, really workshop and get it done and stuff, but… I don’t know, man… We’re getting… The chances of making this work are pretty retarded. I should just get a job on Wall Street.
―I was just thinking that the other day. That I could, like, I should just get on the trading floor and learn to trade and cash the fuck out. I do not like copywriting, I do not have any talents or even a decently, like, useful degree or whatever to fall back on. If I could just get into something, like really get obsessed with and good at something then things would feel purposeful.
―I feel like my life is without purpose.
―We should do something… We should open a space for, like, bands to play and stuff? And like there could be plays and stuff, I don’t know.
―We should open a bar.
―I’d do that! I would totally do that. What would it cost, like, how much could you put down?
―I don’t know, man.
―I feel like I could really like that. Like I could feel like that would be cool. Refurbishing a place and then showing up everyday, your friends come out. Cool music and stuff, and you just own your own business.
They sat down on a couch. ―I was actually looking at craigslist the other day, like randomly. You can rent, like, a business space for like three thousand a month, and like… Like, what does it cost for a keg of PBR, seventy-five dollars? So that’s like, he looked at his phone, ―a hundred twenty-five drinks and stuff. For three bucks a pint, you’d make like a profit of, like… He figured. ―Like three hundred. So you’d have to go through like ten kegs a month, like, that’s like… forty-two drinks a night.
―I don’t know… I don’t care.
―Like take weekends into account this is, like. It would be so easy.
―What would you live on?
―I don’t know, just sell more drinks. If we both put down like fifteen grand this would be, like, we could do all the renovation and stuff and, like, we could actually do a bar. Jon had walked away at some point and was back with beers for them. Steve was starting to really feel drunk.
―I don’t have fifteen grand, man.
―Your parents do. Ask your parents.
―I was just talking… Like, like I still want to try to do this thing. I have this role, I really think if I can get it shit could take off from there.
―Well I hope you do.
Steve drifted away, toward the girl he’d walked into. Though she was talking to someone else, he tried to catch her eye. He stood in the bathroom line and stepped back and forth. ―Cute dance, said the girl in front of him as the door opened for her escape into the bathroom before he could come up with a response. He cringed and stood still. She looked ghoulish, he thought. She didn’t have a chin and dressed as if she was trying to stick it to some vague notion of the patriarchy. Which was to say, she did a good job at offending anyone’s appreciation of a well lit space.
I think sometimes that my life has amounted little more than the desire to say the right thing to someone such that they could tell that back to someone else later, hurt; see, that impulse, that they would be hurt, who am I, he was thinking. He had wholly forgotten that he was taking a shit, and that there was a line of people outside the bathroom.
Nicki was in that line, about two people back. She couldn’t tell if one or two because she had the suspicion that they were going to go in there and do coke. She’d have been just as happy if they’d offer her some, but the place was getting crowded now, and who knows. I’m literally going to die, she thought. Literally, at some point.
She watched the guy leave the bathroom and the two people in front of her go in together, and he looked back at them. When he turned he smiled at her and rolled his eyes so she laughed. ―You go to the bathroom a lot, she walked up to him forty-five minutes later and stood next to the line. She realized her arms were folded and tried to put them at her sides. He raised his Genesee a little bit.
They could both feel that a beat had occurred. ―Not all the time. I just really like this line, it’s, like, it’s a really nice line. Very well curated, very Lower East Side. She laughed and asked how he knew Amanda. ―I don’t know her. My friend Jon invited me here. She seems chill. Her body was nodding. ―Do you know Jon? Were you in their studio or whatever?
―I’ve met Jon. I worked a little with Amanda in college, but I’m a year younger.
―Oh word. When did you graduate?
―Twenty twelve.
―Are you, like, involved in acting and stuff?
―No I’m… He grinned, ―No, I’m a copywriter for, like, at an insurance startup. It’s very boring.
―I work at a restaurant.
―That sucks.
―Don’t worry, he put his arm on her shoulder. ―We are all fucked… He took his hand off her shoulder and went to the bathroom. He found her in the kitchen, ―I’m sorry I told you we are all fucked.
―It’s okay, she smiled. ―I appreciated it.
―I mean, listen, I was at my desk today. It was like three forty-five, and, like, I knew I was not going to work anymore. I felt a kind of, like, yellow, faraway tiredness through my whole body. Like how you have the flu, when you feel, like, achy or whatever, except this was somewhat pleasant. He laughed. ―And I was, like, shit, I’m dead. I accidentally died.
She had started laughing when he’d said pleasant, and continued for more than three seconds, he believed. ―I know exactly what you. Like, the other day, last weekend I got out of the movies and it was still light out. There was construction all on this sidewalk and everyone was almost falling into wet cement and then other people were running into the street, and it was just starting to get dark. Everyone was like, this is stupid, she laughed. ―It was, like, apocalyptic, I felt. Like an omen.
―I feel like the end is definitely near. For all of us.
―Like that feeling like who cares, I have lived a full life already, this is the end of my life.
―And in the moment I was, like, almost sure of it, I was like, this is what death is.
―Maybe it’s just, like, our bodies, um, going through the motions. Getting cereal and stuff for breakfast and taking the subway. That’s what the actual experience of what death is.
―I think maybe it’s this feeling. It’s like a forever prolonged suspicion that you might’ve already died.
She put her hand on his arm. ―That was three forty-five, she said. ―What did you do after that?
―I went to the water cooler and got water, and at five I got a burrito and hung out at a bar till this thing started.
―We’re both wearing denim shirts.
―What’s your name?
―Nicki. What’s yours?
―Nice to meet you Steve. They shook hands.
―What did you do before this?
―I went to the movies.
―I envy that you go to the movies a lot. I feel like… That I just never do.
―You should go. It’s very zen. Very quiet and dark and peaceful. Probably deathlike enough for you.
He pushed her shoulder. They were still in the kitchen, and it was small and dark and someone came through and got a beer and left them alone. ―Do you shotgun beers, the person heard as she walked away and up to Amanda, who was dancing to a song.
The stereo went, ―I used to dream, dream away, hide in the dark, fade into gray. I used to pray, but now I scream, lord help me, no more daydreams!
Two other people were dancing with her. One yelled, ―No more daydreams!
As the song continued, Amanda went through a spectrum of emotions and landed on, I’m done for, when it ended. ―Let’s play Roxane, she heard.
―Someone give me some more vodka. The bottle was passed and angled into Amanda’s cup and she sipped it and shook her head.
Every time Sting said, ―Roxane, she drank, and every time he said, ―red light, she spun in a circle. She was in hysterics. The descent to the couch left her limbs feeling loose and endless. She pulled her dress down a little and tried to find Brian. She felt like there was a lot of space inside her and drank some more. Her friend was wearing a seventies-style jumper that made her ass look good.
In the other bathroom, through her roommate’s bedroom, that most people seemed unaware of, Amanda dissected herself. Her face was splotched and her boobs felt heavy, pulling down against her. Now she was twenty-six, she remembered. She tried her mouth at saying a line from the play. ―I don’t know if you want to like me, and wondered if that was right. It sounded wrong so she said, ―I don’t know if you want to be like me. This past year was a struggle. Like, just this morning, I…, and thought of what Brian would say, which was, But that struggle, see! It’s productive. It’s beautiful. You take something out of your instability, you don’t just see the despair and say that’s it! The insanity alone is not the answer, it’s the thing you work to escape, to express! ―Please don’t try to, like. Don’t put your own ideas on top of my, like. I’m a person. You’re projecting. Then he would say, But I’m not! and walk around and look at what she was looking at. ―Can’t you just come here and say hello? Why do you have to act like this is some gesture. I have a bunch of friends here and I’m all caught up dealing with you. I thought we let this go after you couldn’t handle trying to visit even just that one time? Then Brian, But it has to be now. You’re here now, and… And then she’d try to say something, when Anthony would enter and interrupt them.
She picked a fleck off her cheek. It was a stupid play, she thought. Now is the winter of our dissed content, she thought. She’d read it on Cate’s Facebook wall. I can’t believe Dickens is dead, she thought. I know Shakespeare wrote the thing, she assured herself a few minutes later. But she couldn’t believe that Dickens was dead. It was easy to feel like Shakespeare might still be alive. She pushed her thumb into her face. The bags puffed under her eyes. She bit her lip and tried to think, I think Joyce was the reincarnation of Shakespeare, as a guy talked her up about this music video he was shooting. He took her back into the bathroom and cut four lines of coke. ―Sorry, do you have your own bill? This guy told me that’s, like, how hepatitis is spread and got me all fucked up.
―Happy birthday!
―Happy birthday, Amanda!
―Thanks. Oh my god, you look great! On the fire escape she felt weird letting the guy feel her up, but let out short quick breaths and after a smoke they went back inside. Her hand vibrated. She looked at her phone: sorry i couldn’t make it it i hope your having a great time happy bday!!!!/ A moment later a smiling face with a drop of water covering part of it appeared below the text.
She felt someone touch her shoulder and looked up quickly. ―Happy birthday!
―Are you leaving?
―Not yet, we were just outside getting forties. Have you met Steve?
―Hi, Steve.
―Hi, Amanda. Great party.
―Cate, Amanda pulled her by the arm and over to where she was standing with Nicki, as Nicki and Steve walked to the kitchen, ―Hi Cate! I like your Facebook. Do you want some blow?
―I don’t know… Okay.
―Okay, hold on where did… Um, just a second. She squinted, looking at the room. ―Sorry, I don’t know where he is I shouldn’t have offered it to you.
―It’s okay. How’s your birthday?
―It’s all right. It’s great.
―Did you do anything today… I mean, like, before this.
―We had rehearsal this morning. No. I don’t know. I got an expensive coffee and went shopping. That jumper looks great on Sarah, doesn’t it?
―I don’t think I know Sarah.
―You know Sarah, Cate. We had biometrics of the stage together. Remember? With, like, Dr. Windstoff?
―Windstoff? I don’t… No, I wasn’t in that class, I think.
―What’s up, bitches?
―Remember Cate?
―Yes. Cate Joiner. From… Biometry or whatever. In, uh, like sophomore year.
―Hi Sarah. How are you?
―I’m hyphy, nigga.
―Your ass looks so good in that jumper, girl.
―Bae knows I’m a thot though.
―They know, they know…
―Where’s Brian at?
―Wait, though, what was. Like, can you remind…
―Happy birthday to you… Happy… Cate changed places with the cake. She held on to the side of the kitchen counter and waited for her vision to clear and drank some water. Her lip hit the tap. Why had she forgotten taking a class, and how could she not recognize that girl… What was her name, she was… Something Amanda had said. Satchel? She looked in the freezer, where the ice had overflowed out of what collects it. She drank a beer. She sat on the windowsill. She tried to remember sophomore year. She threw the can in the sink and got another and focused until the feeling of fainting dissipated. She closed the refrigerator. A tall guy was eating cake with his hands.
―Modigliani, like, wouldn’t, like, let his models suck Picasso, and that’s how they got those long necks.
―Because they were thirsty for, like, they was thirsty for Picasso…
―Like how giraffes evolved.
―They got those long necks trying to get they heads out of Mogliatti’s studio so they could be sucking Picasso at the same time.
―Yeah, but then they both died so it was never fully able to come to fruition, like, their necks got long but not long enough to do it right, so then it stopped evolving any further though. But if you, like. Like look up the descendants of the nudes, right, they got those long necks they inherited through natural selection.
―Is that how it happened?
―Wassup Cate?
―Nothing, she looked away and stood standing with them, comforted by their presence, and allowed herself to rock back and forth like her mom would when she lifted her from the couch and walked her upstairs. She’d see something on the stairs for a second and then wake up in the dark of the night, not knowing where she was for ten seconds, wondering if she were by a creek, listening to the sound of her peeing herself.
She felt a shiver run through starting from her neck and shook. She couldn’t remember what she’d been thinking about. The guy’s hand landed on the shoulder in front of her, and when she blinked she saw him across the room hugging Amanda with his mouth open as he made his way to the door, putting on his coat. He left with Nicki and was thinking, I shouldn’t tell her about how I used to, like, cry all the time but now I don’t know how to, should I… The door closed.
―Steve’s a bitch, Cate heard. He should’ve said something to her. He had owed her that, at least, when he walked into her. She could have said something funny to him. She thought, bit dot el why. She thought, has anyone ever put a rickroll on a headstone? I want my headstone to be able to be that once a year people can come over and shoot it. She tried to make a Facebook status with her phone.
He took her hand off his face. ―What’s up, Cate?
―What are you doing tonight?
―Hah! Um… this, I guess.
His hands above his waist like that looked hostile, she thought. ―No. He knew what she meant, but he was pretending he didn’t, or maybe he wasn’t, that he was actually just trying to be nice, she put her hand back on his face and pushed at it. ―I mean tonight, what are you doing?
―I don’t know. I don’t know. Where do you live, Cate?
―I have, like, I made a friend on the internet in Iowa. She’s my soulmate. She’s a sagittarius who looks like me and has very sharp looking features and big eyebrows that look really good. We talk on the phone sometimes. I, um, like, um… Like by the park, you know, down by the park?
―What jobs have you had?
―Well right now I’m trying to get this, like…
―No, I mean before college, or like, besides, like. Like acting and stuff.
―I worked on a farm, like, did labor and stuff in summers in high school and beginning of, uh, college. She nodded. ―And, like, sometimes the cows got out so we had to, like, get them back off the street. Once I cut my hands a lot.
―Like from an animal hurting you?
―No, just, like, weeding. Like pulling weeds that were rough.
―Like when I cut my hands falling off a mountain in Ireland.
―You fell off a mountain?
―No, no. My, like, me and my ex-boyfriend took me, though, and we had sex on this, like, these rocks in public near people and stuff, and he, like. Like I had all this anxiety and we got all scraped and stuff.
―Damn, that’s. Damn. I haven’t done anything interesting. I asked my girl to, like, fuck in the park but she always says no.
―You have a girlfriend?
―She’s, like, yeah. You know her, right? Miriam. She was here earlier but she had to go. She said she was having a panic attack and needed to take her meds or something. You know her from school, right?
―I know Miriam. I didn’t know you guys were together.
―Yeah, we’re, like. Well we lived together, but now we don’t live together, but we still. I don’t know. It’s, uh, things are tough. But they’re good… She’s good.
―I feel so insane right now, like I thought… Have you ever… Wait. I feel like my life is like a movie. I’m really, like on the brink of sanity, you know, but some people say I have an intense personality. You know how people say at least?
―Sure. People say at least.
―Yeah. I feel, like, I really just want to, like, feel good and stuff.
―Do you want to smoke?
―Okay… It’s really cold, Jesus.
Jon coughed. A guy name Dave took the joint from him and said, ―I was always the baby in my family, but then, like. Wait, stop and think about it for a second. All we ever get to do is experience thoughts. And then suddenly the thoughts will be gone. Is there anything worse? Even the bad thoughts are like the best thing ever. People trying to, like, um, like they try to say they’re like it’s just going to be nothingness. Like that’s a comfort, but, like, nobody knows what nothing is. Things might never get better, but like, they could get worse.
―Things can get better. I feel like, like, for some people things can’t get worse.
―It might be worse. What I mean is what nothing is.
―I don’t know, man. Don’t think about it.
―What is it, like, your energy just becomes part of other energy. I like being conscious, what if you just don’t get to, like, care about being conscious anymore? I should have killed myself when I was seventeen and had no fear of death. Now all I’ll get to do for the rest of my life is fear death.
―You need to chill, Dave.
―I feel paranoid all the time. I feel, like, suspicious of you guys… I’m just trying to be honest. I’m just trying to be, like, transparent and forthright.
―Suck me.
―Me a buss. Irie.
She heard Dave fall as he stepped through the window into the kitchen. ―You’re good, Jon.
―Do you want to, like, make out? Like, if you don’t care.
―Yeah, I don’t care. She was busy thinking about if Amanda had seen them go in her room and was looking at the mirror, but it reflected all dark. She was put off balance and stomped her foot. They stayed standing up as he lifted the side of her dress over so he could put his mouth on her chest. One hand was supporting her back. Hair got in between their mouths. She pulled it in her hand like a tail and held it back while he grabbed around her underwear and she breathed in a way that led her to hiccup. ―I don’t think we should. His hand let go of her hand over his crotch, and her hand moved away from it.
―Okay. That’s cool. You’re nice. He kissed her neck and was out of the room with the door closed behind him. She sat on the bed.
The guy with Amanda looked at her. ―Can’t you tell her to leave.
―We can just go to your place?
―But we’re here now.
―Cate, hi.
―Hi, sorry… Hi, Amanda.
―Do you want some blow, Cate?
―Okay. The guy made five lines from the small pile. Amanda looked at her phone. Trying to press the message button, the screen went blank and a circle of bars started spinning. ―You know how TV used to be like. Like people would say it’s all so canned, like, give me something real. Then they put out stuff, like. Like they made it more real, and it’s like, please, please, give me the canned stuff! Give me the bullshit I need something to be able to hide in. That’s how nostalgia works. It makes you want laugh tracks… Ass cracks… Thanks for inviting me, sorry I fell asleep.
―It’s okay, any time. They hugged and Amanda leaned over the dresser while the guy tried to find where to take her dress off. She heard the door close.
The city was dark, and Cate felt lost in a familiar part of it. It was like seventy-five percent of the lights were out. A glimmer off the river down at the end of the stretch of avenue upset things. She tried turning around, and felt determined with that decision.
Near the end of Cate’s dream there is gray and green and white and gold and blue. People pass, they’ve passed. A foaminess descends through her, and the slight burning feeling in the top of her face rattles her. The salty smell of wetlands enveloped by a peal of wind and she can’t hear what the girl’s saying, the sun is so covered she sees the circular shape, defined behind the clouds without it hurting. The rock sparkles. The girl’s standing on moss. Oh, she thinks the word, it’s inescapable, the feeling she allows to happen to her, the wet rot under their boots, it’s opening in her. She doesn’t like to think she’s having more profound thoughts than her soulmate is and can feel the way the rock’s surface cradles her and wonders if she’ll just keep standing there.
The feeling of urgency was the weird part. Being awake again without the ritual of acknowledging it. She passed instinctually through the tiled damp tunnels, almost running up two flights of stairs and out of the subway into a half light that suggested the morning might change its mind and withdraw in the absence of anything for which to be morning. But she walked long deliberate strides away from where she came, a little numbness flitting in her hands from adrenaline, trying to locate herself.
That she was still in Chinatown was not immediately obvious, and even after she reached the intersection of Church and Canal she needed a moment to take in what exactly that meant. She had been prepared for a massive displacement, the result of some fugue state, if not miles, then years away. It had been only a few blocks since her last conscious memory. She remained, the strangeness of her body disoriented more by lack of sleep.
The fog from the river became increasingly a reality than an effect of the maybe, she wondered, partial amnesia that had carried her from underground and west only one listless block. Then came the thought that had she been in a position to answer in that brief possible lapse to the question of who she was, she could not be sure she would have been able to.
Cate stayed in front of the street signs for a period of time. She touched her shoulder and felt the strap of her purse and looked inside. She was able to see her keys and wallet and dug under a notebook and light sweater to uncover her phone. The arms of her coat felt swishy. Her legs looked red and the little stumps of hairs that had continued to grow hurt in the wind as she made her way back to the subway. During which time she somehow felt lost again, despite only walking in one direction on one stretch of street. She comforted herself with the fact that she did not know what time she had left, and that nothing was lost. And if she had lost a thing of herself, it was not obvious enough that she felt like she couldn’t handle it.
After a couple of entrances that were marked no entry, Cate located a set of stairs that would lead her into the subway, swiping her card and confused by the acuity she’d used to make her escape, eventually swayed stiffly on the correct platform, watching an R and N pass, several minutes apart, before the light spreading longer around the hidden bend of tracks gave way to a Q train.
The fog over the bridge was more violent than the fog in the city. She was surprised, though the streets on the other side of the bridge had been so vacant, to see two other people in the car, riding with the kind of sincerity one must ride with, Cate thought. Because it was kind of impossible to ironically use a form of transportation. She was not satisfied with this though, because people seemed to ride bicycles and drive cars and probably handglide ironically. And so she had to try to resolve that and agreed with herself that if you’re on a kind of large format transportation device in which almost all individuals have no control of the manner by which they are travelling as they agreed to do it, then that was different and could not be said to be ironic. Could terrorism under that category, though, be considered sincere? It wasn’t the right word, and she could not see anything out the windows but the dim white and gray of watery air blocking the boats and little islands and cranes and buildings, and she was submerged into Brooklyn.
She checked her purse again for her possessions, but they remained being there, and waited for the digital scroll following the next stop is and dekalb ave to reveal the time, which she forgot as it flickered away.
The hangover she had started to experience was not so bad. Mostly she needed to pee. It didn’t matter though, and then she felt the twinge of urgency, a rush of heat and comprehension, that had maybe sparked the entire experience. She was guilty, her chest hurt. She felt that she had previously been thinking of how to contact her friend from Iowa. She began shaking her knees to kill the time between how she looked through her bag again and curled her lip in dehydration as the train started and stopped.
It was less dim and still as quiet. The deli canopy read 24 hours, but its gate remained locked down, competing graffitis rendered over one another. She held the weight of keys in her hands and wondered that if someone could take her keys and stay watching her, follow her home and rob her of cat and possessions, then maybe kill her, would they? Because it seemed like a smart thing for a terrible person to do, and where were all the terrible people if not everywhere? She saw something move across a gas station parking lot. ―Vanessa!
―Oh my god, hi Cate! Are you okay?
I didn’t know you lived down here.
Oh, oh yeah, well, I don’t. Billy’s got, like, a sublet around the corner for the time being.
Oh wow, is he okay?
―What do you mean?
―Didn’t he, like, get in an accident?
―Oh, I mean. Yeah, yeah… It wasn’t a big deal. He’s all right.
―Oh, that’s good… Is his bike okay? What are you doing up?
―I’m actually going to volunteer at Kingsbrook. I, like, volunteer on Saturdays there, so I’m taking a walk.
―Oh wow, that’s, like, really good. Damn, good for you.
She laughed, ―Thanks.
―Well bye!
―Have a good morning. Or night or whatever. She walked quickly, making up for the time she lost and judging Cate, who often seemed manic and retarded and not giving young women a name any better than she deserved, but for which other people worked to dismantle, of course, while nobody continued to care. She changed bedding and distributed kosher and halal breakfasts. The baby was up and she carried it around and picked its pacifier off the ground. The nurses told her that the baby would be able to go home next week. She picked its pacifier off the ground. ―Oh god, that’s so great to hear. She walked back to Billy’s. A guy moved in the sidewalk in front of her, toward her, and as she tried to get out of his way, he stepped back in front of her and snarled passing some of his body over hers, as if, she thought, he had stepped out and above her completely, like how there was the car that could do that in Wacky Races. The urge to cry faded.
―Wassup, she heard. ―Bitch, she heard. She got two large coffees and found Billy still in bed.
―Good morning.
―Did you just get up?
―No, I’ve been up for a little while. How was your shift?
―It was great. Little Chrissy was looking so sweet and they said he was doing a lot better and would able… If things happened in only one direction, as Billy assured himself they did, then he should have by that time known that had he had a thought that was gone, it would not be coming back, but have to be reborn. Because things, like his ability to listen to what his girlfriend was saying at that moment, already lost in the past, remain so in the present and future. There was always an opportunity for new things, but past objects or ideas only became accessible through iteration. The original could never exist out of its own. He wasn’t able to reason this though. It became as confusing as trying to explain it to himself, and he realized he was getting up and standing and pacing. He was drinking water and coffee in tandem.
When, a week later, Amanda asked him how he was doing in a Facebook message, he typed fine. She asked if the accident had shaken him, and he typed what, then, oh. i don’t know. it’s the same as everything, it’s whatever. He’d had a feeling this might happen and watched the ellipsis flicker by her image, mouth-parted in profile looking out a cab window four months earlier, floating in the text box. Again, a few seconds later, the ellipsis appeared and vanished like it had never happened. He waited for it, and once more it returned. This time the dots lingered, familiar in their persistence, still hovering next to her visage when he stood up and closed the laptop.