I shouldn’t show up today, but I’m coming to your wedding. The American wedding. I will stand when the minister asks if anyone objects because I do, and I’ve always wanted to attend a wedding where that happens. I’m a law student, I know how to object. I’ve got evidence to sustain. Your poems. Dick-pics. Clothes in my dresser. Toothbrush in my bathroom.
The Institute was where I’d been working since age twenty-one, an Institute “devoted to ending violence against women and girls.” In reality, it looked nothing like an Institute. It was a former bookie’s office set above a fancy San Francisco Chinese restaurant.
At one end was the Interaction Section — bubble machines, drones to fly, crafts and building activities. The busiest was the Technology Zone — banks of screens where small fingers swiped and tapped, the odd shriek as a wailing victim was dragged off to be fed.
It’s about emotional engagement, he reminds himself as he puts on the kettle, not exposure. Their customers will love that they’re giving back. Even if they don’t tell their friends about it, they’ll become more loyal to the brand. He stares at the sea for a while. It’s the same dark grey as the granite countertops, as the sky.
There are the war machines rolling down the street in all their military glory, wreathed in jasmine and marigold garlands. They are affectionately known as war elephants, because underneath all the glamour the bulky tanks are gunmetal grey. They belch out plumes of black smoke into the already polluted air. Despite their decorations, they are colossal beasts made of pistons and steel, lumbering about the narrow streets, and yet there are still vendors who walk fearlessly beside them, calling out their wares.
He got that way from eating pieces of string like they was noodles with sauce on top and everything, and string beans, and nothing else. But out in the woods the girl and him didn’t have much of anything to eat. He was too proud to farm in the dirt and he was a lousy hunter. They would have starved except the wolves took pity on him and left out a few scraps of rotten meat.
Just for a moment, I hesitated. Outside my locked glass door, I could see them still swirling around, the dreamers and the idiots. Money trembles at the top of their bank accounts like beer foam, just waiting to spill out. You can see it, how the wanting sweeps through them like a fever. You can see it in their eyes.
I was laying on the grass by the bubble stream listening to Tribe play out of the speaker cone of my rock. Watching the bubble bubbling. Pink nettle cactus and tall frond trees all around. Not much else.
Wouldn’t you have to choose someone dead,” I say, “because I mean come on wouldn’t that be amazing to bring someone back from the dead wouldn’t that be wicked but wait though would they still be dead but dug up and woken up like would they be all gross and worm-eaten and rotting or would they be at like the prime of their life and healthy ’cause that makes a difference or wait what if you choose someone dead but you didn’t realize you have to die to have lunch with them and then it’s too late to change your mind because you already made your choice
She counted the number of words in each love letter, the duration of every phone call and every kiss, counted each petal on each flower in each bouquet. She quantified the warmth of his hand on hers with an infrared thermometer. She tallied the expense of his gifts, accounted for every drink, every meal. She timed his eye contact.
Grandma died, you know. No surprises there. She was an old broad. Soon the family will divvy up her things, grabbing at scarves and candleholders and picture frames like it’s the last round in some Japanese game-show. There’s going to be some big shindig in Idaho, sure. Everyone will be there, with their hams, their stories, their Jell-O with fruit. And all of this is fine, fine — the old bloated snatch-and-grab buffet of matriarchal death. But what to do with Jane?
I was going to start by telling you all about my broken back. It’s a good story. Fourteen years old, lying in bed, reading a lesser-known Nabokov, when a Ford Transit smashes through the gable wall and into my headboard. My wardrobe explodes. A portion of the roof collapses. Nabokov is dropped, page lost, and swept under an encroaching wheel. I, meanwhile, find myself pinned to the opposite wall, spine broken in two places.